What My Brother Taught Me about Living

When I decided I would start this blog, I knew that one of my first posts would be about my brother, and how he taught me to never give up.

I grew up in a family of sisters, until my youngest sibling and my only brother came into our world. Four older sisters couldn’t have been easy for him, but he soldiered on – literally. At the age of 18, Ron enlisted into the US Air Force, and retired 20 years later.  He then took a civilian job at the same Air Base he just retired from because he was so good at what he did that the Air Force didn’t want to let him go.

Proud? Absolutely! But it wasn’t his hard work ethic that inspired me to write this post about him. It was his fight, his unwillingness to give in and let his worst enemy get the best of him.  And his enemy was silent and deadly – cancer.

For eight long years, Ron fought the hardest battle he’d ever faced. But in the midst of it all, he never quit fighting.

When he was first diagnosed back in 2008, the doctors told him that with treatment he would have maybe 7 to 10 years, without it, less than 2. And they would not be easy years – chemo, surgery, more chemo, and all the nasty side effects that go along with battling this horrible disease. In the early years, there was a time that he wanted to take the easy way out. He didn’t want to go through all the pain, or put his family through it. He was a soldier. He had a gun. But he made the mistake of mentioning that fact to my husband many years ago.

I didn’t know about this conversation until just before my brother passed, when we had spent our last quality week with him. Ron shared with me what Tom’s reply was to him that day: “Taking your life is the chicken-sh*t way out. You’re stronger than that. Don’t do that to your family.”

So Ron kept fighting, but more importantly, he lived like he knew he was dying.  Knowing his days were short, in his last few years my brother did great things and traveled the world.

But what inspires me the most was that Ron never gave up. As long as there was a thread of hope, he kept fighting. And when he finally had to accept that he would not win this battle, he planned out his funeral and made sure all of his loved ones were taken care of. Right up until the end, Ron was organized and kept his focus.

I think it must be the most fearful thing we have to face in our lives – our death. But my brother Ron faced it with such an incredible strength and dignity, that I’m still in awe of him. I know there were times when he was really sick, but when I spoke with him on the phone, he usually had a joke, or a funny military story to share. The last thing Ron wanted was anyone to ever feel sorry for him, even though I know there were times he was scared. My brother was the strongest and bravest man I’ve ever known.

Since this blog is about facing my fears and moving toward my goal, even if it’s only one step at a time, it made sense that I would use my brother’s strength and determination as a catalyst to keep me focused.  If he could look death in the eye and spit in its face, then what did I have to be afraid of? Trying to get my book published is a far cry from the grim reaper knocking at your door.

So, I’m going to follow his lead. Every time I start to feel fear creeping up, because there’s something new and uncomfortable I have to do, or something I need to learn in order to accomplish my goal, I’m going to remind myself of what my brother faced, and how he never gave up.

There’s a sign above my desk that says: ‘We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.’  My brother did that. He created a legacy for me to follow and taught me about living, right now. Don’t wait. Do it now. We don’t know how many tomorrows we have.

So, thank you, Ron—thank you for all the memories and for reminding us what’s important about life: Living it!  I’ll be forever grateful for the time we had together. I’m thankful for all he taught me about facing our fears. If he could live his last few years with such strength, and still face the greatest fear of all, then I have nothing to be afraid of. I feel my brother’s spirit with me every day, and he gives me courage to keep going, one step at a time.

I love you, Ron, forever. I miss you every day.

If you’ve lost a loved one, and want to share, I’d love to hear from you. We’re all part of a large family that is just spread out across the globe, and it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

Comments are closed.