This post is from my point of view. I know others who may read this and went through the same experience will have a different perspective.
My brother’s death reconnected a few family members and divided many of us. I’m disappointed and disturbed at how this was able to happen. I know that significant life events can cause a range of emotions, but this death took the cake.
My only brother passed away on September 11, 2020 at the age of 45. He was taken off life support that afternoon and passed away in the evening. Because of COVID, only a few visitors were allowed to be in the room. My niece (one of my brother’s daughters) and her mother (whom he wasn’t married to) watched my brother take his final breath. I’m still angry that my mother wasn’t in the room. Not because she didn’t want to be, but because my niece’s mother wanted to “support” her daughter. I feel like that moment was forever stolen from my mother.
The funeral planning was another fiasco. It was the most chaotic thing I have ever experienced. The disrespect shown to my mother and the audacity of entitlement was very present. The “respect your elders” analogy was out of the question during this time. I will never understand how someone can be so disrespectful during a time of grief. I understand death hurts, but the gall to curse in front of my mother was unacceptable.
I wasn’t very close to my brother, yet, my mother and father lost their only son. I grieved for that loss. I’ll say it doesn’t matter how close someone is – they’re allowed to grieve for the loss of a sibling and watching their parents experience that loss was devastating. We (my parents, my sisters, and I) decided to host a memorial service. I know my parents couldn’t stand the sight of seeing my brother in a casket. Since he wouldn’t be cremated based on the wants and desires of his children, my immediate family chose not to attend the in-person service at the funeral home. We’re at peace with that.
Over the week of planning, my immediate family only heard from a few people to offer their condolences. On the day of the memorial, a family member sent a group text to let us know they would be attending the funeral home service. They stated that they were attending my brother’s funeral “as not being against anyone, because it wasn’t about them”. Then stated that it’s about celebrating my brother how they chose. I’m sorry, that sounds like it was about them. We hadn’t heard much from this person the entire week and they sent the message in a group chat with fourteen people the MORNING OF THE MEMORIAL. I call a flag on the play. For context, the funeral and memorial were at different times, plenty of time to attend both. My immediate family didn’t appreciate the message. I didn’t appreciate the message. None of my mother’s siblings attended the memorial service we hosted at a local park. Yet, the people who mattered showed up. We had friends we consider family show up and help the entire weekend leading up to the memorial. That’s true love. We had a mini service about our memories of my brother and released balloons. One balloon bobbed low to the ground. We noticed it and laughed because my brother loved the movie, “It”. This single, red balloon bobbed away from the many others that were already in the sky. We laughed and said it looked like one of the balloons from the movie. We like to think the balloon symbolized him being there with us. Shortly after we acknowledged it and laughed, the balloon drifted off into the sky.
I’m still hurt by what my family had to experience. Yet, his death has made me realize several things about life.
- We are resilient. I had just started my final semester at the University of Michigan. I was able to complete the Social Work program and graduate in December 2020. My degree does not belong to me alone. My family was rooting for me. I know my brother was rooting for me, so I dedicate my MSW to him. I could’ve easily given up and used his death as an excuse not to finish, but I did. I know he’s proud.
- Blood doesn’t make someone family, only a relative.
- Mental health is just as important as physical health. Emotional intelligence is lacking, yet necessary.
- Protecting your peace is important. Envy, jealousy, ego, and pride will destroy us if we’re not careful. Hurt people hurt people. Yet, their anger belongs to them. It can’t control us.
- Disappointment comes from having expectations. My therapist tells me that my expectations of humans are too high. I expect humans to be gracious, kind, considerate, and honest. Maybe they’re right.
- I’m still at a loss for words for how everything happened after my brother’s passing. Yet, it’s made me more intentional about wanting to live and love with a healed heart. I’m still working on forgiveness with the situation. My mother is still hurting. My sisters are still in pain. We are still healing.