Today is my brother’s birthday. Or, it would have been anyway. He would be 34 years old — the age I was when he died.
How annoying it is that my birthday is five days after his. I know that makes me sound selfish, childish and pathetic, but I don’t care. It sucks.
These days, the primary emotion that I feel about my brother is simply being annoyed. I’m not mad in the unhealthy, please-see-a-therapist-to-resolve-your-anger-issues kind of way; again, I really am at “peace” with everything (as much as you can be). But dealing with the aftermath of suicide is incredibly frustrating, painful and exhausting — and likely will be for years to come.
For example, I am now an only child, forced to deal with my parents by myself, which is not something that I was ever comfortable with. They refuse to spread his ashes, or even split/share them to be spread, insisting to keep him in a pimped-out Jesus box at their home in Alabama (um … he was neither religious, nor had he ever stepped foot in that state). My mother is convinced he is trying to contact her and is sounding more out of touch by the day. I get to hear how so many people have re-defined and now worship this caricature of some perfect son/friend/person — certainly not my brother, but rather an individual who really never existed. I will never be an aunt and get to spoil my nieces and nephews, and am strangely mourning this loss. I realize a day will come in the future when someone will ask me if I have any siblings, and I will have to say that I had a brother who died 30 years ago (or fill in whatever ridiculous number it will be).
I’ve been asked, particularly over the past six months or so, if I feel that my brother is watching over me. My response? Good lord I hope not!! For all the book smarts he had, the common sense ability was sorely lacking. If he was providing guidance from the beyond, it wouldn’t be pretty. (I say this with love! Really!). But I do think that he screws with me occasionally, just to remind me he’s still “around”. For example, every morning when I get up and venture into my bathroom, my closet light is on (my closet connects to my bathroom). I store the items of his that I kept in my closet. There is no doubt in my mind that I turn the light out every night before I go to bed.
So he’s raising my electric bill. Gee, thanks! So thoughtful!
I know that it is difficult to believe that one single day can so completely change who you are as a person — and that the changes are so drastic, and happened so quickly. But here I am, 624 days later, redefined. As obnoxious as it sounds, many (most?) changes I am happy with. And that’s fucked up. I don’t ever want to be in a position to say, “wow, thanks to my brother’s suicide, I made positive changes so my life is better and I am a happier person!”. I am sure things will happen and feelings will arise until the day I die that I will need to reconcile. That’s life.
And that sucks too.
So how will I celebrate his birthday, if I should at all? Well, I will consider having his beverage of choice – a Guinness – before I realize that I think Guinness is vile. And from there?
Well, maybe the consideration alone needs to be sufficient for today. We’ll see.
Happy birthday, Lucas.
Wow Laura, thank you for the honest and eye-opening post about how you are feeling. I can only imagine the complicated feelings that stem from a suicide but can say that I am thinking of you today — and everyday as you and your family continue to feel and experience this loss.
I’m sure a glass of wine, in lieu of Guinness, is perfectly acceptable. 🙂
Several glasses of wine were consumed 🙂 Thanks, Lena!
I’m so sorry for your loss.
I don’t think it’s messed up that you made changes for the better- I think it takes a wise and strong woman to do that. xo
It is not Fucked Up at all. I had written a whole longer comment, but it didn’t post… His loss and the manner by which you all lost him is devastating. However, that can not diminish the good that you have drawn from one of the most emotionally challenging events we can face. Hugs.
Great post!! And I agree, its not F-ed up that you made some changes that you’re completely happy with! Given what happened, its not easy to say “I’m going to come out of this a better person” and that’s what you did! Actually, I’m quite curious to know what changes you made because this is something that I struggle with. Thanks for this very honest post!
I would hazard a guess that you were working to improve your live before, during and after that day…
You’re certainly where you are now because of that day, just as you are where you now are because you graduated college. And because of all the laughter and sorrow you’ve shared including (and aside) from that event.
I think humans are good at contextualizing a major impacts, but it’s important to not marginalize all the minor ones too!
Everything that happens in our lives makes us who we are — good, bad or indifferent. My mother’s brother (and his wife) committed suicide in 1976, within a month or two of each other. To this day, my mom, now almost 79, has anger/annoyance toward him. For the man he never became and the man he did become, and the selfish act that led to my cousins living with us (a whole other layer of family fun). Recently, my son & I were spending time with Mom, and she realized (as you are now) that it was her brother’s birthday and he would have been 75 or 76. It was an odd sort of resignation-type of acceptance.
Anyway, Laura, I’m writing this down to let you know you’re not alone or f-ed up (at least not any more than rest of us are f-ed up, and probably less than many!). No one ever promised this recovery would be easy. My heart & prayers go out to you & your family, and to your brother. I hope you all find peace … and that he turns off the light.
PS — You do realize that by putting this blog out there, you are likely helping many other people, right? 🙂 Hope that’s a silver lining …
Thanks Kate — I hope so! 🙂
Thanks for this post. It left me wondering if you ever think about how, in your time with Lucas, he made a difference in who you became – not in his dying, but in his living. Or is that what you’re trying to say here???? HA!
Happy birthday, Lucas. Oh! And of course he’s hanging about in your closet, switching on lights, etc., because who’d want to live in a Jesus-box in Alabama? Yikes!
I think your feelings are validated. You are not F-ed up at all. It is how you feel.
The fact that Luke is playing with the lights in your closet, to me, is comforting and I think typical Luke. And I so agree with Anne…who would want to live in a Jesus-box in Alabama? Definitely not Luke!!
As always, thanks for sharing.
O how I miss Luke, seriously Laura, other than when mom was mad, did she ever say Lucas ?? He was, over a 33 yr career, my absolute favorite. I saw him as my fourth son. I feel SOOOO lucky about that, AND that he felt i was his second dad. Yet, he absolutely pisses me off. I was TWO hours away. I would have gone to Ithaca in the middle of the night for him, w/o giving it a second thought. Another of my former students was trying to reach me from Europe so that I knew what happened to Luke. Above all, at least to me, that demonstrates what we had. Other ‘kids’ knew we had something special, and it didnt bother them, in fact, they reveled in it for both of us.
Sorry to hear things arent well in your house, I hope you can come to peace with it. I am here if you wanna chat, either on fb, here, or if you wanna call, let me know and I will get you on fb and get my # to you.
The past haunts us, but we can NOT let it rule us. It guides us, it does not force us. Easier for me to say to you, but, we all must move on past him, recall the good times, that impish grin when you knew the wheels were turning and shit was gonna happen. That ALWAYS makes me chuckle, try to remember him by that .
Positive changes in life are always good, and can often be the way to help us work through something really difficult by adding a silver lining. It took me 10 years after losing my godfather to finally make some of those positive changes as a result of his death. But I did, and I’m following them. It’s not that I’m glad he was lost, but I look to it as an event in MY life that caused me to look at things differently than I would have otherwise. I chose to make positive changes after looking at those things differently, and it sounds like you are doing the same thing. And it didn’t take you a decade to discover it, so I say that makes you an incredibly strong person. We make our lost loved ones proud by being better people from tough situations, so keep doing so without regret.
And I’ll remember to think of him the next time I raise a pint of Guinness.