I will be interrupting the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share a personal story. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented members.
On July 21 we received word that my mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital in Israel. She was unconscious, and was put on a ventilator. The doctors ruled out a stroke, and began treating her for an infection of unknown origin. Our cousins were wonderful about staying by her bedside, and keeping us apprised. When her condition wasn't improving, my husband made arrangements to fly out to see her.
In the meantime, his younger brother was suffering from liver failure. The cancer began in his colon six years ago, and had spread to his lymph nodes, liver and lungs. Though he was in a great deal of pain, he never complained, and agreed that it was important for my husband to leave the country to be with their mother.
We saw his brother the day before my husband left for Israel. He seemed happy to see us, and even joked around a bit. Our sister-in-law told us that they were going to Michigan for the weekend. We reminisced about some of my brother-in-law's major accomplishments, as they were in a family business together for more than thirty five years. When he went to take a nap, I asked his wife if my husband should postpone his trip to Israel. She felt badly that he was put in this position, but encouraged him to see his mother.
I offered to go with my husband or in his place. Because our older son was busy studying for the bar exam, and our younger son was getting ready for summer school finals, my husband thought that I was needed at home. After he arrived, he phoned to let us know that my mother-in-law was improving. He also received a reassuring email from my sister-in-law stating that his brother was feeling a little more like himself.
When I called to check-in later the following day, a close family friend told us that his condition had worsened. My brother-in-law had to have his abdominal cavity drained for the second time in two weeks, and he was sleeping from all of the medication. They seemed to be exhausted, so I said that I'd bring our boys over on Saturday.
Because there is an eight hour time difference between Chicago and Israel it was already Shabbat there. My husband's relatives are very religious, and will not speak on the telephone or use any electronic devices from sundown on Friday to sundown Saturday. I was frantically trying to reach him early Saturday morning, but he never got the message at the hotel. He was with his mother in the hospital where they also observed Shabbat,
In the midst of all of this, my son was moving into a new apartment. His plan was to set everything up, so that he could be closer to where he was taking the bar exam. I finally was able to reach my husband when Shabbat ended, and asked him to come home as soon as possible to see his brother. He also felt terrible and was waiting for his mother to be released from the hospital.
I tried to prepare our sons, but their once exuberant uncle lay jaundiced and weak in a hospital bed in the bedroom he shared with his wife. He tried to sit up to greet us, but he just didn't have the strength. I told him that he was the bravest man I knew, and that he didn't have to be brave anymore. My sister-in-law and nephew were also in the room with us, and we all fought back the tears.
My husband booked an earlier flight home, and was scheduled to arrive on the first day of our older son's bar exam, which was also our younger son's birthday. While I was scrambling the night before to buy him a birthday present, I came home with two right shoes.
Sadly, my husband didn't make it home in time. At the airport, I gave him the horrific news that his little brother had passed away earlier that morning.
My brother-in-law was a wonderful man who went out of his way to make everyone else feel comfortable during his illness. He always greeted everyone with a joke and a smile. His dear friend did an exceptional job capturing his spirit in his eulogy. We sat with the rabbi telling stories with our sister-in-law, niece and nephew which helped in the healing process. In one day, my husband lost his brother, business partner and best friend.