It was the second week of December 2014 in Portland when I called my brother Melvin. I asked him to come stay a few days to help with our Institutes. He never said "No," so he came to help us set up. He was planning to leave early Sunday morning to travel the 90 minutes to his home. I asked him to stay and go to the Christmas tree farm with us. He said his leg was bothering him, but he would go.
We drove in separate cars and stopped for gas along the way. He came up to the passenger side of my car where Juliette was sitting. He knocked on her window. "Wanna go in the store with Uncle Mel?" She beamed and jumped out of the car. A few minutes later she returned with a big smile--carrying a soda and a bag of chips, things I never buy for her. Melvin looked at me sheepishly. "I can't tell her no," he said.
We drove on to Sunny Day Tree Farm. They had a barn set up with a fire and rocking chairs. Melvin sat down. "Donna, I am not going to walk around the farm. My leg is hurting. I'll be right here." We found our tree, had hot chocolate, and said our goodbyes. That was Sunday.
The next day his fiance Laura called. She told me she had taken him to the emergency room because his leg was causing him so much pain. They gave him a prescription for muscle relaxers and sent him home. On Tuesday, she called again. She said he was in so much pain that he was in tears, so she took him back to the emergency room. The doctor told him to give the muscle relaxers time to work and sent him away. Wednesday she called again. She had taken him to a different emergency room because he could not stand the pain and was delirious. The doctor gave him a prescription for pain pills and sent him home again.
On Thursday, I was finishing the last day of the Beegle Poverty Coaching Institute. My brother Rick was helping with the institute. I could see him pacing in the back of the room. As soon as I graduated our new Coaches, he pulled me aside. He handed me a phone and said I needed to talk to the person on the line. A woman's voice said, "I am Dr. so-and-so, and I am caring for your brother." She went on to tell me that she had done her best to stop an infection. She told me that she had cut his leg all the way up to his torso, but the infection was traveling faster than she could cut. She concluded that there was nothing more she could do, but keep him comfortable until he passed.
I was in shock. Just four days before, we were at the tree farm. I sat on his lap in the rocking chair in front of the fire. Just six days before, on the anniversary of my daughter Jennifer's death, Melvin held me while I cried. He touched my heart and said, "She's here Donna. It's okay." He was my giant teddy bear brother. When poverty was knocking us down, he would hold me and say, "Everything's gonna be okay." His gentle hugs and comforting words always got me through.
He was gone within an hour of my speaking with the doctor. The doctor asked me why Melvin had no medical records. I told her he had never seen a doctor.
Melvin died at 56 with only seven teeth and a lifetime of deep poverty. He never had medical or dental care.
Happy Birthday Melvin. You are never forgotten.