My Brother My Friend

by Jill Francis on November 15th, 2014

​I adore my brother, Jeffrey.  As a best friend and confidante, he is only slightly preceded by my husband.  I am very fortunate to have a brother as a best friend and realize it is a rare and precious gift, and I can even remember the day I accepted the gift.

Three years my junior, I was always bigger and stronger than Jeffrey, so I could out-best him, even if it was simply by sitting on him.  Then one day, when he was about eleven, he took a swing at me.  Fortunately for me, I ducked, but not before feeling the rush of air from his fist brush my face.  I quickly realized that years of Judo lessons, practice, and competition, combined with the onset of pubescent testosterone, was going to be my undoing if I didn’t act quickly.  So I became his best friend.  I convinced him that Mom and Dad were the common enemy and that he and I should join forces.  I don’t think this was an actual conversation, I think it was more like a change in attitude and behavior toward him to win him over….and it worked…and it still is.

To this day he makes me laugh like no other and we have a humor that only the two of us understand.  Even during some dark, painful days, we found a way to laugh together.  We rarely disagree, there is rarely tension between us; and yet, there are days I’m so angry at him that I could... punch.  Him.  In.  The.  Face.

Over twelve years ago our mother was diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and my brother, my best friend, wasn’t here with me for the news.  Instead, he was in Ecuador, serving in the mission field, and I was here…feeling alone and abandoned by him. 

I believe in my brother’s work, his ministry, and his life’s vocation, but there are times I’ve resented it.  Since our mother’s diagnosis, he has lived in Ecuador, Singapore and is now in Colorado Springs and I’ve been…here.  The sibling left behind.  The sibling responsible for aging parents.  The sibling who has watched her sons become caregivers to Grandma, rather than the care-receivers they once were.  The sibling who has witnessed firsthand the devastation that is Alzheimer’s.  There are days that I want to scream at him and tell him to come home; to minister to his family, to do for us what he does for others all over the world.  I’d like to tell him that life is easy in the cheap seats.  I don’t believe it, but sometimes I think it…and I want to scream it at him.

So I call him.  And I yell.  I tell him that I’m angry.  With him.  With God.  With the disease.  With myself.  And then I cry.  And cry.  And cry.  I tell Jeffrey that it isn’t fair, that I hate this illness, that I’m weary of it, that Daddy’s weary and that it isn’t fair that Jeffrey gets to be away from it all.  I’d like to sit on him again, to force him to do my will, to use my birth order to get my way.

And Jeffrey listens, for he is Wise and knows that in that moment, listening is the best thing he can do.  I’m sure he begins to pray as well, but he never mentions that part, because he knows he needs to just listen.   And because he is wise, he also gives me the freedom to be angry with him; he just sits and takes it.  He doesn’t judge, doesn’t speak the obvious to me or offer lame platitudes of “comfort”.  He doesn’t offer benign hope or pretend he will come rescue me.  He doesn’t remind me of what I already know or quote scripture or tell me that “this too will pass” (even though we both know it will).  He just listens.

When I’m ready to breathe again, we talk.  We wallow together in the misery that is Alzheimer’s.  We talk about our fears that we may one day forget our children and grandchildren and lose ourselves in the fog and vacancy of the disease.  We reminisce about our sweet momma and remind each other how fortunate we are to have had her at all.  We tell of the lessons we have learned through the illness and we marvel at how our daddy has coped.  Together, we find our way back to Gratitude, that place where Hope and healing exist.  And we intuitively know that the sinews that tie us as brother and sister are even stronger because of our mother’s illness.  We are grateful for the gift of our friendship and the knowledge that it is a rare and precious gift that many siblings do not have.  Many suffer alone; I do not.  I.  Have.  Jeffrey.   The one who listens.  And eventually, we laugh….as only we can…brother and sister…best friends…forever.


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Melanie - November 15th, 2014 at 10:14 AM
Well said! Love you both bunches!
Jill Francis - November 15th, 2014 at 12:43 PM
Thank you, Melanie, you are loved by us as well.
Debbie Daigneau - November 15th, 2014 at 12:09 PM
What a honest, direct, sharing of your sad feelings. I appreciate your candidness in truly sharing your love for your brother and family Jill. God knows and hears your feelings, no one ever dreams of having to deal with this horrible disease.
Jill Francis - November 15th, 2014 at 12:42 PM
Thank you, Debbie, there are many who feel like I do, but don't have the forum to voice their feelings or don't have a wonderful sibling who will listen. I am truly blessed to have my brother.
Jennifer Bell - November 15th, 2014 at 7:32 PM
Jill, this made me cry...sad tears for the hard things you two share, and happy tears for the love you have for each other. Thank you for being so open.
Jill Francis - November 17th, 2014 at 8:47 PM
Thanks, Jen, I see the same kind of love in your family and know you've experienced your own "missing Momma moments".

Jill Francis - November 17th, 2014 at 8:47 PM
Thanks, Jen, I see the same kind of love in your family and know you've experienced your own "missing Momma moments".

Marilou Bonavida - November 17th, 2014 at 1:12 PM
I feel your pain. Our family has also experienced a similar loss to Alzheimer's Disease. Your writing expresses the pain and sadness that caregivers feel. Thank you for sharing. You are loved. Pray for a cure.
Jill Francis - November 17th, 2014 at 8:49 PM
Thank you Marilou, you're welcome to write a Guest blog for me and share your story.
Lorna - November 20th, 2014 at 9:15 PM
so can relate! love you and prayers for you and everyone!

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