I was quite saddened when I read about Vice President Joe Biden’s 42 year old son, Beau, who just died of a brain tumor. This poor man has been through more trajedy than one could imagine. First losing his wife and infant daughter in a car accident with his two small sons fighting for their lives. Then years later having one of them succumb to cancer after not only surviving but also thriving with an enviable life, a successful career as an attorney and a fulfilling marriage with two beautiful young children.
Fate is twisted.
Ya’aburnee means “you bury me” in Arabic. It means wanting to die before a loved one so as not to have to face the world without him or her in it.
This was the prayer on my mother’s lips when she received the news that my brother, Bobby, at age of 31, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Let it be me. Not you.”
She fought for her third son from the very beginning. He was born premature weighing only four pounds. Just big enough to fit in a shoe box. In school he was the class clown and the ring leader among his friends, often getting into trouble with Sr. Dolores, the principal at St.Philip Neri, in our small town of Compton. He would lead kids twice his size around the neighborhood, looking for mischief. He teased me endlessly about being chubby and offered to pay my membership to Vic Tanny’s Salon.
After nine years of Catholic school Bobby begged to be set free to attend the local public high school where most of his friends went. He was a rebel. A contrarian. A master of debate. How he convinced our ultra- Catholic parents to transfer him to public school remains a mystery to us all.
Years later while waiting to be accepted into Law School after earning a degree in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a Masters Degree in Political Science at American University, he would bide his time sitting on our couch at home reading through the encyclopedias from volume A through Z. By now I was taller and not so chubby. But he would still find things to tease me about.
Bobby went on to become a successful attorney. He fell in love and married Christine. Together they had a family, Matthew and Katherine. I’m sure my mother stopped worrying about him at that point. (If mothers ever stop worrying..)
Until the evening when she got the news of Bobby’s brain tumor.
“Ya’aburnee,” she gasped in fear.
She got her wish. My brother, Bobby recovered after several years of treatment. He was healthy and back to work as an attorney, just long enough to be the Executor of my mother’s will after she succumbed to ovarian cancer in October of 1986.
And I imagine she was waiting with open arms at the gates of heaven with St. Peter when the cancer took my brother Bobby’s life in July of 1991. For a brief moment, they would embrace and she would comfort him. After which they would move on to join the Communion of Saints, their lives on earth but an ethereal dream.
My father was not so lucky. He buried my mother. And then he buried his third son. Dad died of cancer and a broken heart almost exactly a year after my brother died.
All these painful memories come back to me as I read the article about Joe Biden losing first his wife and infant daughter, and then years later, when it looked like life had self corrected, he lost the son he fought so hard to save.
Ya’aburnee. You bury me.
My new mantra.