There are some things happening in the world these days that… well, let’s just say that there is a part of me that is grateful that you aren’t here to witness. The events happening in Ferguson right now, and all across the rest of the country in response to it, are heartbreaking.
I know how much you struggled with just day to day things trying to find reasons to continue living in spite of the depression which took so much of your happiness away from you. But you also spoke to me many times about how hard it was to watch what was happening in the world and how it was breaking your spirit. In your final letter you wrote these exact words to me:
“It’s been a constant battle for me nearly every day, and I found myself struggling more and more as I got older. I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the future of the world, and that makes it so much harder to try to cope with people and the way they can be. As the years have gone by, I’ve had more and more trouble trying to feel happiness. At best, I can only see that I’ll grow old and more depressed, and at worst I can be unhappy while I watch the world undo itself.”
Those words broke my heart not just because I love you and it hurt to know that you were hurting… but also because I often felt the same way. I never had the right words to offer to you when I didn’t feel so hopeful myself. There is, it seems to me, a growing lack of empathy and concern for others in the world and a greedy attitude in our culture. I’m trying really hard not to see it that way but every time I turn on the news my heart sinks a little bit. Some may condemn my desire to not watch or read the news as a lack of concern for the world but it is quite the opposite– it’s too much concern that drives my desire to remove myself from it at times. I certainly don’t bury my head altogether and I do try to make a bit of difference in people’s lives where I can– such as my involvement with the AFSP and CASA; but I have also learned that I alone have the responsibility of protecting my own spirit and sometimes that means avoiding things that hurt my heart and creating a safe distance for myself when it is necessary.
I have always felt things so very deeply and even as a young child was so easily distressed by the injustices I saw in the world. I remember very vividly going to see the movie “Places in the Heart” starring Sally Field. It was 1984 and I was just a few months shy of my 10th birthday. It addressed the issue of slavery and it was so frightening to see the horrible things people were doing to another human being simply because of the color of their skin. It absolutely broke my heart into pieces and I remember feeling so overwhelmed by all the emotions I was feeling: anger, sadness, grief and helplessness. It’s been that way my entire life and I know you were cut from the exact same cloth and you also felt things at such a deep level that it was so hard for you not to absorb the feelings and emotions going on around you. In fact, of all the discussions I’ve had with other survivors, this characteristic seems to run rampant amongst those we have lost. It can be said of nearly every loved one spoken about at our meetings– that they were gentle and caring souls who felt all things so very deeply. Although I am unsure of the source of this quote, I am certain that it describes many who are lost to suicide:
“You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you’re in so much pain.”
Obviously you weren’t a perfect person… no one is. But you, Brian, had a heart that was just too big for your gentle spirit. I think it was a bit of a curse to be given such a great capacity for caring but also a mind that was not equipped with the capacity to care so deeply yet not be overcome by it. A friend of mine posted the following quote today after I’d already begun this blog and I knew I had to include it because it fits so closely with what I’ve been feeling about what is happening today and how I think you’d be feeling today if you were still here to experience it:
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
~ Andrew Boyd
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it was your favorite holiday! This will be my 4th one without you and, though I miss you ever single day, the holidays are just harder and they make your absence that much more obvious. This year I’m thankful for the 35 years I had with you and thankful for the people I have in my life now. I’m especially grateful for the strength I’ve mysteriously managed to muster up to keep going; I really didn’t think I had it in me.
As I’m typing this it literally just occurred to me that you and I first watched “Gladiator” together on Thanksgiving in our apartment back in November of 2000. You absolutely loved the soundtrack and I remember clearly riding around with you in your black Honda Civic hatchback (which you named “Blackula”) with the windows down and you were blaring that music for all the world to hear. It always makes me smile to think about that day. Maybe I’ll watch it this weekend and remember that Thanksgiving with you.
I miss you so much, dude.