The Bjorlin boys – my uncle Brent and cousins, Marshall and Tucker. This was my first “photo shoot” and I couldn’t have asked for better models. Fun, photogenic, super handsome, and sporting some serious “flow” (I guess that’s what the boys call their hairstyle).
These three men have been through so much. They were the primary care-givers for my aunt Cheryl when she lost her battle with breast cancer. She did hospice care at home, in the living room where they laughed, played, learned, and loved. When I visited Cheryl in her last days, I was so overwhelmed by the kind of selfless love I saw all of these boys share with her. Both Marshall and Tucker were in middle school, so when they arrived home, they would walk over to their mom’s hospital bed and give her a big kiss. Then she would look at them with an expectant face and they would dutifully turn around so she could pinch their teenage butts. It took an enormous amount of effort for Cheryl to lift a cube of ice to her lips. Her arms were so frail you would think the weight of a plastic cup would break a bone. But when those boys turned around, she had no trouble lifting her hand to give a good, hard pinch.
I can’t even begin to communicate the strength that all of them possessed through that trial. Brent went through nurses training in a matter of weeks to administer care to his wife, while at the same time working a full-time job and parenting his teenage boys. He had people coming in and out of his house daily, almost hourly, to either visit Cheryl or give her care. Most people would shut down and ask people to stay away, but Brent knew that Cheryl needed the love of family and friends in her final moments. She valued those relationships so much and I’m so glad he gave her (and us!) the gift of sharing her love (even when all of them were so, so tired).
The way Marshall and Tucker handled their mother’s death was beyond comprehension. They had grace, poise, and stamina through it all. Marshall even spoke at her funeral with words and memories that could only be said through a son. Let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the church. Both of them greeted everyone at the funeral, saying thank you for the support and love. I’m pretty sure every person in attendance wanted to wrap them up in their arms say “it’s okay to cry boys…we don’t understand it either.”
The memory of my aunt is well-preserved in the family she left behind. It’s hard not to think about how much she is missing when I see these boys. But then I think, no, she’s not missing it at all. She’s got the best seat in the house.