Breathe in, breathe out
Tell me all of your doubt
And everybody bleeds this way
Just the same
Breathe in, breathe out
Move on and break down
If everyone goes away,
I would stay
We push and pull
And I fall down sometimes
And I’m not letting go
You hold the other line
– Matt Kearney, Breathe In, Breathe Out
It was my brother who called me the morning our mother died. And, after each of us drove our separate hard seven hours alone with our grief, it was my brother standing beside me to tell our frail father she was gone. And later that evening, it was my brother standing beside me in the funeral home as we said our last private goodbyes to her lifeless remains. On the night before her funeral, we lounged together in her bedroom, surrounded by her favorite things, crying and laughing while we wrote our eulogies. And it was my brother standing beside me in the chilly April sunshine, as we put her ashes to rest beside her mother and her grandmother.
When Jake had a run-in with the law several years ago, it was my brother I called. When Ben’s belligerent wild side got the best of him in baseball, and he was in danger of veering off into a dark path, it was my brother I called. Even if my brother wasn’t a) a criminal defense attorney, and b) a former Division I college athlete, I think I still would have called him.
Thankfully I have never had to experience the physical terror of drowning or falling off a cliff, where a lifeline thrown and caught meant the difference between life and death. But there are times when grief or worry or despondence can leave you gasping for air or swinging in metaphorical gale force winds. To know there is someone strong and steady pulling the other end of the line – someone in whom you trust completely- is a wonderful gift.
These days when we talk, it is mostly about our father. My brother has the primary responsibility for his care, which has become increasingly up-close-and-personal. My father needs assistance with almost all of the basic activities of daily living, and my brother brings extraordinary love, humor and honesty to these chores. On particularly tough days, I can hear how emotionally drained he is, how much he has given.
Who knew that the pesky little boy who used to poke me incessantly in the back seat of the car would become such a tower of strength? Who knew that the handsome, popular guy who never missed a party in high school would bring such reflection and empathy to these difficult moments?
My brother has been my lifeline many times in the past, and now he is a daily lifeline for my father. There is no higher compliment or a more priceless gift to offer. Someday I hope I can return the favor, if needed, by holding my end of the line tight for him.
Who serves as your lifeline? Have you thanked them lately?