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A Letter to a "Silent" Brother

Dear Patrick,

I was then an only child who had everything I could ever want. But even a pretty, spoiled and rich kid could get lonely once in a while so when Mom told me that she was pregnant, I was ecstatic. I imagined how wonderful you would be and how we'd always be together and how much you would look like me. So, when you were born, I looked at your tiny hands and feet and marveled at how beautiful you were. We took you home and I showed you proudly to my friends. They would touch you and sometimes pinch you, but you never reacted. When you were five months old, some things began to bother Mom. You seemed so unmoving and numb, and your cry sounded odd -- almost like a kitten's.

So we brought you to many doctors. The thirteenth doctor who looked at you quietly said you have the "cry du chat" (pronounced kree-do-sha) syndrome, 'cry of the cat' in French. When I asked what that meant, he looked at me with pity and softly said, "Your brother will never walk nor talk."

The doctor told us that it is a condition that afflicts one in 50,000 babies, rendering victims severely retarded. Mom was shocked and I was furious. I thought it was unfair. When we went home, Mom took you in her arms and cried. I looked at you and realized that word will get around that you're not normal. So to hold on to my popularity, I did the unthinkable ... I disowned you. Mom and Dad didn't know but I steeled myself not to love you as you grew.

Mom and Dad showered you with love and attention and that made me bitter. And as the years passed, that bitterness turned to anger, and then hate.

Mom never gave up on you. She knew she had to do it for your sake. Every time she put your toys down, you'd roll instead of crawl. I watched her heart break every time she took away your toys and strapped your tummy with foam so you couldn't roll. You'd struggle and you'd cry in that pitiful way, the cry of the kitten. But she still didn't give up. And then one day, you defied what all your doctors said -- you crawled. When Mom saw this, she knew that you would eventually walk. So when you were still crawling at age four, she'd put you on the grass with only your diapers on knowing that you hate the feel of the grass your skin. Then she'd leave you there. I would sometimes watch from the window and smile at your discomfort. You would crawl to the sidewalk and Mom would put you back. Again and again, Mom repeated this on the lawn.

Until one day, Mom saw you pull yourself up and toddle off the grass as fast as your little legs could carry you. Laughing and crying, she shouted for Dad and I to come. Dad hugged you crying openly. I watched from my bedroom window this heartbreaking scene. Over the years, Mom taught you to speak, read and write. From then on, I would sometimes see you walk outside, smell the flowers, marvel at the birds, or just smile at no one. I began to see the beauty of the world around me, the simplicity of life and the wonders of this world, through your eyes. It was then that I realized that you were my brother and no matter how much I tried to hate you, I couldn't, because I had grown to love you.

During the next few days, we again became acquainted with each other. I would buy you toys and give you all the love that a sister could ever give to her brother. And you would reward me by smiling and hugging me.

But I guess, you were never really meant for us. On your tenth birthday, you felt severe headaches. The doctor's diagnosis -- leukemia. Mom gasped and Dad held her, while I fought hard to keep my tears from falling. At that moment, I loved you all the more. I couldn't even bear to leave your side. Then the doctors told us that your only hope was to have a bonemarrow transplant. You became the subject of a nationwide donor search. When at last we found the right match, you were too sick, and the doctor reluctantly ruled out the operations. Since then, you underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

Even at the end, you continued to pursue life. Just a month before you died, you made me draw up a list of things you wanted to do when you got out of the hospital. Two days after the list was completed, you asked the doctors to send you home. There, we ate ice cream and cake, run across the grass, flew kites, went fishing, took pictures of one another and let the balloons fly.

I remember the last conversation that we had. You said that if you die, and if I need of help, I could send you a note to heaven by tying it on the string any a balloon and letting it fly. When you said this, Istarted crying. Then you hugged me. Then again, for the last time, you got sick.

That last night, you asked for water, a back rub, a cuddle. Finally, you went into seizure with tears streaming down your face. Later, at the hospital, you struggled to talk but the words wouldn't come. I know what you wanted to say. "I hear you," I whispered. And for the last time, I said, "I'll always love you and I will never forget you. Don't be afraid. You'll soon be with God in heaven."

Then, with my tears flowing freely, I watched the bravest boy I had ever known finally stop breathing. Dad, Mom and I cried until I felt as if there were no more tears left. Patrick was finally gone, leaving us behind.

From then on, you were my source of inspiration. You showed me how to love life and live life to the fullest. With your simplicity and honesty, you showed me a world full of love and caring. And you made me realize that the most important thing in this life is to continue loving without asking why or how and without setting any limit. Thank you, my little brother, for all these.

Your sister,
Sarah