Stuff – A Conversation One Year Later

A year ago this week, I was sitting in a hospital room next to my brother, just shooting the breeze. I had learned of his diagnosis just a few days earlier, and yet, even though I knew it was cancer, I still felt like everything would be just fine.

Our conversation was so completely normal. We talked a lot about sports, which was something you could talk with Larry about any day, any time. I remember specifically asking him for advice about a baseball situation with Jacob, and I clearly remember his advice. I can’t sit at one of Jacob’s baseball games now without my brothers voice entering into my head.

This couple of hours in the hospital is what I think about when I think back to last summer.  I think about our last “real”, normal conversation before cancer took it’s stronghold and quickly took my brother away from his family.

Shooting the breeze, in a hospital room, talking about nothing significant at all. Just stuff.

Sometimes I wish I could re-do that conversation… to say things more meaningful than what I did. I wish I could have told him that I was sorry about a few years before when things were really strained between us…all the hateful things I said to him during that time.  I wish I would have told him how proud I was of him… how much I admired how hard he worked to give his family the life they had. I wanted to tell him that I think he turned into the most amazing dad, and along with his wife raised some of the best kids on this planet. I wish I would have told him that I was sorry I didn’t spend more time with him and that even though there were so many years between us, I had a lot of really funny and vivid memories of growing up with him as my brother.

One such memory is cemented in my head like yesterday…it was the middle of the night before Easter, and Larry was so gingerly hiding the Easter eggs, acting as the Easter bunny. I remember him telling my mom he wanted to get it “just so” because I was at a “critical age” and he didn’t want me to stop believing… only what he didn’t know was that I was peeking around the corner watching him the entire time. It was that night that I found out the Easter Bunny wasn’t real… but I didn’t let on. I never shared that story with him because on that day in the hospital and all the other days, we talked about “stuff”. I feel like we went through our whole relationship as brother and sister talking about “stuff”. Shooting the breeze…stuff.

A couple weeks later after that day in the hospital, he had gone down hill significantly, and exactly two months after the “stuff” conversation, he was gone.

Tonight, as I am on a high from a wonderful family weekend yet also in a fog because of the memories I am having from this past summer, I wonder how this past year has changed me. How will I let this change me? My husband and I drove home in silence today… we had over 4 hours of opportunity to talk about more than just stuff, but we were tired and zoned and moving through life with four kids, jobs and a busy calendar.

It’s easy to say “give grace”, “live like there’s no tomorrow”, “tell people you love them” but doing it… moving beyond just “stuff’ is hard sometimes. It takes time, it takes a lot of effort and sometimes it takes a conversation, or lack thereof, to give you that gentle push into reminding you how quickly things can change. Tomorrow is a new day and I want it to be a turning point – a tuning in point – because we never know when there might be another chance to say what we want to say.

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  1. says

    I completely understand the “up in the middle of the night and need to write” feeling. I hope this helped you sort out your complicated thoughts. I, too, have a brother who seems only to converse with me about “stuff” if at all. So with this in mind when I see his youngest graduate this week, I will make an honest effort to tell him how much he matters to me. I’ve done it in writing with no response, but you’ve given me hope. So very sorry for your loss, Kristin. I know a year’s time does little to ease your grief.

    I am truly enjoying your intentional summer — your photos and glimpses of fun are truly wonderful and make me smile every single day, so thank you for sharing them.

    • says

      It sounds like our relationship with our brothers is a lot the same, Kelly. It is so much easier to write, but I know that it will mean so much to him to hear it from you. Even if he doesn’t respond in the way you hope, it will mean a lot. Take the time to say it now… I would if I could.

      Hugs to you and thank you so much for your sweet sweet comment. We are having a most wonderful summer and I’m glad that it brings some joy to you!

    • says

      Thanks, Naomi. I need to show you pages from that journal I keep by my bed. The journal that I searched for that brought you into my life :) It has so many of my late night ramblings scribbled into it.

  2. says

    We have to know that we did the best we could with what we had at the time. Death is difficult – I still grieve over the loss of my mother and all the shoulda coulda, wish I wouldas & that was 15 years ago! Same with my only brother’s wife who died from breast cancer at the age of 39. Death is hard, but in the end I can’t help but feel certain that our loved ones knew what was in our hearts. {{{{HUGS}}}}

  3. Pat Wogan says

    I am so proud of you! This post is truly worthy of an award! You express so well what I am feeling with regard to Larry. I wish I could have had a conversation with him about all the memories I had of him growing up. I wish I could have said I was sorry he had to walk a mile home in the snow in the first grade because we didn’t balance at the bank and had to stay late. I wish I could have told him how sorry I was when he cut his foot so badly. I wish I had told him how sorry I was that he had to crawl under the house to bring out his dog who had died on the Fourth of July because she was so afraid of the loud noises. I wish I had told him how his smiles brightened my day. He was so smart! I wish I had told him how much I admired the way he handled things as a man and what a great father he was. His teachers all saw the potential in him even in elementary school. He was a good man. I did tell him that! I truly think he is watching over all of us. Hopefully, I will be able to tell him all these things when we meet in the future! He was so cute when he was little and was the ball boy for Mike’s Little League team. His number on the back of his shirt was 1/2. After the games he always ran around the bases and slid into home. I miss him terribly!

  4. says

    So beautifully written. You had me in tears. Funny that your blog posts go way beyond “stuff”. Sometimes I guess it’s easier to write what’s in your heart than talk face to face with people. I get it. I am also guilty of that fact. In the future I will try harder to connect face to face with those I love. Thanks for the reminder and I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your brother.

  5. Annette Friesen says

    Great post, so thoughtful, genuine and real and not “stuff.” Kristen, being with someone for 4 hours and not needing to talk is a beautiful thing too. I have been married for 36 years — today. And I can say I pressured poor hubby to have deep conversations when he would have preferred the enjoyment of stuff conversations. But to take the time to tell someone what you appreciate about them and are thankful about them? What a wonderful conversation starter! Hubby sent me an email on our 33rd wedding anniversary – it was entitled “33 things I like about you.” Totally fun and full of stuff coated in love! I love that you are wise enough to know the value of loving people verbally as well presence and service. Blessings on your day!

  6. Lisa says

    I got tears reading this (I adore the Easter bunny story). How I wish I could go back in time to just simply talk stuff but with more presence with loved ones again….
    This is such a beautifully written post, Kristen…. You write, “a tuning in point” — I love that — a great reminder for all to become present, which speaks volumes in its own way; being present says, “I love you, I appreciate you, I’m here.” And I think that having that fun family weekend was definitely a way of saying such things — it was just in a different language, if you will.
    Argh, sorry this is all jumbly/rambly, but that happens when my heart is touched so!
    Love ya, sweetie.

  7. says

    If this means anything, I first took notice of you when your brother was gravely ill, just before you lost him. Your story haunted me – bittersweet to read your words today. Grief changes, doesn’t it? But it never truly leaves it, nor do we want it to. Some people are so special that they will always stay with us, always. Wishing you strength.

  8. says

    Beautifully written! Just changed my evening plans – Having dinner with my husband tonight, without our four kids. There will be no “stuff” conversation. Making sure I hold him a little closer and tell him how much he means to me. Thank you!

  9. says

    Such a beautiful post and a reminder we all need to hear. You’re so blessed with your ability to write…and in turn you are blessing so many others. Your brother would be proud. And sometimes, even though we don’t talk about serious stuff, it is still meaningful because it is still time spent together, talking. xoxo

  10. says

    This is such a thoughtful post, Kristen. Even though you didn’t say the words to Larry that you wish you had said, I guarantee that he knew you were proud of him, you were sorry for words previously spoken and that you loved him. He knew that because you sat there with him, talking about sports and whatever else…you don’t do that sort of thing unless you love someone. I’m sending a big hug to you. xo

  11. says

    (((Hugs Kristen)))

    A lovely post. I think our life is filled with wanting to do re-dos. It’s a good reminder to really make the most of the moments.

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