My Brothers

I have worked in the medical field for a long time. My work has allowed me to see some of the most horrific injuries one could imagine. I've seen death, and people about to die.
The feelings I felt at the time affected me physically and mentally.

To protect myself, I detached myself psychologically from the situation. I built a wall around myself. I did not want the terrible things I saw to affect me. It helped me perform my job without the extra stress brought on by personal feelings. It was effective.

It was during this time that my younger brother contracted HIV. Back in the 80s, there was virtually no treatment for HIV. The disease was so new, there was no coordinated effort by our government to find a cure. Some people say, President Reagan and our government ignored the problem.

AZT was brand new, and the only medication to treat HIV.  AZT was available if you had a lot of money or a connection. Otherwise, HIV was an automatic death sentence.

Ricky was my younger brother, he looked a lot like me. With no health insurance, Ricky died rather quickly in terms of diagnoses to death. My older brother Allen was there with him to the end. I am thankful hospice was there to help alleviate his suffering. 

At the time, even with all my experience with death and dying I was confused.  Ricky's illness took me by complete surprise, and I am not even sure I understood what was happening.

To this day I feel some remorse at my inability to help Ricky more than I did.  I did not understand the disease process or treatment options or ways to alleviate his pain and suffering.  I wish I could of been there for him more than I was.

A year later, my older brother Allen was diagnosed with HIV. The nightmare began again. This time I was a little more prepared.  Allen was brave and a fighter.  He did not give up until the very end.  Allen battled until he could not fight any more.

I took care of my Allen during his last days. It broke my heart when he told me he was afraid to die. I told him it was O.K. to be afraid.  Even though I was afraid, and felt like crying, I tried to sooth him.  When Allen finally passed, I almost felt relief that his suffering was over.

I had his belongings in my garage for 2 years before I could even open the boxes. Afraid of the feelings each box would bring. The wall I built to protect myself crumbled.

A year after Allen passed, I received a phone call at 4 a.m., it was the county morgue. My older brother Douglas had overdosed on cocaine and died. They were looking for next of kin. I did not believe it and hung up. I waited 20 minutes and called back. It was real and true, and caught me by total surprise and left me shocked.

My three dear brothers all died within 4 years. Before he passed, Allen and I went to a cemetery and bought a family plot, under a big oak tree, a very beautiful place in front of a pond with a fountain. My brothers are laid to rest there. Where one day, I will be laid to rest next to them.

It is not a natural progression for your brothers to die in the prime of life. You expect your grandparents, your parents. Not your siblings.

I wish I had some wise advice I could impart, or some new insight on death and dying. I only have my experience that life is fragile and unpredictable. Even if you think you are prepared for a loved ones death, when it happens, you will be affected in ways you never thought you would.

If I could turn back time, I would tell my brothers I loved them more often, and try and demonstrate it as well.

I still remember their voices, and can picture their faces. I do feel their presence. The memories of our childhoods, still resonate. The jokes we played, the teasing. The laughing and the tears, the hardships, the songs we sang, the fights we had.  Memories we shared, and memories that will never die.

It makes me sad that I have lost my brothers, but I feel happy and fortunate to of had them in my life for a short time.
Love is stronger than death, Allen, Richard and Doug, they will always be alive inside of me.

Amantcul Amantcul
56-60, M
Jan 11, 2013