This month I received a jolt to my system, and I’m not talking about the election. The day before voters elected Donald Trump the next president, my brother died of brain cancer. He was diagnosed in February of 2015, and exhausted all treatment two months ago.
He was 53.
We weren’t especially close for much of our adult life, but we weren’t distant, either. From the late 1990s through the 2000s, his work and family commitments carried him just outside of our normal circle.
There was no recrimination, no ill will or falling out to reconcile. Just the normal ebb and flow of life on which he drifted further away. We’d catch up every few months, and see each other once a year… or maybe once every two years.
During the same timeframe, other members of the family grew a bit closer, making my brother’s absence more noticeable. We talked about it, and I even discussed it with him from time to time. And yet, things remained the same.
Then came 2013.
That was the year that my sister, brother and I were responsible for hosting a family reunion. This side of the family includes a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins that we rarely see. But we are always glad they come.
We have a reunion every three years, and the burden of hosting passes down through the family tree. They tend to be raucous affairs with a lot of laughter and late-night parties. They also take a lot of coordination.
As the three of us worked on preparation, we talked often. In the days before the reunion and during the event, we spent a lot of time together, reconnecting and generally enjoying each other’s company. Maybe we should have done that sooner, but at least we took the opportunity when it presented itself.
This led to more conversations and connections in the following months, including visits. We were back together. Still, there were no hatchets to bury, no issues to resolve, just a distance that we bridged.
His diagnosis in February 2015 hit like an avalanche. We dealt with the usual questions…Why him? Why so young? Why couldn’t modern medicine cure it?
But luckily we avoided one common emotion – regret.
The two years of closer contact that we enjoyed before his diagnosis put us in a good place. We were able to jump in and help with his care without it being awkward. We flowed in and out of his home, where his gracious wife dealt with a constant parade of characters.
Both in the early stages and the last stage of his life, many of us had the chance to be with him.
For those moments with him, I am truly thankful.
All of us have the most precious commodity – time. We can take the opportunity today, or any time during the holiday season, to reconnect with those who might have drifted out of view for no particular reason. By rekindling that relationship, we’ll pick up one of the more rewarding things in life – a personal bond.
May your season of Thanksgiving be blessed with personal relationships, new and old, that make you rich in ways that money never can.
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