Saturday, October 16, 2010

Connect & Breathe, Loss, and Family Stories

It has been a full and varied week, that's for sure. First off, I need to let people know that my brother Craig, passed away quite suddenly this morning. Many of you do not know that I have a brother, but I actually have three. I have been estranged from Craig for at least 10 years, and am only now beginning to understand why.

They are my half-brothers, from my father's first marriage, and we didn't live together ever, as they were in their teens and 20s when I was born. My father was a totally different person prior to my birth, and his subsequent brain aneurism when I was 4 months old. He was, according to various reports, not a particularly nice person. So my brothers had a completely different father than the kind, involved, present, and stay-at-home (disabled) father that I grew up with. That has colored their relationship (or lack thereof) with him quite a bit, and my own mother's stories never filled in the blanks in ways that made sense.

My brother and I had a falling out over the care of our father, which I took over 10+ years ago, and although it is too late to go back and mend bridges, I think I am beginning to understand some of his thinking and reasons, based on his very different relationship with our father, but I am sad there was not a reconciliation. My father missed Craig and his other sons very much and with the dementia, has ceased to understand their estrangement. I am grateful and blessed to be slowly building bridges with the youngest of my three brothers.

The hardest part was telling my father, who suffers from dementia, that his oldest son had died. I'm so grateful, every day, for having done chaplaincy training. And I'm grateful for the RN who was compassionate and authoritative in helping me figure out how to best break this heartbreaking news to him. I am so sad for Craig's wife and children, for my surviving brothers, who were close to him, and to his many friends. It is a tragedy for any parent to lose their child, as my father has, and he died too young.

I found this news out right after the evening church service today, which came after a day of talkline training for Connect & Breathe  where I will be volunteering as part of the sexual justice component of my internship. It is the east coast version of Exhale, and has been supported by Planned Parenthood and my home congregation, First Unitarian Church of Rochester (check out the sermon No Secrets).

I was conflicted about Connect at first - I have concerns about the assumption that all UUs are pro-choice, but this organization is careful to not be pro-choice or pro-life, or to use that language. It is a place for women who have undergone an abortion to call and talk, and the mission is to empower women to serve as their own moral agents around their reproductive health, and to trust themselves. I have personal and professional reasons for wanting to offer this support to women, and since it's going to be the only game in town on the East Coast, refer, refer, refer! Phone lines are set to open on 11/15. This is important work, people.

Tomorrow I will be participating in a wedding, which is exciting and joyful. Sorrow and joy, the hallmarks of ministry and of life, every single day.


plaidshoes said...

Kelly, I am so sorry for you and your father's loss.

ms. kitty said...

I'm sorry to hear about your brother's death, Kelly. My thoughts are with you and your family. It's true that CPE really helps us understand how valuable the act of being present can be.

Heidi said...

Sorry to hear of the loss of your brother. Your father is a lucky man to have you in his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Kelly KH said...

Thanks all, for your kind words. they have lifted me up after a long day!

Tina said...

Sorry to hear about your brother. My condolences.