The name alone brings me to tears, my brother Stevie and I sat next to each other at our Dad’s eightieth birthday party, a party primarily intended to shift focus from the grief which had slowly consumed him for months.
Tears filling Stevie’s eyes and the pain on his face broke my heart in half. We were trying to be strong but failed miserably, the common denominator that held our family together was no longer there and nothing would ever, ever be the same.
I had been the youngest child to four brothers, my sister married when I was five and the oldest brother died when I was six, our parents both worked full-time so we had a lot of interesting snow days and summer vacations! I spent most of my early childhood being the enemy of all things “manly” and learning to kill or be killed in the best possible way! My mom’s favorite movie is “Overboard” with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, I told her I know why, those children act like we did only they had me!
Over time Troy married and Stevie moved out, Donnie and I went to school together and hung out together with my best friend Genia,
I was plagued with fear growing up, especially of lightning and he would always comfort me during storms, he never belittled me for being afraid, he would just tell me it would be okay that it would be over soon and it always was. He always protected me and never wanted me to be afraid.
In the early eighties, Stevie moved back home and somehow as if set the sound track of “Gemini Dream” everything changed.
Donnie had found an old underground “bunker” down from our house. I don’t know if it had been a bomb shelter or something for storage, it was concrete with metal rungs used to walk down into it, but they turned into a teens paradise, they had a radio, candles, flashlights, snacks and Donnie used the concrete walls for his often abstract art.
One portrait would stick forever, she was quite a character and she would become the mascot of our lives, she had to have a name and someone suggested Roxie Smith and it stuck, from that point on, she became the scapegoat for all mischievousness we didn’t want to own up too.
“Roxie did it!” of course our parents never understood why we found that so hysterically funny, which made it even funnier.
We spent that summer laughing, listening to music and suddenly I was no longer that pesky, little brat but an equal.
We were something like Cheech and Chong meets The Three Musketeers, somehow honorable while being incredibly goofy!
Over time Stevie moved to Tennessee and Donnie moved next to Mom and Dad, and I briefly lived about thirty minutes away, only to move back. Donnie and I stayed right next to Mom and Dad, our homes within shouting distance of each other, I teased her that she would never get away from us and in reality, she never wanted to.
But we always remained close with Stevie, Donnie’s daughter is like a little sister to me and although she never knew it he worried about her a lot and he would always ask me about her when he felt like she was heading in the wrong direction with a friend or new boyfriend I’d always reassure him it was the growing process and she’d be fine.
I always had such a comfort knowing my daughter who adored him would have that, an uncle she could always talk to if she needed help and I would have the reassurance of knowing he would always be right there for her.
We all have problems and he had his with alcohol, like so many others he used to dull the pain in his heart that had built up over a lifetime, a battle I am glad to report that he did win, by overcoming it .
But a greater guy you would never find, big, good-looking with a Sam Elliott mustache, never turned anyone away when they need help, and he always knew what to do in a crisis. We believed he would be there forever.
But our plans aren’t God’s plans and May 2011 would test our faith almost to the breaking point.
He worked nights and most of his free time was spent helping our parents and fooling around with vehicles and hanging out with Dad, who always has to be doing something, that’s what has kept him going, anyway the day before Easter 2011 he started having pain in his ribs, he thought he had just pulled a muscle so he waited about a week before going to the ER, when they did a chest X-ray, it revealed a huge mass in his lung.
He was transferred to a cancer center for a biopsy, for unexplained reasons the night of the biopsy he suddenly seized up and completely coded, no heartbeat, no nothing, his daughter had called and I was on the phone with her and they were preparing to try to start his heart back, she was screaming and understandably ended up passing out.
The center is about an hour and a half from us, so we all rushed there and it was like a nightmare from hell and I kept begging God that he couldn’t die he wasn’t saved, when we got there, she met us in the parking lot, he had come out of it and was fine, no medications, no procedures, just as quickly as it happened, he came out of it.
The doctor’s never could explain it, I told one of them I could, it was God and the power of a praying Mother, had God not spared him he would have died lost and he believed and he would not even eat unless grace had been said but he had never made that required confession of faith of Jesus as his savior.
We were soon informed that he had a rare, deadly inoperable cancer and would have to immediately begin aggressive chemo and radiation.
He had a great sense of humor and tried to lighten us up by saying it was his luck to get the worst kind. Once he got to come home Mom made him move in with them so she could look after him and he resumed life. He couldn’t go back to work but he tinkered with stuff with Daddy outside and planted his annual garden with my daughter and even with the chemo and radiation he did not get sick. Other than losing his hair he looked healthy as a horse. And we believed…..
The time came for his next test, the cancer was not gone, it now had splintered and had spread to his ribs, and spine. The doctor who had once been so hopeful now conceded there was nothing more he could do.
In our desperation we begged him to go to another cancer center, our sister who stayed right by his side took him and she relayed the message to us that the doctor callously informed him that he now had no more than two weeks to live, even adding a “Do you understand, Mr. Brown?”
This news came October 10, 2011, four days before his forty-ninth birthday so we decided to have him a huge family dinner (and we believed) and even though he was now too sick to eat, he opened his gifts and even posed for the camera wearing our nieces furry hood. He never complained and never once asked why.
We were told not to take him back to the hospital but we had his primary care doctor, she was Godsend, we were told we could have Hospice which he was adamantly against, he did not want to die with tubes and strangers and we did our best to honor that wish.(And we believed) two ministers came faithfully to pray with him and us and to assure his salvation because he said he hoped he was saved and he was trying to be so they led him in prayer till he felt he was.
After his party he began to sleep, the last words he ever spoke to me was “Good Night”, in our family we were well-trained you did not go to bed unless you said Good Night, I would cry all day and then try to go act all strong and not hover over him but inside I just wanted to hold him forever and beg him to please not go I couldn’t live without him, I had never had too. I believe God let him sleep to kill the pain, it wasn’t the medicine because he couldn’t be roused to take it, I think he was just shielding him until it was time to go home.
The morning of October 24, 2011 in the arms of his ex-wife and our Dad, he passed away in our Mother’s bed on Stevie’s birthday.
The whole ordeal was like life playing a sick, twisted joke and wanting to wake up from a horrifying dream, someone had even commented to us that if he died it would be due to our lack of faith and because we “got into agreement” with the cancer, something they will answer to the Lord for but it was enough to almost send our Dad over the edge, when Donnie passed.
We had faith, we believed, the minister that came the day he passed told me he believed for a miracle but Donnie got his miracle when got spared him to be saved. And the hardest thing I ever had to do is watch them take his body away knowing that never on this earth again we would laugh, or hug or cry together and all our plans for growing old as neighbors was over, and even though his life on earth had ended his eternal one had been assured.
God carried us through unthinkable sorrow, he continues to carry our parents, Donnie’s children, our siblings and my daughter through it.
God never promised we would not lose loved ones or that the circumstance wouldn’t be mind numbing sadistic, God knows our death even before our birth and it is just that a part of living and every second, every moment is precious and he promises if they live for him, they are with him, Psalm 17:15 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Job 19:25-27 details it to the extreme.
For all that mourn, know those tears are precious to God,
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy, he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5,6
Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain: for the former things are all passed away.”
By the end of Dad’s party, the hymns of the singers driving stakes through the wounded hearts, most ended up outside crying together for what had been lost, Mom with the Victorian grace so rarely seen today hid her tears in putting away leftovers, Stevie and I toyed with the idea of going back to see if the old place was still there but in our realization that the second Musketeer was really never coming back and that the precious laughter of that innocent time that had bonded us through so much more than blood but through true friendship was now a priceless memory to be tucked away in our hearts and propel us to finish our race.
So My dear brother I love you and I will be strong, I will not be afraid of the storms anymore and I know one day I will hug you again. Good Bye, Roxie Smith, God knows I desperately do not want to let you go but love never, ever dies it only sleeps for a little while.
Probably the worst picture I could find, we had been laughing about “wearing the same outfit” the reason this one means so much to me is the circle of arms, I had never really noticed it until after the fact, but this is what he was to me and our daughters.
Had God not covered us….