Moments. Our days are compiled of them, and while most mundanely pass us by, every so often moments come along that change everything.
I was six when my first impactful moment came. It charged in like a lion and life was forever altered. I remember being woken up by my grandparents who were at my house early in the morning. I don’t remember driving to the hospital or walking the halls to the room where my little brother was. I don’t remember what I was wearing or everyone else that was there. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly when my parents had to decide whether or not to take him off life support. Yet, there was a moment where they had to make that decision. And it changed everything.
My brother hadn’t been chronically ill. He had an infection in his foot and because he was only 18 months old, the doctors wanted to keep him overnight to watch the infection. He was due to come home. I thought that meant to our home on Alberta Street. Instead, he went to heaven. His heart stopped without explanation and he was gone.
I remember the moment I saw him in the casket. He looked slightly blue. I remember walking up to it during his memorial service and gently tossing a flower in. I was only six, but I will always remember the grief and the moments that overtook me in such a powerful way it was hard to breathe.
I was a sensitive child and felt every bit of pain a little kid can feel. Looking back on it, I recognize my desire to not burden my parents with my pain. I thought it would be best if I grieved alone. I remember one distinct moment when I felt overwhelmed with the weight of loss and I grabbed his picture. I headed up to the room he shared with my older brother, laid on the bed and stared at his picture sobbing until I didn’t have any tears left. Those moments stay with you, the heaviness that feels like an actual weight on your body.
Grief is a weird thing. This happened to me in 1988. Millions of moments have passed by since then that my sweet brother was not able to be a part of. But life goes on. It still hits me in weird ways, as it always will. He was born on New Years Eve and died on 4th of July so those holidays are always hard. I now have a little boy of my own and I have to remind myself daily to trust God with him. It is hard to not live in fear that he will be taken without warning as well. My brother’s death has shaped me, for better and for worse.
I love that Daniel’s Heart Foundation comes alongside families that are grieving. Although there was not long suffering in my story, I have the unique perspective of dealing with grief at a young age. Please hear me when I say that my parents in NO way made me feel as though I needed to deal with my sorrow alone. I did that to myself because I didn’t want my pain to add to theirs. I know that there are children all over that are experiencing the pain of losing a loved one, whether it is a parent, sibling, grandparent, or other close family member. My best advice would be to check in regularly with the children that are affected by the events going on. Help them to understand that they can grieve openly and safely. Talk to them at an age appropriate level about what is going on. I knew that my brother was in heaven and saw my parent’s faith lived out, which only strengthened my own. Knowing that he was safe gave me peace. I see the significance in that now—having grief and fear would be hard to get past as a child.
Grief affects us all. It doesn’t care how old you are. It doesn’t care where you live or what ethnicity you are. It comes in hard and fast, drowning those in its path like a tidal wave. I’m thankful that one day the pain of loss will no longer be felt as I am reunited with my brother again!
(Becca lives with her family in Gresham, OR. She teaches in the school system and cares for her sweet boy at home.)