He kept saying bye that day. He tells me bye every day, but this time it was different. I think he knew he wasn’t coming back for a while, but had hopes of returning soon because he left the back door open. He never leaves that door open. My mother told him not to go, but he left anyway. I never knew, what it was like to lose a sibling and never wanted to experience that. Fate however, decided to have a chat with my unwarranted curiosity. We were one year apart; he was older and he was my brother. Being born so close to each other, I could feel the pain that he felt. His happiness was connected to mine but somehow our destinies were so different. We came from the same two people, yet this connection could not save us from the pain we were about to experience. At such a young age we were burdened with the thought of him leaving this earth and leaving me behind. It was a warm sixth day of October and my brother Darnell and I were off from school. Naturally, that involved playing video games and riding around the neighborhood with our bikes. Bikes were really in that year. It was 2003 and we were too young to drive and too cool for helmets. He was fourteen and I was turning thirteen the next month. Living on the edge involved riding down our big hill, without any protective padding. There was no sweeter thrill, than feeling the wind as our guide. Death was close, but we felt immortal. My brother was about to receive the biggest lesson of his life, because fate decided to reprimand him. While at a cross walk, he was hit off his bike by a truck. His sticks and bones of a body flew twenty five feet in the air, and landed head first on the divider. His bike ended up underneath the truck. No bones were broken and he looked okay, but fate was not done. The phone rang; my mother picked up. There was an eerie sound on the opposite end of the phone, it was the New Rochelle Police Department. They had called to tell my mother that her son had been in an accident but she did not let them finish the conversation. My mother flew out the house, her intuition told her everything and the child she carried for nine months was not okay. I ran because I could feel my brother slipping away from this invisible grip we shared and I wanted to save him. My father was at work that day, on a ladder fixing a roof when he received the call from my mother. For the first time my loud father was mute. My brother Darnell was now in the hand of doctors who would not allow me to see my own flesh and blood. They told my parents that he had internal bleeding in his brain and had to be transferred to a different hospital that would be able to handle the situation better. I could not understand what was happening. I thought he was fine? They said he had broken no bones. I wanted this sick joke to be over, why couldn’t he come with me? Why didn’t my parents bring me with them? Why was I left at home alone? Where was my brother? *** Days had passed and the situation grew worse. My brother’s brain was going through trauma and began to swell. I did not know, if it was the healing process or the brain upset with him for the accident. Whatever it was, he had no choice but to suffer. My brother’s lifeless body laid there in induced coma, while the brain Surgeon and my parents were at war over my brother. The brain surgeon wanted to operate on my brother to save his life, and my parents were frightened about the thought of their son’s skull being opened up. There were so many risk factors involved. Nature wanted him to die but no one wanted to allow that to happen. That was such a gloomy day and I’ll never forget it. The house was dark and quiet, yet the void was loud. My parents had come home from the hospital to change clothes but had fallen asleep. I was laying down in my bed crying uncontrollably while looking at baby pictures of my brother and I. The tears came down at rapid pace as if my eyes were overflowed. I had thought that I was never going to stop crying. I grew up in church my entire life but I had not known how to use my faith, because I was never thought I was in need of it. While I was weeping I heard God. I’ve never heard his voice before that day but I certain it was not mine. I heard a voice say to me “you don’t have to cry anymore, everything is going to be okay” That day was the day my tears dried up. I received a consolation my parents did not receive as yet because their faith needed to be put to the test. After a painful decision, my parents decided to allow the Surgeon to operate on my brother’s brain. This would be the longest five hours of my life. No one said a word to each other in the waiting room; the silence was tangible. After the surgery, we all walked together to the ICU room where they held my brother. I was taken to my brother, but it was not him. They showed me the wrong person, my brother did not have a head the size of a huge balloon, his eyes were not crossed and his head was not bald. Who was this person, portraying to be my brother? It was in fact my brother and those were the effects of his brain surgery. I ran out of the ICU room and never went back in there again. I was so confused, I thought God had promised me that everything was going to be okay? The pressure in my brother’s brain refused to go down and the doctors began to lose hope. We were surrounded by loved ones who had faith and hope and my parents began to pray. They prayed hard, they knew the God that they were praying to, they were confident in his abilities.
Minutes later, the pressure went down to normal. *** Weeks had passed and the swelling had gone down, but he was still lifeless. The doctors did not know what he was going to be like, when he woke up. They said, he may be in a vegetative state, if he had survived at all. All the kids in the ICU room which my brother stayed in, had died. I had never seen death so confident in my entire life. I was so angry at life and I felt like going to war, but how could I fight the air? Fighting God was never apart of my conquest but, I thought he said that my brother would be okay? I just could not understand. The doctors were so negative about my brother’s progress, but my parents paid them no mind at all. My parents knew the power of prayer, to the only God who could answer them. So my parents prayed. Their prayer was so strong and so sure. It was evident that my parents had a relationship with God, they knew him. The events that took place went international and sent shocked waves through our various communities, that we were involved in and also with people who did not even know my family at all. *** My brother’s health, started to improve. As things were slowly progressing, I had faced lonely nights. My parents were never home, and my house which was once filled with noise, laughter, and anger had a void that could not be occupied. There was no one in my house, except for me and my older sibling, my eldest brother Darren. He was sixteen at the time and we said nothing to each other. He never expressed his pain, and I was too young to comprehend it. My life had stopped, but I was forced to go on with something, that was not moving. I could not enjoy anything, because my brother was not there to share it with me. I refused to go to the hospital because I was scared of what could go wrong, the day that I would finally decide to show up. It had such an awful stench. Death had never been so close. *** My brother started to respond, his eyes were open but he did not speak, all he did was blink and stared into space. I wondered what he was looking at and what he was feeling, I wondered if he even knew I was there. My dad read him a bed time story every night; that image will never leave my brain. It would be another few weeks before he said anything. Before my brother spoke, he wrote the word “JETS” on a piece of paper that was given to him by one of the nurses, it was his favorite football team. The doctors were astounded, for they were expecting him to be helpless but I knew my brother was a fighter and I knew the God we prayed to, he was a healer. He was finally taken out of the ICU room and put in a recovery room. I was overjoyed not to see tubes all over his body and most importantly, I was able to talk to him. His voice was very course from not speaking for a month, it was comical to me. The first thing I asked him, was what he was getting me for my birthday, which was coming up. His response was extremely rude, and that’s how I knew he was back. That was our form of communication. God was giving me my brother back, after fate tried to take him away.
Then he regressed. He did not regress medically in the way that doctors would describe it, but he regressed as the brother I knew. He started to change and I felt like I did not know him anymore. The part of the brain that was damaged revealed parts of my brother’s personality which I had never been familiar with. I knew him to be very quiet but after the surgery he spoke a lot, laughed a lot, and repeated himself all the time. His short term memory was affected and I could not adjust. I would get irritated, sad, and upset at the same time because I did not want him to suffer that way. I could not imagine how annoying it would be to not remember something, I’ve just said ten seconds ago. He felt like a stranger; I just wanted my brother back. The road to recovery was long and hard and painful to watch. My brother had to learn how to walk all over again, it was strange to see him as an infant. I never knew him that way. We all had to adjust to his healing process and it became uncomfortable at times. I still wanted to go at war with life, for doing this to my brother who was such a gentle soul. I still did not understand what lesson, needed to be learned but I became very aware of life and its fragility after that day. *** Almost a year had pass and the new school year was underway. It would be my first year in high school and my brother Darnell would have to repeat it all over again with me. That was the weirdest feeling because I was always used to him being in a higher grade than me. I was always the baby sister but now I had to become his big sister. We took on new roles and it was uneasy for the both of us. He was fighting to be normal again but things just were not normal. The kids at school were mean, they did not care what had happened to him and found him to be annoying because he repeated himself. I felt so helpless; I tried to fight anyone who was heartless towards my brother, while finding myself resenting him. This is not how I wanted our life to be. At fourteen years old, I became selfish. I stopped speaking to him at school. I just did not know how to handle it. The guilt is still heavy to this day. I watched from afar how my brother struggled with social life in school and also how he succeeded academically. His first year back he was on the honor roll every semester. This took everyone by surprise. His damaged brain was more than functional; it was reborn.
Years and months had passed and I still could not recognize him, but I had accepted who was now and adapted to the change. This made life easier for me because I stopped expecting for something that was probably never going to happen. I knew the old Darnell was still in there somewhere but I did not know if he was ever going to come out. He did. It was our final year of high school, when I noticed that my brother did not repeat himself as much and when he did, it was subtle. Heartbreak from various girls had caused him to be withdrawn again but also blunt. He fought for independence from my parents who treated him as if he was a toddler. He started to develop his own personal style and was slowly coming into his own. It seemed as though his old personality before his accident and his new personality after, fused together something unique. He did not let the fear from my parents or his past stop him from accomplishing all that an eighteen year old, felt the need to accomplish. He went off to college, he got his license and gained his freedom. To this day, I will never understand the purpose of my brother’s accident and the lesson that needed to be taught. I still struggle with all that he had to endure and how my life did not make any sense. I wish I could’ve been a better sister and I’m trying to make up for it now. I felt the loss of my childhood that day and looking back I try to blur out that entire timeline. Going back to the time and replaying events, meant that I would have to accept how life would never be the same. It’s still very hard to accept. My brother’s determination to live was incomparable and that made life seem normal again.