Have you ever lost a loved one? Believe it or not, not everyone has. There has been the case when someone you knew from school, work, your neighborhood or long lost relative passes away. You are human and you empathize with the loss but it doesn’t hurt you because there was no emotional connection with that person. There is nothing wrong with that. It happens. It is part of life. But some one of us have suffered losing a loved person. Let me tell you… that hurts. This is the story of the worst day yet of my life.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008. I had worked the graveyard shift at the hotel the night before. I came home early in the morning and slept for a few hours. My next door neighbor was watching our almost 5-month-old baby while my husband went to school that morning. He came home around noon time. I woke up, and got ready to go grab lunch for him, breakfast for me with the baby. We left the house and were at the stop light two blocks away. My phone rang. It was my mom. I answered and she gave me the worst news I have yet received. She said my baby brother had passed away. When she finished the sentence her voice broke and I could hear her crying. This was the second time in my life that I heard my mom crying. I will never forget the feeling… it felt like ice cubes had been dropped in the back of my shirt and they were slowly rolling down my back. I felt a pain on my chest. My stomach was suddenly tight and felt like what I would imagine it feels for someone to punch in the stomach. The tears started rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. It seriously felt like the time had stop and many of my fondest memories of him went through my head. It was a quick second that felt forever. I asked what happened and she went to tell me about the accident that had taken my brother’s life away.
That wasn’t all. She was not able to get a hold of my other two brothers who also lived here in the US. She asked me to call them and tell them the bad news. See, over here in the US the time between a person passing and a funeral can be big. I don’t know exactly since I’ve only been to a few but I guess 3 days to a week, or two? Back home, it is not like that. The funeral takes place the day after the passing so it was critical for us to get ourselves on a plane back home asap so we could say our goodbyes to our baby brother. I cried and with all the pain in my heart I called my brother. He answered. I told him the news… I could recognize in his voice the same reaction I just had a few minutes ago when my mom told me about it.
I remember we got some Hawaiian BBQ take out but i couldn’t even get to take a bite. I swear I could feel my heart broken. I was for sure in the denial stage of grief. I just couldn’t believe… he was gone way too soon. I was mad wondering why would this have happened. Did anyone try to help him? So many questions running around my head. I was stuck on the anger stage of grief until I was able to see him. I scrambled to get a ticket back home for the next morning. We weren’t in the best financial shape of our lives back then but luckily for me, a good friend came through and helped me so I could go home and say my goodbyes to my baby brother. I was in Guatemala for only 5 days and to be honest most of it was hazy. I only remember two clear things from those days:
- When everyone was gone the night that I arrived, we opened his casket. Until that moment a part of me was hoping this was all some type of mistake and it wouldn’t be him laying in it. Sadly for me, it was him. He looked like the last time I visited about a year and a half prior. But what I remember clearly was his face expression… he looked so peaceful. There were a few bruises on his face, very minor stuff, but his face was even angelical I swear.
- The next day at the funeral I saw my mom in a whole new light, a light I will never forget. I’ve always thought of my mom as a strong woman. She raised my three brothers and I as a single mom and she has gone above and beyond to provide us with the best possible. I will never forget at the funeral, there was a lot of people because I am blessed to share my brother was a loved person. I could hear them crying, sobbing. My mom started crying but she checked herself real fast. She was holding together quite amazingly considering she had lost her baby son. I on the other was not holding it quite well and all I wanted to do was cry because there was nothing else I could do make things better. My mom’s oldest brother was next to me and he said: “mija, you need to hold it together because that’s what your mom needs now”. I don’t know how I did it but suddenly I felt this strength in me. A strength that made me realize he was in a better place for my brother was a believer and as such he will always live in God. My mom knew that too, and while it hurts to said goodbye to her son, her faith was stronger. I will never forget that. My mom’s strength was beyond me; she was been upheld by God during one of the hardest moments in her life.
Why was this kid so special? Well, let me tell you a bit about him. He was by no means perfect. Nobody is really. But he was such a special boy since day 1. Extremely determined (yup, that also means stubborn at times), he knew what he wanted, and he was a very religious man. He was an altar boy since he was allowed, was extremely serious about religion and being respectful at church. He was the sacristan of our church when he was like 14 or 15 and he had no problem telling other people to stop bad behaviors while at the church. His vocation was quite clear to him and he joined the minor seminary as a teenager. I want to say he was finishing her second year in the major seminary when a tragic accident at the year’s closure retreat took his life away. He had turned 21 earlier that October. I have not a single doubt in my heart that if he were alive, he would be a priest by now. I know one of his fellow seminary-mates ordained as a priest a year or two ago. He loved studying, not so good with sports. And if you wanted to drive him a bit nuts you could serve his food all together on the same plate. Ha! He didn’t liked his food touching but I totally get that one. He was funny but only if he was comfortable with you. He used to protect me in middle school although he was one year younger than me. He would save his lunch money to buy me a bag of mangoes on our way to the bus stop. My angel. He was the best.
I miss him endlessly. Sometimes when I think of him, my eyes filled with tears just like right now as I type this. But every time I make the effort to not think of how much I miss and rather how much I love the memories we created together. I can picture him falling on the bus on his back with his backpack on and looking like a turtle that can’t turn around which actually happened in fact more than once. I believe there is a place where our souls go to after they leave our bodies and I am sure we will meet again in the after life. Until then, sending a big hug to heaven to my baby brother Omaito P. I miss you endlessly brother.