Losing my brother was something any of us could have expected. Even six months later, it doesn’t make sense. I have tried to seek out the answers and I have asked God for them. I am not asking why my brother was taken from us. I am asking what it is I am supposed to learn from this loss.
Cancer took my brother and God took him so that he wouldn’t suffer – that’s what I tell my kids and more than anything, I want to believe it myself. While there is so much uncertainty in my life, I still trust God and I will continue to. However, my problem is not my uncertainty of God. Fortunately, I was raised in a home where God was always part of our lives and while I never had a strong relationship with God, I still had a relationship. My problem is that my brother’s loss shows me that the world is completely materialistic and that there is clearly something more when it comes to life and living. I just don’t know what that something is and I desperately want to know what it is. While I do know how I am supposed to respond, I feel so held back.
Tragedies force us to find a way to respond and to find solace in the aftermath especially as they relate to our emotions. How are we supposed to respond after such a loss? I kept my focus on God but I am not sure what specifically I am supposed to be focusing on. I know that I feel like things in my life are spinning out of control. I don’t know how or why. I am trying to steer control of these feelings and trying to make sense of everything that has happened to me and to my family. I know that the answers are with God but it doesn’t mean that I am sure of what I am supposed to do.
I know that God’s love for all of us is infinite and what I am going through has nothing to do with God’s love or lack of love towards me. I know that what is going through with my grief and my search for answers is just a part of life’s trials. The lessons we learn come through the most painful circumstances and all we can do is take the lesson learned from that experience.
Remember the story of Job (the Islamic faith refers to him as the Prophet Ayub). Job lost his family, his wealth, his health and even his friends. This experience forced him to grow closer to God. God rewarded him for his faith and his patience with a larger family and more wealth than he ever had before. Job’s story is a reminder of God’s lessons and what God has in store for us. Yes, we are supposed to learn from these experiences even when the lesson doesn’t always make sense.
I think that it is human to ask “why,” but it is also important to trust God. The thing is, sometimes there is no answer to “why.” The way I see it is that we must accept with certainty the times when things that happen to us that go beyond our logic and our beliefs because that is how God tests us. He also wants us to lean towards him for solace during these times. I have a problem when it comes to accepting things that I have no answers to and this is why I am so conflicted between my belief in God and my ability to question logic. I believe and trust in God and I am a very logical person – for me, everything should have an answer and in this case, it doesn’t.
I found this prayer and I have put it nearby where I can remind myself that life doesn’t always have to make sense and that if I put my trust in God, I will be able to conquer these feelings of doubt towards my beliefs and even my weaknesses. I have made some changes to it but it gets my point across.
Dear God: I am facing one of the hardest battles of my faith. Life doesn’t make sense to me right now, God. I don’t understand why things happen that you could prevent. My mind and my heart cry out for reasons and answers, yet I know that may not be for me to know right now. Either you are God in control of the universe or you are not God at all. I believe that you love me and want what is best for me, even when it doesn’t feel that way. Give me strength and grace to fight this battle. Help me to focus on you, remember your love, and take the next step. Amen.
I am going on three years since my RA and Fibromyalgia came into my life. Three years ago, I never believed that I could come to terms with my diagnoses and accept these diseases as a part of my life. I remember grieving the loss of control over my own body – the one thing I thought I had control over.
The uncertainty of a life with RA and Fibro was the scariest thing I could have ever imagined at the time. I was afraid of what I didn’t know and mostly because I did not know what was ahead for me. Here I was – 32 years old and having just had a new baby and I was scared about a life with chronic pain. Not only was I scared – I was angry and frustrated. I wondered what I did to deserve what was happing to me. I also remember the feelings of denial and I never believed that I would ever accept my new reality or if I could ever even come to terms with my new life with RA and Fibro.
Fast forward almost three years later and I am advocating for arthritis and Fibromyalgia. In fact, I am going to be involved in an RA awareness event in the middle of July where I will be traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with other RA bloggers and discuss what we can do to bring out awareness for RA. I never imagined myself being so accepting of and so involved in a disease that made me believe my life was over. In fact, thought that I would be disabled by this point but I am not and I am very grateful every day for that.
When I first diagnosed, the hardest part for me was that I didn’t who I was anymore. Prior to my diagnoses, I was a working mother with dreams of law school and so much more. Then RA and Fibro came into my life and I wondered who I was now that I had no control of my destiny. I remember that first major flare-up – barely being able to walk and not being able to use my hands. My sister had to come to take care of my newborn son and me because I was in no position to do it. Not only was I physically unable, I was an emotional wreck.
I had no idea who I was and who I was becoming. My self-esteem had hit an all-time low and I felt useless and helpless. Chronic pain was destroying my ability to hold on to my inner strength. I felt that I was someone different because RA and Fibro invaded my life and this new person I was weak and so vulnerable. I thank God every day for my sister because without her, I am not sure that I would have been able to get through that very dark period in my life.
It took me at least a year to find the strength to live through the chronic pain that was consuming me and to deal with the new challenges in my life. There were days where I just wanted to crawl into bed and not get up again. I wanted to give up and I clearly remember how dark that period of my life was.
At some point, I realized that I had to find me again. The “me” before RA and Fibro was gone but it didn’t mean that I couldn’t be confident and strong again. I knew that I had to find a way to smile daily even through all the pain and the chaos. I knew that finding hope meant finding ways to feel better. It has been learning experience every single day but every day, I find out that I have strength that I didn’t know I had.
Last month, I was in an auto accident. It was a rear end collision that resulted in two herniated discs, one in my neck and the other in my lower back. I am in pain again – probably in as much pain as I was when I was first diagnosed with RA and Fibro. The difference is that this new pain is in my neck, shoulders and back, and it is pain I have not had before so it’s a new challenge.
At first, I went through the whole woe is me routine but I also kept going – what other option did I have? I am going to therapy, getting treated for my injuries, and not taking on more than I can handle. It occurred to me today that I am getting better at dealing with the big challenges that life throws my way. But mostly, I am starting to come to terms with what RA and Fibro have done to me. The funny thing is that it’s not all bad. True, my dreams and my goals have changed but I have also gained a lot. I am stronger than I have ever been in my life but I also know my limits. I have learned empathy and I have learned to lean on God and my faith when the going gets tough.
So, I am coming to terms with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia as a part of my life. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. It is something that happened slowly and one day I realized that everything would be okay.
I have learned to accept the things that I cannot change and to focus on the things that I can. I accept that RA and Fibro are part of my life. Yeah, they make life a little harder but they don’t define who I am. The interesting part is that I never believed that I could to terms with my conditions three years ago, and now, I am standing up with those terms on a daily basis. Who would have guessed?
To my late brother:
Here we are six months later since we lost you. How we made it to this point, I don’t know. How we lost you, I have not yet come to terms with that yet. Why we lost you, we will never know. Like today, it was a Monday that we lost you – at 9:22 am. We watched you take your last breaths and embrace God.
I wondered yesterday how you easily allowed yourself to submit to God’s will. I wondered if I could do that – take what had been handed to me and to accept it. I have never been known to accept anything and maybe, this is something I could learn from. I also thought about how loved you were and I wished that when my time came that I would have that much love around me. See, you were good at getting people to like you because you chose to not let things get to you and you definitely didn’t make enemies. You were one of those people that pleased the world even if it meant sacrificing your own happiness in the process.
Greed makes this world go around but you never had a greedy bone in your body. Sometimes, I wish that I could be half as decent as you were. Maybe I am but you made decency something that an example can be set from.
I miss you. Your nephews miss you. We all miss you.
Our baby sister made comment once after you passed away about how you were the only one that could bring us all into a room together and you were the only one that could force us to set our differences aside at least for the moment that we were together. More than anything in the world, I wish we could be together all in the same place again but we are all scattered, not just by geography, but with has happened to us. How do we come back from this? How does Mom come back from this? How do any of us find a way to move on?
On July 9, you would have turned 32. You had not even lived a third of a lifetime when cancer came into our lives. See, cancer didn’t just take you. It took us too. Sometimes, I feel like I am dead inside and Mom – sometimes I watch her and what I see is that she feels nothing. She feels so empty inside like someone tore her heart from her chest. I lost a sibling and a friend and I feel dead inside so I can’t begin to imagine what she feels. What I do know is that it is much worse than what I feel. Our brother, J, he has shut he whole world out since your death. And our baby brother, he keeps trying to fill your shoes despite being told that he doesn’t have to and he can’t no matter how hard he tries. Your sisters, they just keep going because there is nothing we can do. We have never been so sad in our entire lives and now, it is a daily thing.
I remember when I went to you almost four years ago and told you that I was getting married. How worried you were. You told me that you saw what being married was like for me the first time, and you didn’t want me to go through that again. You told me to make sure that this was what I wanted and you do told me you what accept my choice no matter what. You then proceeded to tease about how old the person I was marrying was and then laughed and I told me I was too old too. That’s the kind of person you were – you managed to laugh no matter how serious the subject was. The irony is how much has changed in four years. You wanted to protect me even when you knew I didn’t need protecting. Heck, you knew I never needed protecting but you did the brother thing and tried.
When we kids, I always protected you from all the neighborhood bullies. No one messed with you because they were afraid of me. When you got sick, how I wished I could protect you. But the stakes were different and you knew that I did everything I could for you. I know that you knew that I went above and beyond, but I wish that I could have done more.
What can I do now that you are gone? All I can do is to live my life and be a good person. That’s what you would have done if you had lived. You would have continued to make every moment and every person count. I learned how short life was when we lost you. I learned what it truly meant to live by watching you battle cancer. I learned how you lived your life and who you really were after you died when your life unfolded before my very eyes through your poetry and your various writings.
Mom always felt sorry for you. That is why she babied you and spoiled you. It was always “poor you,” and we teased her about it. How did she know? We will never understand but I guess mothers have a good gut instinct when it comes to their kids. There is a lot we don’t understand. I guess we are not supposed to.
I miss you. We all miss you. Rest in peace.
I was recently telling a friend about some of the things I am currently dealing with. Nothing major, just life. I am seeing a chiropractor for my back and neck pain after the accident from last month. Unfortunately, I am still in pain and things are not getting better. My RA pain has been getting worse as a result of the accident and it is like one flare up after the other. I was so close to remission before the accident that I could actually feel it. My friend asked what I plan on doing, I told her I would just keep going. Going to treatment, going to work, going on with my life, and doing the best that I can to get through this, and I will. The other option would be to roll over and play dead, and I don’t think so.
I have also been pretty busy with other things like finishing up my master’s degree – I have one more week left of class and a final paper due so that is keeping me busy. It is also getting close to the end of the quarter at the office and there are of things that have to get closed out before the last day so that is keeping me busy. It is also summertime and I am spending a lot more time with the kiddos and just trying to live my life. Mom will be home at the end of the month and it seems like the trip overseas has done her good. She has recently has made some decisions that indicate that she is ready to move forward. It has been a tough road for her but she is finally accepting the reality that we have all been dealt and for her, her reality is much harder than anyone else’s. The tree issue at Mom’s place has been resolved as is the repair of my car after last month’s rear-end accident. Some other life issues are still being worked on and hopefully getting resolved but life takes time.
We are going six months since we lost my brother and I can tell you, it doesn’t get easier. Sometimes, I just want to forget and I can’t. It is something that is always on the back of my mind – sometimes, it feels like I misplaced something and I hate that feeling because whatever I have misplaced, I am not sure what it is or how to find it. Sometimes, I find myself crying out of the blue and I find myself sad for no apparent reason. I know that even when we move on, we still can’t forget our losses. Our family lost a young man who had not yet had an opportunity to live his life and it is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. That loss follows me everywhere I go. I think my mother and my siblings are in the same boat here. It feels like an ache in my heart every minute of every day and it doesn’t ever go away.
One of my dearest and closest friends is considering moving out of state. She has her reasons and I understand them but I can’t help thinking how much I will miss her. This is one person in my life who I share the majority of my feelings with because I know she doesn’t judge. I offer her the same. She is the one I turn to when life is has been cruel to me and I am the one she turns to. You know that friend that is there at a drop of a hat for you, that’s Rhonda and me. I am sad that she may be moving away but I am also happy for her. She and I are so much alike and she gets why it is so important for me to be strong because she is the same way. To us, our biggest fear is being weak and that is why lean on each other when things are tough.
So, in the words of Daryl Worley, “Sounds like life to me.” The funny thing is I never imagined myself waking up so much older but tragic events do that to you. The hardest part is finding myself sad for no apparent reason. I just get sad and sometimes even near tears and nothing triggers it. I worry about my kids more than I ever did in the past and I want to hold them close to me. I have learned how short life is and the loss of my brother has forced me to be numb and scared at the same time. I know that life is too short and I wish that I didn’t.
I have started to really wonder what happens after we die. I have wondered about the afterlife and I am not sure I understand if there really is one. I just know that I choose to let God in my life everyday so that I can conquer every day. That is all anyone of us can do. We sure as heck cannot roll over and play dead.
This morning as I drove into work, I thought about all that has happened since you passed away. It is going on six months and the pain of losing you doesn’t get easier. Mom is still away visiting family overseas. She missed Mother’s Day in the states so she may have been able to get through Mother’s Day without you. I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine her here for Mother’s Day as a reminder of your loss. I stop by every Saturday to Mom’s place to sort through mail, check voicemails, pay bills, and deal with the things she would do if she were here and I feel your presence everywhere. You are watching over her home even though you are no longer among the living. I told myself yesterday that you were the second greatest man I ever knew – of course, Dad was the first. You were a great man – a loyal son and loyal brother and even when we had our differences and you did not always approve of my choices – you still stood by me. Feeling your presence in her home makes me feel like you are going to walk in the door the any minute – who could blame Mom for feeling the same thing?
Your lawsuit gets filed today. I know how much you hated lawsuits and I know that if you were alive, you would tell me not to file. I know that you wouldn’t want to blame anyone for what happened to you but I want someone to blame and I want someone to be angry at. I want answers so that I can have closure – we all do. I hate myself for wanting justice and restitution (because I know no amount of money can bring you back) for what happened to you. A time machine, on the other hand…yeah, I know. You accepted what happened to you with more integrity and humility than anyone I know. What I knew about you is that you had more integrity and humility in your pinkie finger than most people have in their entire bodies – that’s why I know you would not want this lawsuit. What I do know, however, is that if the tables were turned, you would do this for me and that is why I am doing this. That is also the reason I fought so hard for you because I would have wanted you to fight for me and I know you would have.
What I want is to look at Mom and not see her suffering for all she has she lost. She lost 31 years of her life and that is half of a lifetime for her. And our baby brother, while he is almost 20, he lost Dad when he was 4 and you were the most important man in his life and he lost that. I lost the relationship I desperately wanted with you. When you got sick, I promised myself that you and I would get to know each other better and put our past issues aside and we did not get that opportunity. We didn’t get that chance because of someone else’s lack of regard for human life.
There are medical bills that are unpaid and someone should have to pay them. You suffered in the most horrible way and someone is responsible for that. Mom lost 31 years of her life and buried her child and no parent should have to outlive a child and someone is responsible for that. Our baby brother lost the male role model in his life and someone is responsible for that. You never had the opportunity to get married and have children and someone is responsible for that. Your siblings all lost their brother and friend and your nephews and nieces lost their uncle and someone is responsible for taking you away from us. There is no question I am angry and I want someone to be angry at for taking you away from us. I ask myself daily how we lost you and I still don’t know. It is like a really bad dream that I wish I could wake up from but I can’t wake up.
I fought for you and I lost and you know how much I hate losing. This lawsuit means that our loss is important. To the people who did this – your loss is just a number but our loss is significant thing in our lives and I want it to be known. You were my brother for 31 years and that is major. To them – you are one of billions lost to mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure but to me, you were my brother and for 31 years, you were MY brother and your loss cannot be restituted fairly no matter how hard I try but your family is entitled answers and to closure. That is why this lawsuit is important.
When your diagnosis was given to you, you were immediately told your surgery had to happen as soon as possible and it was scheduled the next day. What you did not have time to find out was that your cancer was caused by asbestos fibers invading the body and that it is a condition that 100% preventable but once person is exposed to asbestos, there is no way to prevent their developing the disease. Without the surgery, you were given six months; the surgery was a last ditch effort to save you. Most people diagnosed don’t get more than a year to live – I wish that we had a year or six months with you. We had a miserable six weeks after we got your diagnosis and for those six weeks we watched you suffer and deteriorate away.
Mesothelioma is one heck of a terrifying and debilitating disease and your family saw that first hand. It is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. In my view, monetary damages don’t provide justice to our family but at least, they hold someone accountable for your suffering and ours. I want to stand up against this God-awful disease and the people who exposed you and many others to asbestos but I am not strong enough yet. I thought I would be by this time but I am not. The lawsuit is as close as I can get to speaking up for you right now. I want you to rest in peace knowing that we did everything we could to get answers and to find closure. Our family needs answers and closure and this lawsuit will give us some and that I know you would understand. Your loss is the biggest obstacle we have ever had to overcome and every day is a reminder you are gone. Rest in peace my beloved brother.