Two weeks ago today, my baby brother was full of life. On Thursday, March 27, 2008, He got off of work at 7am. He was happy to have a fairly new job, as a machine operator making decent money. He even liked his 7pm-7am shift. He loved that he only had to work 3 days a week. He had been in his new apartment with his girlfriend for 3 months. When he got home from work, he found a note from her that said that if they were to have a girl she wanted to name her Winter (for the time they'd spent in WV, in the winter). They had decided a week earlier that if they were to have a boy that his name would be Hazen (our grandfather's middle name). She wasn't pregnant yet, but her period was due any day and they were hoping. That afternoon he got to my grandparents house about 4 o'clock. He made him and his girlfriend sandwiches, and talked about how excited he was to finally get his first pay (they'd held back two weeks). He was getting ready to leave for work at 6:30pm. His girlfriend decided to stay there and hang out with the grandparents so she wouldn't have to be home alone.
He went home to eat at 2am for his lunch break. He waved at our Aunt (who worked with him) at 7:00, when he was getting his check and leaving work. His girlfriend was already at work, but he stopped by his house... we know that because he left a light on and a candy wrapper on the counter. We aren't sure why he left the house again, we feel it might have been to give someone a ride home. At 7:39am,March 28, 2008, there was a 911 call about an accident. I found out at 10:30am that my brother had a 5% chance of living. I had had cancer treatment the day before and couldn't handle the 12 hour drive from MD to FL. So we had no choice, but to wait for the first available flight. With $1300 worth of tickets, we were able to fly out March 29th at 6am. My husband, kids and I had decent flights and only one layover. We arrived in Daytona at noon. My uncle and grandmother, drove us straight to the hospital. The family was in a waiting room on the 2nd floor, I left everyone there and went straight to the fourth floor ICU where my brother was located. They were just bringing him back from a second brain scan, the first done the day before had not shown any brain activity. When the nurse, directed me to his room, I lost all hope. There were tubes for draining blood from his lungs, tubes for him to breathe, tubes for nourishment, iv's for fluid, there were braces to stabilize his head, because they'd had to remove part of his skull to relieve pressure caused by swelling of his brain and fix a blood clot in his brain.
It looked like my baby brother, but not. There was no movement at all, except when the respirator pushed air into his chest, I will never forget the artificial sound of the machine's "breathing".His fingernails were dirty, as usual and he hadn't shaved in a while. One eye was swollen shut, while the other was half open and drying out. From time to time, blood would drip from his mouth. The nurses seemed to have given up on him and weren't even keeping him clean, but I wiped the blood away as gently as I could. I talked to him, cried on him, yelled at him, and teased him about his ugly dress; but there wasn't even a glimmer of response. His body didn't feel alive, his fingers felt swollen, cold, and hard. The results from the scan wasn't good, two doctors declared him brain dead. Since he had no spouse or children, the state of Florida decided to remove him from life support. They recommended that family say good bye and leave before they unhooked the machines, as it can be upsetting if the body experiences reflexive movements. When the rest of the family went to the waiting room, I said the hardest goodbye of my life and waited outside his room as the did it. I couldn't be too far from him, for fear that he would feel alone. His body had no reflexes left, nothing, with the machines turned off, he was immediately gone. The nurse gave me his personal effects, which she recommended I not look at because of their condition. His very bloody clothes included a shirt, pants, one sock and one shoe and a belt. His pants pocket had one nickel (now a necklace that I cant take off) and a blank piece of paper.
After his death, came the process of planning transportation for him to WV for the funeral. But, while in FL we attempted to find out what happened. The Highway Patrol didn't have a report yet, and the trooper never answered his phone. The jeep looked horrible but we had to look through a fence since it was in impound and couldn't tell much. The towing company did tell us that the other car was a Honda Civic and that the other driver wasn't injured. We had a memorial service at the site of the accident, I cleaned his stuff out of his apartment. After $700 more, we were able to change our return tickets and fly home on Wednesday April 2nd. We then drove from our home in Eastern MD to our hometown in WV. I went through more of his stuff then and made a slide show of his pics to show at the funeral home. Thursday, we made the arrangements. I picked a blue casket, that was the same color as his eyes. And chose a blue shirt that he'd loved and even his lucky boxers for him to wear. I argued with a 70 year old funeral director that wasn't keen on playing Eminem's when I'm gone. I made arrangements with the cemetary to bury him next to our great-grandmother. I ordered flowers and suprivised the florist to make sure they weren't too girly. I arranged the obituary with his picture and laminated obituaries for the family.
On Friday, we had the visitation. And on Saturday, the funeral. I only really remember crying, people telling me I couldn't stay with him (I wanted to stay so they wouldn't close that damn box), and more people telling me I couldn't stay by the casket forever, other people made me leave so that they could bury him. I've done the thank you notes and only have the headstone left to worry about. But it feels like I need to do more. I visited the grave again on Saturday, twice on Sunday, and once on Monday; but now I am 6 hours away and haven't visited it in three days. I feel completely lost. I spent Tuesday, getting more of his film developed and Wednesday buying flowers to arrange for him.
A few people have told me that they have lost a brother, one said that they lost a brother when he died of SIDS at two months; one said that she lost a brother, but it happened when she was too young to remember; one said that she and her 5 other siblings had lost a brother once; and my favorite-when I asked another woman about the brother she had lost, she began telling me about his great-grandchildren... he had died at 82. I feel for their losses I really do. But they just don't understand. My brother and I were extremely close and for many years we were all each other had. We stayed together when the courts declared our mother unfit and we went to live with our dad. We stayed together when our dad was tired of the responsibility and we went to live with our grandparents. I protected him all through childhood. When young adult hood came around, we went our separate ways to find ourselves. But we were still in touch and visited as much as we could. He had just settled down and we were looking forward to starting our newest relationship together: grown-ups siblings.. with nieces and nephews and spouses. We were so excited to share this part of our lives with each other, he was so proud of his apartment with his girlfriend that he sent me pictures of the entire place (even the sinks) within a week of moving in. And now he is gone.
I keep wondering if I should've insisted on more tests, or more doctors. I wonder if it bothers him that I planned his funeral mostly on what would make our family feel better. I know that he would've wanted to wear a pimp suit with the feathered hat and cane, but my dad wanted him to wear a bike week shirt. My brother wouldn't have cared about the minister, but my mom wanted a senile minister that has known us forever so I went with it. My brother would have rather had a keg party afterward, but I went with the sit down church dinner my grandmother purposed. Should I have done it for him, instead of for them? I feel guilty over everything. The music I didn't compromise on much.. his friend sang Gun's n Roses Patience and Tom Petty's Last Dance with Mary Jane (I even caught the preacher tapping his foot). I did let my grandfather choose the last song: Amazing Grace.
I never thought until a dream last night that I should've put some of his favorite cologne on him. I keep realizing too late that I've missed many details, he is my only brother and I'd wanted to do this right. He deserved that and so much more.
The tombstone may take forever, because I'm trying to keep some of him even though this person wants flowers and another vases.
I'm trying to find out what happened with the accident... we still no nothing. The report was supposed to be filed within 10 days. But as of yesterday, they still hadn't seen it. Their is another officer investigating now, but he isn't answering his phone either. The autopsy report won't be released until the investigation is complete. We can't get his medical records or the paramedics notes until I can get a copy of the death certificate and fly down there.
I can't quit picturing him. There is constantly an image of him in my mind. Sometimes it good images, me cutting his hair ( he wasn't impressed), us playing in the sand, swimming, riding bikes, climbing trees, him playing with my kids. But sometimes the images are horrible, him laying in the hospital bed, him in the casket with that horrible makeup (I forced them to redo it in a less pink, more favorable color), him in the casket with the better makeup, or imagining him in the casket now. The images are always there, they keep my throat feeling tight and my chest pounding. They keep my hands shaking and my stomach so shaky that I haven't yet ate a meal. And the dreams are even worse than the images.
I can't help but wonder why my prayers for him weren't answered. I've went to church faithfully, done volunteer work, and I'm a good person. Is the reason that my prayers for him weren't answered, because I've asked so many favors of God regarding my health. Did I use up all of my requests on myself and cost him his life?