One of the biggest regrets of my life was not being able to attend my brother’s funeral. Two weeks before I was to start my life over in the Philippines, he died in his sleep. All the money I had was in a non-refundable plane ticket, tucked in a pocket of my laptop bag.
I’d talked to Lee not long before when he told me he had chatted with my fiancée in the Philippines. He told me how happy he was that I was doing something to change my circumstances. He’d seen me go through hell. He saw the bloody cuts on my arms when he visited.
He knew if I didn’t change my life I wouldn’t live very long.
I didn’t have much support in my life. Even though Lee and I rarely talked, I knew I could always count on him. That meant the world to me, and I loved him.
He was more than a brother; he was a friend.
He was going through his own shit. Lee had an undiagnosed mental illness. He never talked about it much, but I knew he was suffering. Lee was a mentally strong man. He took care of his wife and kids even though he was often depressed.
I wish I could have been half as strong as he was.
He had several businesses he built from nothing. Somehow, even though he was sick, he still managed to become successful. I know it was because he was a genius. I’ve seen some savant-level shit he pulled off and it was amazing. I’ve always been somewhat smart, but Lee was something else.
He was in the prime of his life, but he was heavy, and he struggled with his physical health as well. His blood pressure wasn’t good, but he thought more of others. I don’t think he worried about himself much.
He died from mixing medication. I convinced myself for a time that he took his own life but his children assured me that he didn’t. It gives me some solace.
When he died, I died a little too. My dad called me the next morning and told me. I could tell he’d been crying. I lost it for about 15 minutes. I screamed and beat my fists against the wall. But I knew my mom and dad needed me, so I pulled myself together.
I cried all day with my extended family, and we all exchanged messages on the phone and Facebook. His kids, Jaymie, David, Keifer, Julianne, and Brittney are all wonderful people. But I can’t help feel that it’s not only the distance that keeps us from being as close as we could.
I hope they aren’t upset because I couldn’t come to their dad’s funeral. They’ve always treated me with love and respect, so it’s probably only me that is still sad about it.
It broke my heart that I didn’t have the money to travel to Utah. My parents couldn’t go either. We all sat at home and cried. We spent a long time trying to figure out a way to get the money to go. I’d already sold everything I owned in preparation for my trip to the Philippines. I didn’t have any credit cards and no savings.
I was heartbroken because, in life, Lee was always there for me.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to his family, and it wasn’t fair to me. I never got to say goodbye. I didn’t get to touch his casket one last time.
One day, when I am visiting the States, I am going to travel to Utah and sit by his grave. I’m going to talk to him like I should have back then. Until then, I think of him every day.
I wonder what kind of man he would have been? I wonder how happy he would be that I turned my life around? Would he be happy for my happiness?
I know he would have because that is the kind of man he was.
I hope that if he had lived, he would have enjoyed better health. I knew he would always be successful, but I hope he would have been happy. I know he felt happiness throughout his life.
I almost didn’t go to the Philippines. But I thought back on the times we talked about it and I knew if he was alive, he would have never wanted me to delay my trip. He was happy for me. He knew as I did that it was the start of a new life for me.
As I was getting the pictures together for this story, I broke down and cried for him for the first time in a while. I didn’t know if I could manage to write his story. I still have unresolved feelings about his death, and I may always have them.
Do we ever stop missing the people we love?
I doubt it.