I'm not sure how we lost my brother, Tom, in the scheme of things, but we did. Tom died last week at the age of 55, five years younger than me and a fact that gives me pause about my own mortality. Anytime you lose a sibling, you know your days are pretty much numbered as well.
Out of five, there are three of us left. I lost my oldest sister, Jean, in 1990.
With my brother gone, no longer can my mother, at least in my mind, call the youngest three Farrell siblings to dinner:
"Tom, Dick and Mary! Dinner is served!"
Had a nice ring to it.
Some 10 years ago, Tom was diagnosed with mouth cancer. To rid him of that particular scourge, surgeons removed part of his tongue and jaw.
He never really recovered from that surgery. He couldn't speak correctly and his appearance was distracting.
Still, he was able to crack jokes, discuss politics and talk about the Beatles – his favorite, all-time rock band. I think Tom would have taken the bullet for John Lennon. I am not exaggerating.
Tom was the king of the cassette-tape era of music. In his basement man-cave in a neat little house in Norwood, a suburb sandwiched on all sides by Cincinnati, Tom would crank out music via 14 speakers hanging from the open ceiling and placed over such elements as a top-loading washer and a 40-gallon water heater.
The basement rocked.
In addition to his music, he found other joy, too, in his wife, Diane, and son, Michael. He'd remind you on a regular basis that Diane was beautiful and Michael, an up-and-coming standup comedian in Cleveland, was talented.
Diane ultimately became his full-time caregiver as his overall health deteriorated. She'd update his condition in daily emails to family members. My goodness, the odds were against him – pneumonia, congestive heart failure, kidney issues – always something else using up another of his nine lives.
Still he could laugh, or flirt with nurses, or tell a joke. And for some unknown reason, he became a fan of Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly. I never quite understood that, but I have to believe that fact wouldn't keep him from entering the gates.
It became apparent last week that Tom had met his match – too much cancer in too many places. He ran out of his options.
Diane continued to send her emails.
"Tom had a quiet, uneventful night," she wrote. "He responded to the nurse this morning with a couple of nods of his head. He's sleeping now. Love, Diane."
The last one came last Saturday.
In the subject line, she wrote: "Last e-mail re: Tom (8:02 a.m.)"
And then: "Tom spent his first day in heaven. Love, Diane."
Published: January 8, 2012