Write, Brandt, just write. No matter what, commit words to paper. On December 22,2020 we were told Jacob wasn’t going to live. In the final four days of his life, I made a promise to him. I told Jacob that we were going to be okay. That was his only worry. His last days weren’t filled with regret. He was sad but not afraid to die. Jacob’s number one concern was his sister. He made that very clear to me. His second concern was Naomi, followed by me. He loved us all equally, but he knew they’d need me at my best. I told Jacob that no matter what, I wouldn’t give up and I’d care for them.
This is a promise I tend to keep. I need to be at my best spiritually, mentally, and physically to care for them. I cannot break that promise. These three pillars of health must run congruently. They cannot exist in a vacuum. I am still dealing with guilt. The amount of guilt, however, is unknown.
If you had one more day to say all that you wanted to say to someone you love, would you be able to say it all? I didn’t. Most of that time we spent with him in the final days he slept. The times he was awake, we showered him with love. Friends and family alike visited with him. He laughed. He smiled. We didn’t cry too much with him. Jacob was exhausted from the fight. He was at peace. I see that now. Jacob taught me a lesson about doing the work. The results were not up to us but that doesn’t diminish the work.
During Jacob’s illness, I prayed a lot. I prayed for peace and knowledge. I prayed the serenity prayer. “G-d, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I still pray this every day. I have learned not to pray for results. The universe doesn’t work that way and Jacob’s death is a great example because it doesn’t make sense. Why him and not someone inherently evil? This prayer gave me peace often. Naomi and I worked well in tandem. We switched off days and nights to make sure he was well protected. The nights I had him, Jacob and I would pray that prayer. It brought him some peace too. December 22,2020 was the only time I changed my routine. I asked G-d that night for a favor. That favor wasn’t granted.
Back to my promise to Jacob. I promised him that I would be ok. I promised, no matter what, we were going to be okay. I intend on fulfilling that promise. He made it clear that existing is not living. That evening, after the worst day of her life, to that point, Naomi left the hospital. Jacob and I sat with our hands held. He then got up and walked over to the counter. I asked him if he needed anything. He said he was good. “I just need to work out my legs,” he said as he started doing leg lifts. I recorded it. During his darkest moments, he didn’t rest. He got up and took an action. This is my lesson. Get up and change my physiology. Move the body. Be active.
I’ve been trying to write this for two days. Revisiting Jacob’s last few days is physically heart-breaking. My chest’s heavy and this mental strain tires me. “The landscape would be empty; if you were gone,” is playing in my ear as I write this from Looks Like Rain by the Dead. Apropos. Jacob’s “mensch bench” sits upon an altered landscape once filled with water. The land is now an emerging greenspace. Is it truly changed? I’m not sure. It’s the same space with different views and ecosystems. Ducks and geese have been replaced with Cardinals and blue jays. I like to think Jacob hasn’t gone. I want to think he lives through all the new beauty this ecosystem provides.
What can I do to be the best version of Brandt? What can I do honor Jacob’s legacy? In many ways I am. The work doesn’t stop. There is no finish line. I see that now. The beauty isn’t in finishing. It’s in the journey. Bookends are just place markers. The substance lies between.
Tomorrow’s Blog: First Action Steps; Getting me to my best