This date has special meaning to me. When I was a child we joked about it being “Leap Day” and said we would not want to be born on this date. Who wants a birthday only once every four years? But what if you died on this date? I never thought about that.
Well, now I’ve thought about that a lot in the past 12 years because my older brother Jerry died on February 29, 2008. He was 65 years old and died after a five year battle with Mantel Cell Lymphoma cancer. He went through multiple chemotherapy treatments, an attempted stem cell transplant and many other uncomfortable treatments. He was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He spent several weeks at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester after the stem cell transplant. There was a requirement that he have someone stay there with him during that time. Charlie, our brother, and I each stayed with him for half of his time there. I took medical leave from my job and stayed for the first part and then Charlie came for the remainder of the time.
I don’t mean to write all this as something sad. I just want to share my memory of someone that was very special in my life.
|Charlie, myself and Jerry, Easter 1954|
Jerry was a writer and a newspaper editor but more than anything he was a lover of nature. He settled in Minnesota because he loved the beautiful countryside, lakes and wildlife. He camped out and canoed as much as he could and he even spent most of one year living in the wilderness with his tent and canoe. He taught me so much about many things and always listened when I had a problem. Jerry was a unique and real person in a world that was often very superficial.
He had requested to be cremated and have his ashes spread in a quiet and hidden part of the Mississippi headwaters where he used to camp. He was the first member of our family to be cremated and I initially had mixed feelings about it. Per his request we only had immediate family members there when we spread his ashes. It was a beautiful and private ceremony. It could not have been more perfect and well suited to who he was as a person.
When I thought about his death falling on a date that comes just once every four years, I realized that date would have suited him perfectly. He was not like any other person I’ve ever known. He would have liked that date. If it had not been leap year he would have died on March 1st and he would never have wanted that because it was our Mother’s birthday. It is funny how things work out sometimes.