Live For Them
Life is so precious. It shows us the highs and the lows. It gives us love and light, grief and darkness. In the end, life stops when death comes, so we have no say. We can all strive to be fit and healthy, begging years to not take us, but they do. Life is struck in its tracks by death. She delights in the pain and sorrow of those still living, while their loved one is buried or burned. But no one thinks about death when they try to enjoy life, so why even think about it now? I had the same mindset once. Death was so far from my life there was no point in thinking about her, but she came for someone dear to me.
I was thirteen when my brother didn’t come home. My parents had taken him to the doctor, and he was instantly rushed to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and I, along with my other two sisters, was given the devastating news that our baby brother, Joshua, had Leukemia. My world was upended in a few short hours. I went to school that day numb and dazed. I had learned about leukemia the year before, but never imagined it would happen to me. The day was a mix of confusion and fear it was all a horrible nightmare I was yet to wake up from. Little did I know that a year later the nightmare would become much worse.
Life became a mess my family attempted to manage. My parents would switch off nights at the hospital while neighbors, church members, and friends helped provide food and the necessities my family needed. I became used to seeing my friend’s mom at soccer more than my own. My parents missed many of my soccer games and I would come home to only one parent and three siblings, not two parents and four siblings. Life was almost too much at times, but we survived and kept going.
Weeks turned into months and Joshua wouldn’t get better. He was allowed to come home for a few weekends if his white blood cell count was low enough. Most of the time, us siblings would visit Joshua in his second home. We’d play hide and seek in his room and he’s hide behind a recliner while connected to his fluids pole. We made due with what we had in our lives, but I longed for what my family had before. My vibrant, red-headed brother wasn’t meant for a confined life, he was meant for the sun and a house to run around in. But that was not the fate life planned for him.
Now, during this time I began to question everything. My family is religious, and I believed that God wouldn’t punish those who followed him and believed in him. I felt like my family was being punished and I didn’t know why. I was angry and scared my brother would leave us all and die. I didn’t see the blessing to this curse until I became deeply involved in Joshua’s attempt to beat cancer.
It was me. Before they even came in to take blood, I knew. I knew it would be me and that scared me more than not knowing. True to my feeling, I was told I would donate bone marrow within the month. A barrage of visits and questions bombarded me as my time was consumed by the hospital. I would leave school early and not go to soccer, instead going to the hospital to visit my personal doctor and see Joshua.
The day I faced my fear I truly understood why my brother was the one to be diagnosed. Through his trial I was able to overcome what seemed impossible and do something amazing. We not only had a sibling bond, but we had a blood bond. None of my other siblings had that so when he was ripped away from me again, I felt his loss like it was my own.
His white blood cell count slowly spiked and rose and finally a week before my freshman year, the doctors shook their heads and told my family to just take him home. To our dismay, there was nothing left to be done. We had prayed for so long and all we got was unanswered prayers and my brother’s bodily functions decreasing.
A week later, surrounded by our family, he died in my arms. I had watched every breath go in and out of his small body until none came in. His chest no longer rising was the final strike and my dam of emotion washed over me.
I threw myself on my bed, angry that he had finally left. I wasn’t angry at only the forces that allowed his life to pass on, I was angry at myself for not doing enough. My bone marrow hadn’t been enough, and he was truly gone.
My cousin entered into my room a few minutes later, hugging me and comforting me. She had lost her dad (my Uncle Brian) to colon cancer a few years prior so she understood. She rocked me back and forth, telling me that although he was gone, I could still live for him, enjoying every moment I could in life.
It took me months later to appreciate her words and to trust that there’s a plan for all of us. I know life is fleeting, but it also can’t be treated like it’ll last forever. Sometimes you have to take it by the horns and turn it where you want it to go. I learned life goes on and you have to continue on for those who couldn’t enjoy their life fully. Knowing what I know from his diagnosis and death drives me forward with a song in my heart and a vow to live everyday for Joshua.