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Evidence of Absence

At times I can be forgetful. But grief and trauma? Those memories are etched in stone. My brother died on this day in 1989. He was just 18. I remember so many little details. Taking the bus after school from White Bear Lake to Maplewood Mall to downtown St. Paul to hang out with him at United Hospital. Getting tired of the lousy hospital food and walking over to Cossetta’s to pick up some mostaccioli to share. But sometimes he felt too sick to eat, because of the brutal chemo. He had a private hospital room in the adult oncology ward but we had to request to wheel in a TV with a VCR to watch movies. 15 year-old me pulled together some cash to go to a record store at the mall to get U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary on VHS so we could watch that together. Sometimes I would shake his plasma bags for the nurses before he received a transfusion. And I held the bucket for him when he was coughing up bile. On his better days we could play Nintendo together. The console was a gift from his employers at Kowalski’s grocery store in our hometown. At the end, I was sleeping in his room overnight but still in denial that he was dying. That last morning a few of us went downstairs for bad cafeteria food and to stand outside in the fresh air for a bit. I lingered in the sunshine. When I went back upstairs I washed my hands thoroughly before entering his room but he was already gone. I never said goodbye properly because I held on to the hope he would recover somehow. That the leukemia would go into remission. Even though it was pneumonia that had killed him by that point. His airways were being suctioned regularly. He was so very sick. But he knew I was there. I hope that’s enough. And it’s more closure than a lot of people are getting now, who are losing family members during this pandemic.

Best brother ever. But far too briefly. Thomas Oliver Morrow October 14, 1970 - May 9, 1989

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