Yesterday we remembered the two years of my younger brother’s passing, a date that only serves as a rite of passage, as he defiantly continues being present, not only in videos and photos, but as present as ever in our hearts.
It is deeply sad to lose a beloved one and to accept never to see him again. Death remains being one of the most strenuous experiences of the human condition that we are never prepared for, despite knowingly being mortals.
We don’t talk about it and we also react in strange ways when we hear of someone having a life threatening disease. It is uncomfortable, uneasy; most of us don’t know how to behave and what to say to the people affected by the disease.
During the four years while my brother fought cancer, there were also a cousin, and two good friends fighting the same battle for life. Not only is hard to mentally process that one received a “medical notice period” for life, as it becomes limited and calculated via statistics, it is even harder to get a cruel reminder of one’s mortality.
After accepting their grueling reality, their minds turn on a powerful will to live and resilience by constantly defying the weaknesses of their physical conditions, and letting all medical science’ statistics down. Some miracle recoveries do happen and fuel more energy for them to keep fighting. Sometimes one wins, sometimes one loses, but the flame of life is always burning.
Being present during their chemo therapies, surgery, or simply being there, throughout the journey, has been the most transforming experience of my entire life. I put my beliefs, values, experiences and my whole life into a new perspective. I experienced love and human connection in a deeper and intense way. I learnt to demystify cancer and death. They need to look at our eyes and feel alive not half-dead. They need to see power not impotence. They need not our pity nor suffering but our love.
It is difficult to describe love. You know what it feels like when you care, when you form a true, real, human connection with a person you helped at the street, with a friend, your family, your beloved one. It feels good; it brings happiness, heals and transforms.
Love is present when we empathize with what other people feel. It is there when we share the same experiences, being it good or bad, and finally see people as they are, with their uniqueness and diversity, and in turn learn more about us as well. We connect and understand each other’s equal human condition. We escape from individualistic cocoons and taste the realm of being intrinsically and collectively human.
Unfortunately, we are still living in an era of exuberant individualism and rationality, where any excuse is used to explain actions that go against old and tried fairness, honesty, and equality. The centerpiece of reasoning keeps being: what is in it for me, despite you! It is widely accepted to be insensitive, to not care, to not connect.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired a civil rights movement using nonviolent civil disobedience, leading India to independence. Nelson Mandela freed South Africa from apartheid, not punishing but forgiving the very perpetrators of their fate. These two men stand out in human history, as individuals making the best of their capacity to empathize, connect and love unconditionally, as their only weapon to build a common purpose and forge actions that benefited not one but the collectivity.
I may complain and despair about my daily struggles, or the state of affairs in this chaotic world, feeling at times impotent to solve all issues. We all have our particular wins and losses but most often maximize our challenges.
I try to get out of my head, learn from other people’s struggles and to look at my issues from others’ lenses and perspectives, as it may reveal many mutual possibilities and opportunities. I for one, in spite of the deepest sorrow brought about by the loss of my beloved ones, feel grateful for having experienced their struggle, for it brought me back to the right course, and it re-calibrated my humanity. I still have faith on mankind uniting for a common purpose.
The day after my brother’s passing, my 4-year-old niece asked me if he had died. When I tearfully said yes, she tenderly told me not to be sad, as he was in heaven and I could always see him, whenever I would look at the sky, for he became an angel with golden wings, flying above the clouds.
Whenever I look at the sky, I remember him and his smile. It reminds me on staying the course, staying human.