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The most awkward question a person can ask me is a simple, common question you ask someone you don’t know. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” This can put the person I just met in an uncomfortable position because I have to say “yes, but he died toward the end of my 6th grade year, he had cerebral palsy.” It would feel disrespectful to not acknowledge that I had a brother, so even though it appears to many that I grew up like an only child- I didn’t.

He lived to be 14.

He couldn’t walk or talk. He had a feeding tube. He wasn’t supposed to live 3 days and he lived years beyond what was thought possible.

He had to wear diapers. Sometimes he would bite his fingers or accidently yank out his feeding tube because he didn’t have control over his reflexes. He could smile, laugh and cry and communicated joy and sadness in his eyes.

I will admit sometimes I have just answered, "I don’t", in an attempt not to create an awkward moment with someone I'm not going to see again.

Then a question will come up about my parents and I again create an uncomfortable moment by sharing that my mom died of breast cancer in 2004. The person immediately feels horrible for asking what should have been a lighthearted question and I again feel like “Debbie Downer” from SNL.

My mom detected her breast cancer late, partly out of her despising going to the doctors after years of trips to the hospital with my brother. Pneumonia was a common sickness for my brother and ultimately ended up taking his life.

My mom was not supposed to live until our wedding day but ended up dancing the night away at our reception.

She had two more relapses of cancer, a tumor on her spine the size of a golf ball and later cancer in her bones in her arm. She prayed that she would live to see her grandkids. She got to meet one of them. He was two years old when she died.

So how has this shaped me? I have experienced death at a young age and all the challenges of my younger years revolving around a special needs child, as they should have. My parents did the best they could to try to balance attention and trying to do things "normal families" do.

In my late twenties, I lost my mom; the person whose advice I now ironically was willing to receive, along with cooking instructions and all things domesticated that I had NO DESIRE to learn growing up.

When you loose someone you love, you grieve not only the person but also all of the moments in life that you will not get to experience with them.

I

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