It is hard to lose a sibling, especially at a relatively young age. Yolanda Reyna describes how she coped with the death of her brother Louis, an artist and writer who lived in Kansas City. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Yolanda “Yolie” Reyna
A knife in my heart, shock, grief, a range of emotions. My heart had been ripped out! I felt withered, then shock became my best friend, not leaving my side. It’s amazing what a phone call can do to you. The phone call that would change me forever was the phone call of the death of my younger brother Louie.
Inherently, I did not know what to expect with planning a funeral and having never flown before because I had always been fearful of flying. Therefore, I wasn’t sure about going to Kansas City. Nevertheless, I agreed to go with my eldest brother Jimmy.
I had no idea what to expect. Not knowing what Louie died of and with so many thoughts racing through my mind, I came to the conclusion that no matter how much I was grieving, I had to put my emotions aside and get the energy to prepare myself for the inevitable.
We could not leave right away due to bad weather. Meanwhile, I had been in contact with the mortuary and getting feedback regarding my deceased brother. They informed me that by the time we would reach our destination, viewing would not be recommended due to deterioration. My heart sank after hearing that news.
Furthermore, I had never visited Louie in Kansas City. Knowing that he had always wanted me to visit sent chills up my spine. The conflict I was facing was having an intense impact on me. Still, I was faced with: Why didn’t I ever visit him? He was gone, and I have this enormous courage now? I had to battle these thoughts along the trip. I relied on my brother Jimmy for reassurance, guidance, and support.
Remarkably, the flight and trip to Kansas City would be one of the best experiences in my life. In a sense, it almost felt as if Louie spiritually took control. When we arrived in Kansas City, we couldn’t help but notice the beauty and serenity in the town.
When we parked in front of Louie’s residence, to our surprise, a light mist of snow had begun to fall, almost as if he were welcoming us there. I dreaded stepping foot into his home. My first reaction was to go to his room, where he had passed away.
As I stepped in the front entry, I noticed a living room filled with his art work on the walls. As I crept on the hard-wood floors and made my way through the narrow hallway, I trembled as I slowly walked.
When I made my way to his bedroom and stood there in his room, I immediately felt the tears streaming down my face. Jimmy was right by my side. We both embraced one another and wept. Yet, knowing Louie passed away in his sleep somehow gave me comfort. Seeing a Bible and a picture of my mother on his nightstand gave me great comfort.
Jimmy and I stayed in Kansas City for six days. I began searching for any documents that were needed for cremation. Realizing what had to be taken care gave me enormous strength.
I didn’t know if any will was ever put in place of my brother’s future. So I had to contact his employer for any kind of information on a possible life insurance policy. Thankfully, he did have one.
Finally, the day had come for his body to be cremated. That would be one of the most painful experiences in my life. The agony of sitting in the mortuary office and answering questions and imagining my brother in one of those rooms was eerie and sad.
That evening, Jimmy and I treated ourselves to a dinner in honor of his cremation. My emotions ran high and low. My eyes were greatly swollen, leaving the most burning sensation. Just when I thought I could not produce any more tears, they’d come streaming down again.
On the last night of our stay in our brother’s home, there was peace in our hearts, minds, and souls. Jimmy and I sat in the living room reminiscing of our time with our beloved brother Louie. We talked about the good times and how much he had accomplished in the fifty three years he had lived, and how much he had always made us laugh, the laughter would fill the room.
Hearing the news of the death of my brother Louis was incredibly hard on many levels: the grief, the fear of never having flown, but mainly the regret of never visiting him. Since then, I have this tremendous courage, force, and somewhat fearlessness. The truth is, I often hear my brother saying to me, “It’s OK, Sis, you’re here now.”