Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Poignant Farewell, A New Beginning

In Chinese Medicine, the functions of the liver [yin organ] and gallbladder [yang organ] are paired. In terms of five element theory, they are considered ‘wood.’ [The other four elements being fire, water, metal and earth.] When you think of wood, think sap rising in spring . . . and that lovely pale color green – the green of just emerging shoots from the still-cold ground; new, fresh grass; the pale green haze enveloping trees in early spring.

This green is what my brother Julius hoped to see one final time. It was an exciting time of year for him, a happy, invigorating time. Sap rising, new life beginning. But he only made it to the first day of Spring, then died during the early morning hours of Good Friday, at the darkest part of the night, just before there was any lightening in the sky.

He had no choice, really; he had outlasted every prognosis, squeezing breath and life from a body full of metastasized lung cancer. He had endured stereotactic radiation several times a week which miraculously killed off the many bone tumors, giving him maybe 6 more months and cutting down the terrible pain from those places. But at the end, he literally had no lung left to expel the carbon dioxide accumulating in his body. And he left us after slipping into a gentle, painfree coma.

I tell you all this, only so you can understand that there is a new beginning, a greening of possibility, after a sad death such as his. He was loved, and cherished, by his wife and stepdaughter, and by his mother, and by his five siblings, all of whom appreciated Julie for the unusual person he was. His memorial service was jammed with mourners. People literally left because there was no room to even stand. We each spoke about our brother in the most truthful ways we could, to try to capture for the ‘outside’ world who he was for one last time.

And after that, we each slept deeply and completely.

Because something utterly painful and sad was finally over, and we could begin to live again without waiting for something so dreadful we didn’t dare dwell on it before it happened.

And with each day, aided by the small messengers from the earth -- tips of leaves from flowers to come, the growing gathering of birds on the feeders, sunlight lasting longer into the evening -- our spirits feel lighter, and possibility grows in our hearts. You see, we learned something from my brother. His will to live was so strong it fed a denial that kept him from doing what would have made him happy, from living his last months as happily as he could have. And we have each decided not to do that. Not now, not ever. It was not a good strategy; it did not work. It was painful to watch and exhausting to maintain. And if that is an inadvertent gift from him, so be it; we are not looking too deeply into the ‘whys’ anymore. It is a lovely gift; a way of embracing life. We will take the best he had to offer – his love of and excitement about the natural world and gardening, his brilliance in architecture and design and enthusiasm for different ways of doing things and his final lesson. And he will live in us as long as we remember who he truly was.

There will be many more tears, but there will be grateful smiles and an embracing of life in a way none of us have ever done before.

Thank you Julius, for who you were and what we learned.

Godspeed, my brother.

Julius Traina
September 1, 1952 - March 21, 2008


Johanna said...

For those who have not suffered the loss of a beloved sibling, a lesson.
For those less fortunate, a ray of hope and comfort.

Li said...

Julius was very lucky to have such a gifted and loving sister. The journey is hard and the bitter sweet lesson not soon forgotten, I'm sure.