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Thoughts on life…and death

On this Easter Sunday it seems only natural for our thoughts to turn to life, death and resurrection. Today, my thoughts are attuned to life and death more than at any other time in my life because my beloved oldest brother chose to take his own life last week. We weren’t as close as I would have liked for several reasons, but mostly just an age gap as he was nine years older than me. I don’t really remember him from when I was young because he was gone into the Army and off to Vietnam by the time I was becoming more aware of the outside world; and because as a teenager he, of course, had his own life to live and was rarely home to spend time with me. Once he left military service, he chose to settle near other relatives so we still didn’t see much of each other.

It’s tough to be a member of my family. I’m not sure why, but having a somewhat distant father and self-involved mother was no doubt part of it. We didn’t live near extended family for a good part of my childhood, so I never got to know them well. Even after my parents divorced and we moved back to my mother’s hometown and in with my grandmother for a time, we never really had much contact with them. Or at least I didn’t. I’m sure there was more contact than what I remember, but all of these years later it just doesn’t seem like there was. Even today I don’t talk to, much less see, any family members. It’s not that I don’t love them, just that our lives don’t intersect anywhere. For my immediate family, that was the only bond we had because we were all so different that we would have never been friends, much less had any contact with each other outside of that.

I can’t condemn my brother for his choice because he was caught up in the worst that our family had to offer for a much longer period of time than me. Some here know that I have been struggling with long-term unemployment and contemplating the same solution. But beyond the job situation, my story diverges from his due to financial reasons. Several years after he came home from the Army, he was in a motorcycle accident that left him a paraplegic. That brought a host of other problems, including depression, but he was able to create a life for himself that at least brought stability. As my life has spiraled downward the last few years, we actually became closer and I was so thankful that I was finally able to get to know him as a person and what his life before the accident was like.

As with any relationship, too often our topic of conversation revolved around family and the events of the past few years. I’m a very private person and don’t generally share my story, but the short version is that too many family members have abused me in every way possible throughout my life. Several years ago I was forced into buying a house by my mother, even though I was not in the market or financially able to do so, but there really was no way to not comply. That relationship has always been like oil and water, or probably more like the moth to the flame since I was always the one who got burned. After draining my bank account, and me losing my job and not being able to support her any longer, she accused me of abuse and had my other brother come get her so she could move in with him. She chose to lie to all the other family members about the situation, which was just the latest in a lifetime of lies, but the end result this time was that she blew up the family and left me holding the bag financially. I really never thought she was a deadbeat, but had she paid her way as we had agreed, or even paid what she owed me for her time here, I would at least have been in a better position to survive this downturn.

All we have ever wanted was for our family to love us, care about us and be proud of us. Sadly, we were never really able to make that happen in any meaningful way. It was a topic my brother and I talked about often over the last couple of years. He chose to try and continue having a relationship with her while I chose to cut the ties. It saddened me greatly when we would talk and he would be upset because he had talked to her and didn’t get the emotional fulfillment he so wanted. Even now, when my aunt called to tell her what happened, mom answered the phone bitching about whatever which forced my aunt to just blurt out the news. Now, she’s all contrite and it’s her “beloved son” and how sad she is so shouldn’t everyone just feel sorry for her. Overall, I think I made the right decision because I am finally free to become the person I always knew was waiting to bloom, but am just so sad and angry that she made his life a living hell for all of his 58 years. For sure there were other reasons that are currently unknown to me that went into his decision, but that relationship and what she did to me were major contributing factors in his overall unhappiness these last few years.

At the moment, this is all very abstract since I am a couple of hundred miles away and not in the middle of the horrible aftermath. My nature is more intellectual and analytical, but it does not mean that I am not deeply affected, just that I process things much differently than others. That was something my brother and I disagreed on regularly and I am so very sorry that we had not gotten to the point where he was able to appreciate me as a person.

So that just leaves the resurrection part. I’m not overly religious, even though I am spiritual, but I know that he stopped at the rainbow bridge to get his beloved dogs and is no longer confined to a wheelchair. I can’t be angry at him for leaving because more than anyone else, I understand why he chose this terrible path to take; but I will be forever sad that he left and that though our last words were angry, somehow he knows how much I loved him and will miss him.

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