Throw Open the Windows of Your Soul to the Sun

My brother—of my siblings, the one closest in age to me at five years my senior—is going into hospice care. Despite doctors’ expectations—that a surgical procedure within the last few days would prepare him for another procedure that would dramatically improve his condition—his condition has not improved. To the contrary, it has worsened. The doctors and surgeons have determined that my brother probably would not survive a second surgery. They recommend palliative care by way of in-hospital hospice care, instead. He has accepted the recommendation. He has told me clearly in the past that he does not want his life prolonged if it means a quality of life involving being bedridden in a hospital and unable to look out for himself.

This unexpected turn of events is extremely hard. My other brothers, my sister, our niece, and I recently had, collectively, finally convinced him to accept our help. Knowing we all had his financial back, he had agreed to move from the ramshackle place where he had lived for many years—where he was completely on his own—to a place where he would have a clean apartment, three meals a day, a solid social environment, and available help twenty-four-hours-a-day. Our niece, the only one who lives close to him, had taken on the task of helping him visit potential places to live. She has been the one, too, to visit him in the hospital and help him maneuver the labyrinthine medical establishment. Now, she is the one coping with his transfer to hospice. And, quite probably, she will be the one dealing with what is to come.  I feel helpless to do anything. And I feel guilt that I have done too little to give my brother a hand in dealing with challenges he should not have had to face by himself. Absent the presence and incredible help from our niece, he would have been dealing with an almost insurmountable mountain of difficulty. He is extremely bright and resourceful, but circumstances have dealt him raw deals for most of his life. If I had intervened at the right times in the right conditions, his financial footing might have been different long ago. He might have long since been in a better position years ago—and better able—to live in a less stressful, more hospitable atmosphere. It’s a bit late, now, to second guess what I could have or could not have done, though. Regardless, my brother is now facing the consequences; waiting in a hospital room to be transferred to hospice care. It was just over a year ago that my late wife moved into hospice care. That was an entirely different debilitating situation, but learning last night of my brother’s situation was also a a gut punch and emotional experience that utterly deflated the holiday balloon.

I hate that I cannot be with him. It’s my understanding that the flood of COVID-19 cases in Houston, especially in and around the medical center complex and Methodist Hospital in particular, severely limits visits. That was true last year when my wife’s life was coming to an end; though I was able to see her and be with her every day, as was her sister. Houston seems like a lifetime away. And I guess it is. The next few days will be, for all of us, an emotional time we do not want but over which we have no control. Christmas wreaths and trees and decorations suddenly seem out of place and awkward. Fragility is in the air. I feel cracks in my emotional armor and I see them in the mirror. Life and death are brutally hard.

Mortality defines the human condition.

~ Drew Gilpin Faust ~


My IC and I decided last night to cut back radically on our Christmas Day celebration. We had planned a gathering of a few neighbors and friends; we planned a non-traditional tapas party. Instead, we’re having just two people over. If I suddenly need to deal with issues outside their control, they are flexible. And they won’t be disappointed that I abandoned the over-the-top food festival I had planned. We’re still planning on attending the services and soup supper at church on Christmas Eve, unless the situation dictates otherwise. We’ll try to keep things as “merry” as we can, given the circumstances.


Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.

~ Marcus Aurelius ~


As usual, I quickly fell asleep in front of the television last night. The two prior nights, we watched episodes of Peaky Blinders. Or, rather, I started to watch them before I drifted off. Last night, I fell asleep while watching The Chair. I wasn’t asleep long. And last night I drifted in and out for just a while. But for whatever reason, I could not keep my eyes open. Until I got in bed. Then, I could not get to sleep for a long while. And when I finally did, it did not “take.” I was awake, off and on, all night. Finally, this morning, I got out of bed around 4. And I thought to myself, “Finally, I legitimately can relate to the opening lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat!”

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better…


When the world grabs me by the collar and shakes me until I slip into compliance with its harsh demands, I realize that my normal daily complaints are just minor whimpers. They are undeserving even of brusque dismissal. They merit being ignored outright, as if the air had not been disturbed by my words of grievance; as if my protests had gone unnoticed. We bitch and moan about the simplest, most inane things. When matters of actual consequence arise, their importance is diluted; like an ice cube dilutes a shot of whiskey.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Throw Open the Windows of Your Soul to the Sun

  1. Deanna, thank you for being the voice of reason in a chorus of madness. Usually, we are not in control; it is folly to think otherwise. But when the rudder is in our hands, we have to take ownership of where the vessel goes, to the extent the rudder actually guides the boat in rough seas. I follow your point, though, and I appreciate your compassion more than you might know.

  2. Deanna says:

    So sorry to hear about your brother. Please do not let feelings of guilt keep washing over you. We are only fooling ourselves when we think we are in control. Life has a way of taking over and although we helpless in Her wake, we have a choice: we can choose to fight the waves, sometimes to exhaustion, or to roll with them as they rock the boat. The storm does not stay over the sea forever.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.