A Family Changed Forever

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Hash'im died on a Monday four years ago. He had just turned 20 a week before and he was taking the bus home from the DMV where he'd been applying for his driver's license. A 16-year-old boy and four of his friends approached Hash'im on the bus and told him to give up his silver chain and pager. My brother refused, and the boy shot him in the face.

I was 11 at the time. I was watching TV at home when the phone rang and my mom picked up. After she hung up, she and my dad got in the car and said they were going somewhere. Two hours later they came home. My dad was holding my mom. She looked sick. I thought it was something with my mom's health.

My dad called my brother Jason from his room and he made us sit down at the table.

"What's going on?" I kept asking. I started to worry because nobody answered.

"Where's Elon?" I asked. Elon is my second oldest brother. "Where's Hash'im?"

My dad looked sick. His face was red and he was stuttering.

"Just tell them, Louis," my mom said.

"Hash'im was - uh - on the bus - and - He was shot and he's uh - dead."

Elon came home from a doctor's appointment at 6 p.m. He didn't know yet. When my mom told him, he yelled at her, "You're lying!" He broke down in a flood of tears and it was the saddest thing to see my mom holding him, crying for the first time since Hash'im died. In my family we usually don't express emotions, especially sadness.

Hash'im's death affected me, but I'm still not sure exactly how. I tried to keep my feelings to myself and not think about it. I didn't cry like people said you should. I didn't think it would help me. It just made me feel worse.

After Hash'im died, my mom couldn't get out of bed. She was in the house all day and wouldn't eat. She was up walking all night. I couldn't sleep either, for about a month. I could hear her crying some nights. Everybody kept bringing food over.

Every night we'd be in a circle and pray together - me, my dad, my older brothers, my mom, and cousin. One night my dad was praying and I saw drops of water falling. I thought, "What was that?" It was the first time I saw him cry.

My brother's death made me a little bit more open and nice to people. My mom's attitude is that if we have something, even if it's not a lot, we have to share it with somebody who doesn't. They used to have to make me share, but now I like giving to people.

I'm also a lot more forgiving. I'm forgiving even to the guy who did it. I can't help but assume he had some problems. In no way do I justify what he did or make excuses for his actions. I can't imagine wanting to hurt anyone for a stupid chain and a pager. Were they worth my brother's life?

Hash'im's death brought us closer as a family. We never hugged before, but now we do sometimes. My dad started saying, "I love you." Also, every night when my father goes to work, he kisses my mom on the cheek.

"Ewww," I thought at first, but now I kind of understand.

(c) LA Youth, Los Angeles