To my little brother

It was just another Tuesday evening during Covid isolation when my mother called me. I was by the kitchen table, eating with my youngest. She asked me if I was sitting down, and I knew – this is the call I had feared receiving for years. I pulled myself away to our bedroom to face the devastating news that you had finally done it. Alone, in your apartment, in your bedroom, where my mother had found you and made the emergency call just few minutes earlier. She was now waiting for the police. It was too late to help you anymore, you had left this world almost 15 hours ago, soon after you had written the final note by hand, in despair at 4.20. a.m.
After brief discussion with my wife, we decided to be truthful to our children and told them that you, their sole uncle, had taken your own life. I remember thinking, what if there has been a misunderstanding , what if the paramedics have arrived and they have been able to resuscitate you. Then I did not remember you had a living will to deny that. It was hard to think straight, it felt like a nightmare. Half an hour later I found myself driving through the darkness to my mother’s. Not crying, but in shock. Time for tears wouldn’t come until a couple of weeks later and then they wouldn’t stop.
You were my best friend, my little brother,
my only sibling. I remember your birth, and now, after 40 years it is again time to learn to live without you – and that is incredibly saddening. I have been preparing myself for this for the past years, while you struggled with your health and talked openly about your will to end your life. I kind of let myself to accept the fact that you are no longer living while you were still alive. I should have faught harder for you! Yet I know I tried my best. During past years we opened up to each other about our deepest fears and anxieties, but yet I wasn’t able to heal you – nobody was. I question myself whether I should have gotten you admitted to mental hospital against your will. I used to think that our mother shall do that if things come to that point, but neither of us had the guts try that. It is easy to regret that now, but I was afraid how you would have reacted.
We were similar in so many ways. We enjoyed the same kind of music, followed same sports, struggled with same kind of insecurities, and enjoyed staying up late to discuss philosophically about life. God I miss those conversations. Yet you were always the more artistics fellow, the one who wrote poems and dreamt of being a rock star. The one who felt more deeply, even too deeply, so it seemed. Living so much in your head, especially after you gave up working out, since you felt it was bad for you.
You used to be the lead man of your band, but you had given up that hobby a couple of years ago – like you had given up your job already earlier. An important job where you helped people to cope with their mental problems. Seemed to me that you were working yourself to give up everything and it scared me. You were no doubt good in your work helping others, like you were in everything that you chose to pursue. Just that you had no energy left to pursue much, not since your relationships had fallen apart, one after another. You once compared yourself to a bad battery, which just wouldn’t charge properly, no matter how much you rested.
I can’t say that I didn’t know the amount and depth of your suffering. I did. I had witnessed it my own eyes and it was a constant dark shadow in the back of my mind. I had seen you at your weakest. I had once convinced you that life is still worth living. You thanked me for that later when you felt better, but the problems didn’t go away.
You were reluctant to take anymore meds, saying your body can’t tolerate them any longer. After decades of medication, your brain had ”rebooted”. You were offered to start new form of electrical brain therapy by your doctor, but that scared you too much. Probably you feared it would drain you even more. You had asked our mother’s blessing on your decision to end your own life, which she of course denied. You wouldn’t accept any intervention either: “no intervention, unless I would be in psychosis one day”. Now I wonder that you might have been in psychosis – why else would anyone choose the darkness over life. But then again, your belief was that this is not everything. That soul will move on. I think that was a comforting thought for you, designed to keep your fear of death at bay, but which ironically made the death by suicide more appealing. You neither had will to live nor fear of death – and that was a fatal combination.
We were supposed to grow old together, you and me. Supporting one another. Now it is just me left and our elderly mother and father. Nobody to share the same childhood experiences anymore, and that makes me feel so alone. I feel guilt letting you down and at the same time anger for you leaving me. You once said it is not selfish to take one’s own life, but it is selfish to ask someone to live when the person has lost will to live. I wish I had challenged you on that, but maybe it wouldn’t have changed your decision.
I found poems you had written. Poems of a romantic man, longing for love and acceptance. Might it be that you suffered from a broken heart more than anything else? Your own view was that problems with lack of energy were primarily due to a physical illness. I had no option but support you on that fight, but now I think the origin of your tiredness might have been more of a spiritual nature. Your mind was not getting nurture and love it so badly needed. We are not built to live alone, without a partner.
I am still today dealing with guilt. I feel I should have done more. The guilt almost crushed me in the first weeks. The feeling is still there, but I now understand that it was your own choice(s) that took you from us and it was not my fault what you did. Your death was the end result of a process that took years.
I am grateful of having you as my little brother and you are always with me. So you were right – your soul lives on in all of us who loved you. Thank you also for leaving such kind suicide note, giving absolution to us who were left behind. But if you’d only been able to see how sorely you are missed, I wonder would you still have done it?

1 thought on “To my little brother

  1. I could’ve wrote this. My sister took her life on 8/20/21. My sister is finally free and not suffering anymore. She also struggled with mental health. Im so sorry for your loss. It’s so hard and I’m completely heartbroken.

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