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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Great days in the face of loss

What Tom's last Easter taught us about dying ... and living

"You know I’m going to die, but today was sure a great day.” These words followed the final family get-together that my younger brother, Tom, 48, was able to host at his home last Easter.

He shared them with his longtime girlfriend, Mary, as they arrived back at Zilber House, a hospice in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. Tom had been a patient there for a month.

Photos of TomA week later, Tom peacefully passed away and claimed the promise of Easter. Mary and other loved ones were by his side, bringing to a beautiful conclusion his two-month ordeal with stage-four bone and lung cancer.

We, his family and loved ones, initially rebelled at the suggestion that hospice was the best option for Tom, who had been healthy and strong until the cancer.

But the weeks that Tom received care at Zilber House proved to be a blessing for him—and us too.

We learned valuable lessons, not about death but about life and love. We learned how in the realization that we are all going die one day, we can, as Tom did, live life to the fullest and claim the great days that are ours.

Here some those lessons:

• Surround yourself with loved ones but know that it’s also appropriate to have time alone.

Zilber House allowed Tom to surround himself with family, friends and loved ones. But when he needed rest or private time, he informed the hospice caregivers, who unapologetically asked everyone to leave so as to respect my brother’s wishes.

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