I stand by your bedside holding your hand. You had always said I would be the one standing by your side when this day came. You even said I would be the one holding your hand. Well here we are and yes I’m holding your hand. I look at your short stocky fingers limp within mine and then my gaze goes to your face.
Your face, even though it has been ravage by the disease, still holds its charm. I wish I could look into your eyes one more time. If only you would open them and I could see that sparkle that had always been there. I could not imagine it not being present even as you came to the end of your journey. What I wouldn’t give to see that Elvis quirk on your lip when you smiled. I used to tease you about how women would chase you. A short stocky man with a badly balding head and still women flocked to you. I would give you such a hard time over that but I have to tell you, I did get it. You were capable of charming a bird out of a tree and you had a magnetism few had. Yes I got it, I simply would never tell you that because your head was big enough.
I can’t help but think about all the years we shared. Our dad passing away when we were so young and you trying to take his place. Oh how I hated you at times. You were determined you were going to play dad and I was just as determined that you weren’t. We fought like cats and dogs. You poor thing, you carried my marks on you more than once when we locked horns. Well if nothing else big brother you taught me to stand my ground and defend myself so that one is on you. Never once though did you ever lay a hand on me in anger. Well there was that one time you turned me over your knee and I totally deserved it. Funny thing was you ended up crying harder than me over that one. Anyway all I can say about all of it is, you must have had the patience of Job.
When we got older we still fought on occasion but never as we had when we were young. We mellowed with age I guess. We also became more than brother and sister. We became friends. We shared our darkest secrets with one another. Oh you were still a pain in my side but I wouldn’t change that. Some of my very best arguments I had with you. You were so funny when you got mad. Absolute reasoning wasn’t your strong suit. I loved the way you would huff and puff and draw up your shoulders when you stomped away. Even now the image makes me smile.
How long have I stood here? I don’t even know. I look at your face for some sign that you are still inside that body and there is nothing. Oh you still breathe but it is a slow, shallow, labored breathing. There’s no movement in your facial muscles, no twitching of your eyelids. I wonder if you know I’m even here.
Suddenly your mouth opens and I think you’re are about to say something but that isn’t it. It has come. The end. You take your last final breath and everything is still.
For some reason I look up and you’re standing there facing the door. You cock your head toward me and it drops a little the way you always did when you were up to something. I see you standing there in your uniform and you’re smiling at me. I can see through you but there is that smile and those big blue eyes with all their sparkle. I see you. Suddenly you straighten up as if you have come to attention and turn your face back toward the door. For some reason you light up and then as if you take a deep breath and an even bigger smile crosses your face, you exit the room.
I walked out of your room and out onto a large upper veranda there at the hospital and as soon as I’m out the door I fall to my knees screaming your name. I cry until there is nothing left inside me. Not even when our parents died did I cry like this. You are gone and nothing will ever take your place my brother, my friend.
It has been over five years since that day and every now and again in the quiet moments I will catch the scent of your cologne. You are with me still.