By Cathy Aiello
You can be assured that from the moment you are born you are going to die. So what you do in between is so important. The choices we make and the way we treat our bodies are critical to our well being. I once heard it said, “Life is a test. Life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment.”
Saturday morning July 3rd at approximately 10 o’clock I was awakened by my cell phone ringing. I had heard it a little earlier in my sleep but didn’t wake up. As soon as I opened my eyes I had an eerie feeling that Rodney had died.
When I answered the phone, my mom cried out the words, “Rodney died.” No! No! No! It has to be a mistake! My brother can’t die! I won’t let him. I love him so much and I am not ready to let him go! Please God don’t let my brother be dead.
God’s will was not aligned with my will and I had to face reality.
I had been watching my brother die for the last six months and refused to believe it. He told me about two years ago that he was diagnosed with End Stage Liver Disease. We knew he had Hepatitis C but when he tried to get a gastric bypass an endoscopy revealed severe liver damage.
He tried to prepare me but I refused to believe that it was going to claim his life. I was hopeful and praying that Rodney could somehow get a liver transplant. Unfortunately, he was disqualified for it because he had two damaged heart valves.
I just couldn’t fathom losing my brother. I surely thought that somehow God would intervene this time. I have suffered too many losses. Rodney was the spitting image of my father and it was like reliving that whole thing over. I was there with my dad as he took his last breath at age 46. Rodney outlived his father by 3 years.
I used to get mad at him because he would call me in the wee hours of the morning and I would say to him, “Rodney, don’t you know what time it is?” His reply would be, “yes, but this is the only time I can catch you.” So we would talk. When his little girl was born he sometimes would call me to listen to her breath or coo. He was very proud of Lilly and loved her very much. Of course, he loved his son Darius and his oldest son Rodney but there was a special connection with his little girl.
He was a very special and amazing man whose heart was bigger than the State of Texas. What he really loved was make you laugh and to win your heart. He could do that very well as was attested to by his ninety something year old neighbor in Maine. The words she whispered to my mother at Rodney’s funeral were, “He was the best neighbor I have ever had in my life and I have been around a while.”
There were so many new friends that Rodney had touched in the few years he had been in Maine who were tearfully paying their final respects to him on February 10th at the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
He moved to Maine with his wife and son after the September 11th tragedy. He wanted to get away from the city. They bought land and pitched a tent at first. Then they put a trailer on the land while they built a one-room cabin and they continued to build on it till it was a two story cabin. He rigged the water piping back to the wood stove so that would heat the water sort of like a coffeepot. The electricity came from car batteries and a generator. Then Lilly came and he built a huge second home.
He liked to work on cars so the first level of his home has a complete garage car lift and the home is on the second level. Lilly is five years old and she owns that home now as well as 18 acres of land in northern Maine. Lilly’s mother can live there for the rest of her natural life but Rodney made sure that his little girl would be taken care of for life. Darius will have the cabin as well as all of the tools and all the valuable lessons that his father taught him.
It wasn’t always easy for Rodney because he struggled with addiction and used drugs for many years. During those days, he lived in places like the swamp behind Higginson Ball Field and under the bridge on Roosevelt Avenue in Central Falls. He made choices for his life that eventually came to claim his life. He did however, manage to break the cycle and accomplish something. It was a miracle that God rescued Rodney from the days he spent living like a troll.
He got clean and went to Atlantic Union College where he studied theology. He met his wife and they started their life together only to be cut short by the consequences of his earlier actions.
I lost so much valuable time with my brother due to addiction and/ or mental illness. Our family has never known how to communicate in a healthy way with each other. Although we really love each other, sometimes it is so hard to be selfless and our human nature is to be selfish.
The reason that I wrote this article is because if there is one person who reads this and can benefit in some way and not have the regrets that I have about unspoken words or missed chances of making happy memories, then my brother’s death would have some meaning to me. As it is now, I can’t make any sense of it.
If you are reading this and you are an addict and making choices that could eventually come to claim your life as it did my brother, I beg of you, please stop. There are consequences for our actions and wrong choices. There are people who love you whose lives will be devastated if you were to die.
If you have Hepatitis C or some other illness that is being left untreated, please seek help. You are not a super hero and you need medical attention. If you are someone who is very busy and doesn’t have much time to enjoy those people you love, my plea to you is to make time to be with those you love to make happy memories.
Have you hugged your loved one today? Are there any unspoken words to mend a broken friendship? Please pick up the phone and speak those words. If you or someone close to you were to die today, is there anything that you would have wanted to say? Don’t wait. Live each day like it could be your last and have no regrets.
My brother was so special and his time here was too short. What I wouldn’t do for one of those 4 am phone calls from Rodney Haskell today. Please learn from my misfortune and realize that life is precious.