Today makes exactly 6 years since you took your own life. Last year I spent this day with Moomie and some close friends eating pizza and remembering you. When no one else could understand the depth of my pain, she was the one I could call and know that she was going through the very same thing. This one hurts. A lot.
I hardly know where to begin as it’s been 3 months since my last letter. You’re on my mind every moment of every day but I keep putting off writing because I know that as soon as I type the words “Dear Brian” the tears start to flow. And it seems today is no different. But here goes…
Since my last letter, I packed up everything I own and the kitties and I left Texas and moved back to our hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. I’m just as surprised as anyone that I ended up back here but there was something pulling me back. As much as I appreciate the upbringing we were afforded by being raised in a small, close-knit community, I am so deeply grateful for the 20 years I spent between Minneapolis and Austin, Texas. My time in those cities brought me to places I’d have never been, people I’d never have met and the kind of scenery, food, music and culture I’d have never been able to experience in a town this size. I made amazing friends in my time away… people I now proudly call “family.” It opened up my eyes to the world beyond what we saw growing up and it helped me to learn so much more about myself than I could have learned by staying here. I’m a better person for having been away but something in my soul told me this is the place I needed to be.
Leaving Austin was bittersweet. I was so excited for the fresh start but it was hard to uproot myself and move forward and away from the people I’d come to love over the past 7 years. Just before my last day at work, my coworkers presented me with a notebook in which they’d all left a note for me. I still read it often because it warms my heart to know that I was so deeply cared about. I desperately want to be able to see myself the way that they all described me. I sounded like a pretty fantastic person in their words… I’m still working on seeing myself the same way. But, I digress…
I’ve now been back here for 2 months. I’m settled in at my new job and enjoy what I do and I absolutely adore the people I’m working with; they’ve really made me feel very welcome there and we laugh a lot. And I bought a house! It’s adorable and it’s the perfect size for just me and the kitties and they’ve adapted alarmingly well. I’ve managed to settle back into a very comfortable and relaxed routine here and there isn’t a single part of me that questions the decision I made to come back. As much as I loved my life in Austin, there is something so comforting about driving around town and seeing not only places that remind me of you and Mom… but also spending time with people who love me, loved you and loved her. It warms my heart to be sitting at a local pub and hear someone say, “Hey, I knew your brother, he graduated with me. Really sweet guy.” It doesn’t bring you back, but it does make you feel a little bit closer. And just hearing someone mention your name always makes my heart leap a bit. It’s so comforting to know that others still remember you… and remember you so fondly.
I recently stopped in at Buchanan Grocery. So many memories at that little neighborhood store! As I was paying for my groceries, I glanced behind the cashier to see that they still have the old, wooden counter that was there when we were kids. I felt tears start to well up in my eyes as the flood of images took over in my head. We’d pass by every morning and afternoon as we walked to and from our elementary school on the corner next to the store and sometimes stop for a snack on the way home. In the summer you and I would ride our bikes there almost every day; Miss Kathy was always so patient when we’d toss our heaping pile of pennies on the counter and ask her, “Do we have enough money for these wax lips and candy cigarettes?” She’d quietly count them out and help us pick out our candy. When Mom would run out of eggs or milk, she’d send the two of us there to pick it up and she’d always send a “little extra” for us to pick out a special treat. And, as a thank you, we’d often return with a bouquet of dandelions for her that she’d lovingly display in a vase on the counter. And, from what I’ve been told, you are still remembered there so fondly by the people who worked with you when you bagged groceries there. They say you were one of the best workers they’ve ever had. And I don’t doubt that.
I still struggle a lot though, dude. I miss you and Moomie so, so much. As much as I know this is the right place for me, I still feel pretty alone most of the time. I have great friends but they all have husbands, wives, children of their own and their extended families. But I’m doing a better job getting myself out there and socializing… certainly much more than I’d been doing my last year in Austin. I’ve self-injured 3 times since moving back which might seem like a lot… but knowing myself, and how much change can trigger those urges, I’m pretty OK with that number. Like I’ve said… I’m still a work in progress and I’m learning to be gentler with myself when I have setbacks. On that same topic, I’ve been asked to participate in a book about self-harm and I’m so hopeful that the words I’m sharing will help someone out there going through the same thing… or even help the people that love them to understand it a little bit better.
Being back here has been so good for me… but I’m still finding myself having to try so hard to keep my head above water. Emotionally, that is. I keep recalling one particular night not long before I moved back when I was feeling so overwhelmed by it all… the packing, the moving, the job hunt, finding a place to live… and doing it all without you and Momma to share it with me. There was one terrifying moment when I looked in the mirror and I heard myself say, “I’m going back home to die.”
I realize that sounds awful… well, it IS awful. And I’m still fighting through that horrible feeling most days. I just have to keep making it a priority to choose hope over and over again. It’s not something that comes naturally to me but this change, this new house, this new life… well, they are making happiness seem a little less out of reach than in years past.
Some very dear friends remembered what this week means for me and gave me a beautiful card. In the card was a note that they’d paid to have a memorial tree planted for you and Moomie now that I’m finally in my own place… all I had to do was go pick one out. It was planted yesterday and I already spread some of your ashes there. I woke up this morning to see that beautiful tree in my yard today, the 6th anniversary of your suicide. That tree is a symbol not just of you and Moomie but also a symbol of the hope that I’m doing my very best to cling to each day. Please continue to watch over me and maybe give me a nudge in the direction of that hope if you see me slipping away from it.
I miss you more than I could ever possibly articulate in words. Your death has left a hole so deep in my heart. You were my brother and you were my friend.
Remembering you today and always.