Fletcher, My Son
I wrote this story about my deceased brother while in high school. My brother and I were very close, even though he was seven years older than me. FLETCHER, MY SON
He was extremely handsome--so much so, that all the girls in the neighborhood wanted to be my friend and his girlfriend.
My brother was diagnosed with liver disease at age 13-- cirrhosis of the liver. The doctors told my mother that the progression of the disease was such that he would only live to be about 21-years-old.
He died on January of 30, 1956, at the young age of 22, having had his birthday the previous November of 1955.
No other incident in my life since then, or now, has had such a profound impact on me, as did the early death of my brother. I spent many a night praying that his soul had gone to Heaven.
I dreamt of him often and each dream had the same outcome. That is, he would visit with us for a short time, but we knew it was not permanent and that he would have to return to his new home.
Moreover, when I awoke from the dream my heart was heavy with grief because I missed him so.
This is the story I wrote in the voice of my dear mother on April 25, 1958:
"Fletcher, my son, it has been two years since you left this world, and yet, I still grieve for you as if you had passed only yesterday.
"You are on my mind every hour and minute of every day.
"I think of the first time you became ill. You were only 13-years-old. Your condition was so bad that an operation was necessary.
"The doctors said you had a case of appendicitis, but the after the operation was performed, it was disclosed that you had a liver ailment, cirrhosis of the liver.
"The doctors did not know the cause, but they said that you would not live to be 21.
"How I wished them to be wrong, for how could I tell a 13-year-old boy, a boy who loved life so much, that he would not live to be 21-years-old.
"I made the decision not to tell you. Instead, I let you believe that you were as healthy as the boy next door.
"I think about how at the age of 17 you decided to join the army.
"I was very much against you joining because of your medical condition, but your stepfather assured me that I had nothing to worry about because you would not pass the physical.
"How wrong your stepfather and I were. You were, indeed, inducted into the Unites States Army.
"This was music to my ears as I thought that by chance, a miracle had occurred and you were no longer suffering with cirrhosis of the liver.
"Three weeks after your physical you left for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and you were not in the army 3 months when you suffered a heart attack.
"I rushed to you as quickly as possible and when I arrived, I found army officers scolding you about your condition.
"They claimed you knew you were not well and had deceived the army. They also claimed that you knew you were not physically capable to complete basic training, but they were so wrong because I had withheld that information from you.
"You received an honorable discharge, but you were unhappy with me because I had known of your medical condition and had not shared the information with you.
"Suddenly all of your dreams and plans for the future were shattered. I was to blame, but I honestly believed that not telling you that you were sick was the best thing to do.
"Now I see I was wrong. You had a right to know. However, in time you realized that I only wanted to shield you out of love and compassion.
"I admired you my son, because you did not let your illness hold you back. You were determined to make the best of what little time you had left on this earth.
"You found employment and it appeared on the surface that you were accepting of the inevitable--
"--until one evening, you broke down and cried, telling me how you would never marry, never have a family...I cannot imagine the suffering in your heart and soul. I only know I love you so very much.
"On November 7, 1954, you celebrated your 21st birthday, which was a happy occasion for us all.
"Our family did not have much money and the gifts you received were few things like a sweater, pair of socks, underwear, and a suit.
"Later, I watched you in your room as you cried when you clutched your presents. I do not know if you cried because of the presents or because God had let you live to see your 21st birthday.
"On December 15, 1954, you became ill and we took you to Hines Veteran Hospital in Hines, Illinois. You were there for 3 months.
"In July of 1955, you begged your stepfather to let you work with him in the steel mills in Indiana. Your stepfather was reluctant to give you a job, but you pleaded because you wanted to make some money and not be so dependent on us.
"He agreed and you were on the job one hour before you suffered a heart attack and fell into a twenty-foot pit. Back to Hines Hospital you went, back to the same ward and to the same bed.
"After the second heart attack, your resistance became compromised. You constantly caught colds, you lost so much weight that your clothes no longer fit.
"You spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital. You had been in the hospital a long time and you wanted to come home for a weekend visit. Your doctors initially were against giving you a pass to leave, but relented and home you came.
"On this trip home I noticed how you walked through the house as if you were taking a last look at the house you grew up in.
"You were only home a day, when again, it was necessary to immediately return you to Hines Hospital. This was your last visit home.
"On January 7, 1956, your uncle, who was also a patient at Hines Hospital died. I came to Hines to get your uncle’s belongings and saw you.
"You were surprised to see me and before I could explain why I was there you stated, “Uncle Charles died, didn’t he?” I said “yes,” and you cried.
"You then told me that you had a dream and saw yourself as you would look when you died. That in the dream you met death just before daybreak.
"I wanted to scream. Here I am getting my brother’s belongings and my child is telling me that, he too, will be leaving this world shortly.
"On Sunday, January 29, 1955, I visited with you at the hospital. During our visit I never once saw you make eye contact with me. You looked away during my entire visit.
"You told how cold your legs were and that you were not able to get warm, but you never looked my way.
"In my heart I felt that I was losing you. When I arrived home I went to my room, fell to my knees, cried and prayed that God’s will be done.
"Your dream came true at 3:45 a.m. on January 30, 1956.
"I got a call that you were passing and to come to Hines Hospital immediately, but before I could dress, the hospital called at 4:07 a.m. and said you had passed away.
"After your burial, you came to me in a dream. In that dream you said that you were put away as you hoped to be.
"You told me that although you had loved life--where you were now, you were at peace--and you would never return to this life for anything.
"So now, Fletcher, my son, I am lonely for you. My greatest comfort will be to see your face once again, to touch your hand, and tell you how very much I love you.
"You no longer belong to me, but to God."