By Mohammad Samra
We all take life for granted, whether we like to admit it or not. When we close our eyes, put our bodies on auto-pilot and drift out of consciousness, we expect to open our eyes again. We never stop to think that maybe we’ll take our last breath while we’re sleeping, or that when we climb into bed at night we might never climb out. Maybe these thoughts do run through our heads. Maybe we do open our eyes in the morning and wonder “Am I going to die today?”
The thought of death is uncomfortable, whether it’s our own death or the death of someone close to us that we hypothetically play out in our mind from time to time. Nobody likes to think about death because either they feel like they haven’t lived yet, feel like they have a mark they need to leave on the world, or fear the damage death would do to those close to them. What if death doesn’t strike, but almost does? What impact does it have? What thoughts begin running through your mind?
The idea of death always had a home in the back of my mind. Losing someone I’m accustomed to seeing all the time is one of the few things I fear in life, and while I’ve become able to overcome most feelings this world has to offer, the feeling of grief is always something that strikes fear into my soul.
While I slept on Saturday, March 16th, 2019 at around 10:30 A.M. my one-year-old brother Musa stopped breathing. Screams of terror from both my parents filled the house and within minutes the ambulance arrived. By this point, Musa’s face had gone from normal, to bright blue, to black, and the fear of the inevitable became very real; Musa was going to die today. Almost as swiftly as he lost his breath, Musa miraculously regained his breath. His limp body suddenly became lively in my father’s arms as he gasped for air. Paramedics loaded Musa into the ambulance and took him to the hospital for observations.
I had slept through every heart-wrenching second. I woke up about thirty minutes after noon to a mostly empty house. My sister filled me in on the situation, but I didn’t have many details so I wasn’t as worried as everyone else. Both of my brothers often make visits to “Urgent Care” over ear infections so I thought this was routine.
The gravity of the situation hadn’t struck me until my dad came home. I sat with him as he gave me every excruciating detail. Once “he stopped breathing” left my dad’s lips and pierced the air between us, I felt my heart drop and begun stumbling up the stairs, desperately looking for a place to lay down. Everything had begun spinning and my thoughts began running at breakneck speeds. The following 18 hours were a blur. I sat alone on the slanted brownish roof just outside my window until the light of the rising sun drove away the embrace of the night sky. I fell asleep at around 9 A.M. after hours of overthinking.
At around noon that Sunday, I was awoken by a small, sweaty fist swinging at my face. I opened my eyes to find my lucky-to-be-alive brother Musa joined by the rest of my family, grinning as if nothing happened to him. He struggled to climb onto my body as he drizzled drool all over my cheek. Obviously, I didn’t mind. I then got up to take a shower, intentionally making my hair wetter than it usually is. I walked down the stairs, hair dripping and all, and found Musa rocking himself in his little blue-and-white colored rocking chair. I walked up to him and bowed my head down, allowing him to run his tiny fingers through the wild brown jungle that occupied my head. It is a tradition we’ve shared since he was three-months-old, and feeling his fingers coursing through my hair was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. I picked Musa up and held him close to me, feeling his heart beat against mine, hearing him take breaths he was struggling to take a day earlier. I thought about how different this day could’ve been. A matter of mere seconds gave me this opportunity to hold my brother tight.
I could’ve easily been forced to bury my brother that Sunday. I could’ve woken up to the daunting challenge of finding a way to keep it together while we gave my brother back to God, instead of waking up to his grinning face and tiny fist swinging inches from my face. I could’ve had to carry a side of his tiny coffin, see his lifeless face, and watch as they lowered him into the ground. I could’ve had to leave him at the cemetery as I stumbled to the car with my head in my hands. I could’ve had to dodge everyone trying to lend a helping hand, because moments like these require me to be alone and distant for a few weeks. I could’ve struggled to learn life without him, dedicate every single accomplishment to him, and visit his grave and have conversations with him, knowing I’d always be the only one talking. I could’ve pondered on the extended relationship I never got the chance to have with him. Everyone wishes they could hold a loved one they’ve lost, create more memories with them, continue life with them. I was fortunate to get that opportunity with someone I came within a few seconds of losing.
Still grasping my brother tight, I looked at him and managed a smile. His wide brown eyes sunk into mine, before laying his head down on my shoulder and wrapping his arms and legs as far as he could around me. I walked to the mirror near the front door and let the image mesmerize me. On the surface, I was carrying my brother, but it was really my brother carrying me.