Here’s the thing. That’s a pretty damn bold statement, and I get that. But right now, I’m angry. I’m emotional. I’m heartbroken. And frankly, right now, in this moment…I don’t care how insulting I sound with my forthright, and rather brash, commentary.
My brother died Thursday night. That is less than 41 hours ago. Not even two days. His body was broken, so very VERY broken. Nearly 10 years ago, Jim needed his first open heart surgery. Since then, he’s had 5. One of lungs was at 60% capacity, the other didn’t work. He contracted MRSA four times, which means it attacked his organs and bones. The doctors removed his teeth, and his left eye because the infection nearly spread to his brain. He was in a constant state of labor-level pain because of a bone spur growing into his spinal cord. His liver was failing, his kidneys were failing, he was on 10 pounds of liquid oxygen at all times, and he couldn’t walk up stairs because his knees were damaged from all the fluid that was accumulating in his body. He was 39. It wasn’t unexpected. It wasn’t a surprise. But the pain and the anger and the numbness is still real. Still raw.
Over the years, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars have been amassed by the medical bills from his disintegrating body that betrayed his mind. My parents have taken care of my brother for a decade with no help from agencies, nurses, or government. Every bill, every appointment, every 2.5 hours one-way trip to Missoula with gas and hotel and days off work…was done on their own dime. They can’t afford to visit their grandchild, my son, because of the expense that has been slowly drowning them, and now my brother’s personal bills will fall to them as well. To make things worse, the severe drug addiction that my brother had because of the extreme pain he was in caused a sickening rollercoaster ride of on-again, off-again drug-addict tendencies that tortured our family for years.
My mom will be 64 in June. For my entire life, she’s worked two full time jobs. My 65 year old father is retired merely because of the Type 2 Diabetes that’s he’s never had fully under control, the shoulders needing surgery that wouldn’t allow him to continue working, and the fact that my 26 year old sister needs help with her three children…all of which also live with my senior citizen parents.
We are the damn poster children for the 99%. “Work harder” they say. “You’ll get ahead” they say. Lies. It’s all lies. Because to tell me my mother that works two full time jobs, took care of a severely disabled adult for over a decade, takes care of three children under the age of 7 and her husband isn’t hard working or working hard enough, makes me want to punch you in the face.
I started a GoFundMe campaign for my brother’s funeral expenses within a few hours of finding out that my brother was gone. I’m a practical person by nature, so I clung to the one thing I could. Knowing that the expenses could destroy my family. It doesn’t help that I am 600 miles away so I can’t be there FOR my family. I can’t afford $1500 in plane tickets to bring my mere family of three to Montana at a whim, on a holiday weekend no less. People shared the fund link in droves. Commentary left and right on Facebook and emails about “How much they loved him,” “How sorry they were he was gone,” and the infamous “If there is anything I can do….”
People always ask “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” But they don’t really mean it. It’s just the nice thing you say when you hear someone just lost a loved one.
This is why I know that statement is true…not just rude. For EVERY person that shared, commented, gave condolences…I shared the link. Told them THIS is what you can do. “Forego your latte this morning, help my parents. Make a PB&J instead of going out for lunch today. Drink the crap coffee in the break room instead of getting your Caramel Macchiato. Drink one less beer with your friends tonight. I’m not asking for a lot. I’m asking for $5 from a lot of people.”
Don’t get me wrong. Some not only understood that $5 from 100 people is $500, but they stepped up to the plate like Babe Ruth hitting the next grand slam. For that I’m eternally grateful.Others, however, shared the link. Commenting about how “helping this amazing family in need would be greatly appreciated…” yet not pressing the little button that says Pay $5 Now. As though sharing the link somehow justified the fact that the Caramel Macchiato was much more important that day. THAT’S what has pissed me off. The worse part is, as the admin, I can see all the shares as well as all the donations. I can SEE the hypocrites and self-righteous ones.
I’ve lost three people extremely close to me over the years. Each one was the same. The ridiculous amount of paper cards fill the recycle bin, the meat trays arrive in uneatable numbers before rotting, and when the dust settles we’re left with bills up to our ears, exorbitant fees to just simply bury the body of our loved one and all those that couldn’t run to our house fast enough right after the death disappear as though they never existed in the first place.
So I’m going to answer the age old question of “What can I do?” Because take it or leave it, offended or not, this is what people need when someone dies.
Did you know, the average funeral can cost $10,000? Did you know cremation alone can range from $1500 to $4000? Did you know, that the AVERAGE person has a whopping $10,000 life insurance policy “generously” provided by their employer and truly believe that it’s plenty for after they die? After all, $10,000 when you are alive is pretty substantial. But when you die? It’s like being handed a $5 bill and expecting to fill your gas tank.
Then there are the loose ends. Credit cards bills, medical bills, utility bills, loans, car insurances, subscriptions. Do you REALLY think they care that someone died? Absolutely not. They just want their money…it doesn’t matter who is now responsible.
OH! And I’m not sure about you…but now that my brother is dead I’m TOTALLY able to just bounce back come Monday and go to work with a fervor like nothing has happened that will affect my life permanently. Apparently, me and my offensive sarcasm are an anomaly, however, because most people it takes quite a while to get back to a somewhat normal life. Yet because that mediocre $10,000 life insurance policy has gone up in a poof of smoke once we have met with the funeral home, there is nothing left to live off of while we heal.
So those stupid flowery cards that you spent $6.50 on to make sure they look the prettiest? Go to the Dollar Store, get one worth 50¢ and put a $20 bill in it. It means a lot more and is exponentially more useful than the glittery cardboard you thought was so pretty.
People bring food in droves when someone dies. The day after. Like they are the only one. But they aren’t. They are the 20th person to bring food. Don’t get me wrong, not worrying about how to feed ourselves when the first initial shock of the death is wearing down is wonderful, and an amazing blessing. But what about two weeks later? Those meat trays don’t keep, the fruit goes bad before it can all be eaten, and because we aren’t thinking past the immediate moment we don’t think about freezing the huge amounts of meals we’ve been given. It’s like when someone has a baby. The hardest time is weeks later, when everything has settled, and suddenly you’re left alone with your thoughts and no help.
Again…just like having a baby, we don’t KNOW what we need. We just know we need it. If you come over, go wash the dishes that have accumulated. Take out the trash. Offer to take the kids to a park. Vacuum. Clean a bathroom. Fold laundry. The list seriously goes on forever. YOU know what needs to happen in your house, why would ours be any different? The biggest difference? We’re so lost, so broken, that we stop caring or are doing it to desperately hold on to any thread of normalcy.
I’ll say it again. I’m broken. I’m devastated. I’m angry. I loved my brother dearly, despite all his flaws. We’ll heal, it’s a part of life. But right now, in this moment, I won’t apologize for feeling so intently and only being able to express it with words what no one says, but everyone thinks. Because that’s really all I have to hold onto right now.