It is January again, and soon January 26th, that awful day when my brother chose to end his life and committed suicide.
People tell me “you recover in time”, but you don’t. Yes, you recover from other, more normal deaths. From illness or old age, or more expected deaths, difficult as they are, but a suicide is almost impossible to get over. It is as if my brother were a hungry ghost, walking the house, uneasy and unable to rest, or unable to let him rest because there is still so much that I have to say.
I want to slap him with one hand and stroke his face with the other. I want to be a comfort and a fury, because part of me is still angry. How to forgive the person who, once upon a time, told me that this was not an option? That no matter how depressed I was, suicide was “never a way out” and that we learn to live with our pain because it almost always invariaby passes.
He was right, of course. I have suffered great pain in my life – cancer, deaths, my own other serious illness, Richard’s suicide, and yet I got through them and I lived. I remember going through a divorce and thinking for certain that I would never be happy again. That the world would go on spinning but that I would stay still and that was fine with me. The wind on my face? Hah. Who cared about it.
A friend told me I would feel better. I thought of her as Pollyanna at the time; I thought she was being ridiculous and did not understand the magnitude of the pain I felt, yet she did. She did and she was right. I somehow miraculously overcame that major depression and though others would follow over the years; I always knew that they would end.
As for my brother, he ought to have known the same, and lord knows, he did. But this time, he told us in his note, the pain had built up too much. He was tired of getting over it, of having things to get over. He was just plain worn out, and it didn’t help that the woman he loved had recently left him and yet was still having an affair with him but would not leave her new and rich husband. I can’t blame her, though, for his death. She did what she did and while as a sister, as a protectant, I want to tell her how wrong she was to do what she did, I cannot blame her for my brother’s death.
Sure, I’ve blamed myself at times – sometimes I even blame myself now, but at the end of the day, it is to him that I return, for he alone pulled that trigger. Small comfort that he did it in the bathroom and had a photograph of he and I and our dog at his side. That he took all of his “security blankets” – photos, trinkets, etc – and looked them over, turning them in his palm one by one, for who knows how long before he decided enough was enough and pulled the trigger?
We do know that the last thing he did in that bathroom, before shooting himself, was to call his girlfriend one last time and beg her to leave this man whom really, she did not love. She had left Richard because he would not marry her – because he did not believe in marriage (and if you came from our family, you might not either). But even this seems a flimsy reason to break up. After all, isn’t marriage in the heart? Isn’t it a commitment that you make to each other, regardless of a piece of paper; it is truly what you feel and while legitimizing it is often a good thing, I can understand his reservations.
He’d seen it end very badly and he’d seen it, as did I, played out like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, drunk and fighting and bleary-eyed all the time. So no, Richard would not marry and the girl married someone she didn’t love, mostly for monetary reasons I think, continued to see Richard, because she did love him, and in doing so, screwed him up more than he was already screwed up. I should note too, that it didn’t help that he was manic depressive and not taking his Lithium, rather like Kurt Cobain who was also on Lithium, stopped taking it and then shot himself (for reasons I can’t speak to). All I can say with certainty is that obviously the Lithium factor is a big one, for when he was on it, he was a different person – optimistic, energetic, hopeful and more. When off it, he was surly, depressive, downward spiraling and impulsive.
Impulsive enough to get a gun (for he didn’t own one) that, oh boy, an idiot “friend” loaned him, not accounting for the considerations. Never once did he ask “Why?” for it was hardly a hunting rifle and Richard was not the type to hold up a bank. He could only want to “borrow a gun” for one reason that I can think of, and don’t bother defending this person because I have made up my mind. Again, I don’t blame him per se, but I do blame the confluence of events that lead to this point – the lack of Lithium (the biggest factor), the girlfriend who still loved but who left regardless, the gun loaned by a friend, and his overall state of mind and rememberance of our childhood, which was so clearly on his mind when he wrote on the mirror in large letters “FUCK YOU DADDY.”
What more is there to say than this? I wanted to share this story because I think everyone has been at the edge of that place where we consider it, toss it around in our heads perhaps, but then know we would never do it. Or there are those who flirt with it more, cutting and playing roulette with pills or pills and alcohol; there are a thousand ways to be self-destructive and to ultimately kill yourself on-purpose/not on purpose if you’re looking.
But I have to tell you: grow the fuck up. Enough of this sophmoric Sylvia Plath/Anne Sexton crap. It’s high time now you left that behind, and it’s high time that I forgave my brother because no matter what he did, I can understand the reasons why and though I often say “he stole my act” and I mean it, I see how many reasons there are to live.
I’ve had to explain all of this to my other siblings who were younger at the time, afraid that because they shared the same blood as he, that they too might try and kill themselves as if this “bad blood” coursed through their veins as well. I had to tell them “No”. I had to tell them as I’ll tell you, “Suicide is never an option.”
I want to tell you so many things, but the words do not come easy, and so for this reason, I am including the words of someone who knows far better than we and whose speech gets me through almost every day.
Thanks for listening,
Our deepest fear
is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve this world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God
that is within us;
It is not just in some of us – it’s in everyone!
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others!
Nelson Mandela – Inaugural Speech 1994