All I want to do today is bury my head in the sand, to pretend this day never happened. One year ago on August 28, my brother, David, took his life. He was one of the strongest people I have ever known and to this day we are still in shock. Never in a million years would I have ever thought he was capable of doing something like this, and yet he did.
From my earliest memory, David always had my back. He was my playmate, my defender, my protector; he was my friend. He and I were always close. For my wedding, he stood beside me as my man of honor. He held my bouquet and fluffed my dress. I loved him so much, I still do. David was full of life and always willing to help. He was dependable and loyal and you never had to worry if he was there; things were always taken care of. He had a smile that could light up the darkest room, he was fun and friendly and he loved his family more than anything. The name David means beloved, and he was beloved to so many. As a testament to who he was, approximately 1,000 people attended his memorial service. We owe many thanks to all who had a hand in helping with his memorial, especially to the Rawson sisters, Kim and Karen, and their families, and Randy Roberts, David’s pastor and friend. Click here to view his beautiful memorial…
My brother didn’t suffer from mental illness; his personal life was falling apart. He used golfing, cycling and, unfortunately, alcohol to cope. The last three years of his life were hard and he lost the life in his eyes; his inner happiness, his inner light, was gone. His beautiful smile no longer reached his eyes. Life circumstances began to take it’s toll and the last eighteen months he seemed depressed but told us all that he would get through. We all believed him. He was such a fighter, such a strong person, that suicide never seemed like an option. I truly believe, given the right set of circumstances, alcohol abuse and a lack of hope, anyone is capable of it. Suicide has been described to me as a black pit of pain. It’s so dark that you can’t see anything else. It’s not selfishness that takes lives, it’s the pain and the lack of hope.
So here we are….Anniversaries are supposed to be a day filled with joy, anticipation and celebration. But they aren’t always. Loss of any kind can make it a day full of heartache, dread, regret; a time when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and throw a blanket over your head. I have learned through my journey of grief that it isn’t just the date that’s hard, it’s also the day of the week the event happened and even the days leading up to it. I have relived them over and over.
My brother called me on Tuesday at noon. His marriage was ending and he had moved into an apartment. He had just been to Target and had to buy a vacuum. He was heartbroken. When we got off the phone, I called my sister and cried. We decided we would help make his apartment a little homier by making him a patio garden. I threw some chili in the crockpot and made him some zucchini bread to take to him the next day. At 12:30 am, Wednesday morning, my phone rang and woke me out of my sleep. It was my brother. He called to tell me he loved me and to say good-bye. He told me he was going to end his life. I don’t remember the entire conversation. I remember trying to talk him out of it, reminding him he had three beautiful children to live for. And then he hung up. I called him back. He picked up the phone to tell me that he was done and hung up, and I never talked to him again. We found him a few hours later, after we were finally able to get into his apartment. Finding my brother is a moment that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to write about, to put into words. It is a moment that will forever be seared into my mind, a moment that breaks my heart over and over. A moment that has changed me forever. I never got to bring him my chili and bread. I will never get to do a lot of things. I don’t remember telling him I loved him in our last conversation; I pray he knew….
Tuesday this year was hard; Wednesday was hard. The anniversary was August 28, which landed on a Thursday. I found that I had a harder time on Tuesday and Wednesday, purely because I found myself reliving those moments and feeling the pain of last year. Thursday was hard because I saw pictures of him, pictures that I have avoided for a year. It is still very painful for me to see pictures of him. Thursday was hard because of the flowers, the notes, the texts, the calls, the hugs; all of the love. It reminded me of the previous year on that day. BUT, I couldn’t have gotten through the day without them. All of God’s love shown through others made me feel cared for, comforted and supported. My parents decided to put their energy into planning a small memorial party for him on Thursday. They invited 40 people to their home who dearly loved my brother. It allowed people who hadn’t seen each other since last year’s memorial to reconnect.We ate, told stories and reminisced about my amazing brother. It was such a healing time for us all.
Anniversaries are hard, whether it’s the day or the date. What helped me through this time was claiming God’s promises. He tells us that He is always with us. He remains by our side, holding our hand, carrying us when we need it. There is one word that has brought a lot of comfort to me. Abide. Abide means to dwell, to remain. Sometimes we need to abide in the pain to get through the pain, to be still and know that He is God. Jesus has told us that if we abide in Him, He will abide in us. I am saying yes to God; yes, I will abide in You. I will crawl up into Your lap, feel Your strong, comforting arms around me and abide. I can’t think of a safer, more peaceful place for the anniversary of my brother’s death than in the arms of Jesus.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
Abide with Me, Henry F. Lyte, 1847
This week was hard; I feel tired and emotionally drained and I’m not sure what this next year will bring. But I know that Jesus will be there waiting…. Waiting for me to take His hand when the road gets rough, waiting to carry me when I cannot walk on my own, waiting to guide my steps towards healing AND He will be waiting for me just to abide; abide in Him every month, every week, every day, every hour. I cannot wait for the day when I see Jesus coming in the clouds and I am reunited with my brother. Until then, I want to abide in the arms of Jesus.