The hardest challenge I experienced in my life was the death of my brother. Manuel. I was 9. He was 14. My brother was coming back from watching a kung fu movie in Paris with my older cousin. The day after, he fell sick. I remember him lying on the sofa. I could see he was in bad shape, but 9 years brothers ignore this type of thing. I only realized how bad it was when he asked my mom a day or 2 later: “am I going to die?”. I can’t recall if I heard him say it or overheard my mom saying that to a relative. A few hours later, he had passed away. After Manuel’s death, the doctor who failed to diagnose him correctly identified the disease. Impossible for me to memorize the actual name of the virus. The only part of the name I remember is “lightning.” Referring to how quickly it could take a brother away. That adjective was, unfortunately, way too accurate.
After he passed, there is a black hole. I do not remember anything for 2 or 3 days. I imagine it was 2 or 3 days because it is how long it usually takes between death and burial. The burial. Surprisingly the most vivid memory. My favorite aunt broke down as you see in movies. My mom is a solid rock in front of me, holding it down surely to help me get through. After the burial, everyone came home. There I needed to take a disgusting pill. My mom mixed it with yogurt. There was no avoiding it. Probably to prevent me from getting the virus that killed my brother. At the same time, I remember the kitchen window was open. A friend of my brother was crying. I did not see her cry, but she must have been because an emotionless teenager said, “are you crying because your darling boyfriend died.” To this day, I still despite that woman. I should have forgiven her a long time ago. She was in her early teens and was never the cleverest. The person I never want to forget is that sensitive teenager who was crying and was feeling for me.
I do not recollect if I cried. I do recall that I never cried after that moment. I remember that my sensitivity was just gone. It did not matter what happened in life, nothing could top losing my brother in what felt like a few minutes before even turning 10 years old.
I also got to know death in a very intimate way. At that age, you are old enough to comprehend the big picture and too young to understand how unfair and unreal the situation is. You hear, “he is in a better place now” “ he is in heaven now.” You believe it. At that point, I also did not fear death. I did not want to die… I for sure did not want to suffer, but after seeing death… I was not scared.
I debated publishing this post. it is hard to put my feelings out there. But it fits the principle of telling a story from a place of power as I explained in previous posts. A life challenge, a life choice (as much as an 9-year-old could make) and showing vulnerability. But most importantly, this is a defining moment in my life story. One that I buried and even hid for a long time because I dislike people feeling sorry for me for losing my brother. But guarding that part of my life, also mean avoiding the most significant adverse moment I had to go through. And the one that developed me the most.
The series of 10 mini-essays will drop every day for 10 days. They all follow my storytelling mantra, a challenge, a choice, and vulnerability. Most importantly, every essay will draw on the lessons of my experiences. My goal is to change the narrative. Encourage everyone to be unique, even when the world tells you that your story will lead you nowhere.