By Trudy Wischemann

They say the road to hell is paved with them – good intentions. I’d forgotten the importance of that until the last few days, back home from Wine Country once again.

I’ve been retracing my brother’s final trek, which ended up in the emergency room and now the palliative care unit of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, which looks like hell to him. I see the resemblance, especially in my nightmares, where, like him, I experience starving to death. But for the kindness of his caregivers, it would be hell. For all I know, under the blanket of morphine, it may be.

Good intentions. Saying the road to hell is paved with them is meant to indicate that good intentions can’t save you. They may not have saved my brother, but they’re saving me now from the hell of thinking his life didn’t account for much, didn’t matter. Like when my father died, the ways in which my brother’s love has saved me time after time are beginning to bloom in my consciousness, displacing the gloom.

Like the empty water bottles I found on the counter, once full, the ones he sent me home with after my trip up there in September. The journals we found in his bedroom in which he intended to write the revelations of his new life in sobriety, the miracle of his days. His recent letters typed out with a manual he bought at a thrift store and loved, on homemade phony letterhead he manufactured on Mom’s copier. I see now what I couldn’t see before that his intention in moving back to wine country from the foot of Mt. Shasta was to rejoin the family, for better or for worse. And because of his emergencies, he’s led me to do the same.

My home here is full of his gifts. There’s the little yellow kitchen stool he knew I’d love, handpainted with dopey red flowers to look like folk art (which it is)—and the bigger green one with steps, pure ’50s, that he gave me from his stock of antiques after I fell off a shakier one changing a light bulb. I’ll spare you the rest of the list, still forming as I work to clean up the mess I’ve made of my own life. Just know that I’m discovering the silver lining of being a keeper of things as I work to eliminate some of the terrible handicaps of it.

Then there’s his music. Do you remember me writing about the Swearingen & Kelli concert just a few weeks ago, where the music of Simon & Garfinkle was so beautifully delivered? Well, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” won’t stop playing in my mind, won’t stop trying to sing to him like he sang to us when our other brother died. Or so I thought. Actually, my mother found the correction in her memory bank. It was “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” that he sang, and when I found those lyrics, my brain seized up because at that moment, all I could feel was this brother’s weight. Almost dead weight.

It’s a love song, of course, and as my soul repairs here in the safety of my own four walls where my memory bank is free to lay down its arms, I can imagine getting strong enough to sing it truthfully about him, if not to him. To him would be better, even under the blanket of morphine. To him, of course.

What I sang before I left him, though, was June Carter’s “Wings of Angels,” which I also sang at Lindsay Hart’s graveside. Most of you prob’ly don’t know “Wings,” but there’s this great line in the second verse, where she says “I keep slippin’ into hell, I can’t seem to get it right.” I loved her immediately the first time I heard that line, because it describes my life perfectly. She gives us the antidote, too, the one that many of us hope for, no matter how the good intentions have worked out (or not), the prayer: “Bear me up on wings of angels lest I cast my foot upon the stone.”

I think the angels see the good intentions, and I think they count.

Trudy Wischemann is a real populist writer living miraculously in Lindsay. You can send her your thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

Start typing and press Enter to search