I never posted it on the old site, but being it's coming up on the one year anniversary I feel the need to share.
On Saturday November 7, 2009 I was at a woman's retreat when I got the terrible news that my oldest brother tried to kill himself. I live 1500 miles away from my family and was so angry at my brother for doing someone so stupid that I swore I wasn't going out to visit him. I had no idea the severity of his attempt so my initial response was anger. How could he do that to my parents??
Once I got a chance to speak to the rest of the family I understood how bad it was. My brother has set himself on fire and he was burned over 90% of his body. He was still alive and although the doctors told us there was a 125% chance that he would die in four days, it didn't really sink in that he was going to die. On Monday morning I made the decision to go be with my brother and the rest of the family, but I had two doctor appointments on Mon and Tuesday so I couldn't leave until Wednesday. Before I left I was in constant contact with the family and the nurses at the hospital. I was calling for regular updates and by Tuesday I knew that he would be gone by the end of the week. I found myself praying for a quick end.
My young daughter and I left home super early in the morning on Wednesday. The drive out there was hard but it went quick. I was so pumped up with adrenaline and in such a hurry to see my family that the drive seemed to fly by. I drove 930 miles that day and spoke to my dad and two other brothers many times. Wednesday morning when I first spoke to my younger brother, he was at the hospital and told me that Keith was on 100% oxygen, meaning he could not breathe on his own. I called my dad who admitted that he and my mother had decided to sign a Do Not Resuscitate for him. If his organs started to fail the doctors were ordered not to take any actions. My mother really struggled with this. She thought we would all think she had given up on her son. What she didn't understand was that we were all waiting for the end and drawing it out would only mean more pain for all of us.
Late Wed night my daughter and I met up with Keith's daughter and his grandson outside of St. Louis. She was driving down from up north and arrived at the hotel an hour behind us. I am so glad that we managed to meet up on the road. It made the night more comfortable and as I emailed my dad early Thursday morning, I woke up feeling at peace thanks to having my brother's daughter there with me.
Thursday morning November 12th we got on the road and when I called the house my mom answered. It caught me off guard because I hadn't talked to my mother since the Saturday night. She had been spending most of her time at the hospital with Keith and wasn't really taking calls. When she answered the phone I knew that Keith had already passed away. I quickly told my mom where we were and when we should be in town.
Less than a half hour later my dad called me back. He asked where we were and when we were expected to town. Then he said there was bad news, that Keith died at 3:15 in the morning. My dad said he was sorry to tell me on the road but thought I'd want to know. He asked if I could pull over and let Keith's daughter know. She had been calling the hospital regularly asking about Keith's condition and no one wanted her to get the news that way, especially if she was driving.
So, I pulled over and we took a little break. My niece admitted that she knew it happened. It's odd how we both knew that morning. We got back on the road and got to town at 3:30, 12 hours after my brother passed. The family had a very emotional reunion and spent the day in a bit of a fog (understatement).
Friday morning we went to breakfast then I went over to my parent's house to clean Keith's room. He was constantly writing letters and journals and I was afraid of what I might find. He was always blaming everyone else for his problems and I was certain that he would leave a letter attacking someone. I did find a letter he wrote to his daughter on October 10th. It was a wonderful note and after sharing it with my dad we decided to give it to her. In it Keith spoke about all the pain he was in. He was in a car accident back in May. He was delivering pizzas and was rear ended. He hurt his back and was out on worker's comp. He was on a lot of pain pills and was supposed to go to physical therapy but ran out of money, so he had to stop. The letter went on to say all the things he was working on and then said how much he loved her and how proud he was of her. He said she was a great woman and a great mom and he was proud to be her dad. It was a very nice note and she was happy to read it.
The rest of the notes, letters and journals were not as positive so I threw them away. In hindsight I wish I would have kept a few but know I did the right thing at that time.
Saturday morning we had a memorial lunch for my brother. His children and grandson were there as was his girlfriend and her kids. It was a hard day and I think I will remember every single minute of that day for as long as I live. My brother was not a rich man and didn't have many possessions but while cleaning his room I found many treasures, such as drawings his girls had made nearly 20 years earlier, baby pictures of all his kids, and even the hospital tags from when they were born. He also had items from his time in the service, awards he'd won over the years and sketches he made. I laid out all his treasures at the memorial and his children got a chance to look thru their dad's things and decided who got what. There were lots of laughs and tears. It was so good that we could get together. We all needed to and my parents needed us there.
We left Sunday morning to come home. My brother and I never had a close relationship. The last time we spoke was 9 months earlier when I told him he needed help and that I wasn't going to bring my daughter around him until he got it. He said I wouldn't hear from him again, and I didn't. I don't regret my actions because he had a terrible temper and I didn't want my daughter to be caught in the middle. I am so sad and pained by how troubled he was. Reading his journals and seeing where his mind was was terrifying. I cry when I think of how much pain he was in and how much he hated himself.
The aftermath of my brother's death and how it changed the entire family has been pure misery. I wish I could say it brought our family closer but in reality we are all so raw with pain that we retreated to our own corners of the world to heal in peace. I wish things were different, especially now that my mother has passed (she died 6 weeks ago) but it is what it is.
Suicide truly is hell.
Thanks for reading