We all have a story to tell that makes us who we are today. We ask people to tell their transformational stories in this magazine; therefore, I am going to share my story here this month. Through this letter to my brother, I will share how our enlightened relationship transformed my life.


I write this with tears, but these tears are different than the ones that I carried for many years. I can now say that I truly understand your last words before your death. It seems like yesterday we were sitting across from each other in your room, you 17 and me 19 years old, practicing how to read each others' minds. It seemed that from an early age you understood life, as if you were an old soul, knowledgeable and compassionate about making the world a better place. In fact, people thought we were twins because of our resemblance and the way that we communicated and understood each other without words. We always found ways to encourage each other through the challenging times.

Even when I had given up on my belief in myself after failing my first year in college, you encouraged me and reminded me of my potential.

That night of July 1st 1999, when you were 17 and I 19, to this day seems surreal. As we sat on the roots of several-hundred-year-old Ceiba trees at two o’clock in the morning, probably as many people had before us, we were in a deep discussion about life. You looked at me as if you were talking to my soul. You explained that you had a deep feeling that you would die young and that you did not want to die but you knew that you would make a larger impact through your death than through life. I questioned you but you could not explain the feeling. We stood there in silence as we both started to weep as if mourning the inevitable.

Two days later I was awoken with the sentence that still takes my breath away to think about. “Wake up, Daniel has been in a car accident.” I desperately asked if you were okay, just to find silence. However, I continued to probe and received the answer that in my heart I already knew. Why you? I asked, wishing that it was me instead. My emotions and my body sat still in time not knowing what to think and feel. I remember coming back home from your funeral as it started to rain. As if by instinct, I started to run in the rain, just like we had so many times as children. It almost felt as if through the rain you were washing away my tears.

Why you? You had that energy and wisdom to change the world. Those words lingered in my mind, “I will have a bigger impact through death.” You never explained the pain and what that impact would entail for my life. I was lost, desperate, overcome with the grief of losing my brother, my best friend, my guide. I developed severe high blood pressure, was sleeping two hours a day, developed ulcers, and lost over twenty five pounds.

Several months later I reached my breaking point after getting in a car accident that nearly took my life. I remember being on my knees at home screaming, talking to you, desperate for answers. That night I saw you in my dream, you looked at me with the same look that you gave me that night under the tree. Through tears of your own you explained that you were okay and that you were paving the way for me and that you no longer wanted me to suffer. At that point I wished you were not just in my dream, but I woke up with a sense of peace and purpose. This sense drove me to go back to school and finish my Bachelors with a 3.8, my Masters with a 3.9, and my Ph.D. with a 4.0. It drove me to open a counseling center for youth to honor your name as I had promised the day after that dream. The center still serves many teens that are sharing the pain that we both shared at your time of death. Through your death I have mentored, motivated, and shifted thousands of youth, individuals, and families, and will continue to share the light that you blessed me with.

About a year ago, in a state of sleep, I had a dream that was so vivid that it seemed real. I saw myself living many different lives and in each one of them I would die a traumatic death. At the end of the last one it was as if my spirit was lifted and I experience your presence, your light. I explained that I didn’t see how I could live these experiences again because each time I come back more confused – it had created a fog in my being. You stated that the next life you will come back with me and die an early death to shift me and change my path so that I would not have to go through that cycle again. I asked why you would do that, and you answered that I did the same thing at one point for you. What ever meaning I can take from that dream, the reality is that it is exactly what you did. At the point of my life when you passed away I was reckless and confused and through your death it shifted me from dying an early, or a traumatic, death. It is as if you had a contract with my soul.

As my brother, my best friend, and soul mate I thank you for all the wonderful moments that you gave me in my development. I thank you because the tears that I shed now are of joy and gratitude for your sacrifice. I finally understand your words, “I will make a larger impact through death.” I carry you in my life as if we were one, always remembering that the greatest thing that I can do for you is make the impact in the world that you so desired. And as I promised 10 years ago, through my life your name and spirit will live and be shared, Daniel Rivera.

Love you eternally!

Joeel A Rivera

We all have people that come into our lives and help us grow through positive or negative experiences. Each of these individuals have crossed your path to teach you valuable lessons. However, many people find it hard to look through the pain that some experiences may cause to truly reap the benefits that the experience has in your life. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss my brother and all the experiences that I would have wanted to share with him physically, even if I see the blessings that he has brought into my life through his death. I ask you to take a minute and look at those that have hurt you or are no longer with you and truly find meaning and purpose to that pain or anger.

You may notice that through that pain and hurt you can grow not only to teach yourself life lessons but also to teach those around us. At the same time, I would ask you to reflect on those that have given you love throughout your life and have a sense of gratitude and to share that gratitude with them. You don’t know how long you will have the blessing of sharing your life with them. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the readers and every one else that contributes to the magazine, for your support is what allows me to share this story with you and keep my brother’s lessons alive.

Author's Bio: 

Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. Contact Joeel at joeel@transformationservices.org