This past week has been one that has galvanized my siblings - because one of us is in trouble.
My oldest brother Bill, second from the left in the black and white picture (taken in about 1954) and standing next to me in the colour picture (taken last fall) had a heart attack on Wednesday.
He is the only sibling still living in New Brunswick. The other 4 are all within an hour's distance of Toronto and we can get together as often as we like. In point of fact, we don't do that as often as we should, but there is comfort in knowing that we can.
Brother Bill comes every couple of years for either a week in the summer or Christmas vacation - on rare occasion, both. We are in touch with him on a regular basis, but at the end of the day, he is a thousand miles away.
He is the third male in our family to have a heart attack. My dad died from his just days after his 60th birthday. My other brother Peter had one at age 53. Peter was able to get to hospital at the first symptoms and they reversed all signs of it within hours of his arrival in ER.
Bill has not been so lucky. The week has been filled with ups and downs - with a couple of miracles thrown in for good measures. Luckily, he had his heart attack while at work, so a series of good things, involving a volunteer firefighter administering CPR, a doctor upstairs in his building, and the ambulance arriving in under 10 minutes all got him to the hospital. But, the ride has been bumpy with many unknowns and surprises along the way. And they are still coming.
He is still in a precarious place and we are going from hour to hour, day to day watching and waiting for updates from our sister Nancy who flew to be with him on the day of the attack.
It's a horrible thing to be this far away and unable to be other than a spectator as this all unfolds. But we feel that going there en masse would only send worrying signals to him, since we don't often go there when he is well. But the silbing hot line is in place - Nancy calls one of us and the rest pass the news along. It's becoming the rhythm of the days - and nights.
I hardly knew my brother Bill growing up, since 8 years is a big difference, and he was mostly away at school by the time I would come to know him. But as an adult, I have come to know that he is an amazing person who has a support system that we would all envy.
His peers from work, his friends and even those who aren't that close to him have rallied to cheer him on, visit him and be there for him, even if he's not totally aware that they are there. And I envy them the proximity to be able to do that.
I dearly love all my siblings. We lost our parents very early and it created a stronger bond among us. But, like most, we probably don't tell one another how we feel nearly often enough. And I only hope that Bill contiues to improve to the point that I have an opportunity to do so.
It's been a very reflective Mothers' Day for me. Luckily, both my kids were able to be with me. My ma-in-law was also here and she is an amazing woman who has truly been the best mother figure in my life since I lost my own. But the precarious nature of the week reminds me again that we must continue to tell the people around us how much we care. How special they are to us.
Because when all is said and done family matters more than anything. And that doesn't mean just mean blood relatives, but those we love like family too.