I believe that the only way to make sense of life is to share our stories, especially those that contain hardship and pain. I include this link for those who can look for signs so that they may intervene to help another who is struggling, as well as for those, like our family, who must call themselves survivors now and find a way to move forward with hope despite such loss: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention http://www.afsp.org.
Through the sharing of stories and uniting with others, I believe we empower ourselves, as we give and receive love and encouragement, especially through the hardest of times. Our family so wishes for a different outcome, but we honor the life of my brother, for the love he gave and the person he strived to be.
Below is my reflection I read at his memorial....
I fondly remember the day I was leaving for college, as it contains a memory that I have always treasured of my brother. I was 18, and he was 23. As brothers and sisters sometimes tend to do, at that time, we had never said the words “I love you” to each other. We had never given hugs. Love was simply understood and unspoken.
While I stood in the foyer of my childhood home, with my parents standing by the door to drive me off to college, my brother came to say goodbye. He burst into emotion that spilled forth in tears and choked up voice. Hugging me, he said, “I love you.” He then quickly turned away to retreat to his bedroom, as he was overwhelmed by his emotions. I recall the feeling of joy that swept over me as his loving words and gesture caused my 18-year-old heart to soar. It was a pure and genuine expression of love that feels as vivid and alive today as its occurrence 30 years ago.
When my brother called me a few weeks ago, he told me he was hopeful despite his life’s setbacks. He told me he loved me, and I replied the same words. I did not understand this call was an unspoken goodbye.
Ah…the power of love. It can lift our hearts and spirits to unimagined heights; yet it can also carry us to the lowest of shores.
Today’s circumstances are far different from that day of my youth. The door, for now, remains closed between us. My family and I are left to make sense of the empty space that envelops us.
How should we fill that empty space?
Let us fill the empty space with hope in ourselves that we are strong and that we hold the power to cultivate happiness in our lives. Let us fill the empty space with awareness that life holds enormous beauty and joy if we open our eyes and keep putting one foot forward, even if we feel unsure of the way. Let us fill the empty space with loving connection, knowing that our relationships hold the power to comfort us through the darker days of life. Let us fill the empty space with faith that there is more to this world than what we see, and that peace and wholeness are available not just in the afterlife but in the here and now. Let us fill the empty space with loving remembrances as we let painful memories and regrets recede off into the distance, and let loving memories flood the riverbanks of our souls. Most importantly, let us fill the empty space with resilience and honor by carrying forward the best of my brother's life spirit, fulfilling the potential he would want for us as we continue to strive to create meaning in our lives.
Brother, may you know peace and wholeness now. I love you. Goodbye.
In closing, my brother loved nature, so I would like to honor him and other loved ones who have passed by reading this reflection from the Gates of Prayer:
In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.