su·i·cide ˈso͞oəˌsīd/ noun 1. the action of killing oneself intentionally. “he committed suicide at the age of forty”
“I love you Tom”, was the last phone message I received from my brother Jim. His voice was very calm, yet I knew something wasn’t exactly right.
A dear friend , on Facebook, posted this graphic yesterday: ￼
What eeked from my heart the moment I saw the post was, “No”, at least not for my brother. He had attempted to leave one time before and was not successful. This time he was.
I wrote this to my friend, “It (suicide) took my brothers pain away and from that I gained one of the most exquisite lessons of my life. It was his gift to me.” My friends reply was, “I’m speechless.” I couldn’t resist and replied, “So was I.”
This is not a post about the wrongs, rights or religiosity of suicide. It is me sharing that in the darkest of circumstances, if we are open, there is always a lesson to learn.
My family never spoke of Jim’s suicide. I don’t even have a photograph of him. All too classic a response for a catholic family riddled with the devastation of addiction issues.
Jim was gorgeous. He was a talented writer, one of Alberta’s top junior football prospects, bright as a whip, a hilarious storyteller and someone many people admired.
James Joseph, named after my father, was the fifth of ten children my parents would bring into the world. He was part of the older five. We younger five never really knew them.
From all of my older siblings I sensed great pain. It was as if they all harboured a horrible secret that no one ever spoke of or didn’t know how to speak of.
I have no facts to back up my story, but I always felt that every older sibling of mine had had their innocence ripped away from them.
Each of them used a different strategy to cover their pain. Yet the common denominator were substances with the constant companion of addiction.
Jim’s pain seemed more palpable. He chose not to express it violently like his older brothers, but I could somehow relate to it in a way I couldn’t with my other older siblings.
There was a quiet temeluchusness to his presence. I felt his fear. He would spend many years in prison for crimes I knew nothing about.
He and I had something in common. I thought it was that he too was gay. That wasn’t it, it felt more connected to how we learned to hide.
Jim would become the perpetrator, my perpetrator. As he had learned to hide, so did I.
I remember a huge breakthrough in my therapy that had me connect to the compassion I needed to find for my brother. I got there by wondering who sexually abused him.
My heart ached for him.
A few weeks prior to listening to my brother tell me, via a taped recording on the phone, that he loved me, we had a chance to speak.
He told me how proud he was of me for finding the courage to come out and uttered something to the effect that he could never summon such courage. Also, as he turned away from me he said, “Please forgive me for what I did to you.”
Jim had always scared me. Yet something that day moved me to follow him back into Mom’s kitchen, ask him to turn around, look into his beautiful blues eyes and say, “I forgive you.” He said nothing.
It was in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps 7 – 8 hours after listening to his taped voice telling me that he loved me, that his girlfriend Sheryl called to share that he had died.
Days later, in Victoria, as I sat beside his casket it suddenly dawned on me that this was the first time I hadn’t felt that my brother was in pain.
I leaned over and whispered two things to him. First I said, “My hope is that the choice you made to leave is powerfully serving you.” Secondly, as I gently wept I shared, “Thank you so much for teaching me how to forgive. I love you.”