An Open Letter to My Brother

“We didn’t even realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” – Winnie the Pooh

My big brother Hector

They say it takes time for you to heal and that it gets better as time goes on, but you passed away on March 7th, 2022 no one told me that my world would be rocked the way it has been. I go through the stages just like everyone says I will, but for the most part, I can’t seem to get out of the anger phase. I am so angry at you for leaving us. For leaving our parents, for leaving Alex, for leaving Drea and for leaving me. You were supposed to be here until we got old. So we could tell jokes about our parents and remember all the stupid things we did growing up.

Now it’s just me. You left me and I am so angry at you for not leaving me any instructions. The last time I saw you I told you we would celebrate my 40th birthday and you broke your promise. I am your little sister and I was not prepared to do this thing called life without my older brother being there and always having my back. I’m not prepared to be an only child and this year has been impossible to get through.

Next week will be a year since you left us with the biggest hole in our hearts and still we mourn. I see you in everything and every day I wish I could pick up the phone to talk to you about mom and dad. I wish I could get your advice on what to do with Alex when he is testing my patience. I feel like every day I am just going through the motions trying to hold it all together. I really have tried to not be angry, but it doesn’t go away. Because I still don’t get it. It’s not fair. Our last conversation was about UM’s new coach. You didn’t tell me anything important, but that was the most important conversation of my life.

I know I have to be strong and I know I have our friends and family on my side, but I just wasn’t prepared for you not to be around to annoy me until we were old.

In your honor and to turn this anger into something positive, I was asked to be an ambassador for the American Diabetes Association. They asked me to speak at a luncheon and I barely made it through the first sentence before ugly crying and looking like a hot mess falling apart. Since I wasn’t able to get through it, here it is. The speech I wanted to make that day…

The Speech I should have given:

Good morning everyone my name is Victoria.

By profession, I’m a writer and producer. I am literally a content creator and I’m able to find the right words for everything to produce all kinds of content, but when talking about my brother I can’t find the words. I don’t know where to begin. How do I fit it all in?

As a journalist, we are taught to give The Who, The What, The Why; so here’s our story because it is OUR STORY. I’m here with my parents because much of the reason why this cause is so important to me is because of the impact it has had on OUR lives.

I grew up in a household where diabetes was a normal thing. Both my grandfathers were diabetic and when my brother started showing signs my parents knew to get him checked out. 

At the time of his diagnosis, he was 12 years old. I was 7. We were lucky because my parents already had experience with diabetes and my mom made a conscious effort for our household to all restrict sugar intake. Unlucky for me, that meant no Cocoa Pebbles; travesty, I know.

However, even today, I prefer sugar-free foods to regular ones. To ensure we met my brothers dietary needs, our household always had well balanced meals. Something I have carried in to my adulthood. Because we were a family, I was always in tow when my parents had to take my brother to his check-ups. When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, I remember my brother’s endocrinologist Dr. Neil would scold him when his blood sugar levels were too high. In hindsight, he was probably the only doctor that my brother paid attention to.

A few years later when my brother was a senior in high school he was told he would no longer be able to play soccer and he stopped being careful about his health. In his 30s after not taking care of himself for a few years, his body decided it had had enough. He was in and out of the hospital, and at one point we even had put him in an induced coma, his muscles atrophied and he was unable to walk… but he was alive. He had recovered from all his complications and now it was time for our family to begin our next challenge. We started the journey of getting him walking again.

Even though he was in a wheelchair I made sure my brother was not missing out on anything. From an early age, we were very close and it’s because of him that I fell in love with UM football. Our bond was unbreakable. I constantly say my family is annoyingly close, we seriously are. I would speak to my brother over a dozen times a day. If we were not speaking on the phone, we were constantly texting about one thing or another. From sports, the kids, the family business, or just talking about something stupid we heard or a new DJ we found.  He was truly my best friend. He was at all my college events, attended my sorority functions, and cheered me on from the sidelines when I made the UM dance team… he was just always there. Not to mention he also dated a few of my sorority sisters. They loved him too and even called him an honorary member of our sorority.

So needless to say, even with his wheelchair, I never left him behind. I took him everywhere. All I have to say is, WOW he was chunky….Mind you my brother was about 6’3 I’m 5’6… to say I was getting a workout in is not a lie whatsoever. I had legs of steel from pushing him around.

At the time my niece and son were very young and with his health issues our mom made it a point to take as many trips as possible so we would always have those memories – I’m pretty tapped out on Disney.

At that moment, I was so over it, but I understood. We would drive, with all of his medications and his dialysis machine and plan the day so we would be back in time for him to connect every night. Spending weeks at a time in Orlando going from park to park. Exhausting, but I would do it over and over again if I could.

I have to mention my parents here…our dad was always so composed, he was a CTO very sharp, no crying, serious type of person and our mom, she’s the one who through everything was the one handling every aspect of my brother’s doctors, medications, treatments, she did it all.

I’m pretty sure she can pass an NCLEX and get a nursing degree.

She had a binder with every piece of information, hospital records and test results. She’s pretty much what kept my brother alive even when he was tired, wanting to give up. She was his strength. She was his rock.

After about a year on the transplant list, we were in luck. They found a donor match. 

We were so excited and we thought we made it. We got through it all. Here I was planning to live to be old and still debating with my older brother over whether UM or Alabama was going to have a better year.

But we were not that lucky. After a few years, the kidney started to fail and he was back on dialysis. Again, in less than a year they found another match.  Then came the pandemic.

As a family, we have pretty much been able to overcome everything and anything.  I think my brother had his toes amputated, lost part of his vision in one eye, lost feeling in a finger; it was little things one after another but we didn’t let it break us. It was actually an inside joke. Like, come on what you got diabetes? We can handle it…Until we couldn’t... 

On March 7th, 2022 at 5:13 pm, I lost my best friend. My parents lost their son, my niece lost her father and my son lost his uncle.

We lost to diabetes. We lost to covid. We lost to an infection….we lost.

To say it’s been hard, no, it’s been like a never-ending nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I’m angry and filled with so many emotions. Any little thing and I can’t hold back the tears. They just keep coming. I often forget he is gone and catch myself about to text him or call him when I get any kind of news. Then I remember he will never text back. I won’t hear his goofy laugh, or be able to tell him about my promotion or any good news I will ever get.

I often wished it was me not him who had been diabetic, I would have had more restraint. I am healthier. Why was it he that got sick? I could have taken on this disease.

Diabetes is a disease that can lead to so many other health issues. And that’s why this cause is so important. It took both my grandfathers away, it took my brother away.

So if I were speaking to my editor…

The who… this story is about my brother, Hector Rolando Martinez.

The what…. this disease.

The why… because he was my best friend and I feel like half of me is gone. Our family is missing that piece. I don’t want any family to suffer.

The how….through our mission with the American Diabetes Association. By telling a story and bringing awareness about the growing impact of diabetes. 

Today, over 34 million Americans are living with diabetes and the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes is $327 billion, which includes $237 billion in direct medical costs. 

This is why we do this. This is why I am a part of this cause and why it’s so important. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve lost firsthand.

I don’t want this to happen to another family and if we can make a difference that’s what’s important to me. To our family.

That’s it. That is what I wish I would have said, but because I am so angry at you for breaking your promise, for not celebrating my birthday with me, for not being a phone call away, for leaving me without a big brother, I couldn’t even make it past the first sentence.

Grief, we all deal with it on our own terms. I guess I am still waiting to see when I move on to the next phase of the process. But here I am. Tomorrow will be another day. And the day after that another.

I will forever miss you Hector. I am lucky to have had you as my big brother and as my best friend. I promise I will do everything to make sure Andrea is always taken care of and feels your presence. I’ll look after mom and dad, I’ll make sure Alex never gives up on his dreams and I will live life to the fullest celebrating you in every moment.

We were lucky… Our family was lucky, we had each other. Now we have you watching over us.

Forever your annoying little sister, Vique.

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