Reflections on my brother

Normita Fenn

Life’s challenges come in many different forms – poor health, death in the family, lack of money, family issues, loss of a friend, career changes – these are challenges that have touched me with varying intensity. Every day brings new challenges and no matter how we handle them, in the end we learn from them. I made a decision a long, long time ago that things do happen for a reason so I take them with good positive thinking, awareness and good relations with people around me, our dog Lanz included.

But the recent sudden passing of my brother Amel has tested my emotions to the limits.  I take pride in my brother’s love for his nine kids, for treating them like his own young friends; he sang, laughed and joked with them. He devoted his time watching them grow up teaching them the value and importance of family. Raising nine kids was tough, but I never heard him complain. It’s difficult to be writing this reflection in past tense because of the cherished memories he brought to my life, not just as a sister, but as a caring friend.

Here’s a portion of what my brother’s daughter, Julieta, wrote to me after the funeral:

Pop’s funeral was beautiful, a lot of people showed their respects and love not only for our loving father but for mom as well.

I’m very sad because I lost my best friend, my loving father and most of all the father that GOD gave us that never in his time asked for anything.  No complaint nor got mad at us. I tried everything even sometimes was too much but right now I felt that it was never enough.

He called everyday, 2-3 or 4 times a day just to talk about anything. He’s not just a father to me but my best friend. I’m very hurt but I know he’s in good hands now. He is not in pain anymore. I know he loved you and Tia Lety.  He always talked about you.

On behalf of my mother, my brothers and sisters, thank you for being there for us. For your prayers and most of all, “Thank you that you’re our Tias.” And Thank GOD that your brother is our father. A great man, husband to my mom and most of all, a great, wonderful human being to all that he meets. I love him very much.

To all the people that sent us messages, from the bottom of our heart “WE THANK YOU ALL.”

Love, Julieta

Here’s my reply:

I read your beautiful email that made me think and miss my brother more.  You have touched the fiber of what your Father represents to you from childhood to adulthood, and I thank you very much for honoring him with your love and generosity.  He was always grateful to you and Floyd for your kindness to him and your mother. It made me so happy that you were all there for your Pop, surrounding him with your pain, sorrows and all the joyful memories of a lifetime.  It pained me not to be there to say goodbye to my brother, but that time was for his children as I knew how important for all of you to be together.  He understands that about me.

I may not have much opportunity to get together with him during his visits here, but back home we were normal brother and sister in every aspect – sharing, laughing and just hanging out.  That will be the biggest part of what I’ll miss about him, knowing he’s around me and to whom I can walk over whenever I needed to, where he was always there for me.  I was the most fortunate one to be in our ancestral home, caretaker for everyone to enjoy the place, where pictures of my parents and all my siblings hang on the walls.

At the moment, I can’t talk to anyone of you.  My heart is broken to have lost one of my siblings.  I feel that a part of me was taken away.  Nothing will bring him back.  God takes away what he gives and will have to let go.  All we can do now is pray that we be healed by the happy memories that we brought to each other as siblings.  That common thread will never be broken; in time, the pain and sorrow will be replaced with joyful memories of the songs, laughter and love for each other.  Meanwhile, we grieve for someone we lost but remains in our midst.

With love, Tiya Normita

We were twelve brothers and sisters – six boys and six girls.  Being the youngest, I looked up to them and feel so close, not wanting to let them go.  We didn’t have much money in our younger years but grew up in a close knit family, surrounded by loving neighbors who put up with all the noise of kids running all over the place.  Here’s a fitting tribute (from Marjolein Bastin’s Hallmark collection):
“A life well-lived leaves behind a beautiful bouquet of memories.”

I will miss him as my brother. He is my neighbor in my ancestral hometown. Aside from sharing food back and forth, on my way out, I’ll shout, “brother, I’ll be going out”, and he’ll shout back to ask me where I’m going (all dressed up) and what time I’ll be home. When I come home, I’d give him a shout, “brother, I’m home.” So to my brother Amel, don’t forget to sing and laugh, and shout back!  Rest in peace.


About normitafenn

Normita Fenn studied journalism at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She earned her MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University-San Francisco. She resides in San Ramon, California. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @NormitaFenn
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