My Dear Maria, You were probably the most important person in my early childhood: My best friend as well as my big sister. My memories from that time are wonderful images of days at the beach, picnics and frog-hunting along the Delaware, wacky times at the playground as well as plenty of mischief right in the neighborhood of our home in Linden, NJ. With you I discovered many of the magical things that life has to offer. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be able to go to school with you in the mornings. Together we first encountered the feeling of otherness that we felt as immigrants in our interactions with other children but also felt the safety of the village of adults nearby that kept an eye on us: The older women in our building that watched us from their windows, the mothers of our many friends that would invite us into their homes, and local businesses that would let us browse: the clock shop, grocery stores and candy shops. I don’t know if I would have lived life as fully were it not for your endless curiosity and courage in exploring every interesting thing around us. By the way, I am still keeping all the secrets you asked me to about boy crushes and mischief.
Later, your life changed irrevocably: The long period of your suffering from an unknown disease followed by the traumatic brain surgery that altered the course of your life. The blindness coupled with the weight gain associated with your illnesses made you more homebound and made the normal day-to-day more difficult. The struggles with your disease was often too much for a child’s fragile emotions to endure. There were many difficult years for you trying to adjust to the new reality of how you were to live your life. I was always sympathetic to your suffering but I regret that I was not mature enough to ease your burden for you; I often wished I could.
Slowly you became more adjusted to your new life and we saw you blossom again with a newer sense of purpose. You were a great friend to many younger children in the neighborhood who’d loved to come to the house and spend time with you. You became a great friend to our grandmother, Luisa, and I am so grateful that you had each other for those 20+ years to be such happy companions as well as being very supportive of each other. I also think about how our extended family all loved you and were always so kind to you at the many family gatherings of birthdays and holidays. I am especially happy that you had the chance to be a loving auntie to Jack, Filip and Jason during those younger years when they were so excited to come visit and play with you. I am inspired by how you lived your life as such a gentle and loving person.
After living apart for so many years, I was looking forward to you living in Las Vegas near us so we could spend more time in each other’s lives. I am saddened that you have left us too soon. We will hold love for you in our hearts forever! Rest in eternal peace. –Baby Brother