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Friday, June 17, 2011

A Good-Bye To My Brother

Yesterday I got the call that I had to say good-bye to someone I have been on this earth with for 51 years. My older brother,Daniel Robert Harold Saunders, born on March 3, 1957 fell from the roof of his house and crashed onto his fence. But that isn't what killed him. He spent the next forty hours in a room at the Invermere hospital and on the third day, after getting out of his bed for physio, he had pains in his chest. He returned to his bed and went into cardiac arrest. An autopsy will have to tell us if it was from a massive coronary or a blood clot from the damage his legs sustained.
Either way, he is gone.
While he was in hospital, the family luckily had a chance to talk to him. My Dad and sister and I called. My Dad from as far as Fredericton, New Brunswick, my sister from Ottawa, myself from 14 hours away in northern British Columbia. Dan's recently- estranged wife and two teen aged children were able to see him as well and express, as we did, their feelings and love. That is more than most people get when a loved one dies from an accident. At least we have that to cling to in this darkest hour.
There is a movie playing in my head ,its the earliest memory I have and it begins with myself standing at the big picture window in our livingroom. I am 4 years old and I am waiting for my big brother to return from Kindergarten. He has only just left. Mom tries to distract me, wants me to play with my baby sister, but I won't be swayed. I stay by that window until he comes home hours later. I want to go to school too. In fact, I want to do anything and everything my brother does. I want to ski like him, to party like him, to get to know all of his friends.And I do.It takes me years but I catch up, never having been more than a heel behind his every step.
 He used to hate that.
As the oldest of three siblings, he would rule the roost quite firmly, chasing my sister and I throughout the hallways of our house when the parents were out, forcing us to lock ourselves into the bathroom or our bedrooms so he couldn't get at us. If he did catch us, we would suffer an Indian burn on our wrists, or other just "punishments"  that he deemed fit for annoying him.
 I used to hate that.
Then we both graduated from high school and within a year of each other, moved from Fredericton NB out west, him to Calgary and myself to Vernon BC. In June 1984 I called Dan, now nicknamed Dano, when I went into labour with Karly, my first born. He showed up at the hospital two days later, shirt unbuttoned, sandals on and a pot of geraniums only to discover I was still in labour and all by myself. He stayed beside me and watched my daughter being born. He professed to be messed up for three days after, telling everyone "I would never ask a woman to go through that for me." And indeed it took eleven years before his wife Julie went through that and Dano's daughter Jayme was born. Two years later Zachery arrived, both children near- spitting images of their father.
My brother settled into life as an upholsterer, being a master at the helm of an Industrial sewing machine. He was a hang glider pilot even after having trashed his body in a near-fatal ski accident while in his twenties. People used to turn their heads so not to see his launches, they were that scary. As were the landings, but he loved being up in the air. All that sense of freedom.
He also loved doing things for other people. He was quick to open a door, to lend a hand, to invite you over, pour you a drink. He would make a car load of family wait in a sweltering truck while he helped someone with groceries, probably someone he didn't even know.
He did everything he could for his family and they wanted for nothing. His daughter became a champion goalie, his son a champion at any sport he attempted like bicycling and snowboarding.
Dan was always there for everyone. Not usually on time, but he was there.
We got together when we could. A Christmas or two, a reunion, lately at our Mother's ash spreading last July and then when I was having my radiation treatments. He drove to Kelowna and made us dinner.The best guacamole appy I have ever tasted. He was so happy. After thirty years, he was finally pain-free from a new gadget he had found and bought with inheritance money from our mother. Sadly, he informed us he  had moved out of his home and into his camperized bus, because something needed to change and he decided nothing would unless he made the move. He was trying to move forward with his life.
Between raising a family and flying to and from New Brunswick twice for our mother's passing in 2009,  Dano was quite strapped financially and felt the world was crashing in on him. He never knew how to say "no." He would, no, no...and then he would give in and say "okay." His biggest downfall was his big heart, a heart that killed him in the end. I imagine he would laugh at how ironic that is.
Everything demanded more from him and he would give. And give. And give until it became too much. He was put onto anti-depressants and seemed to be keeping his head above water.

Unfortunately, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident a few weeks ago and got himself a DUI.  He then crashed his bicycle and received three broken ribs. Things just continued to spiral downward. "Everything is such a mess," he told me. "I don't know what I'm doing anymore."
He ended up on the roof of his house. There was an audience, the neighbours, the police, the ambulance attendants. The rest you know.

At least now my brother doesn't have any more cares or problems. His head is high, his body unbroken, and he is on to the next phase in life after death. I have no doubt my mother and grandmother, both whom adored him his entire life, were there to greet him with open arms. As they will be there for my sister and I one day as well.
It makes death seem a little more friendly, when you have someone you loved so much, being there waiting. You almost look forward to it.
So  once again I am at the picture window waiting for when I will see Danny again. Wanting to be where he is.
Life has a funny way of coming around full circle.

I miss you already Big Brother. May you rest in peace...until I get there!