Last week my surviving son, Chris, handed me a piece of paper with the following essay printed on it. I'm both heartbroken and proud of how he is able to articulate sibling grief:
The power was out on Wednesday when I arrived with my aunt from a plane trip. I was nervous for my first day of school the following morning. The first day of school without my mom or dad. My mom and dad were still in Zinkwazi at a beach house taking care of my sick brother. My brother, Josh, wanted so desperately to go on the school camp with his friends and he nearly didn’t because he wasn’t well the week before. That weekend with my family at the beach house where we went to every Christmas before Josh got diagnosed was awesome. It was such a happy place for me, so many good memories and good times, I loved it.
I packed my new schoolbooks into my bag, I didn’t know what class I would be in nor the books I should take so they all went in my bag. I had a shower with a lamp (power by the generator) to see what I was doing. I got into bed feeling nervous but excited. The next morning, I woke up to the gentle guitar alarm playing on my phone. The power turned on. I got into the shower, put on my clothes, brushed my teeth and was ready for the day.
I was lying on my bed thinking about what class I would be in. I hoped it was the same as my last year’s class. The house phone in my parent’s room rang. I ran towards it hoping it was a call from my mom and Dad. I picked up the phone and it was my mom, she sounded worried. She said, “Hello Chris, would you mind putting me through to Aunty Phil?” My aunt was never good at answering her phone. I took the handset to her and went back to the bedroom. My aunt came to the room and handed me the phone. I thought I knew what was about. I never wanted the call to be made.
My mom sounded like she was crying, and she said, “I’m so sorry Chris. Joshie passed away this morning, he had no pain. I am so sorry my boy.” I froze right where I was standing and tears rolled down my face. “I didn’t want the teachers to tell you at school. I’m so sorry. Here is Dad.” My father was also crying, I had never heard him cry, my dad is a very strong man.
“Hello Chris, I am so sorry my boy. He had no pain he was happy until the last moment.” I asked my parents if I could call them back. I hugged my aunt and cried. I didn’t believe what had just happened. I picked up the phone and called my mom, she told me that my uncle was coming and I just needed to wait. I didn’t want my uncle; I wanted my mom and dad. This was the worst way it could possibly happen. After 30 minutes my uncle arrived he too had tears in his eyes, he hugged me and told me he was sorry for what happened.
I closed the door behind me when I went into the study, I wrote down a speech I would say at the funeral.
I think back on Zinkwazi and how it has become a horrible place and not the happy place I remember. I don’t think I would like to go back.
I have some important words to say: Fuck you Cancer