Last night, I dreamed my brother was still alive. He told me that he had gotten better and that he would be okay. We were on a ship together. It was Mom, my kids, him, and me. In beginning of the dream, I was taking care of him as if he was a baby. Mom wasn’t taking care of him. She was watching from a distance. There also wasn’t an age difference – he was the same ago in the dream that he was when he died. It was just this feeling that he was a baby and I was taking care of him like he was. Then, it was like he had grown up (again, just a feeling) and he told me that he could take care of himself now that he was better. Then, he started to walk away, not looking back and he was gone. I looked for him but I couldn’t find him.
Maybe this is his way of telling me that he is in a better place and that he understood that we did everything we could for him. At some level, I kept trying to reassure myself that we did but deep inside, I always wondered if we did. I guess this was his way of telling me we did. I also wanted to protect him and I couldn’t and I wished to God that I could have.
Sometimes, I ask him to help me find a way to help Mom. My mom doesn’t know how to move forward. It is like she denies that he is gone and she says she feels like he is going to walk in the door any moment. She still cannot go in his room or move any of his things. I want her to move forward but I know that if she takes even one thing out of his room, the reality that he is gone forever will hit her and she won’t be able to come back from that.
The thing about my family is that we all grieve privately. When Dad died, it was like we all went into our rooms and shut the door. When my brother died, we promised each other that we wouldn’t do that but we have. Sometimes, we remember and talk about the good times but we don’t talk about his illness, his death, or life without him. For Mom, she can’t even say aloud that he is gone. I know we will all heal in time but I wish that grieving could be just a little easier. Because it is really hard, it is hard for us to lean on one another.
I miss him and everyday is a reminder that he is gone. Sometimes, I cry for no reason and then, I remember that he is gone and I know why I am crying. I feel like I have lost something that was a part of me. It is like something has been taken from me right out of my heart and I can’t get it back. There are times where I forget that he is gone but little things are a reminder.
If Heaven were only closer, goodbyes wouldn’t be so hard.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It is like a black and white video that plays in my head daily and sometimes, several times per day. The day my brother’s battle with cancer ended still hurts even though it is three months later. On the 20th of this month, it will be three months. At about five minutes to eight in that December morning, I was sitting in a meeting with the doctors along with my cousins, my other two brothers, and my husband. The doctors told us that that my brother was on his last moments with us and all the strength I had left in me was gone. I fell to my knees and cried because I knew that was the only thing I could do. There was nothing more that I could do or that the doctors could do. Every morning as I drive into work a few minutes before 8 am, I start to cry. It is harder on Monday mornings because it was a Monday that my brother passed away. Sometimes, it happens without my even thinking about him and then when I realize why I am crying, I start to cry more.
Does the pain of losing someone you love ever get easier? I thought that it was just me because of everything that I am dealing with right now but I see it in my siblings as well. It is like we all woke up older overnight. I see it in my mother who does not always know how to carry on. My brother lived with my mom prior to getting sick and he took really good care of her. His room is the same as it was the first day he went into the hospital. She will not even go in there to clean it. She says that leaving it alone for now makes her feel like he is coming home even though she knows deep in her heart that he will not come home. She feels guilty and she doesn’t even know why. I know that what she feels is survivor’s guilt because she wonders why she outlived one of her children. A week ago, I prayed that she would never again outlive another child, as horrible as it sounds – I asked God to take her first. Losing another child would land my mother a place in a mental asylum.
I know it is human to feel like this and I am sure that I felt the same way when Dad died. Dad’s loss affected me for a long time in particular because I really needed him my life. With my brother’s death, I was his big sister and even though it was not in my hands, I would have done anything to save them. When his kidneys shut down, I was willing to give him a kidney. When it liver became infected, I wanted to give him part of mine. I made phone calls, contacted people left and right, did my research, fought with the doctors and insurance companies, and stood by his bedside every evening (barely seeing my children for days at a time) so that he would know that this battle wasn’t his alone. In the end, we all lost because we lost him.
If you have not lost someone close in your life, you really don’t know how much it hurts. I lost my younger brother and I feel like I lost a limb. I feel so empty inside and sometimes it feels like someone has poured boiling water down my throat. I often feel numb like I have no emotions and I have many questions to ask God and then I remember that I know better than to question God’s motives.
As a family, we just keep going on no matter how much his memory hurts. Burying him was harder than burying Dad. We are not the same people we were before his illness. We are hurting in our own separate ways because we all had different relationships with him. His nephews and nieces are hurting too. Every time my 11 year old hears about the death of someone young, he asks why people have to die so young and then he brings up his uncle and starts to cry. He never understood death until he lost his uncle. My nephews and nieces cry when they see or hear my older sister cry. She shuts the door to her bedroom hoping that they don’t hear her and even when they don’t hear her, they know when she shuts the door she is crying. My other brother (the married one who is a year older than the one we lost) keeps to himself (haven’t seen him since the funeral) and tries not to let his wife and kids see him crying. My baby brother (who is 19) is going through the same motions Mom is going through. He does not want anything in my brother’s room moved or touched. He is trying to fill the void in my mother’s life that my deceased brother left even though we keep telling him that he can’t. I don’t know how my other two sisters that live out of state are handling it but I know from talking to them that they are struggling too.
My baby sister that lives in NYC (she is 30) told me yesterday that her best friend’s mom is dying and she is on her last days. Sheri’s mom has been a part of lives since Sue and Sheri were in elementary school and I am so sad for what Sheri’s going through. I want to go to the hospital, see her mom and be there for her but I don’t want to go through what happened to my family all over again. It is too soon. I want her to lean on me but I can’t be there. It is not an easy thing.
It is not easy because my brother’s death is a memory that haunts me everywhere I go. I am not the same person I was before he died. The person is I am is numb, angry and hurting. I also know that life is too short and that I should appreciate the people in my life that matter and forget about the ones that don’t. My marriage ended for reasons that were beyond my control (the reasons were long overdue) and some other changes came into my life all at once and I just embraced them. What else could do?
I know my brother’s death is something that will take time to heal from. I know that the grieving process isn’t something that we get through in a month or a year’s time. Memories of our loved ones and how much they are missed hurt for a long time. I think we all carry guilt around for what happened. My guilt is that I wish I had a better relationship with him and my siblings and my mom have other guilt issues. Guilt is also part of the grieving process and without it, I don’t think we could be human. We all have choices to make in our lives and loving and making time for the ones closest to us should be a priority rather than an inconvenience. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that my family can be an inconvenience with their all wants and their demands, then I am reminded of my loss and I make time because I know that time can easily be taken from us.
The last week of my life has been interesting to say the least, not that my life isn’t already interesting. It was just more interesting than usual. I started the new job in a legal leasing department of a realty company and there has been a lot to learn but I loved every moment of it because I always love a challenge. It was a tiring a week because my schedule changed, had to learn a whole new one of doing things, and everything that could go wrong went wrong but as usual I pulled through. You know how some swing sets are cheaply built and some, for example, the wood swing sets, are built much stronger? My life is like a swing but I am built like a wood one – pretty strong if you ask me. I am pretty strong and I am pretty well built when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges.
Friday was more than interesting. We got another snow storm that dumped about eight inches overnight. So, I knew that meant that I had to leave earlier than usual to make it to work on time. What I did not anticipate is what would make me really late. The mechanism that gets my wipers moving broke so here I am without a working wiper system on a really snowy day. So I went to a mechanic who told me that they did not have the parts and would have wait until after 8:30 to pick them up. I still had to drop my kids off and get to work and it was my first week at the new job so I could not call off. My sister was nowhere to be found and my best friend was already on the road and without her car because she takes the train so she could not even turn around. So, here I am trying to figure out what to do. I decided to drop my kids off and call Enterprise to pick me up and rent a car. I finally made it to work at ten and did not leave until six. There were other misadventures along towards the end of the day including computer failures at the office, trying to find someone to pick up my kids from daycare, and dropping off the rental and picking up my car. What a day! Welcome to my life! Of course, I pulled through like I always do and on my own.
There is no question that I worry all the time. I worry about money, I worry about my kids and I worry about my mom. I have to be strong to overcome and I am there is no one for me to really lean on. I think most mothers, especially those who are doing it all alone, have to carry on no matter how hard it can be. I always wonder about my choices and whether I make the right ones. There is so much that I have overcome, so many obstacles I have overcome, and many mountains I have climbed. I have had to teach myself to live in the present and not focus so much on the future. I need to do what I need to today and I don’t always know tomorrow holds. Losing my brother taught me that I can hurt and I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Everything I have ever had to overcome, losing him is the hardest thing I have ever done. That loss follows me everywhere I go and it is a part of everything I do. While it leaves me to question things I do and say, it allows me to a better person. His death taught me to question every choice I have ever made and while that can be eye opening, it is also hard knowing that I am not as perfect I have tried to be. If anything, I am just human.
Well Saturday involves resting and catching up on my blog, my advocacy work, my course work and housework. I guess I am not really resting.
On Monday, I will be starting my new job as a legal assistant in the legal department of a realty company with an international presence. It is a great opportunity for me and while, like the next person, I hate change, I am ready. It is something that I have patiently waited for a long time and I am very fortunate for the opportunity. Am I scared? Of course, I am in particular because of my fear of failure but my fear of failure has either made me successful or kept me from doing things so I say bring it on.
As I type this, I am listening to Kenny Chesney’s song “Who you’d be today,” and thinking of my brother. Like the song says,
Sunny days seem to hurt the most
Wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
Still can’t believe you’re gone
It ain’t fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
The death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I’ve been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today.
My life has been through a lot of curve balls in the last few months. The changes that have come in my life are ones that may not have come if he had not died. His death taught me that life was too short. I have learned how important it is love myself and to not let others keep me from loving myself. As I venture into this new chapter in my life, I know that the choices I have made are ones that would make him proud. I know he would want me to be happy so I am learning how important that is every single day.
I know that I am not the same person I was before he became sick and passed away. The person that I am today is learning to that I need to stop dwelling on what I cannot change and working with what I can change. Change is hard but it is a very important of our lives. It is how we move forward when times are tough.
Anyway, wish me luck.
I always want to wake up from this nightmare. I want to go back to November when my brother hadn’t yet been diagnosed with cancer and when he was alive. Sometimes, when I am alone my car, I just start crying for no reason. Then I realize why I am crying, I start to cry more. It isn’t fair – he died way too young. I wanted more time and I hate that I envy those people that get years with their family before the cancer takes them. A few days ago, a family friend passed away – an older man who was diagnosed with stomach cancer about five years ago. I was upset that he had gotten five years with his family and my brother only got a miserable and painful month. I hope that feeling like that doesn’t make a bad person.
My older sister and I talked today about him and how much we missed him, and how we just wished we had more time. What we don’t have is regrets. We did our research and we exhausted every resource to make sure he got the help he needed to fight the cancer but in the end the cancer won. It was too far gone. Maybe it makes me selfish but I just wanted a few more months even if that meant he would be in hospice care. He deserved to die with dignity instead of hooked up to machines but it was never our call. God called him home and he accepted that with more dignity and more humility than any of us would have.
Today I wondered whether I would have taken his place because I never once thought that when he was sick. I would have never taken a diagnosis like that with any dignity and I would have fought like hell to make sure that the cancer didn’t win. He was so content with what life handed him that he was willing to embrace God without any reservation. I can’t imagine myself being that content and that satisfied with life. But he was.
My cousin’s cancer is back. I think she is either at the third or fourth occurrence. A lady I work with, Sue, her cancer’s back too. Cancer, the majority of the time, comes back. I hate cancer and I hate how many lives it takes. It affected my family in a way we had never been affected before. We thought we were so immune from tragedy especially after my sister and my cousin went into remission. Now it is like our perfect world is no longer possible. None of us are immune from tragedy. We are fragile and vulnerable.
For so long, cancer wasn’t a major part of our lives. Now it is memory that hurts. All of us feel it daily and it is a reminder that one of us of gone. We were seven children and now we are only six. The lesson learned is that we are not immune from tragedy. Life is so short and anyone can be taken away from us at anytime. We don’t have a choice when it comes to these things. God decides who comes home and when.