My youngest brother passed away on June 5th, 2010, after a year long bout with cancer. He was only 50. It is said by some that we have full view of our entire life before coming into this physical world, and that we choose a life that will teach us what we want to learn. He certainly opted for a short life, and even though it doesn’t make any sense to me, it doesn’t need to. It wasn’t my life. But I’m going to miss him.
He was a slender, red-headed jeweler, with a shop full of gold and diamonds. He seemed to love working with gems and worked long and diligently to be able to open his own retail shop.
After word came that he had passed, my husband and I sat still and just looked at each other. There’s not much to say when someone leaves. We just knew that Calvin was gone, and we felt sad.
However, almost instantly, the sadness lifted.
“How strange is that?” I thought.
All the worry and anguish and heart ache surrounding his departure just got up and left — suddenly! What a surprise! Never had I expected to feel instant, well — happiness — upon his passing.
It felt a little odd.
This feeling of elation in the middle of all the sadness was so striking to me that I wondered if I was tuning into my departed brother. If so, he was surely in a happier and more expanded state!
You should know before I go any further that for most of my life, my brother and I often struggled to relate. We didn’t have long and delightful philosophical conversations, or talk for hours on the phone. Locating common ground for a conversation was occasionally a bit challenging, even awkward.
As the years passed, we learned how to talk with each other. We’d simply avoid conversations about a subject that we knew could be controversial for the two of us. It was just easier that way. We could always talk about the weather, so to speak.
In the last year of his life, when he was ill, we found two subjects we could always talk about: Singing and Sunsets. I used to record little mp3’s for him and send them to him. He seemed to appreciate them. Once I recorded “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for him, and other times I sent improvisational pieces that were prayerful or meditative.
One evening when he was in pain and seemed to be wondering about how everything was going to turn out for him, he called me and said, “Tell me about the sky tonight where you are. Is it beautiful?”
Perched comfortably on the covering to the well, I told him about the star-filled night sky, mentioning that earlier that evening, we had set up the high powered telescope to look at the four largest moons of Jupiter. Over to the telescope I went, and gave him a play-by-play account of what was going on with Jupiter and friends. It happened to be a spectacularly crystal clear sky, and all the stars were especially beautiful that evening, but Jupiter was stunning. My brother and I talked for a long time.
After the phone call notifying us of his passing, I headed down stairs in my home to a room where nobody was, just a nice big open space, and I started to sing. Not a song, not a melody, just long notes of sound to soothe my soul. I let the sound take me wherever it wanted to go. Singing like this is a way to center myself, let go, and express whatever is there.
It felt like a good thing to do at a time like this…
There I was, getting warmed up for a therapeutic singing session, and what should “appear?”
He was happy as could be, and began to playfully direct my singing. This kind of boundless joy was out of character for him. In life, he seemed more serious than that, more reserved.
After wondering for a moment if I was just crazy, or if I had an over-active imagination in this time of stress, I just went with it. I began to follow his conducting.
With a big smile, his right arm shot up in the air and I’d sing that note. Then he’d waver that hand a bit and I’d do a trill. I followed every nuance. I’d waffle the sound, move the sound, explode the sound, giggle the sound — to go right along with his indication. He’d smile and swoop to the next note. Then he’d change sides, go high, go low, go medium, and it all sounded beautiful to me. On and on it went. Part of the time I was laughing so hard I could hardly sing.
Then there was the crying….I was so touched that he would visit me.
He was joyful and utterly, completely free — fully liberated and totally expressive, without a concern in the world. And he also looked really attractive and young and happy.
It felt heavenly to be with him in this way, and I admit that I always wanted to experience him as more open and light-hearted when he was alive. (Perhaps others experienced him this way and I missed the boat….) Now, in this moment, I was just grateful that I was able to experience him in this happy place…
I don’t know how long this went on, probably 20 minutes or so, but I’m just guessing, because there was no sense of time anywhere. I moved through more emotional spaces than I can even begin to describe. He finished conducting, gave me a wave, and off he went.
I sat for a while, reveling in the experience.
Then I walked upstairs and while preparing dinner, I noticed the sunset was beginning to be especially beautiful. That’s not really very unusual here — inspiring sunsets are a regular occurrence in our house and we look forward to them every evening.
But it got crazy beautiful!
With every bite of dinner, the colors of the sunset became increasingly spectacular, and they kept changing — radically — in no small way! We’d take a bite of food, and stop midway with fork poised, and exclaim about the stunning sight before us.
“Wow, look at that!”
“Whoa, who thought it could get even more beautiful! But it just did!”
We had never seen so many big colors, different colors or color changes in one evening.
We started to laugh and decided it was Calvin saying hello in another way that I would understand. Who knows if that could be possibly true… but it sure helped my heart to think about it that way!
We’d eat another bite or two and then stop to take another photo of the painter having fun in the sky. It seemed as if he kept changing his mind about what to paint — oh, let’s try THIS!!! We saw so many sunset variations, and sat there drop-jawed and in awe.
He’d add intensity, then soften it, or brighten it. At one point, he added a splash of mist just for fun…
And I haven’t heard from him since. That fantastic sunset was his final bow.
And it was a stunning one.
Goodbye, dear brother.