On experiencing loss

Recently I had to write an essay on loss, for a school project (I’m going back to college). I figured I would post it here for all of you to read. Maybe you’ve experienced a loss. Maybe my story can help you somehow.

The first time I ever experienced a loss, was when I buried my brother, Johnny.  It was 22 years ago this month that I buried my brother-my hero. Johnny was a tall man, with dark brown hair and eyes, and always wore the hippest fashions. I looked up to him and his hip ways, and his tough exterior. I longed to be that way-tough on the outside, yet loving and kind when you get a little closer.

Because we had the same father, we shared a similar love for the Puerto Rican culture- the music and the dancing, and the love of good food. He would often put on Puerto Rican reggae on full blast when my parents were not around, and he was learning to speak Spanish, as it was not his first language.

We went to church that morning. It was a normal sort of Sunday, just like any other. My mother and I would go to church, and my father would go off to Home Depot, or something like that. We came home from church, and noticed we had a few messages on our answering machine (mind you, this was 22 years ago, before the world went digital). We heard the message on our machine. A detective called. He told us that Johnny was dead. At first, it almost seemed like a horrible nightmare. Like some sort of bad dream. But it was real. Johnny was gone, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Thoughts ran through my mind: I just saw him a week ago. He told me was proud of me. He told me couldn’t believe that I was already 16 years old. Wow, he said. You’re going to college, right Diana? He always pronounced my name to sound like Dionna. I ran to my room and cried with an anguish and pain I had never felt before. I had never felt such loss before. At the age of sixteen, I found myself at such an extreme loss. I lost my best friend, my role model, my hero. I screamed in agony over his death. I cried the tears of a little girl who felt lost and alone in the world, with parents who did not understand her.

That day was a horrible day, but it was brightened just a tad by friends and family who came to our home to visit us, and grant us their condolences. We had several members of our church, along with my uncles and aunts, cousins and nieces. But it hadn’t sunk it yet. Not really, not for me. I still felt like I’d see him eventually; like all of this was just a sort of bad dream that I had not yet awoken from. But it wasn’t.

A few days later, we attended the wake. Being superstitious, it is bad luck to wear all black, so I wore a black and white hound’s tooth suit. We went to the funeral home, and there he was lying there in the casket. I walked in the room, and almost fell over from the tears and the grief. I couldn’t believe it was him lying there. My big brother was gone. It all sunk in. I just wanted to be near him. I just wanted to go in the casket and go with him wherever he was. I didn’t want him dead. How dare he leave this world and transition to the otherworld whilst I was left here with two parents who did not understand my gobbledygook? How dare he?

The loss was almost unbearable. The funeral procession went on for miles. Johnny was a popular guy and everyone loved him. There were so many cars that we needed two police escorts to the cemetery where he was to be buried. The first moment that stuck out in my mind, was on our way to the limousine, to go to the cemetery. I saw my father and Johnny’s mother together, holding each other in grief, crying. That was the first time I had ever seen the two of them together, and while it was strange for me, it was the very picture of what loss is. The two parents, in grief, crying together over the death of the child they created together.

Growing up the way that I did, I didn’t know how to truly express my emotions, so I turned to my writing. I began writing poems about his death and how it was that I felt upon losing him. My poetry was the only thing that I had to truly express all that I felt inside.

I missed him. I wanted him with me, so I could hug him and tell him what I had accomplished. No more would he come in and talk to my father about his gripes with Sherry (his girlfriend). No more would he come in and ask me how school was and tell me to graduate and go to college. No more would I see him and tell him my birthday was coming up, or borrow his CDs or hide my cigarettes from him. No more. He was gone, and nothing I could do would ever bring him back.

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