There are certain life events that cause us to pause, reconsider, evaluate. At my age, it is births and deaths that throw a wrench into the cogs of daily life. We are momentarily halted from the things we think are important and take in a panoramic view of the Big Picture.
My brother-in-law, Ed, passed away last week, after a nine-year struggle with cancer. That did it for me.
In a family sea full of estrogen (five out of six are daughters – each sassy and robust in our own special way), I’ve learned to appreciate a male presence that can withstand our collective hurricane. I’ve seen boyfriends and spouses wither in the onslaught. It’s not that I (we) didn’t like them, but you have to have the right personality to get along with the likes of us.
Ed was that guy for my sister. A good old guy from Ohio, he was likeable, easy going, and with a sense of humor, thank God. We girls threw the proverbial kitchen sink at him when my sister first began dating him. She is a good woman and we wanted to protect her, as we protect each other. Our gauntlet included thorough and frequent grillings as to his intentions and the test of a horrible yet hilarious mistruth to gauge his reaction (he passed with flying colors). Instead of thinking we were a pack of wild bitches, he got us.
By the time anyone has the good fortune to get into this family we know it’s the right one.
The private joke between me, my sister, and Ed was that three’s the charm: he was the best husband she ever had. She has had to grapple with the perils and pitfalls of single parenthood (with much success) and tends to worry too much. Ed was kind, fun-loving, and softened her edges. He brought out a love of life and a joy in experiencing it that I don’t believe she could have found on her own. He didn’t have children of his own, but somehow rose to the occasion of being a step-dad and instant uncle.
It was truly a marriage of “in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.” They’d done a diligent job of keeping him healthy, which might explain why he survived as long as he did. But his type of cancer was one without a possible rosy outcome, and when we learned 10 months ago that it had spread it was time to prepare for the inevitable.
I went back to Colorado last fall to hang out, to say goodbye. I’ve seen cancer and chemo before; it tends to make the patient cranky and depressed, but Ed made a valiant attempt to be personable, and did a good job too, until the day I left and he couldn’t get out of bed. At that point, we were all still wearing our cheery faces. He hung onto positivity and tried to maintain a “normal” life through his “normal” death, even until Easter Sunday.
At some point, we all have to let go, and he did the next day.
So long, Ed. Rest in peace, my friend, my brother.