My Brother’s 49th Birthday

Today, my brother would have turned 49.

His death six years ago was shocking enough, but to learn he had committed suicide made his death that more difficult to grasp. Why would someone as happy and as jovial as he purposely end his life?

There are still no answers to the why, as he never left a suicide note. Of course, I have my own ideas, but I have no evidence to substantiate any of my theories.

I still remember the shame I felt every time someone asked how my brother had died, and even then—in the midst of my grief—I understood that his death would have been much easier to stomach had he been killed in a car accident or died of an illness. A suicide often leaves the survivors feeling both shame and guilt, as if we’ve done something wrong and that we could have done something to stop it.

Though I no longer feel any shame, I still wish there was something I could have said or done to have changed my brother’s mind. Yes, the guilt is still there. The grief is still there, too. As Keanu Reeves once said, “Grief changes shape, but it never ends.”

It’s been 2,284 days since my brother’s suicide, and although the grief has subsided, it still lingers. I’m not sure I’ve gone a day without thinking about him, and I long for the day when I’ll only remember all the great times we had together and not just how he died.

Robert Frost wrote, “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Yes, life does go on for those of us left behind. I’ve learned to smile when I wanted to cry, and I’ve learned that it’s ok to just let myself cry. I hope my brother knows that I’ve never judged his decision to end his life because, as Seneca says, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

I hope my brother is happy wherever he is and that he is celebrating his 49th birthday with Donna Summer and Prince. And my Grandma.