Rochester Reflected

It was four years ago this weekend that I made my second trip to the Mayo Clinic to visit my brother Rob for the weekend. Rob had two chemotherapy treatments while he was battling his cancer, one in January and one in February. When I found out, I told Donna that I thought it was important that I be there over a couple of weekends if I could. I missed out on being there during his back surgeries, so wanted to support him during his therapy.

These were difficult trips. Good trips; I'm so glad I made them, but difficult.

I went up on Saturday morning and stayed overnight in the hotel across the street. Rob knew I was coming and I think he appreciated the company. Both times I brought a care package from Wisconsin, including his favorite cookies from Donna and a very rough draft of Dirty Shirt. He loved the cookies and said the book was "spot on". That review was worth more than every Amazon review to me.

We had some crazy good conversations. We talked for hours about God, heaven, death, dying, life, past, present and future. He told me his regrets, his fears and his joys. He asked me if I thought we would recognize people in heaven. I told him I had to believe there would be some sort of recognition, but not as winged angels, white robed reincarnations of ourselves or anything like that. I had to admit that I didn't know, but I had to think God would grant us a reunion with those we loved on earth, at least in some form.

We laughed at some of the stupid things we did in our youth, stories only he and I knew. Fishing stories, road trip stories, college flashbacks, fatherhood stories and everything in between.

We cried a few times too. Love does that to grown men and brothers alike. Rob's biggest concern was "his girls". I told him he needn't worry about those girls. This family is too tight to let them fall without a safety net. We love his family like our own and our kids are still extremely close. Blessings fall.

Every hour or so he was poked or prodded or shuffled off to PT. When he was tired, he napped and I worked on my laptop. On Sunday morning I brought him his favorite Mocha from Caribou. When I got there he was sleeping. A few minutes later he said with closed eyes, "I smell coffee. It must be Jim." He opened his eyes and we both chuckled. He knew me.

While I was there, my cousin Coe came up for a visit. He has a heart the size of Texas and is one of the nicest guys I know. Rob asked Coe if he would pick up a couple of Valentines gifts for him so he

could give them to his girls. That was just the way Rob was. Laid up in a hospital bed, and he's concerned about gifting others. Coe went out and shopped for Rob, went over and above the call of duty, and wouldn't take Rob's money when he offered.  That's just the way Coe is.

It was a weekend I'll never forget for so many reasons. A good Valentines day in a different way.

Fast forwarding to 2015 there are still people in my life battling cancer. One of the first friends Donna made when she moved to Wisconsin is now battling breast cancer. Also, our brother in-law's sister is also recovering from a double mastectomy as well.

So we've got a long way to go to beat cancer. A long way.

I miss my brother every day, but I am forever grateful for the support I had from my wife and father in-law for making it possible to take those trips to Rochester that winter. I realize now that I was working things out as much for me as I was for Rob. Hospital beds have a way of doing that to people.

So this Valentine's day, I encourage you to tell that sibling, parent, or friend that you take for granted that you love them.

Better now than later.

Blogging off...


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