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.