A Letter for My Brother

“Flowers for the dead
At times I still hear your voice in my head
And I wish that you were here instead
And all our precious memories I’ll never forget”- Cuban Link

Grief is a process of a lifetime.

Eight years has gone by since I got the phone call that you had been shot nine times. It was the first time Death entered my life and I can’t remember a time when I prayed as much as I did as we waited to see if you would survive. Thinking back at it, I was naïve to think that someone could survive so many wounds, especially when the bullet pierced through your head, but still I leaned on my faith.

A few days later they would pull the plug. It was surreal to me, to think that the last summer I spent in Buffalo would be the last time I’d see you alive. I was thankful for all the laughter, lessons learned, and moments I’ll never be able to repeat. You were (are) my favorite brother—you took care of me and taught me that despite our father not being a father to us, we could be a better man than him. You were determined to be a better father to your own son. But life did not unfold the way you and I hoped it would for you. We all make difficult choices in life in order to provide, to survive, to make it out here—sometimes we are only making it until someone else decides to play the role of the Creator and cut our life short.

During a time when senseless gun violence seems to be a daily occurrence, I wanted to remind anyone who may be grieving that it is not fair that we need to be grieving at all. We shouldn’t have to bury the young men in our lives. My brother had just turned 22-years-old in November and just a couple of months later, I was watching him lay in a casket. I sometimes think about what life might have been like if you were still alive. I know you would have been proud of me and all that I’ve accomplished, you were always supporting my work as a young writer. You never made fun of me for writing poetry, you thought it was great that I did well in school. You would tell me to keep up the good work and in the years since your passing, I tried to keep up the good work. I know that I was given access in areas that were made unavailable to you, I know that I have been privileged in my life and I want you to know that I don’t take that for granted.

This time in January is always a difficult one for me because I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with grief. I still can’t bring myself to go back to Buffalo to visit family. Whenever I muster the courage to do so, I freeze up. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to face the reality that you are no longer there. That the day I stood in the cemetery and threw that red rose into the pit as they lowered your casket, as my knees once again gave out, was not some horrible nightmare that I’m still trying to wake up from.

One day I will need to face my fears and visit the family, to see your son again and witness the young boy he has grown up to become. He looks so much like you and when the time is right, I will be sure to share with him that your biggest hope was that you could be a better father. I know how much that meant to you—your son was one of your greatest accomplishments. Through him, a piece of you still remains on this earth.

Thank you Pupi for those nights you’d visit me, sitting on the corner of my bed as I would cry during my sleep. Thank you for having my back even in the after life. Thank you for making me realize I could never take my life for granted. Thank you for inspiring me to follow my dreams because I did not want to risk dying with these dreams still inside of me and not realized.

After your passing I couldn’t find the courage to write but a year after your death I wrote this poem in your honor and I want to dedicate this poem to everyone who has lost someone recently:

In the Distance: In Memory Of…
I will always hold you near
No matter how far away
Through the pain and the tears
Our memories will never go astray
It’s the distance one fears
Knowing you’re so far away
In the distance I’ll see your face
And that glowing light of grace
Just knowing you’re in a better place
Makes the distance fade away