I have always liked fishing. The solitude and serenity speaks to my soul. I don’t even know if I’ve ever actually caught a single fish that was big enough to eat but the thrill of catching one at all was beyond satisfying. But as much as I have always liked fishing, my feelings towards the sport could never hold a candle to my late brother Monte’s adoration of fishing. That man would rather fish than eat when he was hungry. He absolutely loved sitting on a river bank with a fishing pole in his hand. Those were his Zen moments. When he was out there communing with nature he was in his element. He liked hunting too but he LOVED fishing. I don’t know if there was anything he liked better.
I think he pretty much always had a fishing pole in his vehicle and a cooler in the back (in addition to the one for the beer) because you never knew when you just might get that extra 30 minutes or hour or two to stop by the river or a lake or quarry and throw in a line. And it sure didn’t matter if you caught anything other than peace of mind.
So my favorite fishing memory has become one that didn’t even start out to be a fishing “trip” at all. I’ve written about this before but I will reiterate it now. It was a little over 5 months ago. Probably around the last week of March or the first week of April or so. It was just after Hospice had started giving my brother his morphine under his tongue.
It had started on that Monday. I was in Georgia and my mom had me crying, hysterical because hospice was going to start giving him liquid morphine and she told me that she remembered when her sister had gotten bad enough to have the liquid morphine that she hadn’t even lasted 24 hours. She was petrified that she would never again get to see her baby boy alive. She and my dad live about 2 or 3 hours from where he was living and they don’t drive that far by themselves anymore.
I hadn’t even packed because I was planning on driving back up later that week but when Mama called me so hysterical I threw my clothes in the suitcase and hit the road. I didn’t even wait for my husband to come home from work. I called him and told him I’d be back in a week or so and I hit the road. It was probably 2:30 or 3 in the morning before I got to my parents and we got up early the next morning and headed to my brother’s house. We stayed for Tuesday and Wednesday and then I took my parent’s back home. My mom knew it was the last time she’d see my brother alive but she wanted to remember him while he was still somewhat lucid even though on Wednesday he had pretty much slept all day. There were a couple moments of clarity but not much. He was pretty much confined to his bedroom and his bed or his recliner.
On my way to take my parents home my cousin called me and told me she had taken off the next day so that she could go see my brother because she hadn’t gotten to go see him since he had been diagnosed in February. We were pretty much expecting him to be about in the same shape he was when my parents and I had been there the day before. My sister in law had called me when I was on my there and told me he was kind of talking out of his head. She said he had woken up that morning and told her that “Mommy and Daddy are coming to get me today to take me down to the river to play”. Sort of like something he would have said when he was a little kid. I wasn’t sure what we should expect because he seemed to drift in and out of lucidness.
When we got there he was in his bedroom in his recliner and he was talking very clearly. In fact he was talking so well that one of his childhood girlfriends called me on my phone just as we walked in to check on him. I asked him if he felt up to talking to anyone and he said yes. He ended up talking to her on the phone for a good 5 or 10 minutes and was very clear and lucid. After we hung up from talking to her he decided he wanted to go sit outside. It was a beautiful day and we got his slippers on him and took him outside to his favorite lawn chair and sat in the sun enjoying the beautiful weather.
It was while we sat there that one of his friends that he used to work with stopped by and while we were sitting there he decided he wanted to take a ride down to the river. I was a little skeptical at first because by now he had his oxygen machine and he was very weak and I wasn’t sure how he’d handle having to walk all the way from the car to the river bank. Not to mention having to give him his morphine under his tongue every two hours. But he wanted to go and I wanted to please my brother and give him some semblance of happiness in his last days so we packed up his lawn chairs and his oxygen tank and his morphine and his friend followed us down there so he could help in case he got too weak to walk or something.
We got him down to the river and holding his arm we helped him walk until he was about 10 or 15 feet from the river’s edge and sat him down in his lawn chair. We sat there in the sun for an hour or so when his brother in law happened to call his friend that was with us. He asked where we were and he then asked “Hey… do you want me to bring a fishing pole?” I quickly blurted out yes, yes! Bring this man a fishing pole so he can fish! That was about all he’d talked about for the last month or so, how much he wanted to go fishing and how he wished he and my brother and my dad could go fishing. At that moment I knew there was no way we could pass up that opportunity even if I had to hold the pole for him.
I didn’t have to hold the pole for him although a couple of times I helped him hold it but just being able to witness the look on his face as he sat there in the sun so sick and frail but so happy because he was getting to do something that he loved with his entire being. At that moment he was happy and he was at peace because even though he didn’t catch any fish, he got to sit there with a fishing pole in his hands and think about all the times he did catch fish. And I am so honored to have been a part of that. To be able to be a part of something that meant so much to him and now I know he’s looking down on us from the banks of a river brimming with the biggest fish ever and he’s smiling and happy because he’s not in pain anymore.