Today would have been my brother’s 35th birthday….would have been. Sadly his life was cut short at the age of 7 weeks. 7 weeks. 48 days to be exact. Such a short period of time to have such an impact on the lives of so many. I was almost 4 years old. I was already the big sister to one sister when mom and dad brought home my baby brother. As an adult, I’ve tried to sort out what was real and what was made up in my 4 year old mind. A brother for 48 days and then he was gone.
I was told he was in heaven. And I wanted to go there to see him. After all, that’s how we saw Auntie, Granny, why couldn’t we visit him. I looked for him, I looked for ways to see him. I remember a cloud of sadness that covered my home life and never really dissipated. I knew that I should not bring him up because it made everyone uncomfortable, but it was my way of staying connected to him.
Grief has a way of haunting you. Even as a child, I knew my world was different. His death changed the course of a young family, even for those that weren’t even born yet. His death brought sadness and confusion to the family.
I think about all the bad theology people say, “God must have needed him more” or “He is an angel now.” How does that help people deal with their grief? It never helped me, it confused me. I often thought, “if God loved me, why did he destroy my family?” But I know now that God does not bring death. When his birthday and death anniversary arrive…I still ache and long to know him. I wonder what life would have been like to grow up with 2 little brothers and a sister. I wonder how different my life would have been if death hadn’t visited our family. Sometimes, it’s good to play the “what ifs”…but it sometimes makes the present more difficult. Through it all, there are 2 things I am sure of, God’s love has comforted me more times than I can count and one day I will see “my little brother” Manuel Reyes Jr. again.
I was 21 years old expecting my second child. Before we got pregnant we discussed the importance of being committed to the marriage and to our growing family. We needed stability in our lives. God has a way of bringing people in our lives to offer that support we were lacking in other areas. We befriended an older woman who did not have children but took us in like we were her own. She taught me how to shop for groceries, to prepare meals and many other basic skills that I had never learned. She would take me to the grocery store, I did not drive at the time, show me how to select items and helped me determine what was a good value for my money. These skills seem so simple but this is something I never learned growing up. I had finally grown up and became a wife. I thank God for Lydia and her grace with me.