For years they were frick and frack. They were only 18 months apart so once they could both walk and talk, they were best friends. He grew up knowing her with cancer and knowing that he had to be careful with her. He knew to watch for her line and when Mommy said to give us a minute because we had to change a bandage, he would wait to be held. I can’t tell you how many times we would take him up to the hospital with us to visit her and he would just crawl up in bed with her and watch a movie. She loved to take him down to the snack closet so he could pick out individual fun cereals or a pack or Oreos with milk.
All those times that people made such a fuss over her or all the gifts she received, he never said a word. He was always getting so much attention from my Mom while we were busy with life and death decisions. He patiently waited his turn and knew when I was ready to love on him. He would bring his blanket and crawl up on my lap and suck his thumb. I loved the time I got with him because it was real and genuine and many times it saved me from my own internal struggles that day.
As he got older he began to take care of her too. When she would be laying on the couch, she could ask him to get her a drink, get her blankie, or put a movie in for her…whatever she needed. He never said no to her. So many times he helped me push her in her stroller when she was unable to walk. By the time he was 3 or 4, he was stronger and had her by quite a few pounds so he slowly became the big brother in her life. He could push her in a swing, help her up the stairs and always walked behind her if he was not holding her hand.
He took care of her for so many years. Then one day he stopped.
I would ask him, “Buddy, why don’t you take care of Isabella anymore?” He shot me straight, “She doesn’t need me anymore Mommy. Sophia needs me now.” I can’t help but wonder if he knew at that point that his love was needed for another sister. I’m sure near the end of Isabella’s life, Sophia became a little forgotten and Grant knew that. He was always picking up the lowest hanging fruit in our family.
The last couple weeks of her life, he stayed back a little. He would come in and check on her, asking her quietly if she needed anything. Very few people were allowed in the room near the end. She cut off so many by that time, but Grant was on a short list. He was able to crawl in bed with her and rub her back. By that time, it was nothing more than just bones but he never even flinched. He just ran his hands over the shell that she was and sat quietly with her. I took a picture of that night because it was so mature and loving and amazing. It was such an act of selfless love that he was giving her and a complete comfort she had with him.
He was at a summer camp the morning she died. My mom went and picked him up and brought him in to say goodbye. For the life of me, I can’t imagine what that moment was like for him or how he will be affected by that day forever. He rarely grieves her but when he does it’s the most heartbreaking thing you will ever see. It comes out of nowhere and swallows him whole. I think he has thought about her every single day since she has been gone. I can tell by the Taylor Swift music he listens to at night. She’s an actual real person in his memory and he knows that she died, but he still has trouble understanding it. In my mind this makes his grief harder than all of ours at times.
Today, Grant is the best big brother and son you could ask for. He has this sense about who is the low hanging fruit in our family and he gravitates to helping that person. He puts on songs for me when I lay with him at night and gives me nose kisses on the day that I need it most. For Stuart, he is his friend. He can talk to him about anything and their relationship is so open. He is AMAZING to Sophia and has become her protector. He is her world and I’m excited to know that their relationship is going to become something people will envy in the future. He has even stepped in as the caregiver for our cat, Jake; he was Isabella’s but now sleeps with Grant every night. Yet another tragedy of her death that Grant has picked up.
I know it’s hard to see good from a death. But if you are looking for it, you should look at Grant. He is the most confident, strong, loving and empathic child you will ever meet. Grant is going to do amazing things in his life and I know the majority of them will occur because he lost her. Maybe that is the gift she left for him? She allowed him to take care of her and he let her into his heart. She will always be there inside him in a way that we will never understand. He wants to protect her legacy and he knows all the good we are doing. He is proud to be a Santos and proud to be her brother. Eventually I know he will become the spokesperson for this whole thing, maybe we should let him. Who knows what he will accomplish, but I’m positive it will be more than I could have ever accomplished alone.