On Friday, April 15, 2016, I was blessed and super excited to launch my first book. It was a surreal moment and an experience I will never forget. I remember not sleeping much that night or day. I kept refreshing my book account dashboard and was thrilled to see the book climb up the rankings. I finally went to bed at around 2:30 am, totally exhausted and not sure if I was going to be able to sleep. It had been a super high day for me.
The next day, I got up early, got ready, and head out the door in order to drive 45 minutes to see my barber for a much-needed haircut (Don’t ask why I drive so far for a haircut. That’s a discussion for another day!). On my way there, I decided to catch up with my sister in Toronto, with whom I had not spoken much do to being so busy with the book. We talked about everything, and the 45 minute drive felt like just five minutes. I told my sister I loved her and hung up, and went inside to take care of my hair situation.
Towards the end of my haircut, Tito, my barber, took a break to check his phone, and I decided to do the same. To my surprise, my sister had just texted me the following: “There’s something wrong with Javier (Our youngest brother)!! Dad found him uncuncious in his room.” My heart froze for a split second, and right before Tito was going to continue with finishing my haircut and I before I could put my phone down, my sister sent me a second text, “I think Javier is dead!! :-(”
I put my phone down in complete disbelief. The remaining minutes Tito took to finish my haircut felt like an eternity. I couldn’t wait for him to finish in order to call my parents in Cleveland. I finally was able to go outside and call my parents. My nephew answered the phone and was crying; I could hear the comotion in the background. My dad came to the phone, breathing heavily, and said, “He’s gone, he’s gone!”
On Saturday, April 16, 2016, I was crushed and deeply sadden to lose my baby brother; he was just 40 years old. It was a surreal moment and experience I will never forget. Gone too soon. My brother passed away in his sleep with no sign of suffering or struggle. He simply fell asleep. Needless to say, my father couldn’t talk on the phone for too long, my mother, even worse. Time froze, denial set in, and my drive back to my apartment felt like an eternity.
I thought to myself: “How is this possible?” “This doesn’t make sense.” “How could this happen?” The truth is, at times, life doesn’t make sense. We don’t have all the answers. There’s no way for us to know the “WHY?” of these types of situations, and trying or spending all our time, energy and effort trying can make us feel even more despair.
Here’s what I’ve been able to learn in this painful situation:
1. It’s OK to question and to feel the way you do! No apologies, no explanations necessary. Give yourself as much time as you need to cry, feel angry, frustrated, happy, sad. For me, a person who hardly shows his emotions, I have allowed personal time to cry, be sad, remember the funny times and laugh, be angry at God, and all of the above. And you know what, It’s okay!
2. Be thankful. Life is short and finite. We tend to forget that, so when life doesn’t make sense, be thankful for the time you had together, and more importantly, be thankful for your own life and for family and friends.
3. Give back. Something powerful happens when we we give back, there’s healing that takes when we give back. I’ve seen this in my parents during this time. Even at the funeral, they were loving people, giving them words of comfort. In healing others, you find your own healing.
We don’t have all the answers and most of the time life doesn’t make sense. However, It’s okay, we don’t need to make sense of everything all the time. In time, healing comes. The sooner we come to grips with that, the better.