I drove out of Geelong in the dark hours of Sunday morning after a week of doing what ever it is a brother can do at times like this, yea there were tears, lots of them but Stu’s willingness to remain quietly courageous does permit me lots of smiles too.
What a guy…..
This last week with Stu had so many wonderful moments. I was able to have a couple of ‘sleepovers’ with him, the first in his room at the palliative care hospice, the second at a wonderful house that is a lot less like an aged care facility and more like a holiday house. His wife and I were both very uncomfortable with Stu being surrounded by the very old and frail and with our health ‘system’ putting pressure on for beds for those in need of clinical support, moving Stu was a priority. Anam Cara House in Geelong is just that. A house where those who stay are considered guests not patients, where family and friends can call in any time, use the kitchen and lounge areas, even stay over if they like. Stu’s wife and I are so very grateful to the staff and management for their efforts and ongoing support to get Stu settled so quickly.
Sleep overs with my brother were unbelievably therapeutic for me. My plan was to be there for him, protect him a bit I guess by doing as much as I could for him, doing the things he would prefer the nursing staff didn’t do.
After most of our lives ‘away’ from each other, his illness has gifted me – the both of us really, a chance to fill in so many of our blank pages as brothers. We shared a few beers, retold lots of family tales, laughed at the antics of our wonderful dad, our crazy big brother David’s life and times of family holidays, first cars, run ins with the law and me being keener on a couple of his girlfriends than he was, as it turns out.
Stu also shared some moments, feelings of regret and remorse with me. Holding Stu’s hand while he ‘set the record straight’ was very hard, again he gifts me the privilege of trust and love while he quietly suffers. Still as he said to me during one of our ‘UFC’ type showering sessions (thats how he referred to the times when I did what he preferred the nursing staff didn’t), I’d end up as wet as him, we’d laugh as I gently wrestled his mostly immobile self from bed to chair to bathroom and back again. ‘Sorry about all the shit jobs mate… I bet you didn’t think you would ever be working for me’………. Its a pleasure my brother, an absolute pleasure and I’m sorry about the blast of cold water on the first attempt.
Our time left with Stu is, to the best of our knowledge, now very limited… a few weeks at best. The hard conversations have been had, Stu has let us know what music he wants at his funeral, he has harassed the funeral service representative on his coffin style – ‘don’t try and sell me stuff with your sales budget in mind’ he said at one point.
Stu, you are so much like our dad.
Talking though Stu’s ‘end’ with his wife and the senior nurse was very , very confronting. I understood his non resuscitation and no ‘IV’ treatment preferences but as I have learnt, its not the tumour that will kill him, its most likely to be an infection/ phenomena that will take whats left of our Stu. With the loss of Stu’s ability to swallow now becoming evident, his limit for ‘oral’ interventions only will become largely meaningless. Stu was asking Loraine and I to agree to do nothing more than ensure his comfort for what time we had left with him. ‘I want to finish up here, not in a critical care ward’…
Quietly courageous is our Stu.
The week with Stu was also the occasion of his 57th birthday, talk about bringing emotions to the surface. Despite the best efforts of this cancer to steal away an occasion of celebration in the surrounds of Anam Cara house, Stu prevailed! Friends, family, laughs, grand kids running amok, a couple of beers and a manageable amount of quiet tears ensured a fab day for all of us.
I’ve said it before in my ramblings on this blog but my heart so hurts for my mum and Stu’s wife Lorraine. Lorraine very recently having to witness and manage (largely without Stu by her side), the slow demise of her own mother in what is likely to be repeat with her husband and then theres my mum. Her strength and will to live is being so very tested. Parents don’t expect to bury their own, a repeat for her also is so not fkn right. Wish us and everyone else confronting such difficult times, strength and a feeling of companionship from others. This is too difficult to go though on ones own.
My mum and Stu on his 57th birthday…… Love and quiet courage