Finding meaning and strength after loss. In memory of my brother – Chrisa Pashali, Greece by Life Treasure Collector
This story is about one of my brothers. I have 3 brothers and I am the youngest and only sister.
Me and my brothers were driving back home from our grandma. It was July 2001. My brother was in his friend’s car and I was driving behind them towards the city. Just before we enter the city we came across an accident involving 9 cars. The police stopped my brother’s car in the middle lane of the road for an alcohol test. There was a long distance between me and my brother’s car, and I couldn’t see what was happening. Suddenly a jeep passed me by, driving in high speed, ending up hitting my brother’s car. Everything happened in seconds.
When I got closer I saw the same car reversing and leaving. He wanted to get away. I saw my brother’s car crashed, left in pieces, I was in complete shock. I immediately went to the car feeling shock and despair, I couldn’t see any human movements in there. I went to the policeman to ask him what happened and he was laughing. The driver of the car got out of the vehicle, who was in shock too and covered in blood. I felt like the time stopped. I felt I couldn’t move, speak or do anything when I saw his face.
The policeman asked him with a smile on his face “Brother, did you crash with a van?”. My first thought was to call somebody to come over. The belt was cut hanging outside of the window, broken glasses and blood everywhere. And from what I could see the driver didn’t have any major injuries, so I assumed that the blood was coming from my brother. When I went to speak to my brother he didn’t reply, he wasn’t even moving. I realised that things were very serious. It wasn’t a joke. I couldn’t open his door. I called an ambulance and the police cause I couldn’t trust the policeman that was there.
I believed that time was crucial so I tried to open my brother’s door. It was impossible. I used the driver’s door to get into the car and pinched my brother on his arm to see if he would react. There was blood everywhere and broken glasses. I didn’t want to believe it was him. The ambulance came and they broke the door. They put him in the ambulance. I knew there was a first aid kit in the car I was driving and I took the gloves and bandages to collect everything belonging to my brother. I was acting without thinking I just wanted to do something for my brother as quick as possible.
The policeman told me to leave and that I shouldn’t be there, even though he knew that he was my brother. I kept telling him I was his sister. After I collected everything that belonged to my brother, I took my car and left. There were witnesses at the point of the accident.
At the hospital, they needed a signature from my parents as my brother needed to go for a surgery immediately. It was very difficult for me to talk to my dad as he had a heart attack, days before the accident. I told my mum that we had an accident with minor injuries. My mum said to my dad that there was nothing to worry about but they had to come to the hospital.
The surgery lasted 16 hours. Meanwhile we needed to find blood immediately. We contacted the army and they managed to collect 4 bottles of blood. We needed though 14 bottles. My oldest brother’s friends from Kosovo where he worked as a volunteer in the Greek army, gave blood and so we managed to find all the required bottles.
My brother was transferred into the intensive care for 7 days. He left 6 of June. The doctor came out of the room and he announced that my brother didn’t make it. My mum asked what really happened and the surgeon told us that the chances for him to survive were 50/50 and they needed the bed for another person with dementia. My mum was torn to pieces. I don’t think it was his choice or God took him. He left because they needed the bed to place another person. I believe it was a kind of euthanasia what they did.
She went to the desk to sign so we could get his body. The woman at the desk asked my mum to sign an organ donation form. She refused as she wanted to donate the organs to the army hospital, as she did.
After the funeral we were still in complete shock. We were just starting to realise what had happened. I couldn’t sleep for days. I thought he was around me, he was touching me, I started feeling I was going crazy. I started visiting a psychologist because I couldn’t cope any other way.
But the things were not easy and straight forward. We had to go through a lot and take legal actions to bring justice for my brother’s case. I had a feeling that the person that hit the car of my brother was there. I went upstairs without saying anything to my parents and I saw that there was a police guard outside the room and so I realised that the person that hit the car was in the room. He didn’t have any injuries but he lied so he could avoid any bad consequences and questions by the police.
I saw him in the room and I got so angry. I wanted to hurt him and couldn’t control my feelings. My brother understood that something was wrong and I had to tell him everything as it happened. The same day, the police let the other guy leave the hospital from the back door. After 15 days, my mum saw this guy in the street. He was from the same village. When he saw my mum he started laughing as he was talking to another person. He pointed my mum and he seemed fine with the whole thing.
We soon started the legal procedures, choosing a well-known lawyer to represent us, not a very wise choice, but we didn’t know back then. We trusted him and that was a big mistake. He postponed the trial 7 times, me and my brother wanted to change lawyers but my dad believed he was reliable. He didn’t stand for our case, during the process he asked us to do 3 exhumations something that was very hard to cope with as a family. They did drug tests that all came out clear. My brother wasn’t drinking or smoking. Imagine the pain we went through all these years trying to find justice for my brother’s death. The person that hit my brother’s car had a drug test after the accident and the drug tests came out positive. But somehow they managed to say that the tests got lost and they covered the case. Finally this person got a suspension of sentence and he paid €7.000 to clear some of the charges.
Finding Meaning in a difficult situation
The loss of my brother was a hard thing to cope with for all the family. I remember that I never saw my mum crying. She didn’t want to cry in front of us. She still says that she has 4 children and she will never mention that she lost one of her kids. She was suppressing her emotions, so she could keep everyone strong.
I decided to leave the village and moved to the city, as it was very hard to cope with all the memories. Every time people would see me in the street I could hear them saying ‘Oh the poor girl, she lost her brother’ and this was hard, really hard to cope with. I had to leave and move to a new place. During this time, I managed to forgive this person. My mum did it much earlier than me. I remember when we first went to the lawyer my mum said that the only thing she wanted was for God to give justice, and that she forgave the person killing my brother. She says that “His mother is not happy for what his son did and she doesn’t deserve to live in pain just because her son did something bad. She is a mother and she will forgive him. I am a mother too and I lost my son but I choose to forgive him.” I found her crying only twice through the years. I overheard her crying during the night.
My older brother works in the army. He deals with young men mainly and since then he decided in my brother’s name, to dedicate his life to help all these young soldiers he works with and he never disregards any of their problems no matter how small they seem to be. He embraced them all. He found meaning in giving help to all the soldiers he works with. Whatever their problem or issue is they know they can call him and he will always give them a solution. He found meaning through this bad experience of losing his own brother. He has now a family, he has 3 children and he gave to his older son the name of our brother. My other brother has two children too. My mum taught all of her grandchildren the power of forgiveness.
As for me, I became more sensitive after this incident. I started developing Love for my fellow human beings. In the past, for example, if anyone had a health problem I would think that the only person that could help was a doctor. Now I don’t believe that. A doctor can help, but it is more important to have a person next to you to support you, to tell you something positive, because when you have someone next to you then this will help your health improve also. I started seeing things in a different way. Other people can uplift you. I feel stronger now, I feel like I can deal with all problems in life, but at the same time I feel more sensitive and compassionate. I give more to other people, even though I know that I may get hurt. I no longer want to hold hate inside me. I only know that I want to help others, I want to be supportive and protective towards them.
I also realised that I can rely on my own strength and deal with many things in life. I am not afraid of death anymore. Most of the people are scared only in the thought, but I know that it may come tomorrow or after 100 years, but it doesn’t affect me on how I view and live my life. I only think of the things I can still learn everyday. What more can I learn to help myself create a better life and how I can help others to do the same too? How I can help someone feel better, and in what way? I get satisfaction from this and it makes me feel fulfilled. I started helping others in every way I could. I got a lot of money as compensation for my brothers death and I started helping others. I started giving to charities and small children in need. I wanted to see smiles and no tears and this gave a new meaning to my life. Now I can laugh or smile and feel it 100%. I can cope with anything, I am stronger than any kind of problem that comes in my way.
Everything is important in life, but the most important thing we hold is our personal strength.
We need to explore our inner strengths and help both ourselves and others build a happy and fulfilling life. When you uplift others, you will find that you uplift yourself too. You have the responsibility to build yourself up and create opportunities in life. Once you start searching and creating you will see that you are much stronger that you think.
You don’t have to expect others to change. You have to change the way you think to start getting new things in life and more positive results. I decided to change my mind. I realised that we are here for a short time, but while we are here we need to fight, and create a good life and when problems appear we always have each other to give support and love.
I personally had a psychologist to help me go through the initial phase of this experience and cope with the loss, and then I found strength in me. I learnt how to support myself in many ways.
I tried to find a positive meaning in this story. Instead of feeling bitter for the person I decided to forgive and feel love for others too. I didn’t let this story change me in a bad way, but I chose the way I wanted this experience to change me.
Chrisa Pashali is a trained preschool educator and has worked with children and young adults with special needs. She currently works as an office assistant at a car service company and as a waitress. She lives in Greece.