Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2022…a year I’ll never forget and why…

My oldest brother, Nathan, died on December 18, 2022–one week shy of his 48th birthday.

I have experienced death in my life: grandparents, cousins, an aunt, an uncles, a few friends— but this death has been the one that has been someone closest to me thus far. It’s been a month since he passed and I agree with what everyone says: grief comes in waves. Usually I’m fine and I don’t cry, but some times— something will spark a memory or something will remind me of him, and I will cry. If I think too much about my parents losing a child before them or Nathan’s six fatherless children, it makes me tear up.

The silver lining is that his death was becoming eminent, his liver was failing after almost 2 years of cancer and unsuccessful surgeries to get stents placed. The outcome looked very bleak, and he was faced with his impending death. The silver lining was that all of us siblings were able to speak with him in person in his hospital room, or via FaceTime calls. We all got to say goodbye and I know some families aren’t that blessed so I am grateful. Here are the words that I wrote about my experience:

Nathan’s final meal requests on Friday, December 16, 2022–and my observances: 

Country fried chicken steak

White gravy 

Mashed potatoes

Ginger ale


We weren’t able to order the squash but the rest we did— and Village Inn delivers! I had to leave for the airport before his final meal came. But Dad, Andrea, Gideon, Eva, Hyrum, and Adeline were still there to share it with him, maybe even Jakob and Mom showed up by then. He would only be able to eat a few bites since all his systems were shutting down and there was nowhere for the food to really go.

At 2:21pm, on December 16, 2022, Dad sent this message to the group chat: “A few minutes ago we signed the hospice papers. Nathan was able to talk to all of the siblings and all of his family members. It was a sacred, spiritual experience for me to observe them. I love you all and I know Nathan’s remaining time will be peaceful. Thank you all, you’re a wonderful family.”

I was able to fly in on Thur, Dec 15 around 6pm. I went from the airport straight to the Huntsman Cancer Institute and found Dad and Nathan on a FaceTime call with Andrew. Nathan had Dad put a chair right up next to the left side of his bed and motioned for me to come sit by him. During the call he told Andrew and I, individually, that he loved us and that God loved us. He talked about some ideas on getting the memories jogging for our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary memory book we are all contributing to. He said that there was still time, which I think he was referencing to many things. He asked me to massage his face and first gestured how to do it: starting in the middle of the forehead, over the eyebrows and down the side of the face, ending at the jaw. As I touched his face he looked so much like Philip to me and seeing as how everyone says Philip and I look so much alike, I guess that means that Nathan probably looked like me too. Dad and I rubbed and scratched his back several times—Dad more than me because he’s been with him for the past few days. Nathan said that there was one thing that he couldn’t get any one to commit to doing for him. I asked him what it was and he said to have someone “shave this off” referencing the scruff on his face. I would have liked to have obliged, but seeing as how I’ve never shaved anyone’s face I didn’t volunteer. Andrew and I both cried, though very quietly. I showed Nathan a shirt that I’d asked a friend to make. It was black with white lettering and imaging; it reads, “Optimistic Prime” with the Autobot/Transformer face underneath it. This is because Nathan is such an optimist, even speaking as he lay there languishing, about future endeavors and hopes. He told Andrew that his childhood nickname for him, “Data,” has proven true as Nathan is always collecting information about all sorts of things. Nathan said that he believes a lot of things from our childhood play a part in shaping our future selves. The call ended at some point with Andrew and I a little teary, but never saying aloud our grief.

I witnessed Nathan fade in and out of coherency. Some times his eyes rolled back. Some times he would speak, pause for a half a minute or so, close his eyes, and then slowly come to and finish his thoughts. Reminds me of all the times when we were little and Mom catching him playing possum (pretending to be asleep). 

I saw a few of the interactions with doctors and nurses, though I didn’t catch any of their names. Nathan continued to be his friendly, cheerful self—still a little wry humor—just a bit slower in his responses.

Dad and I went and chatted in the side room for an hour or so. That is when I found out that Nathan’s pain relief was administered every three hours as he was experiencing pain at a level nine. It was near impossible for him to really rest because of all the pressures in his body from fluids having no where

to go and the pain and the itchiness.

Dad and I discussed funeral arrangements a little bit. Probably hold a service in Pocatello but bury him in the Fairbourn cemetery in Utah. 

I left the room around a little after 10pm so that Dad could try and rest. Though he hadn’t gotten much rest for the past few days as he tried his best to help Nathan feel comfortable.

I stayed in a hotel about 15 minutes away and told Dad that I would pick up some food for him the next morning, since he was mostly just catching a few bites at the cafeteria now and then. Dad’s only request was an apple.

I went to sleep even though it was hard. I kept thinking about my brother and my dad there at the hospital. But I finally feel asleep…

In the morning I ate breakfast at the hotel and made sure to grab a couple of red apples for Dad. I went to a little grocer near my hotel to get some more food to bring to the hospital room. I was hoping that they would have a few little Christmas decorations there but all they had were fresh green wreaths. There was a Target nearby so I went there to grab a little Christmas cheer. 

When I made it back Nathan’s room Heidi, Valancy, and Karsten were there as well as Andrea, Gideon, Eva, Hyrum, and Adeline. 

I had three little lit up trees and I clipped a red poinsettia in the top of each one. I put one in the room that Mom and Dad were using and I gave Eva and Adeline each a tree and told them to put them in their dad’s room where he could see them. I also set up a large star in Nathan’s room. I clipped poinsettias on the windows’ pull chains. A little later in the day, mid-conversation-Nathan looked up and saw the little tree that had been placed on the shelf in front of him and said, “I have a Christmas tree!” I was so glad that he was able to have that little moment of Christmas cheer. My mom told me that the nurses brought the trees into other patients’ rooms after he passed away and I’m glad that the little cute trees could brighten others….

Jon had a FaceTime call with Nathan on Friday mid morning, but Nathan was not very coherent. A masseuse come and was massaging his legs and head and that was providing some relief for him. He was in great pain and had not chosen yet to get put on heavier meds as he wanted to be lucid and able to speak with his visitors.

It was getting near the time that I needed to leave for the airport. When I left Nathan’s hospital room, I hugged him goodbye. He was on a FaceTime call with Philip. Andrea was on his left and helping to rub his back make him comfortable and my dad was on his right, holding the phone for the call with Philip and holding back his tears. My mom was hurrying back from Idaho, having had to get some things taken care of there. Dad knew the time was coming near that Nathan needed to get put on hospice, so I called Jakob, the last sibling who hadn’t yet spoken with him, and convinced him that he needed to come down, as a soon as possible, to say his goodbyes.

It was very hard to leave my Dad there crying. He’d been doing so much for Nathan. I wish I could’ve stayed and offered more support.

Shortly after my flight took off the hospice papers were signed.

Saturday, December 17, my parents spent the day with him and my cousin was able to come by and a good friend of Nathan‘s, from his teenage years, and his friend’s wife. He responded very little to their visits but it was enough that my parents could tell that he knew who they were and was happy to have them there.

He slept most of Saturday.

Around midnight on Sunday morning, my father felt that he should sing hymns. My mother joined in. They said Nathan’s very slight movements of his face and hands indicated he was trying to sing with them and was very aware. At Nathan‘s funeral my dad said that it was one of the most sacred, spiritual experiences of his life.

Nathan passed away just before 1 AM on Sunday, December 18, 2022. I’m so grateful that my parents were with him. I’m so grateful that I was able to be with him and say my goodbyes. I am most grateful that Christ lives again, and because of this we will all be resurrected one day, and I will see my brother, and even more importantly, our hearts will have a perfect understanding of why he had to go.