Life has taught me a variety of lessons which have made me grow up sooner and have made me see certain life situations differently. The biggest change in my life has been the adjustment to the drug addiction and death of my older brother, Michael. The forced change of losing a loved one made me realize that life can be very short and that life is about enjoying the positive moments with your loved ones to a maximum. It also made me realize that it should take the negativity of any given situation and turn them into positive ones. Because of this, I learned how to help others by using my brother’s drug addiction and tragic ending as examples.
My older brother Michael was a drug addict for many years. Michael was only twenty years old when he was first introduced to drugs. After some intense questioning, my brother finally admitted to our family that it was his older brother from another father who introduced him to marijuana. By this point, my brother Michael had moved out and was living on his own which made us unaware of the problem as it began.
My parents and I had an idea he was using drugs because his behavior was erratic when he was around us and significant physical changes like losing drastic weight and skin problems started showing and after ten years, my brother finally confessed what was really happening. We were never able to confirm it until he spoke and confirmed it for us. We thought he was doing better at times because he went through joyous periods of having a steady live-in girlfriend, two beautiful children and even moving away from his old neighborhood. A neighborhood where he had been tempted by drugs but even with those changes he would still relapse easily. We later learned from him that it was my mother’s and his father’s divorce as a child that caused him to fall and turn to drugs as he was in desperate need of a stable loving family. He unfortunately didn’t get that love and instead was left to be raised by my grandmother in Panama. My mother remarried some time after the divorce and decided to move to the United States in hopes of having a better life with the promise of bringing my brother here afterwards.
When the time arrived for my mother and brother to reunite, immigration laws had changed so that it was extremely difficult to bring a minor over to the United States. As it turned out, he didn’t get to reunite with his mother for several years. My now older brother John and myself were born in the following years, we were all then reunited after some years had passed. When we found out Michael was on the wrong path we tried to do whatever we could to help him but he made it difficult to reach out to him. He would literally hide from us when we went looking for him and would ignore our phone calls. On two occasions we were able to persuade him to sign up for a drug rehabilitation where he attended for twenty-one and eight days, respectively, until he decided to leave treatment. Sometimes our influence was successful; however, relapsing was imminent.
After 13 years of doing drugs, my brother’s life came to an end when he was shot and murdered because of a drug dispute. Not a day goes by when something triggers the memory of him, however, it has been extremely difficult to help my mother get out of the depression that she went into after finding out that we no longer would be able to ever see, kiss, hug, or talk to him. Now my mother seems to be getting better and when we talk we always come to the same conclusion: that life can be short and that we should learn to love who and what we have in our lives. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
This unfortunate and painful change in my life has made me realize that any day one can cease to exist by God’s will and that we must live and enjoy life by certainly not worrying about the meaningless things life throws at you. I learned the hard way that many of the things I used to worry about were insignificant and pure nonsense. These things weren’t just nonsense to me but with time I have been learning that there are situations you cannot change and that you must either accept them or adjust to them and that’s what I have been trying my best to accomplish.
This new found perspective of life has made me implement new things such as traveling at least once a year. I have realized there is so much to do and see before I die. I want to be able to say that I did a lot in my life time and that I had the opportunity to see many of God’s creations all over the world. At the same time I want to be able to say that I achieved my goals of becoming a professional, a wife and a mother because what is life without the opportunity of passing on your legacy to the next generation? What is the point of doing everything you desire if you can’t enjoy it with your loved ones?
After Michael’s death I realized that I needed to protect and love those around me as if it was their or my last day. I have learned that God has given us one opportunity to love and cherish our loved ones as he has given us one life to live. My parents are my perfect example, and although I have always loved them it is now that I cherish and don’t take any moment spent with them for granted. They are my life, my support system and the upmost treasure that God has given me to protect now that I am getting older. I believe it is vital for my family as well as any family that each member take care of each other and just enjoy every moment spent together. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t regret the fact that my brother stayed alone in Panama under the care of our grandmother and was not with the rest us as the support system a family provides. For what it’s worth now, we know he would like us to remember him and the happy moments we did spend together. As for me, I am just thankful I got to spend many great positive moments with him; my brother was the one that taught me how to be disciplined in school, he was the one that encouraged me to follow my dreams, to always be motivated and above all to become a professional. I specifically remember one time he and I spoke, like it was yesterday. We were at his house and it was my birthday and he gave me my present and he said, “I know you’re going to like it because it’s your favorite but please do good in school, if you do, life will compensate you in volumes.” I remember him giving me this beautiful white shirt I had desperately been looking for. He was very educated and unfortunately missed only one year of college, he would have become an engineer. This is something drugs took away from him.
As we approach six years from his passing, I have slowly learned that I need to respectfully take his situation and in one way or another help others. I have already encountered two people that I have exposed my brother’s story to: my cousin Richard and friend Raymond. They both have used marijuana. I have tried to help them by reminding them that drugs won’t assure happiness nor a long life and although nothing in life guarantees it, drugs definitely don’t help in any way. I have definitely seen a great improvement in both my cousin and friend and hope they stay off drugs.
In conclusion, the tragic death of my brother has made me cherish the opportunities life has offered me. Because of him I feel I can work hard to be a better friend, daughter, sister and one day a good wife and mother. His untimely death taught me that we are not meant to stay here on earth. For the time we are here, we need to spend it wisely by dedicating ourselves to loving, helping and respecting one another because whatever you give is what you will receive. Although, his death was a tragic change in my life I can definitely see now how I’m growing and learning from it to be a better human being.