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(prefacing to say that I can’t bear to read this out loud right now. I am sorry)
September 5th 2016
Dana was declared brain dead on September 4th, and this is why September 4th was the date noted on his death certificate, not September 5th. We did not know this at the time though, or rather, I did not know this at the time. Maybe others in my family did though.
On the later part of September 4th and the early morning of September 5th, we were talking about logistics.
Who would watch the kids so we could all be with Dana? My husband had gone back home, so I was so grateful when Ayana, Jrin-Long’s wife, volunteered.
Dana, being a Baha’i, would need to follow Baha’i burial practice with regard to his body.
Do you know how hard it is to say, “his body”?
How hard to plan for his release of life.
So hard, and so necessary.
Death, like birth, is full of busy-work, it has needs and processes. The problem in the case of Dana, was that we were so blindsided by it that we were in no way even remotely prepared to deal with the busy-work of death. We were in no way prepared to think of “his body” when all along this had been something that he was just temporarily in. How do you go from that point of him taking a break (through coma) to thinking of the silk we’d need to wrap him in, to figuring out where to get a burial ring.
Dana’s daughters, Yu Han and Yu Rou, really got those together, having reached out the day before and gotten All The Things lined up and ready. Impossible that they did it, impossible that this was happening, impossible.
We were told how the removal of life support happens: the medical professional would remove his breathing tubes. The lines many IV lines and tubes were out. They said that without the life support, a heart could beat for up to 10 minutes on its own.
Mom was at Dana’s head, cradling his head, I was at his heart, my hand on it, Dana’s children and their mother were gathered by his legs, his feet and his second wife Toni was standing off to the side. We had a playlist developed on Yu Han’s phone, and as the music started to play, the medical professional removed Dana’s breathing tubes. The music continued to play, our hands were on Dana, our love and energy thick in the air, our tears running freely.
There were a few songs, but this is the one that I will always associate with Dana’s release of life:
My mom said that Dana’s heart beat for the full 10 minutes. Of course, that didn’t surprise me, nor, to be honest, would I have been surprised in that period after his breathing apparatus had been removed, if he had woken up. It wasn’t that I expected it at that point, but there was still a part of me that was hoping that the miracle would happen.
It didn’t happen though. His breath left, his heart stopped, and we cradled him with all the love we collectively had. Eventually, we brought out the rose water. We bathed his face, his limbs, his chest. Without the bandages on his legs, I saw the full extent of how torn his body really was. Who could have survived that? Who?! His leg was almost completely torn open, as was his chest. I got the sense that we had been asking the impossible of Dana all along.
We bathed him. Dana’s face was set in an expression of beautiful repose, reminding me of his expression in a photo that I took of him when he was 18
Only this time, his expression was so much deeper. He was with God.
After we bathed him, we wrapped him in the silk. With my grandparents passing away only 6 months before Dana, we had a little practice in how to wrap the silk, but it was still difficult, figuring out the way the cloth should wrap, even as our tears literally blinded us and our own breaths caught in the sobs that choked us.
I wrote this post:
On Monday, September 5th, my brother was released from this world.
All of us were gathered around him: his 4 children, both of the women that he married in the course of his 44 years, my mother and myself. We held him in our love, with our hands, around our hearts.
We sang. We prayed. We bathed his beloved body in rose water as is the Baha’i custom, and we wrapped him in the silk shroud.
Dana, my beautiful, beloved, big brother left this life.
The boy who jumped from waterfalls, who rolled around hills, who swung rattlesnakes by their tail.
The boy who felt closer to me than my own life breath as I was a baby, the one who held my hand and pushed me down the mountain in the big wheel.
Who twirled with me under the old oak trees.
The kid who climbed coconut trees like he walked on land, who lived off of mangos in the summer with me as he built our river-floating bamboo rafts.
Who was my buddy as we combed the reefs, played hide and seek in the bush, romped the streets on our bikes.
My best friend.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.