My older brother Richard died six days before Christmas. In late June he would’ve been seventy-four. His health had declined over the last few years. He had breathing issues. He was overweight and had suffered three major heart attacks in twenty three years. The first occurred the year he turned fifty. By then, he’d worked as a union steamfitter for thirty-two years. He drank hard and worked hard. His mantra was ‘take me as I am, because I’m not going to change’. Bad attitude. Cost him two marriages and any kind of civilized relationship with our sister. Not that I had any kind of relationship with him. Our phone conversations had devolved into shouting matches because neither of us could hear what the other was saying. My ears ring and he was deaf as a post. Too many years too close to loud tools, machines and rock n roll. Even when we could hear we never talked of much except fishing and baseball. I hadn’t seen him for a couple months. I don’t visit him if I’m not invited. Made that mistake, once. He was drunk when he yanked the door open after I pounded on it. He shoved a .45 automatic to my nose. He did not recognize me. He has always been well-armed. So, I don’t surprise him, but I should’ve forced an invite. I knew he wouldn’t take care of himself. I knew he wouldn’t look out for his health or his house. I knew things had probably gotten beyond him. But I didn’t go. I said I would but I didn’t. I expected him for Thanksgiving, but he bailed with a promise to see me at Christmas. On Thursday morning, December 13th, I received a call from a friend of his, a retired firefighter and current charter boat captain on the Chesapeake Bay. Charlie told me he had gotten a call from my brother that he had fallen and could not get up. Charlie had the local firehouse ambulance crew follow him to my brother’s house. He said it was bad. He couldn’t tell how long Richard had been laying there, but it had been a while. He said the house was full of trash. It would be the third time I will have raked out my brother’s house after he has had some medical emergency that puts him in the hospital for a week.. He lived alone. He was not a tidy person. The ER staff reported kidney failure, blood infections, failing heart. When I looked at him, I felt sure he would not make it out of the hospital. ER transferred him to the ICU. Four days in the ICU brought a visit from the palliative care doctor in charge of his case. We talked a long time. She is a kind, sensitive woman. My daughter, a physician’s assistant, another kind sensitive young woman, was in the discussion. Despite some encouraging reports from the ICU docs claiming Rich was responding to the antibiotics, the palliative doctor made it quite clear his days were numbered. Rich transferred to hospice care on the 18th. He was clean, comfortable and surrounded by professionals who treated him with respect from the moment he was rushed into the ER until he passed quietly in his sleep. I had been with him for long periods of time at the hospital, but had come home to take a break. At 2:50 am, I received the call from hospice informing me Rich had passed. He had not suffered, he simply slipped away. A good death. May you have a peace in death brother that you never seemed to quite reach in life. RIP Rich. Have good fishing.