>February Looms Large

by jvaragona

>While browsing stltoday.com, a headline caught my eye: Feb. 3 will be a bad day for some people. It really struck a chord with me, but the article, which deals with computer viruses, had nothing to do with it. My brother, Matt’s, birthday is on that day. He would have been 20. My family takes notice to February on the calendar. He also died during that month, on the 21st, in 2000, from Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a horrible auto-immune disease, which wreaked havoc upon his lungs and kidneys before our eyes around this time 6 years ago.

We celebrate his birthday by going out to dinner. It’s a low key affair. It may be odd to some, but everyone copes in their own way. It certainly is better than completely dreading the day and sitting there contemplating the occassion with a lump in your throat.

My parents, extended family, and some friends of the family attend a Catholic mass in Matt’s honor every year around this time. I myself have issues with the Church, so I usually do not attend, but reflect in my own way.

During the month, the events of 2000 strangely come back day to day. Around his birthday, we were taking care of Matt sick at home. He missed having a party because of his illness, which doctors passed off as the flu, even though he was spitting up inches of blood into a trash can. Shortly after, he entered the hospital, when the “flu” didn’t improve. We practically lived in St. Louis Childrens’ Hospital for the following two weeks until he succumbed to WG. He was buried on the 25th, which had record temps in the low 80s, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. We blasted Kid Rock’s “Only God Knows Why” for a very surreal moment at a cemetery. It’s odd to look through tears at easily over 150 people, including the elders, as you hear Kid Rock cursing loudly…in a cemetery. I guess you could say we woke the dead…heh heh.

But seriously folks…it’s an emotional ride watching someone close to you die before you, especially that young. Now I feel like I can’t experience much worse in life, but one never knows what lies ahead of them. That’s why I enter every February cautiously optimistic, that as I celebrate the short, but lively life of my brother, and remember the worst times of my life as I watched him suddenly wither away, that I learn from my life to enjoy every bit of it and not take things so seriously, because there’s always something worse that could happen to you.