His wit, his humor, his words of wisdom are still there.
His body, however, is disintegrating.
His days are spent sleeping on and off on the couch with EWTN or FoxNews on in the background.
His nights are more restless, getting up every hour, sometimes every half hour.
He can no longer eat, so he drinks milk, chocolate milk, gatorade, root beer, or tea.
His liquid intake seems to be decreasing.
His arms can no longer straighten to reach to coffee table, so after drinking, he needs help putting the bottle on the table or back in the small refrigerator in his room.
He also more and more needs help sitting up - a strong hand to help him maneuver his body weight to a seated position.
However, he can still walk himself to the bathroom, although a bit unsteady.
Sometimes, after using the bathroom, he will walk himself to the small refrigerator to grab a drink and then return to the couch. Small victories of independence.
He has a hospital bed in his bedroom, but he prefers the couch.
Upon returning to the couch, he needs help being tucked back in - a small pillow strategically placed under his head, another pillow placed between his bony legs, and two, sometimes three blankets to keep him warm. He cannot tuck himself in, so this is one of the great pleasures in assisting him - tucking him, oh so carefully, so as not to pull the blanket across any of his numerous wounds, but tucking him in as a mother does for her beloved son, in this case, our beloved brother.
His thrice-weekly wound care has dwindled to once a week. The amount of energy and the amount of suffering wound care demands takes a big toll on him. His wounds remind me of leprosy. He is all skin and bones, but his skin is unlike anything I have ever seen. The wounds are slowly eating away at his skin. The bath before wound care cleanses the dead skin and the dried blood away, but afterwards, the wounds seem to glare even more. After wound care, he faces another struggle - that of getting his under armour, which holds all of the bandages in place, back over his wounded head and shoulders and on to his body.
In a day when one quickly reaches for something to ease the headache or the stomach cramps, my brother who truly suffers more than anyone I know has not reached for his pain medication in over four weeks. I asked if he is sacrificing and he says no. He doesn’t like how the medication dulls his senses.
Thankfully, he is still able to receive the Eucharist thanks to our brother Fr. Kevin.
He is still able to go to Confession thanks to Fr. Jason Brooks.
And better still, he is still watched over by Our Lord and Savior in the tabernacle set up in the closet in his bedroom.
One of my favorite saints is Padre Pio. I have heard some of Fr. Joseph’s other wonderful caretakers call him, “Padre.” One told me just the other day that she calls him, “Padre Peeko.” I chuckle. Fr. Joe dislikes being called a saint or even compared to one.
And yet I wonder, would God be so gracious to allow me to grow up with a saint? And then I look around at my other siblings, and I see saints in each one of them. After every Communion, I thank God for allowing me to be born into such a wonderful family.