Tuesday, June 4, 2013

* Brothers

Paul and Chris Keane,
sitting on  Chris' deathbed
 on Bainbridge Island,
2003: 

Chins up in defiance of death.
Paul and Chris Keane, 1949, Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.

Christopher Mark Keane  1946 - 2003



When my younger  brother, my only sibling,  told me he was HIV positive in 1993,  I made the mistake of saying while flabbergasted with the news, “How did you get it?”

He answered “How does anyone get it?”

I knew then that he did not want any questions and for the next ten years until his death in 2003 at the age of 57, I never asked another question. I never pried. I never doted or hovered.

He lived 3000 miles away in Seattle.  I lived in Vermont. If he called I listened, but I didn’t meddle.

When he called two years before he died to say, “I am having suicidal thoughts," I decided, Now is the time to speak.

And I did:

“Chris, you do not have to have these thoughts.  They can be interrupted, by therapy, by a mantra, by prayer ( even if you don’t believe in prayer).  

You can interrupt the thought a thousand times a day if you have to.  You do not have to allow your mind to finish the sentence.

You can also get medication."

He did. 

And he did not commit suicide.

When he died in an assisted-living facility on Bainbridge Island, he waited stoically for Nature to take its course. 

He and I sat on his deathbed together, with the aquiline noses of our Keane profiles scraping the sky in defiance of death, chins decidedly up.  

He was barely a skeleton, all 6'5" of him.

But he was not suicidal.

I flew back to Vermont and within 24 hours the nurse called me and put the phone up to my brother's ear, literally at the moment he was dying. 

I shouted into the phone,  "Chris, you can get through this.  I love you and you can get through this.”


He did.

We did.

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