This is the true story of the night that I lost my brother. This was written on the tenth anniversary of his passing. I have only fixed spelling errors since typing this out because I wanted to express exactly what I remembered, even if the details are a bit blurry or slightly skewed:
It was just a few days after Christmas and I was tired from working all day. We had a typical evening, got our son to bed and then I had a few beers and went to bed pretty satisfied with how the day had developed. After a few hours of sleep I was awoken by a phone call and my wife saying I needed to go to my brother's house. Something had happened, something about John and hanging. I was still groggy from little sleep and the alcohol that I had in my system. "What? Is he okay? Is he alive?" I asked.
"I am not sure. It was Jody's parents and they were vague." was my wife's response. We were both worried. Jody was my brother's girlfriend and they have never had a good relationship. So a call from her family could never be good. Trying ( actually hoping) not to see too much into it, I got dressed, jumped in my car and raced toward my brother's house. The drive usually took about 15 minutes as we both lived on the East side of Portland. Even though I made the trip in about 10 minutes, it seemed like a lifetime. All the while thoughts of what might had happened and what I was going to see went through my head. I remember thinking I am going to "kill" him for doing something so stupid. No I won't. If he was alive, I wanted nothing more than to tell him all would be okay. I would do whatever it took. Just be alive, damn it!!!
Arriving at his house I realized my worst fear. There was an ambulance at the side entrance to his backyard, police cars in the driveway and street, and a lot of movement in the windows of his house. I just sat there for a few minutes trying to get the energy and courage to go in. I could not move. How am I going to get myself to move? I just wanted to go home and pretend it was all a bad dream. But I had to go in. I had to find out the truth. So I turned my fear into anger. Fuck it, I have to do this. I have to find out if he is still alive, even though I knew the answer already. So I got out of my car and into the cold, rainy night. I went into his front door to be greeted by officers and EMTs. "Who are you?" asked an officer.
"This is my brother's house! What the fuck is going on!"
"You might want to sit d..."
"Fuck no!!! I want to know what the hell is going on!!!" I was not going to sit for nothing. The only way I knew how to keep myself from breaking down at this point was to keep the anger going. I loose that, I loose everything.
"You need to calm down.", responded the police officer
"The hell I do. I need to know what happened."
"Your brother is dead." was his answer. Just as monotone as he could be. I understand that as a police officer you deal with stuff like this a lot. But his lack of compassion just fueled my anger. I could not believe how uncaring he was. "Would you like to see his body?"
See his body? God no. "No. But I would like to know what happened."
"Apparently your brother left a note and hung himself on the tree out back."
My body became weak, I became sick to my stomach. It took everything I had not to throw up. It must have shown on my face, because I was asked by the officer if I needed to sit down. "No, I am fine", I replied even though it was not the truth at all. I wasn't sure what to do. I needed air and I needed to call my wife.. I needed to get out of that fucked up house and all of the people that I did not know Why the hell are these people here? I don't know them. "I need to go call my wife and my brother...." I turned around and walked out into the cold air and across the street to my car. I did not even bother to get out of the rain when I called my wife. I needed to feel the cold on my face. I needed it's cold sting to keep me focused, to keep me moving.
My wife had been waiting at home with my 6 month old son, who was still asleep. I am sure I was not very coherent when trying to tell her what had happened. By this time I was having real issues keeping it together. After a short conversation it was decided that I needed to head home and pick her up and call my younger brother and his wife. So, I hopped back in the car and headed north, to home.
Things at this point become a bit blurry for me. My initial anger had worn off and the horror of the whole thing was starting to settle in. How could he do this? What are we going to do? How am I going to tell my mom? What about his children? So many thoughts going around my head. Too much to process. I remember going home, having my mother in law show up to stay with my son, us heading back down to my brother's house and meeting up with my brother and sister in law. After all of this we decided that we had to tell my mom what had happened. There are parts to this time period that I can't remember very well. My wife, on the other hand, has a lot to say about this time and the events that took place at the house. But my world was spinning out of control and I was completely overwhelmed. I needed to get away from the scene.
So the four of us got into my car and headed to the other side of Portland to let me mother know what had happened. It was really quiet the entire trip. Which gave us all time to try and process what had gone on in the past few hours. Our lives, at that point, had been turned upside down. None of us have had anytime to process anything. For the first part of the 45 minute drive all I could think about was how I was going to tell my mom. I was always the one put in charge of any difficult situations in the house. My older brother had always been the carefree one who did not mind getting into trouble on most days. And my younger brother always avoided situations that caused him any sort of discomfort. Me, I had to take things head on...the "responsible one". Truthfully, it is coping mechanism for me. I was no better than either one of them. When things are tough, I focus in on what needs to be done. It keeps me moving. Without something to focus on I think too much. And that leads to nothing good. So, I was always given the difficult tasks during times of stress. And this was about as difficult as it could be. How do you tell a mother their child is gone? I had no idea. Who does? So I spent the first part of the trip trying to come up with the courage just to wake her up and tell her we would be there soon. That was hard enough, let alone actually tell her what had happened. So, when I called her about 20 minutes away, I left it at, "I need to talk to you. I am on my way. Please get Gary up and get dressed"....nothing more. She knew something was wrong. I could hear it in her voice. But I would not elaborate.
By the time we had got there, my stomach was so full of knots I thought I would spew at any moment. The stairs leading up to her apartment were pure torture to my weak legs. Every step I felt like I was going to collapse. I am sure everyone felt the same, but not a word was spoken. And so we climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. For better or worse, it is now time to be the messenger of death. Is this how police officers feel when they have do deliver the news to families? Soon we were all inside. When my mother saw everyone except for John, she knew something was wrong.
"Where is John? What happened?"
I really can't remember exactly what I said. But I do remember her collapsing and having to try and keep her upright. I remember my heart pounding so hard it felt like it was going to explode. I remember the feeling of total and utter guilt for having to tell my mom her son had taken his own life. I wasn't the one who did it, I was only a messenger. But I still felt like it was my fault. It was the worst feeling in the world. I hated myself at that moment more than I have ever hated myself. I was as low as you could get. We all then took our turns trying to console her, each other, and ourselves. Not that it was working much.
About this time it was time for people in the real world to start getting up for work. So, it was time to start making phone calls. We first called to work to tell them we would not be in for a few days at least, and then we took turns calling everyone close to John and the family. I can't truly remember how many calls were made that morning. I just remember going through our list of numbers and using the same speech over and over. It was the only way to get through it. Each time I had to say the words, "John is dead" it tore another hole in my heart. I didn't think I could take anymore. After some time we all finished up our calls and talked to, or left messages for those we could not get a hold of, and we sat there talking and trying to get my mother to settle down. She was going in between crying fits and "Why would he do this to me?". Anytime we tried to settle things down it only got worse. Nobody knew what to do. Hell, we were each barely holding on to our own sanity. What could we say that would make anything better. We were all in the same boat, we had all lost someone we loved, we were all feeling the same pain.
It had been a very rough night for all and I was getting seriously tired at this point. The adrenaline had worn off and my body was going into depressive state. I could not take anymore outbursts or trying to pick someone up when I could barely stand myself. I needed time away from the situation and time to let things settle in without being surrounded by people. Since everything had started about 8 hours prior, I had not had any quiet time to reflect and try to let things sink in. I was sick to my stomach, had a major headache, and just needed to get home for a bit to be with my wife and son...alone. To hold them and feel something besides the pain that had taken over my life. So we excused ourselves and we left knowing we would be returning soon. It was another quiet ride back to my brother's car to drop them off. I know there were some conversations, but I tuned most of them out. I had to concentrate on driving and wanted to be in my own world anyway. So I just stayed in my own mind focusing (again) on what needed to be done. We soon dropped my brother and sister in law off and we each went to the comforts of our own homes to deal in our own ways.
This very long, very horrible night was finally over. But the nightmare was only just beginning...
note: This is a true story of the night that my brother had lost his battle with depression. There are too many other stories similar to this that others have had. Please, if you know someone that is dealing with depression or are dealing with it yourself, seek help. There are many great organizations that are there for no other reason than to help in anyway they can.