Dear Barack Obama,
I know it is crunch time right now and you are crazy busy but I just wanted to write to you about your grandmother Madelyn “Toot” Dunham. I saw this picture of you at Daily Kos (from Ekaterin) and it made me almost cry. To be losing someone so close to you, the woman who helped raise you and “poured everything into you” at such a momentous time must be heartbreaking for you. I can’t imagine the conflicting emotions that are raging inside you right now and that were raging inside you as you were walking onto that plane. It sounds like you may never see “Toot” alive again and that walk onto the airplane must have been one of the loneliest you have ever had to make.
I feel for you and I understand a little bit what you are going through for I have had to make a similar walk onto an airplane as well. It was when my brother was dying and I was living in New York and he was in South Dakota with our family. I wrote a few emails during that time to friends who I wanted to keep informed of what was going on. Here is a little bit of one of those I wrote shortly before his death.
A lot has happened since the last time I talked to you about my brother. Back in mid October my brother made the decision to not have any more operations or radical procedures done to him. There was really nothing which would prolong a good life instead it would only make him more miserable and then he would die anyway. Previous to making this decision he was incredibly angry but since then he has moved on to acceptance. I was pretty angry myself but his acceptance of his fate has made it easier for me to accept what is happening to him. It is still the worst thing I have ever experienced……
…..A few days after he made this decision it looked like he was going to die at any moment. I quickly got on an airplane but by the time I arrived in South Dakota he had made a complete turn around (turns out he was over medicated). I spent a few days with him in South Dakota and helped him get moved into our mom’s house where we set up a home hospice….
….Mark has kept his humor through all of this. His wit has always been dry and razor sharp, but it evolved to become delightfully morbid as well. On one of my last nights there my brother and I joked that it would be good if he died on Christmas Eve because the family would be in town anyway. Also, that difficult first Christmas after someone has died would be the next day and therefore quickly gotten over and out of the way. It might just be Mark’s final joke on all of us…….
….I can’t begin to describe what it was like to spend time with my brother who is dying of cancer, knows it, accepts it and continues to laugh, joke, complain, reminisce, and cry just like the rest of us. All the while knowing that this might be the last time we would do those things together.
As it turned out, it was the last time that my brother was healthy enough while I was there for us to really enjoy our time together. It was the last time we were able to joke and laugh and have a conversation together. Leaving my brother and getting on that airplane to come home and get on with day to day life was incredibly hard to do. At times like that you just want to stop the world but it doesn’t work that way of course.
I would see him a few more times before his death but by that time he was a shadow of himself. However, despite how heart wrenching those times were I am forever thankful for them. Barack, you made the right choice to vacation in Hawaii in August and you made the right choice to say, what will probably be, your last goodbyes to “Toot” this past week. I hope your grandmother makes it through to November 4th and gets to see you elected the 44th President of the United States of America.
Take care Barack, we are all proud of you.
P.S. Me and the wife are going to go see you tomorrow (today technically) in Pennsylvania at Widener University.