My brother, Thomas, died of ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) in 2005. He died in my care, on a home ventilator. He was a decorated verteran of the Vietnam War. He was gifted, musically, and was well known locally as a talented guitar picker. He was deaf, probably because his ears were damaged from spending so many years in the music business. We communicated with a homemade message board. I grouped letters of the alphabet. I would point to a group, and then to the individual letter. He would blink-once for "no", twice for "yes". It took awhile, but we "talked" more than we had ever sat and talked together in our lives. He died thirteen days before his 56th birthday.
This is for Thomas:
Last Notes Of A Stored Guitar
Thomas talked eye-to-letters on quiet nights,
no sound save a pumping ventilator
and our erasable voices on a message board.
He talked of music, old dogs, friends,
family, women, grandchildren,
and other dreams
he would have to leave undone.
My brother eyed letters, blinked words,
and saw memories of war; falling
Screaming Eagle-Road Warrior fast
to an image of Vietnam trench graves.
ALS is no easy way to die,
deaf and still body, mind alert,
pride struggling to remain
He said a choice of battlefields
would put him back to ’68;
said at least he’d have
by: Shirley Alexander