The end of my brother's life marked the beginning of my quarter life crisis.
The moment my mother’s words echoed through the receiver the world collapsed, and I with it. He'd been adopted the year I was born - yes, somehow my parents thought adding a little boy entering his terrible twos to a household that included a 3-month preemie who relied on a ventilator to make it through each day was a good idea.
I'm glad they did.
As we grew older and our family larger, we became closer, or as close as a boy and his runt sister could be. I wasn't quite aware of it then, but looking back, it's obvious he was my hero. The long summer days in Holland playing football in the streets, the nights on Prince illuminated by street lamps when we'd race each other around the block on our Huffy bikes, and that time I hid in the back of the van while my dad dropped him and my sister off at a school formal, to when I was getting ready for those few special nights as well, all of my fondest memories of childhood we're moments we shared.
Then there's those moments I wish never happened, such as when he and my mom noticed I was running a fever and twitching like crazy, and ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia; Or the time he sprained my ankle when I joined in a wrestling match he didn't want help with. But neither of those compares to what my nightmares are made of - seeing him every time he went into Sickle Cell Anemia crisis.
I'd never seen someone in so much pain before, and as often as it happened, seeing the tubes flowing out of his body and hearing the chorus of beeping monitors worsened each time. No matter where he was or where I was, he'd always call me, even if I was at school. He knew I'd leave. He knew I'd drive all night to see that he was ok. He knew he could count on me, but even that wasn't enough to save him.
On January 12, 2011, I was in the living room of my mother's house when her boyfriend approached me with the phone. "Your mother needs to tell you something."
I put the phone to my ear, and then crashed to the floor wailing in disbelief. How could he be dead when I still needed him here? How was he in the hospital for a week when I didn't know about it? Why didn't he call me? How could I tell his daughter? What could I tell myself to help me believe this was really happening and I can't wake up? How could someone so full of energy, laughter, and joy be taken when someone such as me, woeful at best, was allowed to remain? Nothing in this world made sense anymore.
People like to say that time makes it better, that "all wounds heal with time". Those people can dive off a cliff.