Dear Theo, Letter Two

I posted something deeply personal to my dearest brother a while back and left it to the air in prayed for healing and resolution. Last week I walked into a cathedral during my lunch break to sit and meditate. To reflect on my issues of the week, to feel closer to the center of everything in my life, and to be calm. As I walked out, I noticed for the first time that there was an open book in the corner with a pen next to it. I went to see what it was and it was the prayer requests for the Sunday mass. Without much thought, as if on autopilot, I wrote Theo’s name down. I never stop thinking about him, and while I know he isn’t of sound mind to appreciate others praying and putting out positive love for a complete stranger, I know I would.

I found out yesterday that he is suffering from pancreatic cancer and it’s not looking good. Actually, I was informed a few days earlier that he had cancer through the grapevine that I typically try to ignore. I didn’t believe it. I discussed it with other siblings, and they didn’t either. We had no doubt he was probably ill. He has been ill his whole life. Stomach problems, arthritis problems, mystery illnesses, asthma, basically everything. Looking back now, I feel like Theo’s whole existence was akin to when foreign matter enters your body and your immune system won’t accept it and tries to destroy it. He is the foreign matter and life is the immune system. The fact that he is now dying of cancer only makes it far more literal.

My siblings and I held a quick meeting about the validity of this claim and I decided that our mother, who made the difficult decision a long time ago to cut Theo out of her life until he could get better, should know about this. She would clarify this with one phone call and we would do what we could from there on out. And it was true. She is understandably beside herself with confusion, fear, sadness, regret, and insurmountable motherly love, and has nowhere to place it. He most likely will not agree to see her or spend time with her, or any of us. My hope is that his physical sickness puts to rest his mental sickness if not only for a moment, so that he will allow his mother to do what she does best. Love. Nurture. Nurse. Make everything ok.

As for me, I still only picture him as a small child and I feel helpless and sad for all involved. I’ve allowed myself to think that when he dies, he will finally be at peace. It’s not something that I will broadcast to my immediate family. I think that they probably feel the same way.

As someone with a strong viewpoint and belief that lessons are to be learned from everything and that death is all part of the whole river of life, I have already seen some good come out of this. Within the one phone call my mom made to her ex-mother in law, kind words were spoken between two women who had a very complicated relationship. The words “I never once doubted you loved all of your children” was said with the same voice that defended her abusive son. The same woman who very clearly stated that “perhaps if more meat and potatoes were on the table, my boy wouldn’t be so angry with you.” As this process takes its course, the only line of communication will most likely be between these two women. One that picked up the pieces of her life and created a brilliant new one, and the other too old to change now and in a weird prison of her own. One that wants desperately to nurse her son; the other who will be doing the nursing. I don’t know if that balance is harmonious, or even fair, but it’s balance. And hearing her say those words brought a lot of closure for my mom.

I do not know what happens next. I do not know what else to think. I will keep writing my brother’s name down in that book and I will keep meditating and carrying Theo on my hip.




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