Missing My Brother
My brother will be turning 42 tomorrow – if he would have been alive to witness his birthday. Oh, how he loved celebrating his birthdays. He would be ecstatic when there were family gatherings and parties, especially his own. When everyone was complete, including his long lost friends, he would wear his dashing smile all night. And food – too much food – was one of his weaknesses. He would eat breakfast three times – once in their house, another at my mom and dad’s, and third at mine. That’s why despite the drug addiction that he was into and the many problems he had, he never looked like someone who was broken inside.
“There’s no one answer about what to do when you miss someone—it really depends on the situation.” Gregory Kushnick, PsyD. said. Well, It has been almost four years since we lost him from a tragic death. We have learned to live with him only in our hearts but we do miss him terribly, especially when his birthday comes. What we do to remember him and the good memories we had with him is to do a get-together in our family cemetery, where we are also able to visit our other loved ones who passed away. I guess it has been our way of healing also, getting to celebrate his birthdays ‘with him.’ While we’re there, here’s what we usually do that perhaps some of you might get some ideas from.
Celebrating His Life
- We cook some of his favorites. He had a lot of favorites! Bean soup is one of them, with pork fat and sausages in tasty tomato sauce. We would ask him to stop eating too many bowls of that soup because everybody knew he would be grimacing in pain after – he had arthritis.
Pork stew was also often present on his birthdays. Esther, an old family friend, cooked it just the way he likes it – softened pork cubes with a thick brown sauce that’s a little sweet and spicy.
“Everyone reacts differently to grief, and how one reacts has a great deal to do with what happened and whether they’ve dealt with it appropriately.” Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC said. That is why we chose to do it differently. Cooking food for him made us feel like we made him happy wherever he is. I can only imagine him gazing down at us as we are enjoying his favorites.
- We hold a mass or say a prayer. This is tradition, one we have always done with the rest of our loved ones who died. The priest would say something about losing someone we love, and then we would reminisce on my brother’s life – his jolly and fun moments, how he loved his kids, and yes, the not so great chunks of his life. We do that because we sometimes forget that as much as we want him to still be alive, there are things that were out of our control, inevitable things that we couldn’t have known.
- We play his favorite games. My brother is the one person I knew who was very much connected with the child in him. He played video games, joked around with the family cook and driver, sang in the shower, those kinds of things. One of his past times was playing mahjong (a Chinese game) and cards. So that’s what we do in the cemetery. We are a big family so there was always enough people to play cards. These games were fun for most of us and they gave us the opportunity to make great memories with our family as well.
- We would include him in our talks. I had a lot of cousins who had kids like me and we would compare notes about parenting, how to remedy a rash, where to buy nice and cheap clothes. I’d say, “Brother, look at your niece. He’s so beautiful, right? Of course, she is. She has your genes.” I know he’s not there with us physically but I would feel him there, so I would talk to him, out loud and in my mind. I don’t know about the others but I felt closer to my brother that way. Annie Vaughn, MA, LMHC says, “The experience of losing someone we love is a process most everyone endures in a lifetime.”And we know.
Birthdays are truly a reminder for us every year and always of our loved ones who have left us. Amidst our busy lives, we are prompted to pause a while and spend a day memorializing the ones who went ahead of us. May we always remember them and keep them where they are alive forever – in our hearts.