Three older men, sitting on a bench with their arms around each other

Brothers

I need to say, from the onset, I am angry. Exceptionally angry. More than that, I am heartbroken. Cancer has another of my brothers in it’s cold, murderous grip. I have been to the hospital the last two nights. Last night, he looked near death and sounded as if he was already there. Tonight, he sounds better and the color has returned to his face. That said, he is still in poor stead with a grim prognosis. The sad truth is he will soon be gone.

Meeting my brother as his friend and pastor

I have been his friend for near enough twenty years. I have been his pastor for better than a decade of that time. Last night, he asked me to come to him as his pastor. He told me he wanted to say this to me before it got misquoted or twisted. He was born and raised Irish Catholic. I am New Testament Christian. In the grey area between those two places is where we were last night.

Holding back tears

“When I met you, I had drifted far from my faith. You…YOU brought me back into a right relationship with Jesus Christ, and I want you to know that! You saved me and I love you for that.” We wordlessly agreed not to look at each other, knowing full well that our tears might never stop if we allowed them to begin.

The bond of our brotherhood

He and another brother taught me how to say, “I love you” to another man and mean it. He taught me about honor and loyalty. I am an only child by parentage, but in this circle I am a brother and the bond could not be made any stronger by blood.

My friend will be gone soon

Sooner than I want to admit, my brother will have his name added to a headstone. He will have his ashes placed in something fitting, like half a set of Harley gas tanks. He will be laid to rest next to another brother. Two names on the front of each headstone and two names on the backside of the same headstone. I will not be there, when my time comes. These spots are for full-patch members of the club, but I will visit and tend the graves of my brethren.

I tend to those who have left us

When the skies turn grey and the temperatures begin to plummet, I will put on my warmest clothes and point a motorcycle towards the cemetery. I will clean the headstones. Three of them, the front spaces filled and the back spaces filling faster than I care to admit. I will wipe all the grass clippings off and clean the dark black slate. As I clean each one, I will say prayers for the man there. I will pause longer over the ones I have spoken over as they were laid to rest. When the spring thaw comes, I will return to repeat the process. These are my charges. I tend to those who have gone before.

Honoring my brother

Soon, my brother will be there. I will do my best to give peace and comfort to all of those who gather to mourn. We will tell stories and laugh. Some will light up and blow smoke into the hole. Some will pour in a shot and do one themselves. All of us will hug and weep and talk about our history with him. In short, we will honor a fallen member of our family in the way we know best. With whiskey and wine and song and loud exhaust. On that day, I will honor my brother. Until that day, I will show him love with all that I am.

Angry that cancer is stealing my friend

But tonight, tonight I am angry that cancer is stealing another person I love. In the morning, I will greet the rising sun with the hope that my brother and I will, once again, ride into that rising sun. The wind will kiss our faces and we will rock our heads back and laugh. In the morning, I will dream of cheating death. But tonight, I will go to sleep with a broken heart.

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