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The 24th of November
A song was playing in the background as my family and turned north on highway 139 on our way to the hospital. It was a song by Vanessa Williams, “Save the Best for Last.” I guess it is just one of those things that you remember for the rest of your life in situations such as this.
The lights of Harmony glowed almost tauntingly in the distance. I was so tired; it was way passed my bedtime, being a nine-year old, though I am not sure exactly what time it was. Nobody in the car was talking. Ryan, who was 11, decided to take a little nap on the way to Rochester so I tried to followed suit, thinking this was the best way for me to get some rest.
I couldn’t, being in buzzed thought about my oldest brother’s illness. My brother, who was 13 years old, had a rare cancer that had worsened over the course of a couple months. We were driving to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the famed Mayo Clinic, in fading hope.
I sat there in the passenger’s side seat behind my mom. Listening to the chorus in Williams’ song, I looked at the moon out of the window that had a million fingerprints on it from previous trips in the van. I could see the silver orb best when the van was driving east because the moon was almost straight up in the southern sky.
As the song ended, an upbeat song began so my mom turned off the radio. We rode in silence for the rest of the trip to Rochester, which is about an hour north of our home. I figured out later it was the last song I ever heard before arriving at the hospital.
We walked into the intensely lit hallways of the hospital. I had to squint because my eyes weren’t used to the light. It didn’t help that all of the walls were white, with the glow from above reflecting easily and making things even brighter. My parents walked up to a desk with my brother and me striding quietly in their wake and coming to a halt as my parents stopped to talk with a woman with long blonde hair down past her shoulders.
The next few days in the hospital are some I will never forget. Most of the time I spent either doing my homework with Ryan, or sitting silently in Chris’s room watching him and wondering what cancer was.
Not knowing it was my last day at the hospital, I was brought to Chris’s room for one last time. My parents told me that Chris had decided that He wasn’t afraid anymore; that he was ready to be let go. The only way my brother could communicate at this point was by squeezing once for ‘no’ and twice for ‘yes.’
I was told to say my goodbyes, though I didn’t have anything to say. It still aggravates me today, because I could have said, should have said something. Anything, but I felt embarrassed in front of Ryan and my parents. With nothing to tell him for the last time in his short and unfair life, I left the room with my brother to go downstairs. We played a Star Wars video game on a gaming console for about thirty minutes or so.
An uncle of mine came down to get us. Ryan new more about what was happening than I did. My whole family, on both my parents’ sides had arrived at the hospital in the few minutes we had been downstairs. Ryan took the lead around the small room filled with people and embraced them all one by one with me right behind him. My grandma told me, “Let it all out, it’s okay,” several times, but I had nothing to let out. I didn’t know what was going on, I was so confused and everybody was so sad and I had no idea why. I didn’t understand.
I began to understand, but it took me an exact year to do so. We were in Hawaii, at Chris’s favorite spot, Lapahoehoe, a landmark of a town that used to exist before a tsunami destroyed it. It was then, as we all threw in flowers on the jagged rocks that cause the waves to crash premature with a white ferocity, when I realized what had happened to Chris and why I reacted so unemotionally on the day he let go.
I had known at the time that I was never going to see him again. I knew that my beloved brother Christopher was dead, but it was only then, on the rocks as we sprinkled his ashes into ocean, that I realized I hadn’t know what death was. I didn’t know what it meant to be dead, truly gone. I had known I would never see him again, but I hadn’t known why.
Trying to comprehend the uncertainty of where the life in him went was almost unbearable. I remembered at that point staring over the ocean, what I must have looked like to all of the adults there who knew exactly what it all meant.
I see more now than I ever have before. Live your life to the fullest that is physically possible. If you want to mountain climb, go do it; if the last flight leaves soon, better hurry; and if you have something to say to someone, like ‘I love you,’ say it as soon and as often as possible because you don’t know when you will ever get such a chance like that again.