About 12 hours after my day of “Life, Phase 3” started, I received a phone call from my cousin—my brother died, apparently of a heart attack. He would have been 75 in June. It was May 1, my first day off state payroll in 27 years; I retired from higher education to return to my roots and love of writing, photography, speaking, coaching and such. Life was to begin anew.
Listening to her as she conveyed the news and her palpable grief after losing her special friend, listening to my niece and my sister as we talked, listening to my memories of conversations and emails with him, listening to the memories of my mom and dad telling me stories about my brother (he and I never lived in the same house because of our age difference)…listening….listening….to life….and to death. There is much wisdom to be had.
Take care of yourself: My brother had the curse of McInnis genes when it comes to his heart—he had suffered two heart attacks in the past dozen years or so, and the treatment for the last one was the last option, according to the doctors. They told him about six years ago that the stints they used were his last chance—if he were to have another heart attack, there would be nothing they could do. And they told him the stints might last as long as ten years. It is hard fighting genetics, but it seemed to me that he always took care of himself. He wanted as much time as possible.
Pursue your dreams: My brother had the blessing of McInnis genes when it comes to his heart—it was strong for the things he believed in and for the people he loved. He had been working very hard to improve the little house that he and his wife bought in rural Arizona, and he was putting in a 2500 square foot garden. It had long been his dream to have such a place: rural, independent. I am reminded that my grandfather suffered a heart attack while building a home in Rockport more than 50 years ago. Never give up on your dreams.
Never give up-fight on courageously: My brother had the blessing of McInnis genes when it comes to his heart—it was courageous enough to take chances throughout his life. We, unfortunately, were not very close in terms of conversations and sharing, but for what we did share and what I heard from my family, I know of his courage in many ways: he had his pilot’s license at 14 and held myriad licenses over time, he travelled the world in all sorts of gnarly places in challenging times, he loved adventure and was an adrenalin junkie from early on, he shared stories that I thought could only be fiction…but they were true.
Have a metal box: During the flow of communications last night, questions arose as to his plans and wishes. My sister said, “Yes, he knew what he wanted. The plans are in a metal box. Find that.” We all need a metal box, literally or metaphorically, to convey to others our desires, wishes and intentions. It is, after all, a matter of heart.