Letter to Brian: August 25, 2014

hurtandhealer
Dear Brian,

I had a dream last night… and for the first time in a very long time you were in it.

I was at an event for suicide awareness and prevention and had been having a really nice, but emotional, time connecting with some of the lovely women I’ve met through the tragedy of your death. It was time for the guest speakers to present so the crowd shifted towards the stage. As a young woman stood at the podium and shared her story of losing her brother to suicide I began to cry. The last words she spoke were, “I wish you’d thought about how much you’d hurt me.”

Just as she said that, someone reached out and held onto my left hand and gave it a squeeze. As I turned to my left I saw that it was you. You continued to hold my hand and kissed me on the cheek and said, “Laura, I’m so sorry for what this has done to you.”

I like to think that was you checking in with me again… and I thank you for that.

Love always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: July 24, 2014

Dear Brian,

It’s funny how I can be moving right along thinking I’m doing really, really OK… then out of nowhere I find myself sluggish and exhausted and just sort of…well…. an overall feeling of malaise.  Then I remember what day it is… and it all makes sense.  Even when my mind is not consciously aware, my body remains entirely aware of what was happening on this very day 4 years ago.

It was Saturday, July 24, 2010 and I was in Dallas visiting my friend Rachel for the weekend.  She and I were strolling around Target that morning when I heard my phone beep.  I looked down and saw that I had a text message from you that read, “Hey dude– I’m having trouble with my email.  If you get anything from me, just go ahead and delete it.”  I truly didn’t think much of it… I just assumed perhaps your email account had been hacked.  Rachel and I proceeded to shop and pick up snacks for our day at the pool that afternoon… your text immediately was forgotten and we went about our girls’ weekend.  I had no idea what that seemingly benign text would come to mean to me.

The next afternoon I drove the 3 hours home from Dallas.  I unpacked, took a shower and made myself a snack.  I sat down at the computer to check my email to see what I’d missed during the past few days.  Then I saw it… an email from you.  It was sent on the 24th and the subject line simply read: “Important.”  There was a word document attached and the body of the message said:

Hey Laura, this is very important and you will want to open it right away. –Brian

My first thought was, maybe I should just delete it as you’d asked me to do… but something in my gut told me to open the attachment anyway.  So I did.  These are the next few words I read:

Dear Laura,

I’m very very sorry to need to let you know this way, but if you’re reading this then that means that I’ve made the decision to end it all and it should be over and too late right now.  I scheduled this email to be sent with a time-delay that can be canceled, and I left plenty of time.  I’m sorry that you had to find out like this, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Brooklyn Park Police Department phone 763-493-8222

My front door will be unlocked. 

I can’t possibly describe the horror I was experiencing at that very moment.  Everything was an absolute blur as I read through 3 pages of your last thoughts and preparations– where you kept the title to your car, your life insurance policy, what to do with your cats, when the water heater had been replaced a host of all kinds things that someone who truly intended to tie up absolutely all their loose ends would include in such a final correspondence.  I raced to my phone to try calling you… no answer.  I called again… no answer.  I then immediately called Mom and asked if she’d gotten that email from you and she hadn’t– you’d only sent it to me.  I told her what it said and told her we needed to call the police and send them over to your house immediately.  Upon hanging up I instantly began calling your phone again and again and again… each time hoping for a different outcome– one where you’d answer your phone and be OK.

After about 10 minutes of fevered dialing my phone rang and I stared at the caller ID display. It was you.  It was YOU!  But after the letter I’d just read I was a little afraid to pick up… would it be you?  Would it be the police telling me they were standing over your dead body in your living room?  I answered the phone and I heard your voice say, “Hey, dude.”

Shit.  I don’t think a word exists that could possibly convey the amount of relief surging through my body upon hearing you speak.  You apologized for worrying me and said that’s why you sent that text– to stop me from reading the email you intended to simply SAVE, not SEND.  You told me how once you realized your mistake that you tried unplugging all of the cords to your computer in hopes of stopping it from being sent.  None of that mattered to me… I told you that obviously I was meant to get that message so I could get you the help you so badly needed.  In hindsight, I don’t know which would have been worse for me… having never received that email and having no warning about your imminent death or getting the email and proceeding to not do enough to keep you safe from yourself.

I began to wonder this week… thinking about what else might have been going on in the world that very same day you wrote that letter. So I decided to Google “July 24, 2010” to see what came up… to see what else was happening in the world that day as you sat alone in your home and typed up your suicide letter to me.  That very same day your horoscope in the Lawrence Journal-World read, “Take some much-needed personal time.  You have been groping with an issue and probably need time to process it.”  Boy, did you ever.  Selfishly, I wish you’d taken much, much longer.  You know, like about another 50 years or so.  But, I digress.

Just a few miles from where you sat typing, Natalie Merchant was performing at the O’Shaughnessy Theater in Saint Paul, MN.  In Baltimore, our very own Minnesota Twins were defeating the Baltimore Oriole’s 7-2.  Theo Albrecht, the 2005’s “20th Richest Man in the World” passed away. A number of celebrities (including, but not limited to, Rose Byrne, Bindi Irwin, Barry Bonds, Jennifer Lopez and Kristin Chenowith) were celebrating their birthdays.  And then… I found something breathtaking.  Turns out that the very same man who directed your favorite movie, “Gladiator,” had been working on producing a film project directed by Kevin MacDonald entitled, “Life in a Day” in which he was gathering video submissions from people all over the entire world from one single day: July 24, 2010.  Absolutely amazing.  After sorting through over 80,000 submissions containing a combined total of over 4,500 hours the end-result is a 95 minute documentary, shot by film-makers from all over the planet.  It was released in 2011 and will, to quote IMDB, serve as a digital “time capsule” to show future generations what it was like to be alive on Earth on the twenty-fourth of July, 2010.  While these people were presenting what it was like to be alive on that day, you were planning your own death.

I watched the documentary today and would you believe there was actually a part of me that I allowed to hope for a glimpse of you in there somewhere?  I thought to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if by some miracle by brother showed up in there in his own video submission that might reveal to me a shred of what he was feeling that day?”  I know… it was a long shot.  But you have to understand… I won’t get any new pictures of you.  I won’t get any new videos of you.  All I have is what I’ve already seen and I continue to long for more because it still doesn’t make sense to me.

Instead of you, I saw what the moon looked like that night.  I saw a couple getting married.  I saw a woman joyfully holding a pregnancy test stick in her hand showing the camera she was going to be a mother.  I saw a girl crying herself to sleep.  So many personal and emotional moments in that 95 minutes… none of which included you.  But then… I guess I already know what you were doing that day, don’t I?

I’ll continue to hopelessly search for you everywhere I look.

I miss you.

Laura

Letter to Brian: November 5, 2013

Dear Brian,

In writing these letters to you over the past few years I have primarily focused on your act of suicide and the way it has changed the course of my life.  You and I only briefly spoke about my own long-running history with suicidality, depression and self-injury… and it was only in the last few months you were alive that I began to really share those details with you.  I’d like to share more about that with you now.

When you first admitted back in May of 2010 that you were suffering from a deep depression, you also told us of two previous suicide attempts of which we were not aware; one of those attempts was actually while you and I were living together as roommates in our 20’s.  Those years were particularly hard for me too; I was extremely suicidal myself at that time… seems neither of us had any idea just how hopeless the other was feeling and we were living under the very same roof.  Turns out you and I were quite good at protecting one another… even if the other wasn’t fully aware there was anything from which they were being protected.  I know for me, the reasons for keeping my desire to die to myself were plenty.  For starters, I was embarrassed.  I told myself that “normal” people didn’t wake up every morning wishing they had died in their sleep. I couldn’t share that thought with anyone. I felt so strongly about wanting to die but recognized that if I were to reveal that wish and/or intent they would try to stop me and I wasn’t looking for attention or help…I was looking for a way out.  I also wanted to protect you and our family from the feelings that would undoubtedly be stirred up by such a revelation from someone they loved: feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness and the crippling fear that they would not be able to prevent the inevitable– the last of which I experienced in excess the last 5 months of your life.

I remember the summer before you died, shortly after you accidentally emailed me your suicide note.  After receiving it, I desperately tried to help you.  I began to open up to you about just how deep and dark my own depression went and told you about a file folder I had which contained about a dozen or so methods of suicide I had deemed feasible for myself after much research on the internet.  For several years that folder, ironically, was a lifeline for me.  Somehow, getting up in the morning was a little bit easier knowing I had those plans in place if that day ended up being the one that finally broke me once and for all.  I cried myself to sleep nearly every single night and while I’m not religious, my last thoughts each night were prayers to “whomever or whatever is out there”… begging with every ounce of my being that they grant me some mercy and let me not wake up in the morning.

I am jealous of all you were able to accomplish despite your depression– mine has significantly held me back my entire life.  From a young age (and even now) it was partly because of my sadness and crippling shyness that I failed to engage in a lot of activities that other kids enjoyed and I longed to do but of which I didn’t feel capable or deserving.  Depression contributed to my constant inability to focus and I was repeatedly told by teachers over the years that “I didn’t participate enough” and that “I wasn’t working up to my known potential.”  I knew that. Aside from the fact that I did not possess the ability to kick those depressive episodes out of the way long enough to do what everyone thought I was capable of doing, I also had sunk deep enough to not see the point of it all, anyway.  I figured if I didn’t think I’d be here long enough for any of that stuff to matter, why bother?

You were so very smart, Brian.  And so motivated and dedicated and focused!  You always did so much better in school.  In more recent years you managed to hold down a few jobs at a time while going back to school full-time and training for a bodybuilding competition… and you did so well at all of those thing all at once.  I really envied that– especially now that I know you were suffering just as much as I was but yet you excelled at everything in spite of it.  Grandpa Ralph used to compare me to you.  He made me feel like a failure for having dropped out of college after only a few years… he said, “You’re just like your Aunt, she never finished anything, either.”  It hurt my feelings a great deal; my depression and my increasing bouts of self-injury were the primary contributors to me prematurely leaving school.  I feel pretty certain that he wouldn’t have understood that had I tried to explain it.

I still have not felt a shred of anger at you for choosing to end your own life.  I have felt that inescapable despair and truthfully I still have moments where I envy your choice.  I know that won’t sit well with a lot of people, but it’s the truth.  I’m here in this new way of life without you and  3 years later there are still moments the pain literally takes my breath away and I can’t imagine feeling this kind of pain for another 40 years.  I promised myself when I decided to share my letters to you on this blog that I wouldn’t “sugar coat” things to make them easier for others to read.  I don’t want there to be so much shame and stigma surrounding this stuff– depression, self-injury, suicide.  Keeping that stuff hidden only serves to give the illness more power than it deserves.  I find that with each word I share about my struggles I’m taking a little of that power back.

Thanks for listening, dude.

Love,
Laura

Letter to Brian: October 30, 2013

Dear Brian,

There are still so many days I reach for the phone wishing I could talk to you and hear your voice again.  I no longer have that direct connection to you and it makes me so jealous of those who can just hit “speed dial #1” and their brother is instantly on the other end of the line.  I admittedly took that for granted while you were here.

I know there are many people out there who think it is slightly less-than-sensible to believe that there is something out “there” after we die.  Regardless, I believe there is and have always believed that there is.  I don’t believe in God, but I do believe that something happens to our energy and our spirit after we die.  I believed it long before you were gone but am even more protective of that belief now because it is the only thing that allows me to also believe that there is a chance you can still communicate with me from time to time and that I will, indeed, see you again someday.  Insensible or not… it gives me hope.

I’ve just had to adapt to this new and distant way of communicating with you and I’ve learned to watch for the signs.  While others might get a card in the mail from their brother, I might spot a 2-door Red Saturn with a guy in a purple baseball hat at the stoplight next to me and be reminded of you.  Someone might get a phone call from their brother to say, “Hey, how’s it going?” For me, it is you leaving me a 1975 penny in a place where there was not a penny just moments earlier.  Others have the joy of sitting and looking at a photo album with their brother and reminiscing about happier times… but I have the experience of a photo of you I never knew existed suddenly popping up or a favorite song or movie of ours will immediately come on the radio or TV as you cross my mind.

I know many people can easily dismiss these things as mere coincidences and feel I am naïve and foolish for believing there is any sort of cosmic meaning to them and I can completely understand why.  But for me, these little things are the only ways I have left to relate to you for the rest of my existence– they are all I have. I guess I think of it as I think about any religion, really; as long as it brings me some comfort and I’m not hurting anyone, what’s the harm in believing that you’re still out there somewhere and that you reach out to me, letting me know you miss me and that you are now healing from your painful life on earth?

You are still in my contact list in my phone and I don’t plan on ever taking you out of that list.  The number was long ago disconnected but I still dial it from time to time because for a mere second, after dialing but before the message from the operator comes on, I can hope that this time will be different and that this will all have been a bad dream and you’ll answer the phone.

Missing you more than ever,
Laura

Letter to Brian: October 13, 2013

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Dear Brian,

Today marks 3 years since I got the call that changed my life– I was told you were found dead in your home after taking your own life.

There was something else happening that very same day. On October 13, 2010, the entire world watched with bated breath as 33 Chilean miners were being rescued and brought to the surface after spending nearly 70 days trapped 700 meters below the earth in a collapsed mine.  The symbolic parallel of that event was absolutely not lost on me.

Upon being freed, one of the miners was quoted as saying, “From the first moment, I thought they would rescue us.  I never lost hope… I never lost faith.”  I couldn’t help but recognize that while those 33 men were desperately clinging to hope and to life itself you were purposefully letting go of those very same things.  As they were reaching for the light at the surface, you were allowing yourself to slip into the darkness.  As their families were rejoicing in being reunited with their loved ones their horror came to an end… mine was just beginning.  For those 70 days, they knew their loved ones were in serious danger and prayed for their safe return.  During that same time, I also knew you were in danger– you were trapped in a very dangerous place of your own.  They made it out alive, but you did not.

That same miner also was also quoted as having said, “I’ve been married for 32 years and rarely told my wife I loved her.  I just wanted to tell her how much I loved her.”  While I’m so glad that he has been given a second chance to change that, I’m also quite envious of him. You and I were never very good about saying “I love you” to one another… that’s just not how our family was.  I so wish I had done things differently.  I’d have been more open with my feelings with you while you were still here.  I’d have done more to try and keep you safe from the world and from yourself.

There are days it feels as if these past 3 years have flown by because it still feels as fresh as though it just happened yesterday. But most days drag on because you still are on my mind literally ever moment of every single day.   I’m saddened by the fact that I’ll quite likely have to live more years without you than I was allowed to live with you.

I’m going to be honest, Brian.  Today is the first day in a very long time that I’d had the urge to cut again.  I haven’t… and I won’t because I’ve done a lot of hard work on myself over the past few years to get past those urges.  But I really want to.  There is so much pain inside me today as I remember every single, awful detail of the events of October 13, 2010.  It’s like a horror movie that keeps playing over and over and over in my head and I keep foolishly wishing for a different ending.  I’m spending the day alone today. Not by choice, really… just sort of worked out that way.  But truth be told… I can’t say I’d blame anyone for not wanting to spend a hard-earned Sunday off around a moping, sulking, sobbing, listless ragdoll of a human being.  Besides, I’m so good at not wanting to “put anyone out” by sharing my agony with them that I rarely have the gumption to just say, “Hey, I really don’t want to be alone today.  I want to talk about my brother and remember him and I don’t want to suffer through this by myself.”  I sometimes feel as though I’m just not worth the effort that others would need to put forth to spend a day like today with me… so I just don’t ask.  Besides, the compassion that was extended towards me when it was only 3 days… 3 weeks…. 3 months…. well, it just isn’t there anymore 3 years later.  I completely realize that the world feels my grieving time should have come and gone by now… I should be in a better, stronger place.  Well, I’m not.  I’m certainly better than I was 3 years ago… but have a very long, long way to go.

It rained here last night, dude.  Really, really hard.  I don’t think it has rained that hard since I moved here to Austin 4 years ago.  But I’m so grateful for it.  Not just because we needed the rain so badly… but because I was so desperately craving for the world around me to mirror what I’ve been feeling inside these past few days leading up to this heartbreaking anniversary.  (Yet another symbolic parallel of which I am achingly aware.)  I sat alone out on the porch in the dark, drinking way too much wine and I watched as the skies lit up with frequent bursts of lightning and leashed a torrent of water that was too much for the ground to handle so it overflowed into rivers spilling all over the yard.  It was so freeing and comforting; it was as though Mother Nature was showing me that it was OK to let out all the pain and tears I’ve been suppressing for a while now… even if it gets a little messy.  I’m grateful that she raged and cried right alongside me… made me feel a little less alone.

I love you and miss you more than ever, Brian.

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! 🙂

Letter to Brian: June 5, 2013

Dear Brian,

I was reminded by Ryan tonight that 20 years ago yesterday you were picked up, along with him and Duane, to be taken to the Twin Cities in preparation to be sent off to boot camp as you had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.  I remember that day so clearly.  A pair of Marines in full dress came to pick you up at our house and we said our painful goodbyes to you.  The three of you stayed in the same hotel room that night and the following day was your final physical and interviews before flying out to boot camp.  However, you’d never get on that plane… you were sent back home.

I will never forget how horribly devastated you were.  It hurt you terribly to lose something which you had felt so passionate and excited about and truly felt called to do.  I will admit that, selfishly, despite your obvious disappointment I was so glad to have you back home where you were safe.

What happened at the physical and interview was so heartbreaking and confusing to you.  While sitting in the exam room you were surrounded by posters and pictures and signs reinforcing the qualities they seek in all Marines– a few of which are honor, courage and commitment.  There were signs stressing the absolute importance of being 100% honest in your interview and physical.  Being honest was of great importance to you anyway because that’s just the kind of person you were.  Furthermore, the signs also indicated there could be dire consequences for being less than truthful and dishonesty would absolutely not be tolerated.  That being said, you told them you needed to wear special inserts in your shoes as a result of having been born with clubfoot– your feet were turned in and you required medical treatment.  As an infant you spent the first year of your life in casts which were changed every single week (because of how quickly you were growing) and once the casts were no longer needed you had to sleep in special shoes attached to a brace which uncomfortably forced your feet up and apart.  As of age 18, at that Marine Corps physical, you were more than capable of handling all the physical demands which would have been asked of you.  You’d been training so hard– easily running 10-13 miles at least 3-4 times a week, weight training, etc.  You could easily do all that was asked of you and more… the only caveat being you needed those inserts in your shoes.  However, that was reason to disqualify you… so they did.

I remember you telling me how those same two Marines who had picked you up then had the duty of bringing you back home and they were angry at you for telling the doctor you needed those inserts in your shoes to do the running and hiking.  They said to you, “Why didn’t you just lie?  It’s not a big deal.”  That made you feel so terrible!  You wanted to badly to join the Corps but you certainly didn’t want to lie to do so… and here were two Marines telling you that you should have.  It also upset you because the reason you chose the Marines over the other branches of the military was the core values they represented:

Honor:  Honor requires each Marine to exemplify the ultimate standard in ethical and moral conduct.  Honor is many things; honor requires many things.  A U.S. Marine must never lie, never cheat, never steal, but that is not enough.  Much more is required.  Each Marine must cling to an uncompromising code of personal integrity, accountable for his actions and holding others accountable for theirs.  And, above all, honor mandates that a Marine never sully the reputation of his Corps.

Courage:  Simply stated, courage is honor in action — and more.  Courage is moral strength, the will to heed the inner voice of conscience, the will to do what is right regardless of the conduct of others.  It is mental discipline, an adherence to a higher standard.  Courage means willingness to take a stand for what is right in spite of adverse consequences.  This courage, throughout the history of the Corps, has sustained Marines during the chaos, perils, and hardships of combat.  And each day, it enables each Marine to look in the mirror — and smile.

Though I know you battled depression for your entire life, that was the first time I remember seeing you so very visibly depressed.  You were so lost… you hadn’t applied to any colleges as you hadn’t planned on doing that until after your time in the Marines was complete.  It was so hard to see you suffering like that.  Obviously you did end up going to college that fall and did very well– but I know there was always a small piece of you missing from that day you were sent back.

That wasn’t the first time, nor was it the last time, that you were ridiculed for being honest.  I still say that is a wonderful, trustworthy quality to have and I’m glad you didn’t let that experience change that about you.

I’ve always thought the Marines missed out on an incredible person who would have served them well.

Semper Fi, dude!

Love,

Laura

Letter to Brian: June 3, 2013

Dear Brian,

Something has been on my brain lately after seeing a post on Facebook offering condolences to someone who had recently experienced a death in their family.  The reason it has continued to hang around in my thoughts is that the very same comment was said to me at one point after you died and it felt like one of the most hurtful things I could imagine at the time.  That comment was, “It was god’s will.”

Seriously?  It hurt me so very badly to hear someone say in response to your death that it was supposed to happen; that god had a “plan” for you and that plan somehow included you killing yourself at age 35.  I wish people would be more careful with those kinds of words because they may not know what kind of belief system the other person holds and comments like that can be far more hurtful than helpful.  I personally am not a christian and I do not believe in god; but I was not ever offended when someone would say, “I am praying for you and your family.”  Whether they are praying to god, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Buddha, Jim Jones or The Great Pumpkin… I don’t really care.  The intentions behind the prayers are kind and loving.  However, I received absolutely no comfort whatsoever from hearing someone tell me that god planned for you to suffer for so long and die so young.  I guess I wish more people understood that it would be far more appreciated to keep the sympathetic sentiments simple like, “I’m really sorry your brother passed away.  I’m here to listen if you need it… please know you are in my thoughts.”

I am not a fan of anyone pushing their religious beliefs on anyone else at any time… but following the death of a loved one is an especially unsettling time for that to occur.  It baffles me that there are people that would find nothing wrong with telling me that you are spending an eternity in hell for your act of suicide.  Nothing about that is OK.  If someone out there believes that in their heart, fine… they are entitled to it just as I am equally as entitled to NOT believe that.  But keep it to yourself, people!  What good can possibly come from telling someone whose brother has died that not only are they experiencing a crippling grief at the loss but that their departed loved one is now going to be suffering at the hands of “Beelzebub” for the next 100,000 years?  It would never occur to me to say to a devout christian who lost a loved one, “Hey, that whole ‘heaven thing’ you’ve been talking about for years doesn’t exist so don’t get your hopes up that they ended up there.  Just trying to be honest with you because I care, buddy.”

I don’t know if I ever told you this but I was referred to a therapist by a friend a number of years ago when you and I were still living together, actually.  Turned out she was a christian therapist.  I don’t know that words exist to describe the level of crazy I experienced during that 2 hour session.  The primary focus was asking Jesus to “speak to me” and take me back to the first time I self-injured as a child… and asking Jesus to command the departure of the “evil spirits” which had obviously inhabited my body.  She all but performed an exorcism that day.  Again… seriously??  About a dozen times she asked Jesus to relay a message to me and she’d watch me as I blankly stared back at her and report that no, Jesus had not just whispered something in my ear.  And no, I did not feel any different now that she’d ordered those pesky “demons” to hit the road.  And to think I walked in that day thinking I was seeking help for my depression; I left having been told that my problem was far more severe… not only was I clinically depressed, but it was because I was possessed by a handful of evil spirits which apparently refused to leave and that Jesus wasn’t talking to me.  Way to kick a gal when she’s down.  Needless to say, that was intentionally the ONLY session I endured with her.

Guess I got off on a tangent here… it’s just been bothering me and I felt like talking to you about it.  I have never believed that “god planned for this to happen.”  I also don’t believe, nor have I ever believed, that you are burning in hell right now.  In fact, I believe quite the opposite.  Every single day I feel you around me, watching over me and I distinctly sense the freedom I believe you feel now that you are no longer bound to the earth that brought you so much pain.

As always, thanks for the talk dude.

Love you!

Laura

Come Monday- Jimmy Buffett

While Brian and I never had a special connection to this song when he was alive (aside from growing up listening to Jimmy Buffett with our Mom) it now has a very powerful affect on me and can bring me to big tears in mere seconds.

On Saturday, October 16th, 2010 we were headed from Red Wing up to Brooklyn Park to clean out Brian’s condo…  only 3 days after I’d learned of his death.  In the car with me was my Mom, my Dad and Brian’s good friend Chad… he had graciously offered to help us out.  It was only an hour drive but it felt like it was taking forever… but on the other hand I was grateful for that as I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get there.  We had no idea what we would encounter there– after all, the last people to have been there were the police and the coroner.  We didn’t know if Brian had already packed his things up (we half expected that), if there would be any visible signs of the decomposition or, honestly, what his home would smell like as he’d been found a week after his death.  I was absolutely terrified of what we would see, smell and feel.

Chad was working hard to keep us all distracted and decided to play DJ for a while.  He plugged in his phone and started picking songs for each of us.  I don’t actually recall what song was picked for me, but he played a John Hiatt song for Dad and for Mom he chose “Come Monday” because she always loved Jimmy Buffett.  The song started and soon enough we were all singing along and fighting back the tears but yet smiling in the great moment we were sharing.

To this day, heading this song brings me right back to that moment in the car and I find myself crying pretty quickly.

Tonight I will be going with my good friend Marcy to see Jimmy Buffett in concert thanks to her sister, Tamara, who has given us all tickets.  I’ve never seen him live and can’t wait!  While the concert is sure to be an absolute party I know there will be a 4 minute period at some point in the concert, when “Come Monday” is played, that I won’t be able to help but be transported back to that day in 2010.  Like then, I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears but will also be smiling at how even on that day, just for a few minutes, we were smiling.