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Brother of One

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Looking up to my younger brother...

Growing up I really never knew how fortunate I was to have my brother in my life as much as I did as he lay behind me in his casket the day of his funeral. I never truly grasped the blessing that I had of such a kind and warm person in my life that had no judgements towards anyone and only met everyone he came into contact with, with open arms and a smile. Six years separated my brother Christian and I and when I was younger it was difficult connecting or finding common ground with him. Christian was my "little brother" and I never wanted him to interfere or be part of things that I wanted to be part of because you know, "he's my little brother". I couldn't have been more wrong. As time went on and we both entered our teenage years and became the men we were going to be I soon realized it was easier to connect and find similar interests.

Movies were a huge hit for him and I to connect with and we would end up quoting funny lines or re-enacting scenes from various comedies making everyone around us laugh and join in. I think some of the fondest memories I have of my brother Christian is when he would get me laughing and then anyone around us would start laughing just because of the atmosphere he set up. It was simple to find friendship with him and anyone will tell you that. I never knew how many lives he touched and changed until that day in the funeral home when the entire room was packed and people were lined up and waiting in the hallways just to hear people speak and pay their respects. I felt like I was at a funeral for a celebrity. I found it most difficult to speak out about how I felt but for some reason I felt comfort in speaking in front of everybody that was there that day, and not because we all felt the same, but because they all felt the loss as I did; they lost a brother. Brother to me means more than a family association, it means someone in your life you can count on for anything and know that they will be there.

I remember distinctly saying during my memorial speech that even though he was six years younger than I, I looked up to him and wanted to be like him in the way that he had about himself and how he managed relationships; always seeing the good in someone. There are so many things I would re-live just to feel those emotions again and experience him again in the ways I remember him best.

Father, Brother, and I

Father, Brother, and I

Discovery and Finding Out

I remember that morning vividly and to the exact detail. I could tell you exactly what I was wearing and what time I woke up and every ounce of terrible that followed with every minute. I woke up and, like us all, checked my phone for notifications and such. At this time I was still on FaceBook and checked it regularly and so that morning I received various notifications and they all had my brother Christian tagged in them. Naturally out of curiosity I investigated the posts and saw a picture that said "Gone too soon, forever will be missed, we love you Christian".

Now you can imagine my confusion and sudden lapse in heart beats at this moment but I did not think the worst but I definitely had my doubts and concerns. I called up my father and woke him up and he was every bit of surprised as I was along with plenty of confusion and uncertainty. While I was on the phone with him he received a phone call from an unknown number with an area code of Virginia. This is the moment things became suddenly too real and overwhelming. My brother Christian was in the Navy and he was stationed in Virginia during this time and earlier before I called my father up I had sent a text message and snapchat message to my brother and to no response. As time went on that morning I began to shake in my hands and breathe a little bit heavier. My father puts me on hold while he takes the call from Virginia and about 15 or so minutes go by and he finally comes back to me on the phone and requests that I come to his place and I can hear him sobbing and losing all emotional control.

At that moment I remember falling to my knees and dropping my phone from my ear to the floor and losing all control over myself. I knew at that moment that something that I never wanted to hear and believe to be true, had become a reality. From this moment forward until he was put into the ground I remember everything as a blur and the longest four months of my life. It felt like someone had hit the pause button and fast forward at the same time. Nothing seemed real and everything seemed like a made up story that I was stuck in and could not escape from. After leaving to go to my fathers house I remember driving faster than I should have been and I never remembered any lights of other vehicles on the road. I felt like it was only me in the world and nothing was in between my father's home and I.

Finally arriving to my fathers house I remember rushing to find a parking spot at his apartment complex and barely closing my driver door to run towards my fathers door. I make it to the door and I basically bust the door open with the rush of me running into it and trying to get to my dad as quickly as possible. As soon as I opened the door I remember seeing some of his friends from work already there and I locked my focus on him and he could barely get out of the chair he was sitting in. I went over to him and picked him up with strength that I did not know I had at the time, I was full of adrenaline and emotions that I have never felt before. Holding my father during that time while he sobbed and lost all bodily control was a defining moment for me and I realized I will need to be the spine of this grieving process. My father had lost a son and I had lost a brother but I needed to be there for him more than I needed to be there for myself. Holding his dead body weight while standing I remember as one of those vivid memories while he could barely make any words out to speak to me. He kept saying "I can't believe this, I can't believe he's gone Mike" meanwhile sobbing and wiping his eyes and mouth from all of the crying. I have never seen emotions like these before and this was all new territory for me. I was scared and I did not know where to go from here.

Graduation Day - Chicago

Graduation Day - Chicago

Regrets and Looking Back

The thing I regret the most about my brothers life and mine is that I did not take more time to be closer to him and find more things to be included with or take part of. I feel like looking back its easy to say things due to the circumstances and make yourself feel bad. I understand this and so I try not to think about it like this but it is truly hard not to given the emotions and state of mind that this sort of thing leaves you with. I blame myself for too many things and it is difficult for me to realize that this is not how you approach something like this but at some point it becomes all too real and you feel responsible for the lack of relationship between you and a family member. I suppose it is easier to say these things now given the situation and what I am left to think about and without having the ability to change the outcome now.

I am trying to teach myself and learn how to not cope in this way and try to remember the good things and move forward as this is what he would truly want for me and my life going forward. Trying to live my life the way he would want me to after his death is hard to grasp. I picture him next to me sometimes with his hand on my back just talking to me and even though I cannot hear him, somehow I can hear his voice telling me certain things to be happy about and move forward towards to keep me going and prevent me from falling into a hole of despair and loneliness. As gloom as that sounds, it has been extremely difficult to keep myself out of these areas and look forward to things and find things to hold my interest long enough to forget the pain I live with every single day. It has been two years now since the loss of my brother and I feel every day as if it is the day we found out all over again.

Looking back at everything the loss of my brother has taught me I realize how lucky I was and to me, still am to have Christian in my life even still and how much of an impact and impression he has made on me. He makes me want to be a better person and become something greater than I am now. Never in my life would I ever have thought he would not be here by my side or a phone call away. I always pictured him there for me during the hardest times in our lives and when we would need each other the most. I have him with me but in a different way and the way I think about it now is that if I need him at any point, he will know and already be there waiting for me and offering his hand on my back pushing me and keeping me moving forward. He always believed in me and my abilities to stay strong. He somehow made it known that I was strong and even though I had many trials growing up he was always that person who kept me going and kept me thinking positive; even during the worst of times.

Christian I love ya brohan, as you would always call me this, it is all I know to call you now and because everything beyond this life is a mysterious empty space and giant question mark, I can only imagine where you are now and how badly when my time comes that I wish to be where you are just to say hello and give you a long over due hug and I can picture you saying simple words to me...

"what took you so long, brohan? let me show you around, you are going to love it here"

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