Remembering Super Bowl weekend
There he lay in his hospital bed, my brother for most of the last eight decades, sleeping, breathing gently without support. He looked rather peaceful, his color was good; he had lost a little weight, but not enough to make him look skeletal. Yet his body was now home to skin cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, Parkinson’s and a stroke.
The sleep he slept would soon be eternal rest. The body of bone and tissue by which I had recognized him for these many years would soon no longer be his disguise. His soul would become untethered from matter and float free in the universe. Those who once knew him by his appearance would now recognize him by his energy in the next life . . . or maybe even, from time to time, in this life.
My mind drifted back to the past. Three-and-a-half years older than I, Jim was always just enough older to be drawn to a different crowd. He moved in different circles. I found his friends insensitive and crude. Not that he was a bad kid; no, he was just like most boys his age. He played the clarinet, he made model airplanes and cars; he was enthralled by the insides of things, taking them apart to learn made them tick.
He went off to college, married Mary Ann, had three great children. I went off to the Jesuits, where I stayed for the next 20 years. I was drawn to eternal matters, to the meaning of life, to the mystical. Jim and I were very different types, pursuing very different lives. He would ask me with a note of impatience, when was I going to do something useful — I would respond with a note of arrogance, “When are you going to do something meaningful?”
And so the years of our lives passed like ships in the night. Never very close.
But then things began to change. His kids grew up; his wife died. I left the Jesuits. I married, which made me seem more normal in his eyes. We both had more time and freedom to be with each other. We had strenuous political debates. He would ask, “Why can’t the blacks ever get their act together? Answer me that!” I would explain their long history of being kept down, but he would dismiss that as all in the past. If I had an idea for improving society, he would ask who was going to pay for it.
The universe then granted us a blessing in disguise. His health began to break down. I had a chance to show him compassion. He began to open up. We began to grow closer. We would spend more time together at his home in Bethany Beach, or my house in Shepherdstown.
The last time I saw him was when he came to visit for Super Bowl weekend. We began to laugh together. His legendary quick wit lit up the house. Linda heard us laughing. She said it sounded like music to her ears.
The cards on the table, beside his broken body there in the bed, all spoke of his wit and how much it would be missed. My brother Jim, I shall remember our laughter one Super Bowl weekend in 2020.
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at email@example.com.