Three weeks ago, I lost my sister Rachel. She was 36 years old and died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It was heartbreaking to say the least. Although we did not see much of each other over the past couple of years, her sarcasm and wit will be forever etched in my mind. There are two little guys that will miss her more than me however; her two young sons Caleb and Mel. It is on their shoulders that my true heartbreak rests, and for reasons that may not be immediately obvious.
I did not make it to Kent General Hospital until Rachel was already in a coma. My parents were already there, along with my younger brother, his wife, and my younger nephew. I asked my mother where Caleb and Mel were and she could (understandably) barely speak, let alone answer the question. My dad simply uttered “Caleb walked in earlier and could not stand the sight of his mother in this condition. He left. We don’t know where Mel is.”
We don’t know where Mel, Rachel’s 8 year old son is? What? This particular fact rattled me more than my sister being in a coma. It just did. As a quick backstory, Mel and Caleb come from different fathers and Mel’s father had just been released from what was an 8-year prison stint. That means Mel had never spent any real time with his father. Despite this, his father was petitioning to get full custody of his son.
A couple of hours later, Caleb came by the hospital again. We talked a little bit before going into the waiting room as the sight of my sister, his mother, was just too surreal. What Caleb confided in me however, was nothing short of heartfelt and heartbreaking. “I just hope Mel can come live with us”, he said. This told me three things about Caleb and the peril of the situation at hand. One, he felt his mother slipping away. Two, he absolutely loved his little bother. Three, he was as worried about the potential of Mel living with his father as I was. Caleb is twelve, by the way.
As more family and friends arrived and people began to understand the gravity of Rachel’s situation, they began to focus more fully on the future of her sons, specifically Mel. Caleb has a loving, protective, and stable father. Mel’s father, however, was nothing of the sort when I last saw him. It is possible that he changed while he was in prison. That said, the fact that he refused to bring Mel to see his mother and immediately went into hiding with him told me something. This on top of the earlier news I shared that he was already petitioning to get full custody of his son, despite an 8-year prison stint for compulsive drug addiction.
Rachel would be worried about this too. She was already fearful that Mel’s father would try and find her after he was released from prison. When they were together, he was verbally and physically abusive. He also threatened to hurt her if she left him for someone else while he was away.
So while my little sister is no longer with us, the weight of her son’s future plight is. I may have forgotten to share with you that Mel is deaf and has been since he was born. He is going to a special, expensive school and requires a lot of day-to-day focus to ensure that he is developing appropriately while being showered with just the right kind of love and attention. Will his father be able to manage this? Caleb doesn’t think so.
It is a Monday and the holiday break is a couple of weeks away. This means that Caleb is sitting in a classroom with his thoughts. I know this young man, he is a feeler, and a deep one at that. He is also a proud older brother that is as loving and protective as his daddy. Caleb’s fear of what will happen to Mel continues to cloud his mind, as does the untimely death of his mother. What is the world supposed to tell him?
About his mother dying at 36 years old?
About his brother being in hiding by a man that abused drugs and women?
About the fact that he cannot control whether or not he gets to see his brother?
About the lot in life that we do not get to choose but must deal with just the same?
I would tell Caleb two things. Two things that I would (and do) tell anyone that is in an untenable situation that is wrought with abuse and uncertainty.
1. We do not get to decide what colors show up in others but we do get to choose whether we allow them to color us. You will make the right choice. The choice to find safe passage in rainbows whilst the bully rests wholly in black and blue
2. Continue to love your brother with all of your might. Let the world take care of the rest.