I am a rock and nothing can knock me down...

1:02 AM

Haven't blogged in a while because honestly, while the words were in my head, I couldn't write them down. I just couldn't. Writing them down and putting them out into the universe for all to see would make them real. What happened was real, but I am still having a hard time coming to grips with it.

My little brother, my only brother is gone. Three years after my dad passed, I have now lost my brother. He was 40. He was my mother's only son, my only brother and a husband and father to three young girls. My youngest niece Angel is 8. When I look at her, I want to cry. She doesn't understand what an impact Danny's death will have on her. I lost my dad when I was 41 and I was devastated. I can't even imagine how it would be, had I grown up without him in my life. To lose your dad at the age of 8 just seems so cruel to me. But you can't change the circle of life. We all have an expiration date and sometimes that date comes sooner than we think it will.

Danny and his girls
Danny was in the hospital for 11 days in a coma that he never woke up from. I had 11 days to sit by his side but I didn't know that those 11 days were time given to me by a higher power so I can prepare myself to say goodbye. I didn't get that with my dad. His death was so shocking and sudden. I always wondered how it would have been had I gotten a chance to see and talk to him before he died. Now I know that time doesn't mean a thing. The pain is still great and you still don't want to let go.

I spend 9 out of those 11 days still believing Danny would wake up. I fought with the doctors and was so angry because I felt like they were not giving his body a chance to heal. I didn't want to hear that his chances were low to none and that there was no brain activity. I did research on NY State law when it came to comatose patients and removing the ventilator. I took notes every time a doctor or nurse spoke to us. I reached out to friends who were medical professionals to ask questions. I read about other cases that were similar to my brother. I averaged about 3 hours of sleep every night during that time and sometimes forgot to eat. My focus was on saving my brother.

I refused to give up on him because that was my brother. I just couldn't give up on him. I was his big sister and it was my responsibility to look out for my brother and protect him. I was even prepared to go to jail because if the doctors decided to call it and pronounce him brain dead and take him off the ventilator, I was going to start a scene at the hospital and not let them get anywhere near him.

And to think, some distant family members thought we were being intimidated by doctors and were pleading with us in Facebook messages and texts that we should not pull the plug. Little did they know that we did not want to give up on him. I didn't want to give up on him. We put the TV on to ESPN so he could hear it. I had hoped hearing a Yankees game would help him wake up. I recorded my nieces and my sister-in-law held my phone near his ear to replay them, because we hoped hearing his daughters would make him wake up. Lots of friends and family came by the hospital talking to him. We sat at his bedside for 11 days.

On Day 9, was the turning point for me. My mom and I were sitting in the waiting room as they did some chest x-rays on my brother. I turned to her and asked her, "Do you think Danny is gone?" My mother looked at me with such a calm but sad face and said, "Yes." I looked at her in disbelief. She then said:

"You have to let him go. He's at peace. Danny suffered his whole life. He was born with bad asthma and always sick. As an adult, he never caught a break. He could never find the job he desired and always worked like a dog to support his family. He took care of his daughters and always put everyone else first. He never got to really rest, sleep and relax. He was never truly at peace. Now he's resting and doesn't have to suffer anymore. He gets to spend time with Daddy. And that comforts me."

I was shocked. Here is a woman who is watching her only son, lay in a coma and she is able to let him go. She put aside her own feelings of losing her son and was instead looking at this situation from another angle...what is best for Danny. She went on to talk about the other option...would my brother want to be in a hospital bed for years, hooked to machines because we want to keep him alive?

I saw my mom in a different light that day. I saw who I get my strength from. And that was when I knew I had to accept whatever the outcome was. The next day, the doctors declared him brain dead and we were allowed one more day to sit with him because he was an organ donor so they had to keep him on the ventilator until he went to the OR to get his organs removed.

I got a few opportunities to say goodbye to my brother (at the hospital, at the funeral home, at the service and at the cemetery). But honestly, it was not enough. I still look at the door sometimes, thinking he's going to walk through it. I cry at least 3 times a day. It just feels like the scab on an old wound has been ripped away. I was just coming to terms with my dad being gone and now this.

Life is so short. That's why we have to appreciate the present moments. We have to make better choices with how we spend that time. If you love someone, tell them. Make sure you smile and laugh daily. Take some chances in life without worrying about the outcome. Don't put things off until tomorrow. Live in the moment. Appreciate those people in your life that support you and believe in you. Make time for them, even if it's just a phone call. Because you might miss that chance and never get a second one.

The last picture I took with my brother and my mom - Mother's Day 2014
Life is short and time is valuable. Use it wisely. That is something my dad used to always say. I can hear him whispering that in my ear on a daily basis. With my brother gone, it has become more than a whisper. It has become my life's mission. The men in my life are gone. And they were the two best men I knew. So again, I embark on this journey of grief, looking at the world differently. No more procrastination. I feel anxious, wanting to make sure I make every minute worth it.

I wrote the following passage on Facebook the other day and it is one of the most authentic things I have ever written and sums up my present state perfectly:

"It's hard to understand loss. You often wonder why you have to experience such great losses in life. But I have learned that some questions will never be answered and what is most important in life is acceptance. Acceptance and surrendering to what is. I used to think acceptance and surrendering meant giving up. But honestly, you have to let go to keep moving on. Doesn't mean you're giving up. You're just trying to live. Today was a hard day and I know there will be other hard days ahead. But there will be good days, too. In the last month, I have lost not only my only brother, but other significant things and people, too. All happening at once. But on a daily basis, I tell myself that I am strong and I can get through anything because my dad often said so throughout my whole life. He told me that I can do whatever I set out to in life and my strength knows no bounds. "I am a rock and nothing can knock me down." You say that enough times to yourself and you begin to believe it, breathe it and live it. That is one of the many things my dad has left behind in his legacy within me and it has come in so handy now with the loss of my brother and everything else. It's hard to be positive and not give up when it seems like nothing is going right. But because of my dad always speaking life into me and encouraging me to live with an open heart, to always pursue my dreams, be happy and have a desire for adventure, that life is what I cling to with everything I have. It keeps me hopeful that things are going to turn around soon. They have to and they will. I won't accept anything less than that. I didn't realize how strong I was until I saw that no matter what was thrown at me, I could not be knocked down nor did it take away my positive spirit. I am so thankful for that strength. Thank you, Lord."

In times of great loss, you grow. You learn. You change. This I know. But right now, I am missing my little brother so much it hurts.

Daniel Cruz Jr
April 22, 1974 - May 30, 2014
Rest in peace, Little Brother
To read more about what happened to my brother, here's some links:

http://redhookstar.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/red-hook-resident-dies-after-delayed-ambulance-response-by-george-fiala/

http://redhookstar.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/daniel-cruz-remembered-in-funeral-service-by-george-fiala/

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3 comments

  1. Marcy thank you for sharing your journey with us. This was so poignant and touching. May God comfort and keep your family always.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marcy,

    My heart goes out to you, sadly I can relate. I lost my father at the age of 12 (he was killed). My brother died at the age of 39, he left behind a two week old daughter, and 4 and 5 year old sons. I raised his boys, they are now 17 and 18. My brother's birthday was July 1 mines is July 2 and we always celebrated together even we lived apart we made the same plans to do the same things in different cities for our birthdays. I can tell you that with time it does get easier, the pain becomes less and you remember the good times more easily, it doesn't hurt as bad to think about the person.

    My prayers are with you and your family and God will heal your heart in time.

    Jennifer

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