Letter to Brian: August 5, 2013

Dear Brian,

Just this morning I was thinking I was overdue in writing you another letter… but I was having trouble deciding what to write about.  My answer came tonight.

There I was at home in my apartment, working out and watching a mini-marathon of “Sex & the City” and along came the episode where Miranda’s Mom passed away and I just lost it completely. Immediately all sorts of feelings and emotions and memories came flooding back as I watched the events of the funeral unfold.  Miranda was trying to be so tough and push her friends away… some of her friends were supporting her but were concerned they weren’t doing a good enough job of it… and some friends didn’t know what to say to her at all… so they just didn’t.  And then there were the long-lost friends who she never expected to see that showed up to support her in her time of need.

I was reminded of so many similarities in the days, months and now, even years, after your death.  Like Miranda, I’m not always good about asking for help and have been known to push people away and I know I certainly did a great deal of that after you died.  There were those friends who were there to support me but were so worried that they weren’t doing enough for me… there were those friends who avoided me altogether because they didn’t know what to do or say… and there was the beautiful surprise of seeing faces I’d not seen in many, many years that came to the funeral to show support to our family.  And truthfully there were a few instances where I never exchanged more than a glance with someone at the funeral, and yet I could feel all the love and support I needed from them from all the way across the room.  People can be so concerned with what the right things to do and say are at a time like that… when simply their presence is gift enough.

You remember our wonderful childhood friend, Sherilyn?  Well, she was one of the beautiful surprises I spoke of earlier.  I don’t think I had seen or talked to her in at least 12 years and she called me from New Mexico as soon as she heard the news of your suicide.  I told her everything and she listened and cried right along with me for an hour.  That alone was a wonderful gift.  However, in the months that followed she would call me every single week and leave me a message (because I rarely answered the phone for a long time after you died) that said, “Laura, this is Sherilyn.  I just want you to know that I love you and I think of you every single day.  I know you’re having a really hard time right now so I don’t expect you to call me back, please just know that I’m here for you if you want to talk.  Call me anytime you need it.”  Those calls meant the world to me.  I know there were others who were upset with me when I wouldn’t answer the phone… or respond to voicemails or emails or texts… but I honestly didn’t have the strength in me to reach back out at all and I am forever grateful that Sherilyn understood that.  She is a true gift!

It was also such a blessing to have so many people share their stories and memories about you with me.  It was so important to me to know that your memory would be alive not just in me, but in the hearts and minds of all the other people who were lucky enough to know you.  To anyone who reads my letters to you, I would hope they would take away one thing from this particular letter– that if someone they love should lose someone close to them that the best thing they can do for that person is to just be there and listen and share their own memories.

It’s sad that you don’t really appreciate how many wonderful, amazing people are in your life until a time like that.  But I experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my life at your funeral.  We all sat there in silence as the song “If I Die Young” played overhead.  I turned to look around at the sea of faces surrounding our family and I just felt this incredible, all-encompassing warmth come over me.  It literally felt as if each and every person was energetically sending me a big hug with their eyes as they locked with mine.  I just imagined them all in a circle around us sending us love and healing energy and honor for your memory.  I really can think of no other way to describe it and I’m so grateful for each and every person that was there that day.

I hope from wherever you are now that you were able to see the incredible showing of love at your wake and your funeral.  I don’t think you could have ever possibly imagined how very much you were loved, respected and admired, Brian.  If you had even an ounce of the love that existed in that room that day for yourself, perhaps you’d still be with us today.

You are so loved and so very missed.

Love Always,

Laura

Letter to Brian: July 11, 2013

Dear Brian,

I need to begin this letter to you by reiterating, yet again, that I’m not angry at you for taking your life as I know you didn’t do it TO me… you did it in spite of how much you loved me and I know you tried to hang in there longer because of me as well as the rest of our family.  OK, that having been said… you need to know that what I AM angry at is the unsettling side effects your death has created in my life and within my relationships with others.  Because of your death, which was a conscious choice to leave, a few things regularly happen that I need to tell you about.

One of those things is this– when I can’t reach someone after multiple attempts I often have panic attacks.  I wasn’t hearing back from you after emailing you and texting you and leaving you voicemails over the course of a whole day and it turned out you didn’t reply to me because you were dead.  It creates such an intense sense of panic in me now when I can’t reach those that I care about.  My logical mind realizes that the likelihood of the same thing happening again is not exactly high; but the fear is there because there’s always that chance… it happened with you.  I panic nearly every time that my phone rings and I see that it is Mom calling me.  Each and every time since your death when I’ve looked down at the screen to see her name pop up as an incoming call, my heart stops and my stomach drops and I hold my breath– the tension remains until I actually hear her voice and am able to deduce from her tone whether the purpose of the call is a pleasant one or if it is another call to deliver devastating news to me like she did about 9:30pm on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010.

Secondly, it’s not just a fear of someone I love dying, but also an unfounded fear that they’ll just leave me… period.  I now have this unsettling need to hold tightly to things and to people whom I do not want to lose– whether that loss is by death or by them simply choosing to leave for personal reasons.  While very different situations, the underlying fear is the same. My love for you was not enough to help you overcome your desire to die.  As a result I now have an irrational fear of people choosing to walk away because my love, or their love for me, is not enough to give them reason to stay.  It now takes longer than it ever did before for me to settle in to a relationship (whether a with a new friend or with a romantic partner) as I’m afraid of allowing myself to get close to someone who has the potential to leave.  And of course, they ALL have the potential to leave– after all, no relationship is ever a guarantee; it would be completely naïve to think otherwise.  But the fear of experiencing that rejection again instills a hesitation within me that I do not appreciate nor is it fair to the person with whom I am hesitating to take that chance. When I begin to have a feeling that there is any potential threat to the relationship (regardless of whether or not that threat truly exists or was completely fabricated within my own imagination) I begin to tell myself if I wasn’t enough for even my own brother to stay, how could I ever possibly be enough for someone else?  This fear that causes me to be so cautious is not fair to myself nor is it fair to those closest to me.

I am very aware that it is not the responsibility of anyone else to cater to my need to be reassured.  I know that the reassurance I seek needs to originate from within me, not them– I need to work through these feelings on my own.  But I’m not going to lie– a little reassurance from the outside is equally as important now and then.  I realize that I am a work in progress!  But I do also realize that I’m a kind, caring, loving and decent person who is worth the extra reassurance and TLC while I work through all this shit you left behind. Coversely, I am very aware that it absolutely needs to go both ways– and there are some pretty amazing people out there for whom I am willing to work extra hard to get through this stuff to get to the really good stuff… which is what life is really all about.  I’m more self-aware than I’ve ever been (thanks to ongoing therapy) and I think that is crucial to making ANY relationship work– for each person to really know themselves, to know their own boundaries and limitations and to not be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for a little help now and then. You should know that I’ve found me one such kind and gentle soul whom I feel is very worthy of me taking that chance so… wish me luck.  🙂

It felt good getting that out. As always, thanks for letting me vent, dude.

Love,
Laura

Letter to Brian: July 5, 2013

Dear Brian,

Three years ago last night, on the Fourth of July, we were together as a family for the last time and we watched the movie “Up.”  I spent last night watching that movie again… for the first time since I saw it with you that night in 2010.  I really loved it the first time but watching it again last night there were so many things that stood out to me and seemed more fitting to my life now than I could have ever possibly imagined when I first watched it with you just 3 months before your death.

Carl was heartbroken after Ellie, the love of his life, died.  He was hanging on to pictures, their house and their belongings so tightly as if letting them go meant letting go of her as well.  When Carl and Ellie met as children, Ellie had shown him her “Adventure Book.”  It contained pictures of things that excited her and places which she planned on visiting.  Following the page that said “Stuff I’m Going to Do” was nothing but empty pages she had saved for documenting all the adventures she was going to have.  Upon getting married, Carl and Ellie had planned on visiting those places together and finishing her book; but things (and life) got in the way.  They continually had to dip in to their adventure money to fix the car, fix the house, etc… things always seemed to come up and push their trip off further and further.  Carl had always wondered if he let Ellie down by not getting her to South America for their adventure and helping her fill those empty pages.  That is, until he took a look at her book one more time and saw that after the “Stuff I’m Going to Do” page she had added pictures of their life together; pictures of their wedding, shared birthdays, shared laughter, them holding hands in the park and of them sitting side by side in their comfy chairs in their living room.  No adventure to South America but yet she didn’t regret a single thing because she had loved Carl and she had so treasured her life with him.  Knowing her time was coming to an end, she had written him one last note and ended the book by signing, “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one!  Love, Ellie.”  It was that note that seemed to finally allow him to see that he hadn’t let her down at all and that it really was OK for him to let go.   As he looked around the house you could intensely feel him coming to the realization that it was now only a shell of what it used to be… after all, they were just things. He’d been hanging on to something that was holding him back.  The pictures and furniture and house he shared with Ellie were not Ellie herself; she now lived in his heart and his memory and by letting go of those things he was free to continue living his life without her.

I have so much trouble letting go of things that belonged to you because some small part of me feels as though by doing so that I’m betraying you or letting you slip further and further away from me.  Unlike Carl, I’m not ready to completely separate Just as Carl had been burdening himself with the thought that he had let Ellie down by never making it to South America, I’ve been burdening myself with the thought that I let you down by not being able to save you. And while I know that you want me to continue living and have new adventures, I’m still finding that I’m holding back yet.  There are times yet when I find myself feeling so guilty for enjoying myself or having a good time or even smiling… because a tiny part of me feels as if it is a betrayal.  I know in my heart that it isn’t, but it feels that way.  I’m getting better… just very slowly.

Want to know something amazing?  When we finished the movie we turned the TV to a channel broadcasting a 4th of July concert in Philadelphia.  Literally a second after we clicked on that channel I we saw Grace Potter on the stage strapping on her acoustic guitar saying, “This is a song for a friend who left us too early.”  I knew immediately that she was about to sing “Stars.”  I had posted that song on this blog a while back because it has been so meaningful to me since losing you.  When she finished the song she said, “That goes out to anyone out there that is missing someone on this 4th of July.”  And I sure am missing you, Brian.

Love,
Laura

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml7TmC__eDc]

p.s.  A very special thank you to John Tyler and Lindsay for letting me borrow their copy of the movie “Up.”  Meant the WORLD to me to see that movie again! 🙂

Song: “To Where You Are” sung by Josh Groban

There are many days when words fail me… songs like this help me along.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTdqdOC2DtI]

“To Where You Are”

Songwriter(s): Richard Marx, Linda  Thompson

Who can say for certain
Maybe you’re still here
I feel you all around me
Your memories so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You’re still an inspiration
Can it be
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn’t faith believing
All power can’t be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
‘Cause you are mine
Forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up
To where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

I know you’re there
A breath away’s not far to where you are

Letter to Brian: April 10, 2013

Dear Brian,

I’m not sure what reminded me of this recently, but for the past few days I have been reliving a conversation I had with a friend only 5 months after you took your life.

We had a mutual friend who, at the time, was fighting cancer with every ounce of strength he had. She said to me in an e-mail, “you know, I realize you’re missing Brian but I wish you were here to see Tom’s passion for life and see how hard he is fighting for it… it is truly inspiring. I’m sorry, I’m on a tangent but I want his fight to inspire others to carry on even in the worst of circumstances.” While I had some strong feelings about those words in particular, I just simply asked her to pass on my love to him and let him know I was thinking of him.

But it really did hurt me. I know how hard he was fighting to live and yes, it was so great to hear of his continued zest for life and how appreciative he was for each and every day he was given. However, you had just died 5 months ago! I was in so much pain, Brian. No amount of will to live on the part of someone else was going to bring you back to me and it only served to remind me how badly you DIDN’T want to live and that hurt so much. In a sense, it seemed as though she were trying to rush me through my grief. Or maybe just guilt me out of the pity party in which she thought I was stuck. In my mind, there should have been no link made between the two situations as they weren’t connected at all and a small part of me felt like she was robbing me of my right to still be sad because someone else was struggling so fiercely to survive.

I should include another key piece to this story. This person was someone with whom you had become acquainted over the years of our friendship. You had begun to confide in her now and then; she would periodically relay things to me that you had shared with her and I admit that resented the relationship you two had developed. She was someone with whom you had opened up to about things you had not even shared with me. What hurt more than that was I often picked up on feelings of what seemed to be superiority on her part when relaying your conversations to me. It was if she had a bloated sense of pride about being able to say, “Brian told me this in confidence, so please don’t tell him I told you…” blah, blah, blah. She’d always had a tendency to enjoy being the “fix-it” person, the one people went to for help or advice. It hurt so much having to learn those things from someone else but it was exacerbated by the fact it was coming to me from a person who I sensed was getting some pleasure out of you choosing to confide in her rather than me.

But I am grateful for one thing she passed on to me after you died. She told me how you’d said that I’d always meant everything to you. She also said that you were so terribly worried about my decision to move to Austin with Mark. You were so concerned about how I’d fare starting over somewhere new. With no job prospects lined up at that time you wanted to know I’d be OK finding a good job, getting health insurance, making new friends… and truthfully you were worried about my own depression and how that might affect my ability to succeed in a brand-new place so far away from home and all the stability I’d ever known. You didn’t want me to know you two had talked about it because you didn’t want me to know how worried you were or that you were questioning my decision to move. But it felt good to know that, so I’m glad she shared that with me. And, while it did hurt a great deal at times, deep down I was grateful you had someone to talk to when there were things you couldn’t quite bring yourself to share with me. The pain was coming more from my feelings about the messenger than from the message itself. Besides, our family (myself included) has always been more likely to share our feelings with others before sharing them with each other. For instance…. this blog.  🙂

I still miss you every single day.

I love you.

Laura

Letter To Brian: March 28, 2013

Dear Brian,

I think you’d be surprised at how many people have approached me for help and/or advice regarding a friend or loved one’s suicidal feelings because they know I lost you to suicide and must be an “expert” of sorts. I feel like saying… seriously?

Let me explain… while I obviously can empathize with the situation they find themselves in I find it perplexing that I would seemingly be someone who they think could help? I knew you were struggling and we talked about it so often those last 5 months… and regardless of what I did or said to try and help, the end result was the same– I was unable to save you and you killed yourself. I’m pretty sure that isn’t anything to throw on my “human experience resume” as a bragging right. If I wanted advice on… let’s say passing the bar exam– would I approach someone who had failed the exam or someone who had actually passed?

You and I were both cursed with an affliction of extremely intense emotions; we both feel things so strongly and so passionately and are so easily affected by the pain of others and desperately want to help. However, I find myself immobilized. I’m caught in a place where my heart so badly wants to help but my mind is telling me that I am in no position to do so. By the time I realize this, not only do I feel unable to help but I’ve become involved to a degree where I have emotions invested but yet I feel powerless to do anything about them. Hearing their stories often triggers me and I find I am transported right back to where I was in 2010 when I worried about you every single day– I could talk to you, I could listen to you, I could tell you I loved you and how badly I wanted you to stay; but each time we hung up the phone I’d worry about you every moment until I heard your voice again.

What complicates things for me with regards to being asked for advice is my own history with feelings of suicidality. I will be brutally honest and say that when I was at my absolute lowest there was NOTHING anyone could have done or said to have helped me; the desire to get better had to come from within. Everything was so distorted for me. If someone had said to me, “I love you and want you to be happy and I don’t want you to leave” what I heard was, “It would be better for me if you would just continue to live your miserable existence– it would inconvenience me greatly if you were to end your life.” I kept thinking if they truly knew how much agony I was in every single day they wouldn’t ask me to promise them that I would stay. And yet I asked you to promise me that very same thing. And truthfully… I absolutely regret having said that to you. I don’t regret letting you know how I felt about you but I wish I hadn’t imparted any additional feelings of guilt upon you.

Now here’s where I get really confusing! Remember how I said there wasn’t anything anyone could have done or said to have made a difference when I wanted out? And how I knew that the change had to come from within me? Well, apparently I refuse to listen to my own words when I think of how horribly I let you down. Someday perhaps I will not feel the guilt that I do today… but for now there is still a huge part of me that blames myself for not being able to save you. For that reason alone I feel completely unqualified for providing anything to anyone beyond a whole lot of empathy and maybe a few hugs.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter To Brian: March 18, 2013

Dear Brian,

While I realize that people don’t necessarily always know the right things to say to someone who is grieving a loss like mine I do have to say there has been nothing that stings quite like someone saying, “I know how you feel. I had to put my dog down recently and I think I know now where you are coming from now.”

Don’t get me wrong… you know how very deep my love for animals goes. It borders on the excessive at times! However, I can’t seem to find a piece of my brain that can understand where that comparison comes into play in this case. You and I both know what it was like to finally have to say goodbye to the loving critters we called our friends from our early childhood until we were nearly out of high school. It was so painful! And to lose another pair of dogs way too young when they accidently jumped off of a bridge near our home and did not survive the fall.

On October 2, 2010 I brought my sweet 7 year old cat, Sophie, to the vet knowing something was really wrong. I would find out that day that she was dying– her kidneys were beginning to fail. On October 6th 2010 I received the last e-mail I’d ever receive from you; it was quite short and said simply this: “Any word on Sophie?” She remained in the hospital until after your funeral. Treating her at home was going well and she was feeling better for a few months but I eventually had to do the loving thing and give her a peaceful exit on January 29, 2011 only 3 short months after I’d lost you.

I know what it is like to lose pets from illness, tragic injury and old age. I know what it is like to lose a Grandparent quite suddenly and to lose one because it was simply their time to go. I’ve experienced many kinds of loss in my life but none could begin to hold a candle to the infinite amount of pain left by your death. There isn’t a single part of me that feels I could ever understand someone making a comparison to the loss of their 16 year old dog to the suicide death of my only sibling.

I hope this isn’t interpreted as a lack of compassion for other losses– as I truly can empathize with the pain that goes along with losing a pet. But it is excruciating to have that comparison made because I know, having experienced both kinds of loss (and in such a short period of time), that there absolutely IS no comparison.

I just felt like sharing that with you… thanks for listening.

Love,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 13, 2013

Dear Brian,

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the last 5 months of your life. Specifically about how much we talked about how hard it is to get accessible and affordable help when you are struggling with depression and suicidality. I’ve run into this issue the majority of my life. By the time I’d reach a point low enough to realize I had no option but to reach out for help it would be a 12-16 week wait to see someone. I recall one occasion where I was feeling low enough to nearly beg the person on the phone, “Are you SURE there isn’t anything sooner?” Her response was, “Well, are you going to kill yourself TODAY? If so, just take yourself to the emergency room. If not, then you need to wait 12 weeks to see Dr. So-and-So.” Great bedside manner. It made me feel so embarrassed and ashamed of myself and I didn’t try calling anyone else for help for another few months as a result.

Getting the appointment wasn’t always the most difficult part– it was PAYING for it. For a year in the early 2000’s I was seeing a fabulous therapist. I had insurance, but they only: (1) allowed 30 visits per calendar year and (2) only had about four therapists from which I could choose that were in my network. I’d been to two of them already and had a bad experience with them both. When I found a therapist that really treated me with respect and said she could help me she turned out to be out of my network. Since she did not accept my insurance her typical policy was to request payment in full ($160 per visit) the day of the appointment and the patient in turn would submit the visits to their insurance company for the allowed reimbursement amount. However, she was very accommodating of my financial situation and allowed me to pay her $114 up front ($45 out of network copay plus 60% of the remaining balance of $115) and she would submit the remaining $46 to the insurance company to pay. This worked fine for the first few months until she had to have the uncomfortable conversation with me that my insurance company was not responding to her claims– at all. She would fax them 3, 4, even 5 times with no response. Each time she’d call they’d inform her they hadn’t received them and they’d require her to resubmit them. This went on for the rest of the year until I finally had to quit seeing her altogether– she couldn’t afford to keep seeing me and not get paid the full amount upfront. When speaking with my HR representative I was advised that they were aware that the insurance company was regularly not holding up their part of the deal where mental health visits (whether in or out of network) were concerned. I was so exasperated– the financial struggle involved with getting the help I so badly needed only accelerated my feelings of hopelessness.

For a number of recent years, once on successful dosages of a cocktail of anti-depressants I had been able to simply obtain refills of my prescriptions at my annual physical from my general practitioner. However, after you died she became concerned that she did not possess the expertise which she felt was required to play around with the meds to get me to a better place. So, she referred me to a psychiatrist for my future visits. I found one I liked, that was in network, and would require a $75 copay per visit and insurance would cover the rest. I could deal with that! However, after a few months I got a bill for $900 stating my insurance company would not cover a diagnosis of “Recurring Major Depressive Disorder” as it was classified as a “major mental illness” which, of course, they do not cover. My only option was to switch to their self-pay option of $130 per visit– and of course, she would need to see me every 4 weeks in order to continue to refill my prescription. With the cost of my prescriptions I was paying about $190 per month– just for medication maintenance– not including any of the sessions with my psychotherapist.

I also need to tell you that I have an important letter to write to someone in your defense. You didn’t want me to write this letter while you were alive and, quite frankly, it has been in the intended recipient’s favor that I have chosen to wait a few years to cool off after your death before writing it. A few short months before you took your life you confided in me that the one and only time you had ever sought help for your depression (despite several previous suicide attempts) was about 1-1/2 years before your suicide. You contacted the Employee Assistance Help Line offered by your employer.  I used the help line at my company years ago which put me in touch with that amazing therapist I saw for a year. It’s a wonderful program and completely free of charge. They refer you to someone who can help, and pay for the first six visits. These therapists are enrolled in the program knowing that the first six visits are free to the patient– they are paid directly by the referral service. I was apalled to find out that the man to whom you were referred was completely unethical in how he handled your situation. After opening up to him and sharing things with him which had never been shared before, his response was, “well, your troubles are pretty complex and will take a lot of time and effort to work them out. The referral service you used only pays me $60 an hour to see you for these sessions but my office rates are actually $170 per visit so I’d recommend that you contact my office directly for any future sessions.” Nice. Way to tell someone who is suicidal that they aren’t worth helping out for a measly 60 bucks an hour. Clearly he did not enter the profession for its altruism! You never did go back to see him and I can’t say that I blame you for it. I’d have done the same. All of these issues I mentioned above were contributing factors in me making all those calls on your behalf to try and find you a good therapist. It’s hard enough to get the runaround and hear the tone of condescension in the voice on the other end of the line when you’re in a good place let alone when you’re mustering up shreds of strength every morning just to get out of bed and attempt to live through one more excruciating day.

Each time I go through these same issues with getting help for myself I feel the pain so much more deeply now as it only reminds me of how trapped you must have felt those last few months before you finally gave up altogether.

If there is anything good to come out of losing you in such a horrific way it will be that I will do my part to see that mental health is given the same consideration as physical health! And there needs to be less “hey, suck-it-up-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” going around out there. Unless someone has been in the deep depths of true despair, they know not of what they speak.

Wish me luck writing the letter to that small, small man. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Love Always,
Laura

Happy Birthday, Brian!

brian face

Today Brian would have turned 38 years old. My tradition for his birthday is to watch his favorite movie, Gladiator, and eat pizza– his favorite food!

I remember the first time I saw Gladiator. Brian and I were living together in an apartment and were going to be hosting Thanksgiving at our place back in November of 2000. We watched it together as the turkey was cooking and of course I cried like a baby at the end. He loved that movie so much! He even was nuts about the soundtrack which I thought was just so fascinating; he typically was listening to Pantera, White Zombie, Metallica, etc. But he used to put the Gladiator Soundtrack on in his car (a black, Honda Civic hatchback he lovingly named “Blackula”), roll down the windows and just rock out to that stuff. Totally made me smile.

But looking back I can totally see why he really connected with the movie. Maximus was a man of great honor and strong, moral character and so was Brian. Maximus fought for things he felt were right and so did Brian. In fact one of the things that ended up pushing Brian over the edge was having so much trouble, in his own words, “watching the world continue to undo itself.” He was so deeply affected seeing all the hate and unrest in the world and felt powerless to do anything about it.

There is a scene in the movie where just prior to his final battle in the colosseum Commodus stabs him in the back, deeply wounding him. They bandage him up and put on his armor to cover the injury so the crowd would know nothing of this “imbalance” in the fairness of the battle. Maximus spoke of it to no one; he went into the battle and fought the best he could though gravely injured.

While not the same, it reminds me of something that happened to Brian at work. He was working so very hard and was given a great deal of extra work to do to help make up for another member of his team that rarely showed up to work but made a lot more money than Brian did. His manager continuously bombarded Brian with not only his own projects, but the projects of his absent, higher-paid co-worker.

When management caught wind of the work that Brian was doing, they approached him and asked him why he was doing those projects that were not his responsibility. Brian told them his manager asked him to do so. However, when his boss was approached about it, she completely threw him under the bus! She told the management team that she gave “no such instructions” and that Brian took it upon himself to involve himself in those projects all on his own. As a result, he was reprimanded and it was suggested that he “resign.”

While Brian had all the requests from his manager documented and could have presented that to management to defend himself, he chose not to do so. He told me the job didn’t make him very happy to begin with and his manager was a single mom– he didn’t want her to get fired when he knew she had a child to support. He chose to instead give his notice and bow out gracefully without having cleared his own name. That’s just the way Brian was. He often put others before himself even if they didn’t deserve it.

I have often thought that Maximus, like Brian, chose to keep the “back stabbing” to himself because he had nothing more to lose– he had already, in essence, given up. That incident at work was less than one year before he died.

Maximus once said to his comrades, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.” I think Brian’s kindness continues to live on!

Tonight I will be joined by my amazing friend Leashya and we will watch Gladiator, enjoy some pizza and toast a glass of wine to the memory of a worthy soul.

In Dreams

I’m sharing this note I wrote to myself at 3:00 in the morning on December 1, 2010 just 6 short weeks after Brian died. I had the most amazing dream but to describe it as just a dream feels so inadequate as I am unequivocally certain it was a visit from Brian. While to this day it has been the most beautiful experience of my life, it has left me achingly sad nearly every morning since as I continue to wish for another visit each time my head hits the pillow at night. Here is what I wrote immediately upon waking up that night:

I just woke up from a dream I had about Brian.

Mom and I were somewhere… I believe it was supposed to be his place although everything looked different. I heard his voice– very groggy, as though he was just waking up– he was calling my name saying, “Laura…. Laura…. it’s Brian.” I was frantically looking around thinking there is no way I could have just heard what I thought I heard.

I ran down the stairs and as I approached the last few steps I saw him coming towards me– he had some tubes hooked up to him, like an breathing tube going to his nose. I sat on the bottom few steps with Mom sitting next to me a step above as he stood on the floor next to the staircase and took both of my hands in his– again, I thought there is no way this is happening– could he really be here with us now?

I glanced at Mom and cried as I asked her, “Mommy, what is happening?” I needed to see if she was hearing and seeing what I was– and she assured me that she was; however, I sensed from her that it didn’t mean he was alive. I looked at Brian again– he looked really good. He looked so peaceful and rested and happy; he had that pink glow in his cheeks and his eyes told me he was OK. I asked him how he was– he said, “I’m alright now. I was cured the moment I passed away. I love you very much and miss you.” I told him I loved him and missed him… and hugged him and cried. Again, I kept looking at Mom to see if she was hearing it– and she was. But she stayed there quietly next to me and watched and listened… like she knew this moment with Brian was meant just for me.

Mom and I were then saying our goodbyes downstairs to him as if we were leaving his place like any other time before; Mom asked, “Are you going to be OK? What are you going to do now?” He said, “I’m good. I’m going to just run out for a bit;” he had a cup of coffee and reached for his keys– as if he was truly only going to hop in in his red Saturn and go for a drive.

That’s the last I remember before waking up… and I woke up feeling so peaceful and grateful that I’d had this dream. I have been hoping to dream about him like this– and I hope it is a gift from Brian– I hope it was really him telling me he is OK now.

I’ve had other dreams about him since but none remotely like this– and anyone who has lost someone dear to them has had a dream such as this knows exactly what I’m talking about. There was something so profoundly peaceful and heavenly about that dream that no one could ever convince me that my brother did not come to me that night to bring me a little comfort.