A Promise for Tomorrow

A Promise for Tomorrow

We’re sitting on the couch in my living room; my brother and I.  He’s been coming over from time to time to check on me.  Although he won’t admit it, I know he is coming over to make sure I’m okay, that I’m still holding it all together.  This particular night, we’re each nursing a beer, shooting the breeze.  We’re talking about nothing particular.  The TV is on – hockey – it’s our favourite distraction.

“Nice goal,” I say.  He nods in agreement, takes a swig of his beer, draining it, and puts the empty bottle down on the coffee table in front of him.  “You want another one?” I ask.

“Yeah, alright,” he says, “I can’t stay much longer, though, got to get back home to help put the kids to bed”.

I rise slowly from the couch to go get us a couple more brews.  As I stand, I groan slightly.  My energy is waning a little in recent days.  I feel more tired than I have in the past and it hurts when I do anything more than just lay completely still.  It’s not too bad, just a new normal.  I catch my brother watching me from the corner of my eye.

“You alright?” he asks me, concern clearly in his voice.

“Yeah man, nothing to worry about,” I say.  I reach across the couch, slap his knee, and finish the ascent to my feet.  As I walk out of the room, I can feel his eyes following me.  A few steps away from the doorway, I turn to look at him, grin, and ask, “You looking at my ass?”

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head, retorting, “Yeah, I am, but only because I want to kick it.”

I laugh and make my way to the kitchen to get the beer.  I can’t help but think about the absurdity of our conversation.  That’s us, though.  It’s always been us.  I know, as does he, that every insult and cheap shot comes from a place of love.  Every living room wrestling match we’ve ever been in, every ‘noogie’ ever given, every downright mean and nasty thing we’ve ever done to each other is because we are brothers who care about each other.

The way that brothers show affection defies all logic and makes no sense.  We pick at each other and break each other down.  We practically push each other to the point of annihilation and barely stop at the cry of mercy, but to boys, men, and especially brothers, this means we care.  In a strange way, these assaults on each other are practice for a time where we may have to throw down our lives for each other. There is no doubt that each of us would die for the other if it came to it.  There is also no doubt that nobody has my back more than my brothers.

I have been lucky.  I grew up in a big family.  I am one of seven sons.  I am nestled snugly in the middle as the fourth child.  Our family is no strangers to loss.  Two of my brothers have already traveled to the great beyond, one from a car accident more than 20 years ago and the other from cancer only 3 years ago.  These tragedies where their young lives were cut short make us all acutely aware of the finality of death and the impact it has on families.  We’ve lived it, we keep living it.  For me, what I have come to understand so well is that when the reaper comes, he can’t be cheated.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you’ve done with your life, or how many reasons you have for staying on this earth; when it’s your time, it’s your time.

Having lived this experience with death and having come so perilously close to it myself on so many occasions throughout my 36 years, I have learned that the only thing controllable in life is how one chooses to live it. While there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to bring my brothers back, their own deaths’ have taught me a lot about living.

I come back to the living room, a beer in each hand. I pass one of the bottles to my brother; he reaches up and takes it from me. I sit back down on my side of the couch. We each twist the caps off of our respective bottles, springing the liquid inside to life with a soft hiss and a pop. My brother, holding his bottle in his right hand, extends it towards my side of the couch and shakes it gently. “Cheers,” he says and waits for me. In response, I raise my own bottle and meet his in the middle. We lightly clank the drinks together with an audible ‘tink’ of the glass, “Cheers,” I echo. We move the bottles to our lips, each taking a long deep gulp. We fall into silence, a brief moment of tenderness between brothers hanging on into the quiet.

After a while, my brother speaks. “Are you scared?” he asks.

I take a deep breath in, contemplating my answer before speaking, “Sometimes,” I reply honestly, “I don’t know how much it’s going to hurt.  I don’t know what it’s going to be like at the end.  But mostly I’m scared for you guys. I don’t want to cause anyone any more pain.”

“I understand that,” he says, as I knew he would. Like I said before, we’ve been down this road already. I know what is to come for them. In a way, this time around, I feel like I have the easy job. I’m not the one who will be left behind this time to pick up the pieces.

He continues, “I’m scared too.” He pauses and moves his eyes to connect with mine. “Why does this keep happening to our family?” he questions. He knows I don’t have the answer to this. I’ve asked it to myself at least a million times.

I shrug and shake my head. “I don’t know,” I reply.  He looks away.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” he asks while he adjusts himself on the couch so that we are no longer able to directly face each other. I am thankful to escape the look of pain in his eyes.

I think to myself, “there’s that question again”, but I am happy to shift the conversation back to a topic that I feel more comfortable with. “Yeah,” I reply, “I’ve been tossing around a few ideas of things I want to do.  You know bucket list type stuff.”

“Yeah?” he asks surprised.  He knows this type of planning is out of character for me.

“Yeah, well, I mean, kind of,” I reply, “you know me, though, I’m not much for anything too extravagant or out of control, but I’ve been writing a few things down.”

“Can I see?” he asks.

“Yeah, sure,” I reach under the couch and pull out the notebook from my secret hiding spot where I’d stashed it right before my brother came over. I open the cover and turn it towards him. He takes the book from my hand and scans the list of things that I have scribbled down.

He flips the page and reads the complete list, nodding along as his eyes travel down the page. “Okay,” he says, “Nothing too crazy on there.”

“Nah,” I reply, “As I said before, you know I’m not much for crazy.”

“I like your list,” he says, “seems doable.”

“Yeah,” I agree with him, “I think so.”

“So, what’s first?” he asks, handing the notebook back to me.

“I don’t know,” I reply, shrugging my shoulders, “I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”  The truth is I haven’t thought much about anything on the list. It’s become a graveyard of parked ideas, just somewhere for me to write down an arbitrary list of fleeting wishes based on desires deep seeded within me. Part of me has been afraid to think about this list. If I think about it, then I have to do something about it.   “What happens if I start and can’t finish?”  “What happens if I finish and then have nothing left to strive for?”  So many silly thoughts swirl through my mind.

“We will come up with something,” my brother says, “Don’t worry about it.  I’ve got to get going now, though.”  He stands to go and starts walking towards the entryway.  As he reaches the threshold between the living room and kitchen he pauses and says, “Seriously, don’t worry about it.  We WILL come up with something.”

For a brief moment, I don’t know whether he is offering to help me with my list or if he is grasping at straws, promising to find an imaginary cure out there that we both clearly know doesn’t exist.  I know that I’ll never know either way what he truly meant.  I say nothing, smile, walk past him to the kitchen and open the door to let him pass.  He leaves, and I watch him walk down the front path.  He turns back towards the house when he reaches his car and waves before opening the door and getting in.  I wave back.  I stand in the open doorway, feeling the cold outside air streaming inside.  I stand there watching him as he starts his car, puts it in reverse and exits slowly out of the driveway.  It’s not until I see the red tail lights disappear down the road that I step back into the house and shut the door.

I’m alone again with my thoughts. Walking back to the living room, I pick up the notebook; it’s still open to the first page. I read the list over again. I grab a pen that is sitting on the end table beside me. I pull off the cap. I move it to the top of the list, lowering it to the paper.  I drag the pen under the words, highlighting their importance. This serves as a reminder to me that if I accomplish nothing more than this item I will be fulfilled.

The words jump out from the page now. I am happy with my addition. I am happy with my list in general. Whether I finish all of the items on the list or none of them, I don’t care anymore because I realize that it’s not about how many items I stroke off the list, it’s about how many of these items give my life meaning and purpose.  This item, simple, pure, but perfect, is how I want to be defined.  I want to be a good father, a good brother, a good friend and partner.  I want to be there for my family and friends.  In the time I have left, I want to remind the people I love that I will always be here for them.  I may not have long to live, but I want to create moments in time now, while I still can, that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  My item – it’s straightforward and uncomplicated, but so full of possibilities and wide open to be ripe with new experiences.

I smile and close the cover of the notebook.  I lay the pen back on the end table beside me and I quickly stash the notebook back into its secret hiding place under the couch.

“Tomorrow,” I think to myself, “I’ll begin tomorrow”.

And I know that when I wake the world will be full of promise.  Life will begin anew.  I will be given one more day and one more chance to live, love, learn and grow.  And though I am still dying, each morning when I wake, I know I will have been given the gift of being alive for one more day.  This gift allows me to be able to make something more of my life.  It allows me to be and do whatever I want with the time I have left.  It allows me the precious opportunity to find meaningful ways to be present for my friends and family.   And while I don’t know how many tomorrows I have left, the reality is that nobody ever does.  I know that living life and accomplishing the items on my list are simply about making the most out of each day.  The meaning of life, at least the meaning of my life, is to be present in the moment, to love fully, and to be giving of the time that I have left.

I know that the world will keep spinning and my family and friends will pick up the pieces left behind by my death.  Time will move on and their lives will go forward without me in it, but, in each of their hearts, through every day of their lives, a part of me will still live on.  I will exist through love.   I will live on in the memories of the good times we’ve spent and how we filled all of our tomorrows together, in love, laughter, comfort, and peace.  I will find meaningful ways to be present in their lives now, while I still can, so that someday when their tomorrows go on without me physically there, a part of me will always go with them.

I stand up, gather the empty beer bottles from the table, and take them to the kitchen.  I deposit them in the sink and pause to reflect on the conversation of earlier in the evening.  I think of my brother and how I appreciate him coming to check on me.  I think of my other brothers, the ones still here and the two who`ve already passed.  I think of my children and the friends and family that I love so much.  I think about how I am going to miss them.  I think about how I know that they will miss me too.  I think about my life so far and the life I have left to live.  I think about my notebook and the items within and the plans begin to form in my mind.  I stand there, looking out the window, thinking for a very long time.  The clock on the wall chimes midnight.  It`s time for bed.  As I shut out the lights and head toward my bedroom, I can`t help but think about tomorrow.  Tomorrow … there is so much promise for tomorrow.

71 thoughts on “A Promise for Tomorrow

  1. I don’t wanna say I’m sorry! I’m sure you’ve heard that enough, but the truth is I am sorry! Noone should ever have to wonder who we leave behind and what pieces will be left. Make each day a memory, not matter how big or small….Everyday is an adventure! I watched my dad deteriorate into nothing because of cancer. Luckily he was older, but a life lost is still a life lost. Leave as many memories as you can with those you love. Give them something to talk about!

    1. Thank you Miranda. I appreciate your kind words. I’m working very hard to make the most of the time I have left. As I believe we all should!

  2. Your perspective is so beautiful, and the courage it must take for you to put it out like this. I wish I knew the right sort of comforting thing to say – if I did, I would say it.

    But I’m glad you’re doing this, letting people walk through it with you, and showing that it can all be done with grace.

    1. Thank you Brandi. Your kind comment is comfort enough. I would by lying if I said I didn’t have down times or hard times, but I am making the choice every day to learn from this journey and appreciate life and everything it has to offer while I still can.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your 2 brother’s tragic death. I also come from a large family of 9 and cannot imagine losing any of my siblings.

    1. Aren’t big families the best? Always someone to spend time with. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You’re lucky, you had two more than I did!!

  4. I am sure you hear condolences too often, so I will save that. What I will say is that you are strong, and your tomorrow will be filled with time with your brother and family, and checking off that bucket list. Live life on your terms.

  5. One of the last paragraphs that you wrote really seemed to encompass how I have been viewing my days and experiencing life in the here and now: “The meaning of life, at least the meaning of my life, is to be present in the moment, to love fully, and to be giving of the time that I have left.” I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “tomorrow” and forget about being present in the moment. I loved this.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear that you’re able to focus on the here and now in your life too. I found that before I was diagnosed I was living from weekend to weekend, content with letting the days between slip by. After getting diagnosed and realizing the importance of every moment, I found that I was suddenly seeing so much more in life that I’d never noticed before. I value time now in a way I never knew possible. I’m thrilled that I am in your good company with that practice.

  6. This such a powerful article that has truly open my mind. I love your outlook that you’ve shared its truly life changing!

  7. Awesome. I love how your brother came to check on you in the beginning of the post. Very sweet. Losing two brothers must have been touch. Another reminder to life everyday to its fullest.

    1. Thank you for your comment. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my brothers and miss them but life does move on.

  8. This was so special to read, I feel like you’ve shared something very wonderful here with us. Hard to imagine your thoughts or know what to say but you have communicated so poignantly. Thank you x

  9. First of all, I am so sorry to read these words. But second of all, I want to say you are a very talented writer. I wish you all the best.

  10. The imagery is powerful… a graveyard of parked ideas… marking death and not moving forward. But you are moving forward or at least thinking of tomorrows.

  11. There are so many lessons for us all in this post. Reading this makes stop and realize that I need to remember every day to be grateful for all of my blessings and not take any of it for granted. Thank you for sharing this with us, and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    1. Thank you very much Jessica. I’m glad that you were able to take something away from my writing. I appreciate your kind words.

  12. Thanks Brand. You got me thinking. Every day is a miracle. .I can only wish you strength as you tackle each day… You are a warrior. God gives the hardest battles to them.

  13. Wow, this is so touching. It is so great that you are letting people in on your life. We should all be grateful for what we have and cherish every moment as if we do know what is knocking at our door. Life is such a crazy thing, and while some of us know when or how soon, we should all be prepared in some sense. Wishing you all the best and Good luck with your bucket list.

    1. Thank you very much for you comment. I’m glad that for now my health is permissible enough to allow me to keep writing. I will do so as long as I can! Also I think you’re right, everyone should be prepared because you really never know what may happen. 🙂

  14. Your perspective is so detailed. It’s like ready a diary entry. Thank you for sharing your personal journey.

  15. As everyone’s said – very powerful piece written with a restraint that makes it even more powerful. Thank you for allowing us all to be passengers on your journey.

  16. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. This was such a good read and you are such a great writer! My mom passed last year and it was so hard to watch her in pain and to see her go so this post was also kind of hard to read. I can’t imagine what you are going through. You obviously have a lot of people who love you and care about you and that is something to be proud of!

    1. Thank you Ayana. I am sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is extremely hard. Take care of yourself. Grief is hard.

  17. This is a beautiful story, and incredibly inspiring. I wasn’t sure if it was true or fiction; it has such a great narrative flow. Reading through the comments and your responses, it sounds like it is non-fic, which puts a pang in my heart. I dot know you, but I know that it is always a great loss when someone with such profound insight and the ability to express that passes. Thank you for sharing these words with the world. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    1. Thank you Elizabeth. I really appreciate your kind comment. I wish I could say this was fiction but the reality is that this is the hand I have been dealt. With that said, I am lucky and blessed to be given an insight into life that not everyone gets to experience and there is some beauty in that. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your writing as well.

  18. You’re both lucky to have each other as brothers. That’s very rare these days. I was hoping this was a work of fiction but as I read the comments I am faced with the truth. I wish you good luck and I hope you finally get around to doing that list.

  19. I really hate that people have to deal with this. I admire you for being so at peace with this. It’s nice that your brother checks on you from time to time. I will be praying for you and with you.

    1. Thank you Carol. I am lucky to have great family and friends, that is for sure. Thank you for your prayers. I appreciate them.

    1. Thank you so much Enricoh. I hope that people can take some comfort from my writing. That would mean a lot to me.

  20. I seriously am at a loss for words. Which as my husband can contest too I am never at a loss for words. I won’t say I am sorry because really that makes no one feel any better and a lot of the times the last thing anyone wants to hear. I do hope you are able to complete your bucket wish with your family. Your words have truly inspired me and I will be holding me son even closer tonight. Life is too short and the ones who deserve a long life are the ones who get short ones. It just means you have completed Gods mission for you.

    1. Thank you Ashlea. Squeeze that baby of yours tight, they get too big too fast. 🙂 I appreciate your kind words.

  21. I learned not to think of “what if’s” in my life. I just chose to live each day with optimism. You’re lucky to have a big family. I am the only child of a single Mom, but life has always been memorable and I never felt alone even when my Mom was gone…

    1. What ifs really can be a dangerous thought pattern. I choose not to think in what ifs as well. Sounds like you’ve got a handle on the good in life. I am very lucky to have a big family. Even bigger when counting the family I choose (my friends). Thanks again for your kind words.

  22. I was born into a family of 3 female siblings so I am not really familiar with what it’s like to have brothers. I’ve always wanted one though so I’ll just adopt you. Your outlook is great and your heart is in the right place.

    1. Thanks Terri. I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister, so I’ll take you up on your adoption!

  23. I grew up as an only child. I was always jealous of friends who had siblings. Now that I am a parent, I hope to have multiple kids so that they are able to form a tight bond.

    1. I personally find having siblings to be the most amazing part of life. They are like an instant support system and friend. I am blessed for having them in my life.

  24. Oh my goodness this post made tears well up in my eyes! How wonderful to have such a loving and supportive family and I just want to reach through the screen and give you a great big hug.

    1. Thank you, Megan. Take the time you have and enjoy life. Each and every day is precious. I’ve been busy with my bucket list activities! Wishing you the best!

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