Going Home

Death met me with a snifter of cognac and nod of his head. He was sitting patiently between my parents enjoying the flavor of an unlit cigar. He had been waiting with my parents for hours in the small airport terminal. My father paced the floor as my mother laid her head on Death’s shoulder. We were all flying to Milwaukee to bury my brother.


My parents hugged me, and I offered them my condolences.


Death said, “Your father is handling this extremely well. He knows his son is gone, but he is taking the necessary precautions.”


“As expected,” I said.


“As expected,” Death replied.


I held no ill-will for Death, because I know all must make his acquaintance in the end. I just wished he hadn’t taken Jim so early. He was only thirty-five, and we had many fishing trips yet to take.


The flight was surreal, for I can’t recall anything of the actual flight. It seemed to me that we never left the airport terminal in Appleton; yet, here we are at the hospital in Milwaukee.


My father heard the doctors read the unfortunate findings of the CAT Scan, and then informed him that they’ll take another in twenty-four hours. As my father stood by my brother lying in the hospital bed, my mother had been swapping turns with Death every few hours in the lone chair. Though I knew it wasn’t going to be a restful sleep, I sent my parents to the hotel for a few hours of slumber. All knew that tomorrow was going to be busy with phone calls and tears.


As our vigil began, Death offered me the chair, and I started in on editing my students’ poems. There is no rest for teachers, not even the death of a loved one. Death stared out the hospital window and swirled another cognac while rolling the still unlit cigar in his mouth. The only noise was the hiss of the life support system keeping my brother alive.


My parents returned the next day and others visited to pay their respects. It wasn’t until late the next day when my brother went for his next CAT Scan. It wasn’t until after ten that night that the doctors read the results. The aneurism had gone from bad to worse. Now, my parents had to make the decision, and they made it quickly.


“He never wanted to live like this. He made that well known.” Dad said.


Death and I nodded in agreement. We left my parents alone so that they could say their good-byes.


My parents soon exited the hospital room and I gave them both a hug.


As we turned to go, I paused to shake Death’s hand, and said, “Death, be not proud.”


“Death be not proud,” he whispered and turned to enter my brother’s room.

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