A year ago my Brandon had less than a week left to live with us in this life, but we didn’t know it. We knew his health was getting worse. We knew cancer had a tighter grasp on his body. But we still had hope in another new chemotherapeutic drug trial, and we still thought he had months at the least – not days. Still. A scary symptom developed over that Memorial Day weekend.
My brother Jim (Brandon’s godfather), sister-in-law Betsy, and Lena their wonderdog were in town from Northern Virginia and staying with us for a long-planned Memorial Day weekend visit. Brandon always looked forward to their visits, and this time Jim and Betsy were to take Brandon and Christina to dinner that Saturday at a true Cincinnati spot – The Boathouse – when in the mood for ribs. When Jim saw how frail Brandon looked, he offered alternatives to dining out, but Brandon insisted he was all right and wanted to keep the couples’ date. From all reports the evening was a great success, even as all involved wondered and worried about Brandon’s health.
|Brandon with Morgan at his friends' party on May 25, 2012 - two days pre-headshave|
Sunday we were invited to stop by Christina’s parents’ home. When we arrived, Brandon was sitting in a chair in the back yard and Christina was shaving his head. Seems the radiation was finally resulting in hair loss. Rather than deal with a slow, erratic loss, he asked his wife to shave his head. Then he got a beer and went to sit on porch where he could watch his baby daughter with others in his parents-in-law’s pool. I’m not sure how long we all talked when he asked his dad and me to take a look at his feet. It was as if he’d dropped a bomb. His feet and legs were swollen to two or three times their usual size. I remember the sick, scared feeling that came over me. Joe and I exchanged a look. No words needed to be said.
|Immediately post-headshave on May 27, 2012|
I was to spend the day with Brandon and baby Morgan two days later. He no longer had the strength to care for her on his own while Christina worked, and I was to help him the Tuesday after Memorial Day. After Sunday’s visual bombshell, I wanted and needed that day with him and his daughter. I needed that time with him. But it wasn’t to be.
Several hours after Jim, Betsy and Lena headed home last Memorial Day, I was suddenly hit by a very unpleasant virus. I won’t subject anyone to a description of the symptoms, except to say I was afraid to leave the vicinity of bathroom facilities. There was no way I could care for a baby, and I certainly didn’t want to expose Brandon in his weakened condition, or my grandbaby, to it.
After the first 24 hours, the symptoms calmed but returned again off and on for the next few days. By the time I felt confident that the symptoms would not return, Brandon was in the hospital and he was not destined to leave it alive. I later learned Brandon was beginning to have trouble breathing by mid-week, and he could barely talk because talking competed with breathing. Yet at some point he called me to see how I was feeling. He was concerned about me when he could barely breathe.
|iPhone self-portraits his last week|
If I feel anger about anything, it is that we were cheated – we were robbed – of spending that Tuesday together. Just he, Morgan and I. What would we have discussed? What might have been said when he was still able to talk? How much more might I have been there for him that last week? Cheated and robbed of precious, precious time that can never be replaced. Never. Not ever…