So, I wanted to go ahead and write up a summary of my experience with my brother’s illness and death and how it has impacted me and the way I see myself and the world really quick. I hope there are some people out there who can understand and maybe share my feelings so I don’t feel so alone and selfish anymore (that’s kind of been my default setting since my brother first went to the hospital when I was about 5 years old…). I was the oldest, three years older than Alex. He had the odds stacked against him from the start, he was born prematurely, and on Friday the 13th to boot! I was 3 years old when he was born. He was an adorable baby, all blonde hair and blue eyes. I honestly don’t remember much before he got sick. When he was 18 months old, he got sick and my parents rushed him to the E.R. I remember being at my grandparents house and hearing the call for the Life Flight helicopter on their police scanner. He was taken to a pediatric hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor. After that, he spent more time in the hospital than home (though he did go into remission once, it didn’t last). Of course my parents stayed with him most of the times he was in the hospital (That is something I understand and don’t feel resentment for, he was little and sick and in pain, of course they had to be with him) and I spent most of my time when they weren’t home with my paternal grandparents who became basically my second set of parents (they were amazing and I am thankful every day that I had them there for me). Alex died on Memorial Day, 1993. He was 5 and I was 9. I remember that day more clearly than any other moment of my childhood.
A few years after my brother died, my parents got divorced. I know this is something fairly common when a young child is lost (though from what I understand, my mother wanted to leave before he was born but was talked out of it), and I’m actually thankful they didn’t stay together, none of us were happy when they were together. They are both happily re-married. I lived with my dad after the divorce, I was always close to him, and to this day, I don’t hear from my mother much. She moved to Canada and I’m lucky if I get a phone call from her twice a year (my birthday [when she remembers] and Christmas).
I know no one in my family ever wanted to make me feel less or unimportant, but my entire childhood was about Alex. What can Alex do, where can Alex be, how well he’s doing. Even after he died, he was always one of the most popular topics at family gatherings. Because he was so rarely home after his diagnoses, I never really got to know him, and even now, it’s hard to say I really loved him (which makes me feel like the worst person in the world). Even today, even with my dad, who I KNOW loves me more than anything on Earth, I still feel like people would have been happier, or better off if it had been me that got sick. I know in my head that’s not true, but my heart still feels it.
To this day, I feel unimportant. That I don’t matter. That if I dropped off the face of the earth, sure, people would be sad for a bit, but my friends, my family, they’d all move on and rarely think of me again. I’ve had these feeling since I was 5 years old, and this is the first time, at 31, that I’ve ever truly expressed them. And my heart is racing. I feel like a horrible person. But I had to let it off my chest.
Thanks guys… -Emily