Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Friday, April 24, 2015

Destination: Home

Yesterday morning,  Mike took his last breath.

We had asked hospice for a CNA to sit up with him so we could get some sleep. She was not allowed to give medications, so I woke up every 3 hours to give him his meds.  At 1:30 am, I gave him medication and turned him. I checked to see if he was dry and made him comfortable.

I set my clock for 4:30 am and went back to sleep.

At 4:01, the CNA awakened me, saying, "Your brother just stopped breathing."

I rushed into the living room, and he was just lying there quietly.
No strain on his face.
No struggled breathing.
Just peace.

I closed his eyes and kissed his face.
He was still very warm.
For the first time since this began, laid my head on his chest and I cried.

I woke mom up and told her Mike was gone.
My mother never cries.
She says she can't cry.
But she did...

We asked the CNA if he struggled.
She said, no, he simply quit breathing.
It was a blessing.

We called hospice.
They called the funeral home, who came out to retrieve his body.
We wrapped him in one of my grandmother's quilts.
The funeral people spread the American Flag over his body,
and as they wheeled him away,
I noticed a stain on the flag.
It seemed apropos.

Poor little Mike.
He had such rich opportunities
and he tossed them all away.
It was almost as though he didn't believe he could succeed.

I loved him dearly, but
I never understood the choices he made.
My mother spent much of her life and money rescuing him.
He never really had to live with the consequences of his decisions.

This time,
Mom couldn't rescue him.
There were consequences for his choices,
and they were final.

It was a hard lesson.
Some kids just have to touch the stove.

Well, Buen Camino, sweet boy.
You made it!

The Way, as all pilgrims know, can be rocky and hard.
There are days of sunshine and easy trails,
days of laughter and slaps on the back by new friends,
but also days of misery, of struggle, blisters, and bruised tendons,
days that cause you to cry out loud in pain
and wonder why you made the decision to walk this trail at all.

But the sight of the Holy City just over the hills
brings a thrill and a sense of completion.
All the pain is forgotten once you reach Santiago,
and yes, it was worth the effort,
and yes, you're glad you did it,
and yes, you'd do it again in an instant,
and yes, you are proud of yourself,
and yes...

We advise our pilgrims to not have any expectations,
to just put one foot in front of the other,
and you did that.
You did it.

Oh, my sweet little brother,
I'll miss your goofy smile and your weird jokes.

May your spirit fly free into the stars,
and may you finally find peace.

I'll miss you.



  1. Sorry for your loss. Mike was quite a character :) You are all in my prayers.

  2. Oh Annie, my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your Mom. I recently lost my little brother as well (Feb 20, 2015) and your brother's choices sound the same as my brother's. I never understood him, but found after his death, that he was very proud of me and my accomplishments (6 Caminos so far and now leading tours on Camino). Blessings
    Arlène Mourier
    Choose Happiness Adventures

    1. Thank you Arlene. I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Annie,
    I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I recently lost my younger brother (Feb 20th) and your story sounds similar to mine. I was lucky to have been holding my brother's hand when he took his last breath. I, too, never quite understood the choices my brother made in life. My prayers and heartfelt sympathy goes to you and your family.
    Arlène Mourier
    Choose Happiness Adventures
    (Unique Pilgrimage Tours)


All comments are moderated.