- Death & Loss of Life
A Brother's Story: The brothers say goodby
Tribute to a brother remembered.
Final chapter. A brother remembered.
A Brother’s Story: The brothers say goodbye
This morning... I had the strangest dream. It was one of those dreams that one experiences between snooze button intervals.
In my dream, I walked into a darkened room. There was much background noise from the goings on of an undisclosed source. It was bugging me!
In the room, sitting on a boxed display shelf, was what I thought to be the head of my grandfather Jackson. A bit more than curious, I approached the image for a closer look. On recognizing my brother Patrick, I called out his name. Pat… what’s up? His eyes slowly opened. For a dead man, he looked pretty damn good.
Crystal blue eyes, dark hair, not a wrinkle on the face. Amazing! I asked him how long he had been sleeping on the shelf, his answer ? 55,000 hours.
Hum, interesting! My psyche had reduced the memory of my brother to a talking head, sitting next to a pair of his old work boots; carefully placed on top of a small blanket.
It ain't over till it’s over!
In the early fall of 2011, I received many calls from the family; as to the deteriorating condition of Patrick.
This news was counter to that being shared between brothers.
A month earlier Patrick had called me with the good news that his blood panel and follow up C.T. scan had detected no cancer.
He asked me what I thought of him taking a break from chemo therapy. After all, the treatment had kept him in a cycle of nausea for months. He needed some sense of normalcy.
Not knowing any better, I gave him the verbal nod of approval. Pat would later share with me the good news that he had felt great for 2 or 3 months, and wasn't sure that he required further chemo treatment.
In the first of several proceedures, a stint had been placed in his stomach to aid in the absorption of nutrition. Pat shortly went back to work as a parts manager in a commercial warehouse. The new venture would prove to be short lived, as he attempted to live life under the influence of pain killers.
Three weeks following his hire, he called me to state that he would no longer be working there. He had made too many drug induced clerical errors, and once again, the commute time in greater Los Angeles, was undermining the financial gain of employment. 8 hrs working. 3 hours driving!
Back on the home front, he was fighting the medical community; over unpaid invoices generated by multiple three week stays in Whittier General, as well as his initial exploratory surgery.
Digging through the growing pile of paper on his desk, I would discover that this collection of mostly unpaid medical bills and services had grown to $600,000. They were never going to be paid.
The collectors' were absolutely relentless in their pursuit of payment.
They say that stress will kill you!
As a stage 4 cancer patient, Pat was eligible for disability, as well as state paid medical services. He had applied for Medi-Cal, as well as work disability.It would take no less than 3 months for the system to process his file.
With no access to socialized medicine in the United States., if you own a home, hold assets, and are not medically insured for whatever reason, you are screwed!
On medical disability, the 55 year old father of four would receive no greater than $ 800 per month. This stipence would barely cover the cost of food, utilities and transportation . Rent? Forget about it!
By the end of October, the cancer had returned with a vengeance.
The spread of the cancer, as well as the pressure it placed on the organs, shot a ghost pain to Pat’s lower back. Now, the esophagus, stomach ,pancreas, lower intestine, as well as a kidney, and a lower lobe of the right lung; showed signs of involvement not detected four months earlier.
The pain killers stopped working. Remedy? Increase the levels of pain killer.
Over a time span of six weeks or so, I would take no fewer than 3 trips to Los Angeles; in support of my mother and now undoubtedly dying brother.
With a heavy heart, and much unfinished business left behind, I would board the Tuesday afternoon round trip to Los Angeles from Eugene Oregon. Rent a car, and drive an often longer than flight time, road trip to Whittier General Hospital; a state of the art facility dedicated to the people of the region.
Over the next two months,I would spend no fewer than 21 days in the hospital.
Although the staff, attending physicians,and specialist called in to assist my brother in his battle were mostly attentive, as well as courteous, it soon became very apparent that all involved were on a death watch. No one said it.... You could see it in their expressions and mannerisms. as they kindly attempted to make Patrick comfortable.
Mom! He’s not coming home this time. And the city of hope? Too late!
Mom had been pushing for a transfer of Patrick to the Los Angeles cancer center’ City of Hope. Known for their success in treating advanced stages of cancer, she believed that her second oldest child could be helped there. She would contact the center to no avail. The patient was done!
Don’t let me die in this place Man!
Patrick, like all that I've met in his position, didn't wish to die in the hospital.
22 days and counting, he was ready to go home. The last time he had attempted to leave the hospital, he had returned a day latter with complications. The issue here, as well as the challenge, was maintaining an acceptable pain level at home.
Without the finances needed to support in-house care, as well as the facility required to provide his feeding tube, etc ; in the small confines of his bungalow, 'going home' was a bit difficult.
Brother-in-law Dale, a registerd male nurse, would step up to the task at hand.
On my last visit with Patrick prior to his passing, I sat in his room one more time. Quiet and dark, with the low din of background lighting, and the sounds of nurses and support staff changing shift, we shared small talk interjected with tidbits of relevant conversation.
He offered to walk me out to the elevator. Looking at me... indirectly as most men do, Pat hesitantly admitted defeat.
The pain had beaten him down to a shadow of his former self. “I might be done this time; I don’t think I can take any more of the pain." Looking at my brother, I weighed his words carefully without acknowledging them. My heart was breaking. My baby brother was dying, and there was nothing I could do to help him.
For me, the toughest part of this episode had been watching Pat fight increasing pain levels for more than a year.. This guy was no light weight. He had been tough as nails! Brave as any man wounded in battle, He was done!
As we slowly walked out to the elevator, I took my brother's arm. He had convinced me as well as all that knew him, that he would beat this disease; as he had done 20 years prior.
Standing in front of the elevator, Pat asked me for a hug. This was way out of character for the big man. I now knew that his long fought battle with cancer was coming to a end.
This would be the end of our 55 years together on the planet, the last time that I would speak with Pat in person.
In Memoriam: Patrick Gordan McCants 2-28-1955 to 3-10-2012
Patrick G. McCants would pass away at home, under the watchful eye of extended family on March 10 2011. He was two weeks past his 56 birthday.
He died without fear, accepting his faith after decades of distance from the church. In his mind as shared with mom, Pat was no longer afraid of death.
He leaves a legacy of incredible resolution as well as bravery in facing terminal cancer, as well as four children and an extended family that will remember him as a difficult, yet loving personality.
Peace my brother. Know that you are loved and remembered. I’ll see you around.