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In Memory of a Great Brother

March Anniversary

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March Anniversary
In Memorial

Character Builder

 

When something truly hurts you, know that whatever hurt you was real.

That's something to be thankful for.
- Kelly Baskin

Character

Wow, what a year. A full year. Somedays it seems like it was only yesterday and others days it feels like it’s been ages.

Mr. Feigal in his speech said, "Character is born from the 3am phone calls. That’s when you’ll really know what you are made of." I sat there and thought, yes, I’ve had one of those. My phone call came at 1 am. Nothing since has been the same. In a year, I’ve learned a lifetime of lessons.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes loved ones do the unexpected, and sometimes, you have to grow up before your time.

I’ve learned in the last year what really matters. Do I live that every day? Well, like everyone else, I am guilty of worrying too much about things out of my control. I complain about little things and there are times when I still value the wrong things. But for the most part, I know what matters. I know my family will be there through thick and thin. You hope for lots of thick, but when there is thin, you thank God you’ve got them to lean on.

And while we’re on the subject of God, I’ve learned that there is definitely a God above because without him I would never have made it through this first year. Some might find that odd. Some think I would curse a God that did this to my brother. But I’m going to assume that God has a plan. And, I’m also going to assume God knew what he was doing. I still cry when I miss my brother, I still regret that he’s not here and I mourn the memories that will not be made. But I have no beef with God. God blesses me everyday by showing me ways to use what I’ve learned to help others.

The hardest thing I’ve come to realize is how little I really knew. I never knew about depression or mental illness or bipolar (you can use whatever term you want) but now that I do, I see it all around me. And I’ve spent the last year trying to show others what it is, what it does to a person, and what little we actually know about it. But unfortunately, I also had to learn that I can’t save the world. I can try, but it does not bring my brother back or make the hurt stop.

My biggest fear regarding my brother is that you will think he was weak. That he couldn’t handle life when everyone else around him could. That he took the easy way out. Well, maybe he did. But as I talk to others and realize the pain that comes with mental illness I know that is not the truth. But how do I make others understand that too?

I don’t know the answers. All I know is this last year has made me more understanding and also more bitter. I have a hard time listening to people tell me they’ve got a rough life or are stressed. I’ve seen a different view of life. I thank God they haven’t, but I have little sympathy for them. On the other hand, I’ve tried connecting with others in the same situation as us, and I have all the love and support in the world for their families. I know where they are coming from, where they will journey to, and I know you can’t do it alone.

So, what is different on March 16th, 2005? Well, for the rest of the world it will be just another ordinary day. For my family, it will mark one year without a member of our family here. One year of holidays without his loud voice and his big smile. One year of growing and aging that happened to us here on earth that never happened to Nate. One year of living he never experienced. Did he see Bodie celebrate his first birthday, Lanie turn four, Ethan be born? Did he watch Scott get his tattoo? See Sam and I walk along the beaches of California and visit Disneyland? Was he there for Angie’s wedding in Cancun? What about this year’s family picture in Gopher sweatshirts? Or how about the golf event over Labor Day weekend?

I never thought much about my brother before March 14th, 2004. He was always there. So, I never told him I loved him. I never said that even though we are only half brother/sister I love you like a real brother. I just assumed he knew that. A couple of weeks ago, I was going through some writings Nate had from his senior year. In one assignment he had to write about his family. He wrote he had a brother and two sisters. He didn’t say a stepsister or half sister, just a sister. And that day I smiled. I smiled because we must have done something right when he was here. He never questioned who I was in his life. So for all those times I have felt like I could have done more, I just think back to those words. "I have one brother and two sisters." So simple, yet so profound. And a little part of my heart healed that day.

As I close out a year I wonder, "am I suppose to ‘move on’ now?" Is there a chapter in my life that is finished? I wish I could write ‘the end’ and be done. I wish all the feelings that I have and all the thoughts in my head would stop because a year has passed. Unfortunately, right now I am back to one of the lowest points since Nate died. I experience a lot of anger towards people and life and I am very short on patience. If I was suppose to be magically healed, someone forgot to tell that to my heart. But, I do feel I’ve made progress - for me. I think I’m learning how to deal with the loss of a brother, especially one to suicide. I’m learning how to channel my energy into positive avenues and hopefully help others. I’m braver than I was a year ago. I write my feelings down and share them with you. I have no idea if you just trash my emails or read them to the end. I approach people in the same situation as me without fear. I worry less about what people think and more about what I think. That is something Nate could never have taught me while he was here.

Does life go on after a year? I’m afraid it went on after a day. It was up to us to jump back on the ride and continue the journey. Hopefully we are wiser and more willing to help others because unfortunately, we are not alone. And we were not put on this earth by the Almighty to hide under a rock and watch the world go by. Some days hurt. Some days aren’t even worth getting out of bed for, but most days have some good in them, some reason to thank God that we are still here and some reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I now feel I have a ‘mission,’ a reason to be here. When people underestimate the despair and damage of mental illness I can tell you first hand what it can do to a loved one, and to our family. When people simplify suicide or depression as a weakness, I can tell you how much strength it took him fight and stay here. And I hope someday people will see depression as the disease it is and not as a ‘character flaw’ that must be overcome.

One year later, I repeat what I said to you in front of the church the day we said goodbye to my brother: "My parents are wonderful parents that dealt with a disease they had no knowledge about and no tools to handle it with. They were surrounded by the stigma of fear and embarrassment. And I think even Nate felt ashamed that he could not be as "normal" as everyone else. My brother was the bravest man I know. He died for peace and to help us live with one less problem. However misguided that was, I don’t know many other people that would die for our family. Our family is stronger, more open and more loving because he has been here."

I received a letter from the Red Cross this week. It said that in the past year Nathan has helped at least 39 people. Many will know what it is like to walk again, to live with less pain or no pain at all or to return to a quality of life that they have not known for years.

Does this make everything better? NO. But it sure makes me proud.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If heaven was a train, it'd be a fast one
To take this weary traveler 'round the bend
And if heaven was a tear, it'd be my last one
And you'd be in my arms again

Don't cry a tear for me now baby
There comes a time we must all say goodbye
And if that's what heavens made of
You know I ain’t afraid to die

If Heaven...by Andy Griggs

natesnowmobile.jpg
Nate's Senior Picture