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I can’t write this week about self publishing or the Fear-of-Calling-Myself-a-Writer or this blasted winter or even — and I’m whispering this last one — The Cats. This week has been just too too sad. My heart is as heavy as this gray cloud cover that hasn’t moved from over Toronto for three days. Maybe the weather gods thought it was an appropriate backdrop for my mood? My brother, Michael Joseph Eyerman, died this week, passed on to the other side, went to heaven, entered the spirit world or whatever you believe. Mike waited until the feast of St. Joseph — March 19 — to say adios and move on. I think my mother had something to do with that timing. St. Joe was her FAVE of all Favourite Saints — even above St. Anthony who helps you find lost stuff and, shock-of-all-shocks, that Irish snake ridder, St. Patrick. No, she definitely had her finger in the timing of Mike’s going.

It is hard to lose a sibling — especially when all of mine have hung around into our 60s and 70s. I read one time that your siblings have known you longer than anyone else — spouses, friends, kids, neighbors. But do I really know these 11 — now 10 — people I call sisters and brothers? I remember, after my dad passed,  saying something about what he would have done in a certain situation. One of my sisters looked at me and said, not meanly, “How would you know that?” She was right. For almost 50 years I haven’t lived around these folks. On visits, I just pop in and out and there’d be food and talk and talk and talk (my family are talkers), but I never really found out what they were about as human beings. 50 years of missed births and christenings and weddings and tragedies and funerals — and getting to know them. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if I lived there all these years either. Who’s to say. All I can say, is I’m thankful that I got to know Mike a wee bit in our phone conversations these past six weeks or so. We talked more in those weeks than we had in 60 years. He answered the phone like I was a gift to him. Talked about his cancer, the awful treatments, how much he loved his girls and adored his wife. It was sweet to hear. And at the end of every conversation he’d say, “How are You, Annie?” I’ll miss that.

To add to all this heavy heart stuff, I also, after 7 years, had to say goodbye to my work as a counselor for the unemployed. A restructuring of the program left me — and all the others like me — without work. Unemployed. It’s not the money — although that little bit every month did help — it’s that I won’t be meeting all these interesting people from around the world. And, saddest of all, I won’t have a regular opportunity to give folks a word, a pat on the back, a boost to their morale. But, as they say, when one door closes, there’s another window opening somewhere inviting me in. Maybe Mike will unlock it for me.

I won’t be at Mike’s funeral in Columbus on Tuesday. But I will go down to St. Michael’s Cathedral here in Toronto that day and say my own prayers of thanksgiving for having this brother in my life and getting the chance to know him a bit. Maybe he’ll stop by while I’m there. I always believe that the spirits hang around for their own sendoff. My sister, Mary, said that the day after Mike died she went to her job helping the homeless and poor. A fellow came in for help. She shouldn’t have seen him because he didn’t have all the proper papers signed and stamped. But that’s not who Mary is. She asked the guy, “What’s your first name?” “Michael,” he answered. “Middle name?” “Joseph.” “Birthday?” “March 19!” You can believe it or not — but I think Mike was saying goodbye to Mary. Maybe he’ll stop by at St. Mike’s on Tuesday and give me a final “Annie, How Are You?” I’ll be waiting.