I Got A Visit from My Brother

I have slight confession to make. Yes, it is true I have had the heart of a traveler since I first left the comfort of my home at 19 to study in Florence, Italy- but another reason exists as well.

My brother and I were both entering our senior year of college, him Sacramento State University and I, San Francisco State University. We decided that after we graduate, we would travel together. This meant the world to me, getting to travel with someone I love so dearly and to do it as a reward  for all of our hard work . He had always wanted to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, a trip I did not mind retaking.

We never took that trip.

My first day of my senior year, I went to school excited for my final year, like any senior did. I was in my last class when I got numerous calls from my sister and mother telling me to get home immediately and they will tell me when I got there. I broke down, screaming at them to tell me what it was that happened, scared as hell what awaited at home for me.

I cried. I prayed. I somehow knew, yet not of which member.

I got home and was told my brother passed away. He was playing basketball late at night at school with a friend and his heart had stopped. By the time he reached the hospital he was already gone…

I fell to my knees, crying harder than I have ever cried, screaming ‘why’. Unable to accept this reality, I began calling him profusely, texting and calling interchangeably until his sister from his mother’s side answered and confirmed my worst nightmare.

My life fell apart that night. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even talk. I had no energy. I just laid there, wondering how this happened to the most humble and kindest soul I knew.

To make the situation worse, I had 18 units of classes to tend to. There was no room to grieve-no chance to drop out. I asked myself what would my brother do? He would Ace every single course. If he can’t graduate, then I better get my butt out of bed and work harder than I ever have to earn the A’s he would have gotten in his courses. So I forced myself. I bit back my grievances in order to do exactly what he would want. I  aced my courses, all but one B+ both semesters. I graduated with honors. I even got a passing score on my grad school entry exams all the while working full time.

But after graduating, I crashed again. I let my grievance finally take its course. I forced myself to subside those feelings for an entire year in order to handle what needed to be taken care of-graduating with honors for us both. I returned to my bed. I let my grievance hit me in waves, some days getting out of bed, some days laying there.

I was lost. My brother was gone. He never got to leave the country or take the trips he had wanted most- both to India and also to Paris. He spent his days working his hardest, where was his joy? He loved everyone around him but he also took care of everyone emotionally. He left this world without seeing what beauty the world holds.

That very realization gave me all the strength I needed to detour away from the typical American way of living a life to work, work and more work. It’s because of my brother I am in Vietnam, laying in my hostel bed writing all of this. He left me a gift, a gift of freedom. The best gift I could ever ask. I chase my dreams and my happiness instead of have my ideology of happiness and a well-lived life be tainted by societal norms.

Now to tell you just how my brother had visited me, not once, but twice in the past two days.

Yesterday I had gone canyoning. I abseiled from waterfalls up to 21 m, I jumped a 7m cliff into a green waterhole, floated down the river and hiked through the jungle to each destination. On one of the hikes, the two guys behind me started singing “When I See You Again”, the song written for Paul Walker from Fast in the Furious when he had passed away. I got chills hearing them sing it. My brother had passed away the same time as Paul Walker and so that song was the song that I played on repeat over and over after he passed.

Here I was, in the middle of the jungle and the two men directly behind me started to sing the very song that was dedicated to my brother. At first, I was saddened thinking back to all the pain I felt losing him. But then, I thought about it. Of all the songs in the world, this is the one song they are singing. In that moment I knew, my brother was letting me know he was there with me. I looked up and smiled to let him know I got his message.

The next day, I was strolling along all alone, finding my way back from visiting a famous building referred to as the crazy house that basically looks like a scene taken out of Alice in Wonderland. I began singing the song I heard those guys singing the day before aloud to myself. When I stopped singing, I looked to my right and for the first time in all of Asia, saw my first Christian Church. Not taking this as just coincidence, I crossed the street and went inside.

I prayed.

I came out and knew just what my brother was telling me. He was telling me everything is going to be okay.

Sometimes traveling alone can be hard. You wonder if you are doing the right thing. You miss familiar faces. You spend time alone to overanalyze yourself. The times you don’t meet a group of people to hang out with you kind of let your mind wander into unwanted territories.

He was telling me everything is okay. That has been what I have needed all along on this trip. I truly have the most amazing guardian angel. He puts my heart at ease even when I can’t have his physical presence. I truly feel like the most blessed individual.

To my brother: I love you. With you as my  guardian angel I know I will always be okay because when life gets crazy I think of you and everything makes sense once more.

Soar high, my brother.



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