Later, while I walked the dogs, one of the sons shaved Denny’s beard, washed his face and hair, brushed his teeth, all in preparation for the wedding. Without his beard he appeared naked and vulnerable, his face white like the underside of a fish. They tried to dress him in a clean white shirt, but he cried out in pain when his arm was moved.
The women cleaned house, set out trays of snack food, paper plates and cups. One son’s wife brought vegetarian lasagna, someone else a cake. I sat numbly by my brother’s side, feeling protective but unwelcome. The incongruity of it—I thought I would break.
People began to arrive and fill every inch of space in the living room/dining room area. The ceremony began. The bride wore a dress but no shoes. The children and cats, overexcited, raced from room to room, the girls shrieking. The pastor wanted to save Denny’s soul so that he would have eternal life in heaven and be waiting there for Sheryl and the rest of his children, and he acquiesced. He had no fight left in him, and it made his wife happy. Then the pictures began, a macabre scene unfolded. Everyone wanted to be in a photo with my dying brother, propped as he was like a mannequin, barely aware of what was going on. The flash of the cameras accentuated my brother’s pain. I cringed and tried to fade into the shadows, wanting to be invisible. It finally ended.