Letters to Chris. May 15th. Day 37.

949791_10101422435175460_1225571716_oHey Buddy,

I want to go home. So badly. I’d give anything to be able to get on a plane and go see our family in our home. Be close to all your things. Sleep in your old room. In so many ways, I feel so alone. In a way I never have. I miss our family more than I ever have. And oddly, even though I’m so far away, I feel closer to them than I ever have. It’s a weird dichotomy. I’m grateful that grief has brought us closer together. I’ve read about how other families have been torn apart by it. So I guess we have that going for us. I’ve definitely never been more grateful for the people I love. My God we are so blessed, Chris. There’s no way we could have survived this without each other. And it makes me realize how much I hate being so far away from everyone. I feel like I’m on an island. Clay loved you, and is grieving you, but he didn’t know you as well as we did. So in my grief I feel so alone. I just don’t have much to give. Or know how to connect right now. To anyone. Clay has been so loving and patient, but I know it must be lonely for him, too. I just feel like I’m trying my hardest to keep myself together so I don’t know how to be there for anyone else who isn’t grieving you. I’m sure there are times Clay feels so far from me, like he can’t reach me out here on my little island. But I don’t know how to fix that.

Mom said your autopsy report arrived today. Your autopsy report. That just sounds so weird to me. I asked if she had read it. She had. There was a lot of medical jargon she didn’t understand, but there were a few things she did. Your blood alcohol level was so low. Only .05. Which we had already figured. Your text to Mom was so clearheaded, it was obvious you were sober. It also said you shot yourself in your right temple. The picture of you on my phone is from your right side…I had taken it at Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas a few years back. You look so happy…with this cute little smile across your face, your one dimple visible. It’s one of my favorite photos of you. Your beautiful face. It’s hard to describe the feeling of looking at you from that side and knowing a few years later you’d hold a gun to that temple…

I’m going to that dark place again. It’s so hard not to sometimes. I usually do okay. I honestly don’t think about that night very often. Mostly it’s just thinking about the fact that you aren’t here, that I can never hear your voice say my name again or laugh, or make fun of me. I find myself often imagining your response to different things I’m doing or thinking. Silly things. Like when I gave Scotland a much needed haircut, and dog fur literally enveloped me. I could just hear you laughing and saying, “Oh my gosh!” Or thinking about how much you would have loved the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, that Clay and I saw Friday night. Or how much you’d love our view of the mountains. Or any ditzy moments I have, how you’d make so much fun of me. Or wondering if you’d like a dinner I prepared, or what you would think of Clay’s steak-cooking abilities (they are good, but between you and me, yours were better. Shhhh). In moments where it’s just too much, I envision you sitting right next to me, talking me through it. Like tonight. I was chopping sweet potatoes, and just lost it. I took a lot of aggression out on our poor cutting board, but it wasn’t enough. I slid down to the floor and sobbed. I had a bite of potato in my mouth, so I’m sure I looked pathetic. But I thought about you sitting on the floor in front of me, holding me as I cried. I try to pretend your arms were around me, holding me close and telling me that everything will be okay, that you’re here and you will never leave me. In those moments, I’ll close my eyes and try to feel your presence. To hear your voice.

God, I miss your voice.

Mom and I talked for a good hour tonight. This weekend was obviously hard for her, being Mother’s Day. I was thinking about that card you gave her…the one where you wrote “Love you always,” in your cute little scribble. I wonder if she got it out and looked at it again. All the little reminders of you all over the house are both comforting and heartbreaking for her. There just can’t be one without the other. Your pictures are all over. Your ashes. Your papers and letters Mom and Dad have to go through. Your weird “old man” artwork in your old bedroom (I’m never going to stop teasing you about that). I understand what Mom meant when she said she needed to put your things in a safe place, where she wasn’t constantly reminded of your absence. I get it. I mean, I’m wearing your sweatshirt right now. But even though I feel so close to you when I wear your clothes, it also breaks me. It’s hard to describe the way it feels…your absence, I mean. It’s like a vacuum. Like your missing place in our world has created this enormous black hole that is threatening to suck us all in. I guess it’s similar to the wave analogy, how I keep getting battered by all these 100 foot waves and all I want to do is let go and drown. We keep holding on, not allowing ourselves to be fully sucked in or under because we have to live for each other. We still have a life to live. What kind of life will it be? I don’t know. It’s going to be so different, and honestly it’s impossible to think about the future. I know it’s the same for all of us-Mom, Dad, Nikea, Bethany…We’re doing the best we can. But it’s so hard not to get shoved under this massive black ocean by these unrelenting waves.

I read through your texts again. Even though they are so sad, they make me feel closer to you, too.

Thu, Oct 13, 7:00 PM

You: F*ck this depression.

Me: You can change it. I promise. I’ve been there. Like super recently.

You: Recently?

Me: We just had a lot of financial shit going on. Clay’s business had a rough patch we couldn’t recover from. So it’s been really hard. I’ve decided that I can’t change the circumstances if I’m feeling that way and so I decided to just change my outlook on it (for the record, I sucked at this). So I’m back on my meds and I’ve been taking really good care of myself.

You: Come to Minnesota. Come work for me!!!

Me: Oh I’d love to buddy but I think Clay might’ve finally got a job today actually. We shall see! He had an interview that went really well today. 

You: I’m on meds…not working.

Me: Then you need to switch up your meds. Sometimes you have to try several different types of meds to find one that really works. I did 😦 We’re moving into our friend’s basement. It’s been a really hard road. But the thing is things always get better, Chris. And depression sucks! So if your medication isn’t working you could talk to your doctor about trying something different. And rely on the people that love you. Like me and the fam.

You: She was my first love. I miss her so much. I just wish she would take me back!! I’m not a bad person!!!

Me: Realize that you are worthy and that you are worthy of love and past mistakes never dictate who we are.

You: Exactly I told her that!!

Me: I know Chris. But you need to work on yourself first. That’s what I was doing for years! We can’t be what others deserve if we don’t take care of ourselves and heal what’s broken. Then you can only focus on fixing yourself. It sucks to have a broken heart. But they heal. I promise.

You: I just can’t see the light. And I’m sick of this shit. Like I never want to get up in the am anymore for work. WHICH IS NOT ME!!! SO F*CKING DONE!!!!

This is how are conversations would go. All of them the last several months.

Wed, Dec 21, 1:36 PM

You: [name] agreed saying that she would be happier if I was dead.

Me: She doesn’t mean that. of course no one wants you anywhere but here. Especially us. We love you. 

You: I’m tired of EVERYTHING. 

Me: Then change things. You have the power. You aren’t weak. You’re strong. Everyone goes through shit. Clay and I are too. Worst year of my life. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep f*cking fighting. You do the same. You find what is broke, and you fix it.You have a great job, you have partial custody of your son. You can be happy if you want. Or at least at peace. I’d kill to have your position in life right now.

You: She does mean it. I’m so tired of my f*cking stress.

Me: I know. Stress sucks. What is it that stresses you? You have a job. You have rights to see your son. You have a place to live. What is it that stresses you?

And you didn’t respond. This last text string I keep going over and over. I can’t help but think this was your cry for help, and I let you down. Were you telling me that you wanted to die? Were you wanting me to fight for you? I never knew the context of that conversation you were talking about, but I know it was something said in anger but not meant. I would give ANYTHING to go back to that conversation and call you, and beg you to never hurt yourself. I myself have said similar things in the past so figured it was the same with you…that you were saying it because you were sad but you didn’t mean it. And now all I can think about is how I let you down. My brain knows I couldn’t have saved you even if I had called you that day instead of texting, but my heart tells me otherwise. I told you that you could be happy if you wanted. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t trying to trivialize…I was trying to empower you. To make you see how lucky you were. But instead I came off like I didn’t care. And I’m so so sorry. That’s never what I intended. I was trying to hard to protect you from yourself. But as someone who has fought the same battles I should have known better.

Regrets make this so much harder.

But I’m still breathing. Even though nights suck ass, the days are okay. I told you that already. And this last weekend was the best I’ve had since you left. Clay and I popped around several different bars before going to the theater Friday. I’m not drinking, but I still have so much fun exploring different places and drinking my nonalcoholic beverages. I know you rolled your eyes at me when I ordered my kombucha at Fermentaria. Hey, man, don’t knock it till you try it. And what do you expect from a hippie former yoga instructor?? You would have loved the last two bars we went to…one entire wall was retracted to let in the awesome spring breeze, and dogs were everywhere. Then Saturday, we hiked and BBQ’d with our friends. I invited you to hike with us…did you take us up on it? Sunday, Clay had a meeting so we didn’t make it to church…but we ended up going to brunch and then meeting our cousin, Maggie, out for her birthday at a local cider place. So obviously…good weekend. I actually had a goal to not cry this weekend. I figured I would be busy enough that I could remain distracted, and be exhausted and happy enough at night from all our excursions that I could just fall asleep.

It didn’t work. It’s Day 37 and not a single day has gone by that I haven’t cried. I know that it takes time. But the grief has taken its toll. I’m exhausted all the time. I have black circles under my eyes. I have all these pimples on my cheeks from tears and under my nose from (I’m sure) snot. Sorry, dude. But that’s the truth. My face is raw, and I’m not sure how to fix it. I know us crying isn’t what you want. The other night as I sat in the living room crying to you, I asked you what to do. Begging you to tell me what to do. And in that moment, I heard you. Clear as day. Let me go. Which made me cry harder. Because I don’t want  to let you go. How can I let you go? I know that letting you go doesn’t mean it stops hurting, or I stop missing you. It means to take comfort in the fact that I’ll see you again one day and live my life. But, Chris, I just don’t know how to let go yet. If you have any pointers, by all means share them. I’m at a loss.

But you’re still showing up. That same night after I wiped my tears, I looked down at my phone and saw in my text box the words “I’m sorry.” I just stared at it. I hadn’t touched my phone. How did that get there?? And then our TV turned on by itself when I left our bedroom to get a drink later that night. Two more reminders that you are here with me. I’m sorry. I know you were apologizing for the grief your actions caused. Well…it’s okay, little brother. I forgive you. It’s okay. Despite you hurting me like this, you are my brother. Always. Now and forever. I may still be angry with you, but it’s just because I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Love you, Buddy.

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