June 4, 2008. I was 15 and having the worst day of my life. Over a decade later, it is still the worst day of my life; over a decade later, it feels like it was only yesterday that I found my brother unconscious.
My birthday was the previous day and much to my surprise, my 16 year old brother came to visit me. Growing up with divorced parents, this was the norm for us. We did not live together, not like we did years before, and here was my brother on my doorstep with flowers and a Jonas Brothers CD. His very presence was the best gift I could have asked for.
Growing up in the country, we had a countless amount of memories running outdoors. With our brothers and cousins being older, we were the closest in age and naturally, we did everything together. We became known as a pair, “Dylan and Emmy,” and often we were not seen without the other. He was my best friend and I’d like to think that I was his as well.
“I want to go see the sheep.”
I looked at him, hot and sweaty from the summer heat, but needing something to do. He packed his bag with snacks and books, and we set off for the neighboring farm.
“Dylan and Emmy!”
Our neighbor, Diane, always invited us inside and we always went. She’d make us sandwiches, give us bags of candy, and we’d explore her farm and field. Sometimes, if the weather was just right, we would climb one of trees as high as we could and read our books there. Our summers were pure with innocence and joy.
Our parents divorced when I was nine years old, and we were left with daunting task of choosing who we wanted to live with. I sat at the table, now sweating from nerves and confusion. One by one, my brothers voiced their want to stay with my father in our hometown. It was everything we knew. I saw my mother crumbling in front of us and I knew I could not leave her alone. Everything inside me was screaming to stay, but I knew I couldn’t. And so, we began living separate lives.
When I woke up on June 4, I had no idea of the day would entail. We spent the night talking and laughing. I gave him my room to sleep in and went to sleep with my mother. I woke up, and slowly the hours began to melt away. As the early morning turned late, I began to wonder why he wasn’t awake yet. Yes, he was 16, but surely he couldn’t be that tired. I walked into my room and he was still lying there. I told my mom and she said to let him sleep in. Eventually, it got to the point that we knew he needed to wake up. I certainly didn’t want him to sleep into the afternoon.
I walked in, pulled back the blankets and stepped back. This wasn’t right. He was sweating, his skin took on a yellow tint, and there was foam coming from his mouth.
“Dylan,” I whispered. My whisper turned into a shout. I pulled back his eyelids after shaking him and they were pinpoint and unfocused. I felt all hope drain.
What occurred next is what will always remain a blur, bogged down by time, adrenaline, and repression. There was screaming, crying, and an ambulance. Everyone left and I was there trying to put the pieces back together. Our house was silent, but the silence had never been so deafening.
The following days offered more information. Dylan overdosed and was in a coma. It was that simple, except it wasn’t. We had no indication on if or when he would come out of his coma. We had no indication of what his state of mind would be. He had gone long enough without oxygen that he would sustain some level of brain damage, but to what extent, we did not know. What we had working in our favor was his age and overall health.
I slept at the hospital every single night. We had a private waiting room for our family in the Intensive Critical Care Unit, and often enough we could be found sitting there and doing all that we could do, wait. Dylan’s friends came in groups, many crowding the other waiting rooms and camping out. We all wanted to know that he would be okay.
One night, I sat by his bed and cried. I can remember the tears silently falling and commenting on how I would always tell Dylan about my problems, but now I couldn’t. I felt a hand squeeze my shoulder and looked up to see his best friend. He was struggling, just like the rest of us. We all did our best to support each other, but ultimately, we were falling apart.
It was during this time that my step-dad struggled with his sobriety. My mother and I went home one day to find him drunk. Emotions ran high and the very air around me seemed to shatter when his mother screamed at us, “I hope he dies and burns in hell!”
My blood seemed to boil over. Every ounce of sanity I had left, leaving me in the living room stunned and fuming. I felt venomous. This was my brother. This was my family. The situation escalated and we left, but those situations at home only continued to escalate. With our safety in question, my mother and I moved in with my grandparents. We drove away in the back of a police car and I looked back, focusing on my two dogs in our front yard. I was heartbroken as they slowly morphed into the background.
“Dylan, I need you to wake up.”
I cried. I was so exhausted and felt incredibly lost and alone. I had never been spiritual before this point in my life. We were not a family that prayed or went to church. I believed in Jesus, but that is where my involvement ended. One afternoon after reading for hours, I felt a pull to go for a walk. I walked along the hallways in the hospital, finding the interfaith room, and went inside. When I stopped crying, I prayed. I prayed for my brother to be healed, I prayed for the healing of my family, and I prayed for my dogs. I prayed for this horrible situation to go away, and I prayed that we could one day move forward.
By the end of it all, I felt the anxiety wash away, but my brother still had not woken up and I was still in the same desolate state of mind. This was my turning point. I shut myself off from the world, deciding then that I would only ever be able to depend on myself.