As I write this my brother’s funeral is being held. I am missing it, not only because I live thousands of miles away from home and I’m two hours away from the airport with snow on the ground and terrible driving conditions, although there’s that; nor because the tickets are cost prohibitive on short notice, although there is that; but also because I feel my presence would be disruptive. So I sit here in my world and reflect on his life and his essence and his triumphs and his short comings and his passing. And I hope that in the end he found peace.
Michael Alexander Sutherland, Mike as we called him was a gregarious child. He was funny and fun! And he wanted so much to be someone special. When our dad drowned, Mike was just five years old. He bravely said to our mom, “Don’t cry, you still have one man left”. Everyone thought that was so cute. Looking back, I think the pressure he put on himself to be that man, while he was just a child must have been too much. Every disappointment crushed his spirit, leading him to drugs and run-ins with the law. But before all that, oh what a soul! As children we danced together, he and I, he taught me to play music without notes, which is all I could and still only can do. We played catch and hide and seek and any number of made up games. We laughed and we fought and we cried and we made up.
Mike was intelligent – he had dreams of owning his own mechanic shop. He was musical – he could listen to a song and go and play it on the piano. He had the best smile with the whitest teeth. It was so sad to see those rot and also fall out from the abuse they took. He was athletic, and played football, soccer to most of the world, competitively well into his 50s. And he was a hard worker. After the disappointment of not being able to realize his own dreams, he was still always hustling. He made food for sale, he did lawn work and other jobs to make money, but it was never enough. He just didn’t learn to pivot. He broke instead of learning how to bend.
Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. That was three years ago. He can be quite loud when in pain. That has always been how he acted though, so when my niece described his reactions during his hospital stays, I thought that he would probably outlive us all! Of course, only he knew what he was feeling. He became paralyzed, then lost his leg to amputation. I haven’t seen him in three years, that’s the last time I was in Belize for our mom’s funeral; and before his diagnosis. I hope that despite everything he had more good days than bad. And I hope that he was able to make peace with God before his passing.
By now the service is over and his body has probably been lowered into the ground. “In the end, everyone is aware of this: nobody keeps any of what he has, and life is only a borrowing of bones.” – Pablo Neruda.
I will feel your loss forever Mike. I hope that you are having a joyful reunion with Granny and Grandfather, Ma and Daddy. And may God bless your soul.