I know a lot about stress and coping and making the best of what hand is dealt to you.. I learned it at a very young age. When I was seven years old, I went through a very traumatic situation that miraculously only scared me in small ways. I don't talk about it and very few people beside my own family know it... and I'm fine with that. I don't want to remember it, I was immensely lucky and I survived it.
Six years ago, I went through a different and very personal situation, when once again, I had to dig deep and cope. I came out of it with a deep sadness but knowing how strong and resilient I could be. A couple of years later, I lost my dearest of friends to suicide. The pain of his loss was excruciating; I grieved and I missed him and I learned a lot about myself in the process. When I came the other side, I made changes in my life and, selfishly and stupidly, I thought that was it, I thought I had gotten my fair share of trauma...
Until the phone rang at 2:30 am a few days ago and I heard the crying voice of my sister letting me know that my brother Pepillo had passed away. The shock of that phone call will never wear off. My mother's cries in the background, the urging question I had to ask... was it a violent death?... these days Mexico fights a cruel drug war and sadly, violent robberies and kidnappings are at the order of the day. I breathed a sigh of relief when she said it was not. It took a few hours to find out that my barely 53 year old brother, the oldest and only boy in the family, had died of a massive heart attack. Pepillo never smoked, never drank, went to bed early and worked hard, he was never sick, had rarely been in hospital and was, generally speaking, a very healthy man.
The last two weeks have been hell. Nothing, and I stress this again, NOTHING, prepared me for that call. The shock, the pain, the helplessness, the guilt of not being there, the waves of sadness and anger and despite it all, having to function with some sort of normality, grieving at a distance is so tough. Being strong for those in the family who are crumbling under the pain. I hadn't seen my brother in four years, that's the last time I was home. The reasons might sound familiar to those of you who live far from your loved ones: too busy, can't leave work, too expensive, not enough time, somebody else is visiting and all holidays went to that. All valid and all useless when it came to the fact that I did not have a chance to hug my brother one last time while he was alive. That kills me... it eats away at my soul.
I wasn't sure I wanted to write this. I wasn't sure what to say, or how to say it. Where's the lesson to be learned? What's the moral of this story? Ask people to get heart checks regularly? Tell your family you love them every day as you don't know when you'll see them for the last time? All of these things sound so hopelessly corny! And then I realised that there is no need for a moral or a lesson, this is all just coping, venting, sharing the load, it's the way I chose to cope with grief... I will miss my brother, I will be sad for a long time, but I'll slowly come through to the other side with a hole in my heart but knowing he led a good and fulfilled life and he died being loved by many. May he rest in peace.