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Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.



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He is dying, and they will not have visitors. He is my closest sibling in age and my closest emotional connection. He's my big brother who had my back on numerous occasions. Okay, I had his, but less often and less serious, like the time I put him to bed when he came home drunk, after a few beers in high school. 

He and his wife knew a year ago that he had a bad cancer, and they decided to tell no one, hoping it was treatable. After a couple of months one of their kids knew something wasn't right and got it out of them; the other two kids and spouses were told. The rest of us were not told anything as they hoped for the best. And then the best was not happening.

Last month, after I found out inadvertently, they went ahead and told the other siblings and in-laws. That was followed by an email by my brother to family and friends, revealing what was happening. That at least allowed me to say things to him directly while he could still read and hear my sentiment.

And here we are. His family will allow no visitors, other than caregivers and hospice team, and their children, spouses, and grandchildren. I have known him almost seventy-two years, and respecting their wishes, and despite my offers to come and help, I cannot go there and say goodbye.

This is hard. I want to assume that it is my brother’s stated wishes, when he could make stated wishes, to not have anyone but his wife and kids see him in this state. Or, I could assume that it is his wife who just cannot handle any social contact as she spends 24/7 with her best friend and husband. Or, I could assume a few other things. 

Nothing changes the reality, and my heart being broken does not absolve me of the importance of not making assumptions.

Sharon Dobie
Seattle, Washington