I am one of three. I’m the little sister to two big brothers. I know this fact has shaped me more than I’ll ever realize. It’s why I wanted Lucas to have Talia. Having two big brothers made me me. Four years ago today, my brother Sam and I joined a club we never wanted to join, when we lost our big brother. Nobody wants to be in the lost sibling club. Frankly, it’s a super shitty club. Membership is something no one hopes for. But once you’re in it, you find that other members help you with the grief. Losing a sibling is losing a historian to your life’s story; a historian who helped write your history. Every life event afterward feels partially empty, a missing piece you can never fill in.
Hector was a wild one. He was an artist. He was stubborn. He had the best laugh I’d ever heard (until I heard my son’s). He was adventurous. He was brash. He was a terrible dancer. He danced like he didn’t care what others thought. He lived that way too.
Hector was supposed to teach me how to ride a bike. I remember the day crystal clear. He was frustrated that he was out with me, trying to get me to keep my balance, and he kept snapping at me. I put my feet down, got off the bike and said, “I don’t want to learn from you anymore!”
“Then who will teach you?”
“I don’t need to learn.”
And I never did. To this day, I’ve never learned to ride a bike. This is the best example of our relationship. We were both so stubborn, neither could see each other for who we were.
Life doesn’t have do overs. There is no time turner to take us back. No DeLorean available to help us correct our mistakes. If I had a do over, I’d be a better sister to Hector. Everyday, I pray for forgiveness for that.
The thing about mourning and grief is that no one prepares you for it. No one hands you a manual on how to process your loss. It hits you in waves. Every wave different. Every wave unexpected, even when you know you should expect them.
For us, Hector lives on in his son. When I look at my nephew I see Hector looking back at me. Sometimes it’s unnerving. Mostly, it’s comforting in a way I can’t articulate. When I saw him for the first time this summer, I stared at his long thin arms and hands and I had to choke back the knot in my throat before I could speak to him. Lucas also looks so much like his uncle, I’m floored. Talia acts so much like her uncle, I know Hector would laugh his goofy laugh, proud as can be when she rages her tiny fists at me. God works in mysterious ways indeed.
On the days that the waves pound me down, I play back my happiest memories of Hector. When we were teenagers, we’d stay up watching the The Late Show with David Letterman together during the summer. Hector would con me into making him midnight snacks. Usually sandwiches or a bowl of cereal. If I’d protest he’d smooth talk me into it by swearing I made whatever the snack was better than him. Then we’d sit and laugh and talk. To this day, they’re some of my favorite memories. This summer my nephew and I have been staying up, eating bowls of ice cream or chips watching The Office together. It started one evening while I rocked a fussy Talia and my nephew asked me to watch something funny with him. There are no words to express the joy these late nights with him give me.
Today my family and I will be at Disneyland. It’s a tradition born of pain and desperation. When Hector passed, my mom coped by sleeping. I think she hoped to dream of her son, I know I did. Seeing him in dreams is still my greatest comfort.
But as the days turned to weeks, I would strategize getting her out to keep her busy. I was successful because there was a lot to keep her busy with. I was getting married, wedding preparations were unfinished. Six months into my marriage found me pregnant, preparing for a baby kept her busy. And then, the one year anniversary was upon us. And I called Sam. I knew we needed to distract my mom and nephew, even if only for minutes at a time. I told Sam I was hoping he’d agree to Disneyland. I said we could cry while eating churros and Mickey shaped ice cream.
So that’s what we do now. Every July 11th we go to Disneyland and honor Hector by loving one another. My mom always asks to stay behind on a few rides, and we return to find her crying, but she wipes her tears, hugs us and marches on to the next ride. I can’t fathom her pain and admire her strength in trooping on with us.
Today we’re going to stand together against those waves. We’re going to frolic and laugh and cry and remember our wild one. Our brother. Our son. Our uncle. Our father. Our Hector.