Tomorrow marks 12 years since I arguably the worst news of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was just after dark and I had just gotten back from having a few drinks with my friends to celebrate the 4th. I had only been home long enough to take a quick shower and relax on the couch. I heard someone pull into my driveway and I got up to answer the door. It was my Aunt Diane and my Uncle Carl. I’ve never been close to my mother’s side of the family, which made it super weird that they would show up unexpectedly.
I answered the door and they came inside without saying anything. We sat on the couch and they informed me that my older brother Charles had committed suicide. The world stopped. I understood what they had said, but it didn’t feel real. I reached for my phone to call my family, but my aunt told me that they already knew. Apparently, my parents sent them over to tell me since they didn’t want me to hear the news over the phone. I made the call anyway and my parents were too distraught to talk. I hung up and said goodbye to my aunt and uncle.
I walked out onto my back porch and lit up a cigarette. My mind raced with speculations about what happened. You see, my brother was a toxic person. He had been in and out of jail my entire life. He struggled with addiction, had severe mental health issues, and was barely able to hold on any semblance of structure or balance.
Towards the end of his life, my brother had made steps to better his life. He was attending college, had a steady job, and was about to propose to his girlfriend. When his girlfriend broke up with him, he lost his grip on his sanity.
I remember receiving a call about a month before his death from Charles. He didn’t have a particular reason for the call, he just wanted to catch up. I was 19 at the time, not that this matters, but I was extremely selfish during this period of my life. I didn’t have time to talk to him. I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was going, but to me, it was more important than talking to my brother. I promised that I would come visit him soon, but made my definite plans. I hung up and never talked to him again.
For several years, the 4th of July has always been a terrible day. I vacillated between staying home looking through pictures of my brother and mourning my loss or surrounding myself with friends and drinking myself numb. The sound of fireworks still ignite a level of anxiety matched by nothing. Over time, I’ve gotten better about this day. This time of year is still emotional and I sometimes snap at people around me, but I have a better outlook.
So today, I honor my brother Charles. On my altar, I place his picture, a fishing lure, and a can of Budweiser. I pray that he has finally found rest.
Charles, my brother. Thank you for your guidance, protection, and friendship.
Blessed may you be in this world and all others.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, every day. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone online by going here.