Parts 1 and 2 told the story of my brother Phil's difficulties with drugs and alcohol. We have gone from his birth in 1956 to 1986.
In February of 1986 I was living with a partner, Paul, and was doing a show in Santa Barbara. I was so busy during that month that I had very little time for anyone. But I still spoke with Phil every day. He was having financial problems (what else is new?) so I did my best to give advice over the phone. I hadn't seen Phil for a couple of months. He didn't say anything about his health other than to say he had been to a doctor for a "slight" infection.
On February 26th I was finished with my show so I invited Phil over for dinner. Paul and Phil got along great so we were both excited to see Phil after several months. We were in for a shock. When Phil walked in the door my heart dropped into my stomach. Phil, who was 6'7 3/4", looked like a refugee from a concentration camp. I had never seen him so thin and haggard looking. He was weak and could barely walk. I freaked out. Phil had been in the hospital many times during his adult life. He seemed to get pneumonia about once a year. So I thought that he was going through that again and told him so. He agreed and promised to see his doctor the next day.
Being Phil, he didn't go to the doctor the next day or the day after that. We continued our phone conversations but they changed tone. I was the nagging big brother and Phil sounded weaker and more tired every day. I asked our Aunt Ruth Lee to drop by Phil's apartment and check on him. That was on March 6th.
The next call I received was from our aunt. She was calling from the hospital (less than a mile from where I was living) to tell me that Phil had been admitted and was in the ICU. I wasn't terribly surprised. My main thought was "here we go again" as I got in my car to go to the hospital. I had done this before so I stopped by admissions before going up to see Phil. I was a little taken aback when they started asking me questions about next of kin and d.n.r. (do not resuscitate) orders. I had never been asked things like that before but I figured they were just being cautious.
When I got to Phil's bedside I was shocked at how bad he looked. He had been sick before but this time it was different. There were tubes everywhere and his skin was gray. I was convinced that this was another bout with pneumonia but Phil had let it go too far. He had gone through it so many times that I convinced myself that he would get over it and I would give him another lecture about drugs ruining his health etc.
By the next day Phil had been moved out of ICU and into a private room. Our Grandmother was being brought to the hospital to visit (Phil was her favorite person in the world) and I began to feel uneasy. When I got to Phil's room I was confronted with a quarantine sign. That's when it dawned on me that this was something more than pneumonia. My aunt was in the room, looking pale herself. She had alerted the rest of the family (aunts, uncles, cousins) and I had this horrible sinking feeling. This was serious but I still thought that Phil would pull out of it. After all he always had before.
I don't want to dwell on the days leading up to March 10. It was a parade of relatives and an absolute blur to me. My aunt and grandmother were there day and night. I came by several times a day but continued to work. On March 10, I was at the hospital at dinner time to try to get Phil to eat something. He was too weak to lift a spoon so I fed him. The only thing he was willing to eat was a small cup of vanilla ice cream. I told Phil I loved him and he told me he loved me. Then I went home to make dinner for Paul and myself.
At 10:00pm the phone rang. It was Phil's doctor. He told me that Phil had slipped into a coma right after I left and had died at 7:30pm. I couldn't register those words at first. Then I was furious that I hadn't been called immediately. Then the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I became hysterical. When my parents died I was grief stricken but this was different. Paul did his best to comfort me but I could not be consoled. I had to make those horrible phone calls to relatives. The worst was telling my aunt and my grandmother. I'll spare my readers the details. I needed a drink and beer wouldn't cut it. Paul went out and bought me a bottle of scotch and I drank all night.
The next few days happened with me in a fog. Memorial service, burial arrangements (Phil was cremated but buried with our mother), these arrangements were made somehow but I barely remember all the things I had to do. I just kept drinking and my aunt did the driving. Then suddenly it was all over. According to the death certificate Phil died due to complications caused by HIV. AIDS. What a dreadful, horrible word.
During the year that followed I continued to drink far too much. Paul couldn't take it and left me by sneaking out. I didn't even know he had gone til he called me from our apartment in New York to tell me he had gone. Then I looked around the house and finally noticed that all his stuff was gone. I hadn't known there was any problem.
That was my rock bottom time in my life. I owe Paul a thank you for bringing me back to reality. I stopped drinking and started reading lots of books with metaphysical subject matter. I decided then and there that I wanted to rejoin the human race. I wanted to share all these wonderful ideas I had been reading about. I wanted to apply the concepts to my own life and that's when the real work began. I evolved over time. I became calm and peaceful as meditation became a daily ritual. I reached out to friends I had been ignoring. I counted on Phil's beautiful spirit to be with me and I believe he is with me to this day. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my little brother. He was only 29 when he moved on but I see him as still with me. So he has aged right along with me in my mind. Nothing and no one dies as long a they are remembered.
This was a hard story to tell. Believe me it is only a thumbnail sketch but it is a window to my soul. All the challenges that I have faced in my life made me who I am today. They made me strong. They gave me understanding and empathy for others. They helped me to love more deeply and to share my love more freely and fully. Something good can always come from something that seems so bad. It's all in how you choose to look at things.
Peace and Love,