Tomorrow Never Knows
By Lori Welch Brown
Tomorrow Never Knows
My family took a big hit recently with the loss of my oldest brother, Phil. Actually—I think the ripple effects extend far beyond our family as he had a work family, a church family, a baseball family, a coaching family, etc. He had childhood friends and new chemo friends. As often happens with illness—especially cancer—you may know the end is coming at some point off on the horizon, but then something happens and quite suddenly you find yourself at the end of the line with your loved one. All of the sudden, far away and distant becomes now and real. That’s how it was with my brother. He was good and then he wasn’t and then he was gone in the span of two weeks. I’m glad he is now at peace and no longer has to spend hours tethered to a chemo drip and didn’t have to add dialysis to his ‘to do’ list.
We gathered as a family to mourn. He had been living out West for 40+ years so I didn’t really know about some chapters of his life. Everyone, however, knew he loved the Beatles, the Eagles and baseball. It was great to hear from his friends, co-workers, kids he had coached, etc. who confirmed that he was beloved. There was a huge void, however. His child from his first marriage wasn’t in attendance as they had been estranged since she was a teenager. He wasn’t perfect—he made some mistakes and wasn’t the best father to her when she needed him. Her mom (his ex) had been trying to broker a reconciliation, but she wasn’t ready. She was coming around to the idea of a visit when I called her to let her know of his passing. It opened up a lot of hurt and old wounds. I don’t mean to air my dirty laundry here—that’s what Facebook is for isn’t it—but theirs isn’t the only estrangement in our family. I cannot begin to tell you how sad these splintered relationships make me on many levels and not just because of what someone missed out on or the lack of closure. Quite frankly, they make me angry too. These estrangements aren’t contained to the two people involved. They impact the entire family.
I didn’t give birth to any children, and if only I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told, “You wouldn’t understand.” No argument there. I love children—except maybe the one who was screaming his lungs out the other day at Costco. And, I especially love the ones I once pushed in a stroller who call me “Aunt Lori.” I love my entire family—crazy and all. I understand that I would like us all to get along and act like a family. I understand that when someone has caused me pain, I need to let them know, and hopefully, find a way to move forward. I understand that none of us is perfect—I say and do stupid stuff on a daily basis. I hope that you understand that and see it in your heart to forgive me and let some things slide. I understand that children often get caught in the middle of adult stuff and sometimes adults act like children. I understand that the world can be a hard and lonely place and that if you push people away, your world gets smaller and harder. Been there, done that. I understand that communication is hard, and I am afraid that Instagram and Facebook is making it even tougher for real, honest communication to take place. (You can’t post a meme about forgiveness and positivity and ‘like’ away hurt). I understand that my relationship with my father has been one of the best in my life, and I cannot imagine my life without him. It is a fact that I don’t have children. I can only imagine how painful it is to watch your flesh and blood walk past you without acknowledgement, ignore your pleas for a reconciliation and/or wish away your existence. Those same kids will be parents themselves one day. Hopefully they never have to feel that pain.
I’m not privy to all of the ‘why’s’ of these estrangements and so I have to respect their decisions and pray everyone is doing what is best for themselves. I made a pact with myself a long time ago, however, that I would welcome a relationship with any family member who wanted to have one—even when I’ve disagreed with their choices which, for the record, I often do. My thought was that as long as there was a connection with me, maybe there was a possibility of a re-connection with [fill in the blank]. Gotta keep the lines open. Maybe someday someone would confide in me and I could help them see things from a different perspective. As history has it, chances are I was there ‘pre-hurt’ and could fill in some of the missing pieces or help shed light. Time heals all wounds, but unfortunately, you have to have some age on you to understand that our time on earth is fleeting.
As the defacto matriarch of our family, I’ve lost a lot of sleep over how I could fix things, but then I realized that trying to manage other people’s relationships is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. If I could, I would give a piece of my own heart to fix whatever is broken or slap forgiveness upside someone’s head. Alas, I cannot. Instead, I’ll offer this—if you want to mend a broken fence, I’ll stand beside you, but please don’t ask me to mourn with you after the fact. Tomorrow never knows and that is your cross to bear.
Phil’s passing has made me think a lot about my own immortality. Lord only knows how many days any of us have on this planet. I want to use my time wisely and lovingly. I like to think that love is a verb and requires action so that’s where I want to put my energy. I want to spend time with the people I love and help people and animals that could use some love. Shortly after Phil was diagnosed with leukemia, I remember him saying, “I don’t know if I have six days, six weeks or six months to live, but whatever time I have, I just want to be happy.” Amen, brother.
Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying
Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.
Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being
Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing