Happy, Thanks for Asking


March 7th, 2018


If you’ve ever spent a mind-numbing amount of time commuting to work, I’m sure you’ve become friends with a good podcast. Some humans begin their day listening to the meticulous dissection of unsolved murder cases (me), while others prefer wellness-centric motivational crap (also me), and a select few drown the sound of screeching train brakes with a little gem called, "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" (refer to previous parenthesis).

The title is self-explanatory. The host, Nora McInerny, lost her husband Aaron to brain cancer, and her story is fucking sad. All the stories shared on this podcast are sad, yet Nora has this way of making you ugly cry, but you’re also laughing, so then you’re just ugly cry-laughing on the very public and gloriously crowded New York transit system—at least that's what I tend to do. I relate to these stories. I connect to these people because of this oddly sacred shared pain you feel after experiencing a trauma. It’s a sucky club to be part of, but at least I have company.  

In the early hours of June 16th, 2016, my eighteen year old brother, Daniel Colasanto was hit by a car. For some miraculous reason, which I may never know, he is still alive…kind of. He’s not alive like he used to be. He’s not the goofy class clown, obnoxious yet lovable brother that I used to have, but he is still breathing. Daniel suffered severe brain damage. Some doctors say he’s in a coma, while others label him as being in a “persistent vegetative state”. It’s all semantics—both are equally painful to accept.  

For a long time after Daniel’s accident, I was in my own kind of comatose. For three straight months I spent every single day in the intensive care unit with my brother. When he was moved to a rehabilitation facility two hours away, I spent my time driving back and forth between there and home. I quit two jobs, lost touch with close friends, and moved out of my Brooklyn apartment and back into my parents’ home. I disconnected myself from my world. For a while I was okay with that, but at some point, things began to change. It started with acceptance of this shitty new reality, and the realization that I couldn't change it, no matter how hard I tried. I began to heal.

But, let me be clear, I apologized with every step I took.

I was sorry the first time I didn’t visit Daniel in the hospital. And for the missed visits that followed. Sorry for celebrating my 23rd and 24th birthday without him. Sorry for wanting him to answer when I talked to him. Sorry for smiling again. Sorry for lacking compassion when my family was hurting. Sorry for not being there the night he was hit. And I was more than just sorry, I felt guilty too. Guilty for wanting to spend time with my boyfriend instead of at the hospital. For starting a new job when my parents became full-time caretakers. For doing things I knew my brother might never do again. For feeling happy.

Looking back at that first year after Daniel’s accident, I don’t think the words “I’m sorry” ever came out of my mouth, but I was sorry. How could I be moving on so quickly? How could I be happy when Daniel’s health was so poor? And how could I feel like myself again after going through something so traumatic?

I was trying to move forward, but was holding on to the past. Feeling sorry was my way of masking the extreme guilt I felt in anything I was doing. In my mind, the only way I could move forward was to be remorseful for doing so.

Nearly two years have passed and I've finally realized I’m not willing to end my life just because my brother’s seemingly has. I was sorry but I've changed my mind, because there are so many better things to be than sorry.

Rachael Colasanto