And What Followed...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Francis Rex

Originally I was going to post a message I wrote the other day about how I celebrated my one-year BMT anniversary on July 5th. However another anniversary, a somber one that I feel is far more important to remember, is also upon us.

Friday July 13th 2007, will mark the anniversary of the day my brother, Francis Rex, lost his battle with Cancer. Seventeen years ago, on Friday July 13th 1990, I held his hand as it slowly went cold. I remember my mother didn't scream. She cowered over the hospital bed, exhausted and broken after five draining years, pleading with everyone in the room to please "Embrace him while he is still warm." I remember my father frozen and unreachable, his eyes scorched and sunken, staring at the white sheets that held his eldest son. I remember the nurses sobbing. And it was the doctor who had gone mad and was screaming, clenching hair in ripping fists, repeatedly shouting over and over and again, "He is in a better place now!" Shouting at no one, but instead, it seemed, to placate himself.

And my thoughts raced, raced as far as it could go, out of the room, away from this boy who could not possibly be my brother because my brother could not possibly be dead. My thoughts ran far away, back to when before he got sick. Back to BMX bikes and Rocket pops and Little League games. Back to summer and hopping across river stones, watermelon juice dripping on bent elbows, and silly giggles in the back of our big red station wagon. In our backyard pool we used to pretend "National Geographic". Rex would flop, swim and splash while I'd play Jacques Cousteau and follow his every move, describing in great detail this "strange new animal" to our enraptured TV audience.

In the years before he died, Rex and I would often stay up late talking. While other kids were gabbing about GI Joe, Donkey Kong and soccer camp, Rex and I would ask each other questions about God and life and what happens after we die. Back then, I was 14 and he was 12. He dreamed someday to become a pediatric oncologist and save the lives of other children with cancer. His wish was to be able to comfort a young patient like himself and give hope with his own story of survival… "So when one of them says `I'm scared' I can tell them I was scared too but look at me now, I'm cured."

In the days that my brother fought cancer, he never complained or revealed how scared he was. Rex held immense strength, profound wisdom and peace in his heart… all in the years before he turned 16. Because of our late night talks I thought I understood what he was feeling inside. But it was not until I got cancer that I truly understood and felt what fear and uncertainty really meant. To know the meaning of life is to know the meaning of death. My brother was so brave. There was no such thing as anti-nausea medications or any of the other medicines that help the patients of today. Back then, it was just raw, barbaric, vein-ripping chemotherapy. Compared to my brother, I had a cake walk.

Today I realized that for the first time, my brother will have been dead longer than he was alive. It's a mindF—k. Rex never had the life experiences we take for granted: his first kiss, driving a car, graduating from high school, being in love, a summer job… never mind the college experience or the joys that come after. My brother Marc shares the same Birthday as Rex, though Marc was born four years younger. May 17 has never been able to recapture the joy it once held. It is strange to think that you could ever be older than your older brother. Marc is now 29.

On one of our last late night talks, Rex and I realized that, because I was his marrow donor, a part of me would literally die with him if he lost his battle with cancer. We laughed but suddenly became very quiet. Then in deep earnest he said "If I die you have to promise me that you will live for the both of us."

People often ask me where I get my zest and passion for life: why I can be in any situation and have the time of my life: why I have all this energy, excitement, spontaneity, acceptance, affection, faith and love. It is because over 17 years ago I made a promise to a dying boy that his young life would not be lost in vain but would be remembered in every moment of mine. That is how I honor and remember my brother: By living this life as magnificently as possible and infecting everyone I come across with the magic, exhilaration and wisdom that Rex taught me.

My dear brother Rex, you remain forever alive in our hearts.


P.S. I wrote this several days ago but think it may be appropriate to
share now:

This life will end someday
But the planets will still continue their elliptical paths
And stars will implode and galaxies reborn
The ants will still find their way into honey
As ever, Love will be fought for
And broken hearts will slowly mend
And a stranger will save another man's soul.

This life will end someday
And on that day this soul will look back.
The consequences of its actions
will lift him up
or burden on him heavily.

This life will end someday
But not today.
So strike your path and find your way into honey
The galaxies will spin despite your misery or joy
Eternal life lies within us
Let Love save your soul.

Christine Pechera
July 3, 2007


Anonymous said...

Christine, What a lovely tribute to your brother. I know the feeling you had when you realized your brother had been gone longer than he had been alive. I'll never forget that feeling I had when I realized my baby sister had been dead longer than she had been alive. It's been 30 years now and it still hurts. It's so unfair when someone young passes before their time. Your blog brought me to tears this morning. From your description, your brother appears to have been a very, very special person.

I'm so glad for you that you had this July 4th. And I pray that you have many, many more. You have such a wonderful spirit. I envy you that quality and also your eloquent writing ability. I loved your story of the butterfly. What a wonderful experience.

Joe.Karen said...

i want repeat most of what kathy said. you have such a gift for words. joe and i are so touched by your writing. what an incredibly loving tribute to your brother. we are so blessed to know you in this virtual world! thank you for sharing so deeply and so openly. and thank you for sharing the photos!

karen & joe

Gregg_AmbientDJ said...


I really enjoyed your poem. You are adept in your poetry and blog entries in expressing difficult feelings with an easy delivery. way.

May God continue to bless your health.

Best wishes,

Gregg H.