Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Perfect Match

The Perfect Match.  The ultimate words for you and your horse because it means you've gotten to that inner core that we all strive for.  You and your horse are 'one'.  Either of you only needs to think and the other understands.  This is the ultimate in a horse and rider relationship.  I've been there with my horse, Barnie.  And I long to go there again because if you've been there once, you want to go back in the worst way.

And in another way, I did go back.  There's another Perfect Match.  I heard it stated on the TV news last week and it brought back a lot of memories that made me feel a need to write this Post.  This Perfect Match is related to medicine and the donation of one's self to help another.

There are certain times of the year that bring up strong memories of the past and being The Perfect Match.  February is one of them.

My little brother, the same little brother who used to beat me up in my Post, "I Get That Horse", a well known Master Gardner and Arborist, always interested in my horse life, was diagnosed with Advanced Leukemia in early May of 2006.

In late May 2006 my little sister and I drove up to Seattle, Washington, to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), part of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and were tested to see if our stem cells matched his. 

A few weeks later I received a call that I'd been declared "The Perfect Match".  I recall Yah-Hooing as loud as I could yell.  The Calvary was on its way in three sections of Me, Myself and I.  I was going to save my little brother.

As I prepared for this event so did my little brother.  I had the easy part compared to what he went through.  The Chemo and meds he took made him terribly sick.  Yet every few days I'd get a phone call from him.  He never complained and talked to me as if we were planning to meet for a special lunch instead of rolling the dice and hoping to save him.  Such courage, I've never seen before or since.

June and July came and went - the perfect time was necessary for this event.  A few weeks into August we started the stem cell process.  I drove up for daily growth hormone shots while my little brother was in the hospital being prepared to receive my stem cells.

The day of the transplant came.  I recall being so jazzed for this special day and envisioned my stem cells looking like the little bubbles in the Tidy Bowl commercials.  With both arms hooked up for the transplant I repeated over and over again, "Come on, Stem Cells, Let's Go!"

I finished after a few hours and they took my results over to the hospital.  The next day I went back and did another 'draw', for research.  I felt it was important to give something back to those wonderful people who were helping my brother. 

On the way home from the second 'draw' I got a call from my little brother.  He told me he was getting my transplant and that he suddenly had an urge to buy a horse.  We both were pretty worn out by that time but I recalled both of us laughing at his humor.

August passed to September and the stem cells started growing.  We were all excited.  October and November came and they continued to grow.  Things were looking up but my little brother didn't seem to have the same perk that he used to.  I recall going over to see him that Christmas and telling him that HE was the best Christmas present I could ever have.

January brought the news that the stem cells had quit growing and the Leukemia was back.  I urged my brother to go through another Chemo and I'd donate more stem cells, telling him we'd do it again and get it right this time.  He was game for a second round but by the end of January we were told that his days with us were growing short.  The Perfect Match had been too perfect and the Leukemia was now in full force.

February was a time of many wonderful, heart-warming family dinners.  It was a time of lots of laughs, seeing old friends, telling stories - factual or not, and trying to say everything one could think of before the time ran out.  The words, "I love you" were used often.

My little brother loved Cabin Creek, an old logging town on the east side of the Cascade Mountains where my siblings and I all had cabins.  It was always his favorite place, it was his home.  In early February he requested to be taken to Cabin Creek.  It would be his last time to travel a road he knew by heart.  Family and friends stepped in to make his wish come true, clearing the road, cleaning the cabin top to bottom so that he wouldn't pick up any germs.

At this time of the year, with four feet of snow at Cabin Creek, we all went up to spend a weekend together.  We held a potluck dinner at his cabin that Saturday night and everybody in 'camp' came down to eat.  I recall the cabin being packed with family/friends (truly all of them were family) and my little brother being animated and joking with everybody.

The next day he seemed to have lost his spark.  With his brother-in-laws supporting him on each side, he left his beloved cabin for the last time.

The Master Gardner, Arborist and a sibling lover of horses passed away on the first day of spring.  He kept up the facade of his uncomfort until the very end, never complaining.

A few years have now passed and there are times of the year, as in February, where we still deal with our grief and the hole that has been left in our hearts.  Not many days pass when one of us doesn't mention my little brother, such a character that he was.  More then one of us has felt his presence at Cabin Creek in the soft sigh of the wind in the trees or the shimmer of the creek.

The Perfect Match isn't always what it turns out to be, yet to be part of it will always be part of you.

In Loving Memory of My Little Brother, Don Stewart


  1. oh my. How lucky your brother was to have such an extended family that loved him. And the joke about a sudden desire for a horse......I would treasure that if I were you.

  2. This retelling of the last days of your special brother touched my heart. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Oh Ore....I had not read this post. What a wonderful accounting of a time in our lives we'll never forget.... Love You! Min

  4. What a lovely tribute to your brother. Thank you for sharing. I lost my mom 5 yrs ago yesterday & thought about her several times during the day without connecting the date. When I did, I knew why. Funny how that happens.

    I also read your blog about riding your Bear. I had to smile. We have a belgian mare, Baby. We've had her since she was a weanling. She was "broke to ride" by our children climbing aboard when she and they were very young. She is trail safe if anyone wants to ride her, but mostly a hay burner who we are deeply attached to. The part about your post that reminded me of her was the steering part. OMG, she does NOT work off the legs at all. By the time you are done riding, your arms ache! But she's a good soul like most belgians. Enjoy your Bear! I bet he loves the job like our Baby does!