The Last Gift

I emptied out my pockets and there on my dresser was his last gift. I looked at the coffee shop gift card and remembered the birthday card it came in a scant two years ago. It was the last gift I received from my older brother, Dan. He died earlier this year and it seems like each day I remember something about him. And today I remembered this, his last gift.He had heard that after years of shunning coffee for diet soda I had switched to drinking coffee and shunning pop. The coffee shop card was in one way a joke, and in another way a kind gesture of my brother to connect with me after years of life had kept us apart. I looked at the card with all the melancholy and kindness it represented.And I remembered the other last things. Early last summer our Mother told me Dan was experiencing some health problems and wanted to email each of his siblings with the details. But the awaited email never came.The day after my next birthday I replaced a kitchen faucet. I decided to play it up, take pictures and tweet about it on Twitter. Dan and I had sometimes connected on Twitter, commenting on each other’s goings on. But Dan failed to tweet in response. I was concerned but busy with life and helping my in-laws sell their farm and move so I didn’t reach out to him. BR4U8A9CMAEuiJJBR5T85nCYAAGQSdBut a few weeks later my sister-in-law called me. Would I talk to Dan? Of course, I said. She was concerned about him and not sure of what was happening to him. We spoke for about 30 minutes but Dan wasn’t himself. He sounded frail and far away and very confused. And when we said goodbye I told him I loved him. Dan said, “I love you, too, Paul. Very much.” And that was the last goodbye he spoke to me.Two months later I was sitting with Dan and our younger brother Tim, talking to Dan in his hospital room after emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor. We visited about memories growing up and family, but Dan commented little. He was glad we were there we could tell, but his health was failing. And talking was very difficult for him.After we prayed with Dan and his daughter on our last visit we had to leave. We said our goodbyes and as I stood beside Dan’s bed and held his hand I looked into his eyes. “Goodbye, Dan.” I said. “I love you very, very much.” His eyes watched me and he gave a slight nod but he didn’t talk. The tumor had done a lot of damage.And that was our last touch. Those were the last words I spoke to my older brother. Five months later he was gone.And now I look at the coffee shop card, the last gift. And I wonder, what will be my last gift to those I love? What will be my last words? What will be my last touch? And will they have meaning to those I leave? I can’t delete my brother’s phone number from my cell phone. I can’t delete his emails. I hold on to him any way I can and I am thankful I still have this silly coffee shop card to remember him by. His kindness, his interest in me and his effort to connect are now cherished memories. I hope and pray that I can be as loving and kind as my older brother was to me. Happy Birthday, Dan.

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