For the past six days I've been in Brisbane in hotel quarantine. I flew here from Melbourne on Thursday evening to see my brother Andrew who was dying from cancer. He passed passed away last Saturday 8th August. He was 56 years old. Andrew was adopted by our parents when he was several months old, in late 1964. I had not seen him since November 2018.
With COVID-19 restricting travel from Victoria into Queensland, I applied for and received special permission from the Qld Dept of Health on compassionate grounds. The Princess Alexandra Hospital provided a letter requesting the special circumstances.
Bizzarely, the Jetstar flight of masked passengers was almost completely full! Social distancing before and after the flight, and packed like sardines on the plane! The plane arrived at 7.30pm and it took them over three hours to process us all. Then there as another half hour wait at the hotel next to the airport to get checked in. I was eating Uber Eats dinner at midnight.
9 Meanwhile Andrew had been moved to a new hospital, Canossa Private, into palliative care. After some negotiation they graciously provided a letter giving permission for me to make 2 two-hour visits. So the day after arriving I was able to travel to see my brother. No-one else could be in the room with him and I had to wear protective equipment. I was able to wave to my Mum, sister and nieces (who I hadn't seen for well over a year) on the way past.
I'll write next about spending time with my brother. It was not easy.
I was due to go to see Andrew again on the Saturday, but I received a call from my sister at 7am on Saturday morning that he was dying She put me on the phone to him with earphones, and I spoke to him and prayed for him for a couple of minutes as he took his final breaths.
I'm not going to try to describe any of that right now. That was Saturday and now it is Wednesday and I still have another 8 days of hotel quarantine left. The whole landscape of my 'detention' changed with Andrew's death. I had originally hoped that he might live long enough for me to see him on the other side of it.
He died 4 weeks and 2 days after his initial diagnosis of pancreatic and abdominal cancer. It was 9 days before he died that he was rushed to hospital and we found out that his time left would be days, perhaps weeks.
I am grateful beyond words that we were able to see each other, due in no small part to my sister's contact with the staff in the two hospitals.
Planning funeral arrangements over the phone has been a huge challenge. There will be a private cremation on the day of my release (20th August) with just immediate family present. Then on 29th August there will be a memorial service at Andrew's church, Dunamis, at Tanah Merah at 12.30pm. That will give us face to face time to work on his memorial service.
I'm too spent and raw at the moment to write anything that requires emotions.
I brought Jan Richardson's Circle of Grace with me as I knew I would need to read something. The book has wonderful seasonal reflections, and I've been using them in our presbytery mission pilot project.
I decided to start reading at Ash Wednesday, just because...
Will you meet us
in the ashes
will you meet us
in the ache
and show your face
within our sorrow
and offer us
your word of grace
that you are life
within the dying
that you abide
within the dust
that you are what
survives the burning
that you arise
to make us new
I won't reproduce the whole piece here as I don't have the author's permission. I need some wilderness words in isolation. I need some desert blessing, not a simple platitude.
Andrew is the third sibling who we have lost. Lucy died in 2002 and Paul in 2012. My sister Anne has had a huge burden holding everything and everyone together.
Andrew was born with minor disabilities, although 'minor' is a bit of a relative term here. Some years ago he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and then sometime in the last 2 years was also diagnosed with diabetes. When he got cancer, his body didn't have the strength for surgery or chemo/radiotherapy. The decline in his health was rapid, and if there is any mercy, it is that he did not suffer long.
I need to write something even if it is only this for now.