It’s Not Good-Bye…

I was driving home from Fairway Supermarket…. Almost home, about 6 blocks away, my cell phone rings… I didn’t have my headphones on so I thought twice about answering while driving but I saw it was my sister-in-law… I had missed a few calls earlier.  Since she’s not the type to stalker-call, I answered the call and put the phone on speaker…

“Hey, I’m driving so you’re on speaker…. Huh? What? WHO IS THIS? Where is Dee? What happened… Where’s my brother? Where’s MY brother?? Where’s my BROTHER???”

The next 30 seconds are kind of a blank. All I remember is Lori saying “Manny died.”

Way before I became a “responsible adult” I once drove all night to Virginia Beach with a couple friends… We left after working all day and going out dancing that evening. I crashed on the beach and my best friends kept me hydrated by continuously filling up my Super Big Gulp with Long Island Iced Tea mixed cocktails… So every time I turned, I downed half the drink not knowing it was an alcoholic beverage.  When they woke me up for dinner time, I stood up and commented on the dark clouds rolling in so quickly. Then, the next thing I remember is waking up in the hotel shower with lots and lots of very cold water…

Dark clouds were rolling in again… except this time it was past sunset, there was no beach, there was no drink, and no one was there to catch my fall… I felt like I had relived that very moment, dark clouds, passing out and the very cold water… The second I heard it was not my sister-in-law on the other end of the call, I knew. I just knew! Luckily, somehow I had managed to pull over… Somehow I had managed to put the car in park… Now, somehow, I had to get my shit together and drive home carefully because my son was in the car. I couldn’t even see straight much less think straight…

The positive, there’s always a bright side, God has a greater plan, part of me was knocked the F#$% out! She was nowhere to be found.  I got home and made it through the door and started screaming and crying.  I think I scared the crap out of my landlady because she was suddenly there hugging and crying with me.  Her daughter-in-law took my son upstairs to play with her daughter while I was allowed my emotional breakdown.

My aunt soon showed up and I continued my breakdown in her arms… Amazing how the mind tries to find a way to cope, As I was crying, I remembered reading an article about the benefits of crying and thinking of how my brother would have made fun of me for multitasking! (Just so you know, crying relieves stress AND toxins from the body thus lowering your cortisol response.)

Stupid Things People Say…

I went to work the next day…

How old was he? (I’m sorry? Does that make it any less important?) Oh, he lived far away. (So distance makes it hurt less?) You have your son. (So it’s ok for everyone else to die?) You’re being too emotional and not thinking clearly. (And there’s nothing wrong with that! He was my BROTHER!!!) …Sadly, not once did anyone ask how close we were.

People really underestimate how important a sibling’s death can be, unless they have lost a brother or sister themselves. People often feel for the loss of a child or the loss of a parent…  But once you’re an adult, somehow the loss of a sibling just don’t get the same sympathy. I’m sorry, it shouldn’t affect me? Doesn’t it matter that he’s been a major part of my life for over 40 years??? There’s so much more of my life left, how do I face it without him?

So it may sound like I just want the attention… No, not at all… I just don’t know where to go from here and I might need support from those very people who don’t understand what I’m feeling.  Hell, I don’t even know what I’M feeling… So I’m really gonna need help! It sucks when you realize you’re grieving the very person who would normally help you get through these things…

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
-John Steinbeck

My brother was amazing to me… Usually there’s a dichotomy in sibling relationships. They are either your best friend or your worst enemy on any given day.  That wasn’t the case here. Never a rivalry, never a competition.  Maybe because he was 20 years older than me? He was always my gentle giant… (Except for that one day after dad died that he smacked me. But in all fairness, I admit I was being a major brat to my mom and he got me back on track!)

My brother helped me get through many of my best and worst moments, including: coping with the loss of our dad and becoming a better male role model, care packages while I was in college, telling me what a jerk my first fiancé was when we broke up, selling my gall bladder on the black market after my emergency surgery, Mom breaking her leg and living with me (and being jokingly grateful it was not with him) for 6 months, proudly walking me down the aisle for my wedding, dropping everything to be by my side for Mom’s last breath, excited for every milestone of my pregnancy, being supportive with Speedy’s Autism diagnosis, researching my Neurosarcoid diagnosis and teasing me for being too bougie to get a commoner’s disease, my lifeline through my 3+ year divorce, constantly telling me to “throw out all that shit” when I was selling my house, never lacking encouraging words as I was starting my life over as a single parent…

He was always big and strong… Always cracking a joke to make people laugh… Always the life of the party! Always the center of every conversation… Always the person you wanted to hug you on those really bad days… He was the person who made me believe in Santa Clause again when I was 10 years old…

We had plans… Short term plans like taking my son to Disney for the first time this summer… And also long term plans like becoming rich, both of us with killer bodies and filling our passports with a world of stamps. But that will never happen now. Not together…

 

He’s Really Gone…

I cried leaving Laguardia airport. I cried arriving into the Orlando airport. I cried when Lori picked us up at baggage claim. Walking into his house was surreal…  I expected to see him walk in the door any minute and make some joke about how this was the only way I’d visit… Divorce had prevented me from visiting earlier and I immediately regretted that. My sister-in-law was writing his eulogy in the other room so I left her to finish without interrupting… Maybe I was just avoiding facing her so I could hold on believing it still wasn’t true, at least for a few minutes longer. I don’t know.

Everyone mourns differently.  As I sit here in my brother’s Theatre Room with my son asleep by my side, I am grateful for my sister-in-law’s fortitude… Despite losing her father on Christmas Day and then losing her husband, my brother, on New Year’s, yes, both within days of each other, she has shown me what true strength MannyAndMeand true love is… She allowed us to mourn him the way he would have wanted… With a 2 DAY PARTY!

It may sound crass but if you would have known him, there would have been NO OTHER WAY to celebrate his life than with lots of people, about 80 in attendance, lots of seriously good Puerto Rican food, lots of music and definitely lots of joking, remembering and laughing… Of course we cried, we’re human… But we also got to share how my brother touched each and every one of us forever…

But, if we’re being totally honest, I kept checking the door to see if he walked in, ready to join the party… And I bet I wasn’t the only one.

The Pain of Loss…

I will always grieve the loss of my brother.  After the loss of my mother, this is the second most painful experience I have had. Both made direct investments in the person who I am today… Role models in different fashions, but equally as important.

Pain doesn’t hurt any less because you’re older. In fact, it may actually hurt more because you know what it means to die. You realize the unique bond you had and long term impact of not having that person in your future. We had a close relationship, sharing almost everything despite the physical distance between us.  Our relationship was pivotal in my growing up and I will forever be grateful to God for allowing me to have such a caring and nurturing brother. I don’t know who will be there in his stead, but I must believe it is for the best.

Although I will continue to grieve his death (knowing full well it is for purely selfish reasons), I am glad I am able to share this week with my family mourning his death and celebrating his life. Everyone has different faiths and beliefs in the afterlife and/or resurrection, including my sister-in-law and me. But, regardless of what it is, I know I will see him again.

I love you, bro.  I’ll see you when God calls me home…