Sitting at our campsite in Bed Bend National Park looking up at the bazillion stars in the sky this song, and Brian, kept running through my head.  It’s true– each time I look up at the stars I wonder where he is now…

“Stars”

Written by Grace Potter

I lit a fire with the love you left behind,
And it burned wild and crept up the mountainside.
I followed your ashes into outer space
I can’t look out the window,
I can’t look at this place,

I can’t look at the stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I, I can’t look at the stars

All those times we looked up at the sky,
Looking out so far,
We felt like we could fly.
And now I’m all alone in the dark of night,
The moon is shining,
But I can’t see the light,
And I can’t look at the

Stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I, I can’t look at the stars

Stars,
Stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I can’t look at the stars.

Dear Brian,

Today is Mother’s Day.  Three times this week I tried picking out a Mother’s Day card for Mom only to leave the store crying with no card in hand.  I mean… try finding a card that fits how she has felt since you died.  I mean she obviously is still a Mom– to both of us– but to outlive your own child… well I just can’t imagine the grief she feels now and has for the past 2-1/2 years.

I know how hard it is when I meet new people to hear the question, “so how about you, do you have any siblings?”  The obvious answer is “yes” because I do, I have you– you’re just not here anymore.  But it spurs that awkward silence when I tell them I do have one brother but that he passed away.  I know she also must feel a horrible pit in her stomach when asked how many children she has because it reminds her how much she has lost and just doesn’t know how to answer that question anymore… because our answers are, like I’ve mentioned before, instant conversation stoppers.  While I whole-heartedly believe your choice to end your life was not a selfish one but rather one you deemed your ONLY choice… I don’t know that you could have predicted how you would change our mother’s life.  You have altered the very fiber of her being– her sense of motherhood.  She misses you with every ounce of her soul and this holiday, set aside to honor and recognize mothers, is a painful reminder that she’s lost a vital part of what made her a mother in the first place.

Mom is one of the few people in the world now who I feel I can relate to because we lost the very same person and we still want to talk about you and not have your existence on this plane be forgotten.  When I had that AMAZING dream in which you came to visit me shortly after you died, Mom was so moved by that and was so very grateful that you chose to come to me to try and take a little of my pain away by letting me know that you were alright and that you were no longer hurting; but I know, deep down, that her heart was jealously aching so badly for the same kind of connection with you too.  The very best present she could ever receive today would be a sign or visit from you.  I’d like to ask you to reach out to her in some special way that she’d know it could only be you– if not today, then soon.  I think she really needs that from you now.

Please know that Mom also loves you more than any of my words would ever represent and she misses you every waking moment.

We love you, Brian.

Laura

p.s. For anyone reading who may know a mother who has lost a child–  either before they were ever born, when they were too young or even if that child lived a long life I offer these words from www.sheknows.com: “Acknowledge the loss and recognize that she is a mom. Even though the child is no longer with her physically, she will always be a mother. Don’t think that she doesn’t want to talk about her child. Many moms who have experienced the death of a child would love people to acknowledge their children and talk about fond memories with them.”  So please reach out to those Moms today and help them honor the children they have lost.

Thanks for reading!

Dear Brian,

In the spirit of “Mental Health Awareness Month” I’m going to continue my  brutally honest chatter with regards to my own mental health.  Each and every time that I’ve had to cancel a doctor’s visit or have to postpone filling my medication because I didn’t have the money I have thought of you.  It both haunts me and frightens me because, though I know I’m not currently in a position where I would succumb to the same fate as you, I can’t help but be painfully aware of  the same financial pressure I know  you were feeling towards the end.  If I have to choose between paying my rent and antidepressants… the rent will always win.  The doctor had been requiring monthly visits for refills at $130 per visit… and that didn’t include my co-pays for the medications.  At that astronomical rate, and as a single person trying to pay that astronomical rate, it was simply not feasible. As of now I’ve been completely off of my medication for 4 months.

It’s actually been OK, really!  But obviously there are good days and bad days… which is no different than anyone else.  One thing that I find so extremely frustrating is the condescension in a person’s voice as they ask, “hey, are you sure you shouldn’t be back on your medication?”  There is something not-so-subtly insulting about the suggestion that a bad day, or several bad days in a row, requires the resumption of a daily prescription drug regimen.  Someone who has not been previously handed a diagnosis of “recurring major depressive disorder” is somehow allowed to have bad days or even get a little bit lippy from time to time without it being suggested they seek medical attention or risk tumbling into an eternal abyss.  I will say the medication did serve a very important purpose for a long, long time.  But now that I’ve been med-free for a while, I feel confident about staying this way for the foreseeable future.

The self-injury has not resurfaced with the absense of the antidepressants, either.  So that’s good news!  I truly believe that using my words (communication) is the greatest preventative tool in keeping the self-injurious tendencies at bay.  The times during which I would most often cut were when I was feeling trapped, unheard and unimportant… or when I did actually share my feelings only to be shut down, made fun of or ignored.  When I found myself in a relationship (with friends, family, roommates, romantic partners, etc…) in which I didn’t feel safe expressing myself or setting healthy boundaries the urge was far more consistent.  As a child, and even until more recent years, I wasn’t confident enough to assert myself and say “no” when I could have or should have; I would often stifle my feelings so as not to create any tension or disappoint anyone.  Well, I’ve stopped doing that and it turns out that people seemed to have liked me better when I was quiet and agreeable.  Well, the me that was “quiet and agreeable” was also far more miserable always letting people have their way because I was too scared to speak up.

Your death surely exacerbated my existing depression and continues to be a continued presence in my life each day.  I think of it like this– let’s say a completely mentally healthy person lives like a pot of water at room temperature… it might take a lot of heat to get it to reach the boiling temperature of 212 degrees farenheit.  I think the combination of my genetic predisposition to depression compounded with the trauma of your self-induced death have turned me into a pot of water always living at about 195 degrees… I don’t have as much “wiggle room” for taking on heat before reaching my boiling point these days.  Or maybe I’m like a tiny little kayak in a rough sea… I feel every toss and turn of the waves so intently whereas a slightly healthier person might be on the emotional equivalent of an oceanliner; they could be on the very same sea and be experiencing the same rough waves but won’t feel a thing.  I’m OK with that, though.  I mean, I’m not a threat to myself, I’m not a threat to other people and, if anything, my depression and the grief I’m experiencing after losing you have only made me more compassionate towards others and more intent on protecting my own boundaries to keep myself healthy and safe.  Those aren’t bad things… so what’s the big deal?

Thanks for listening as always, dude.

Love,

Laura

While Brian and I never had a special connection to this song when he was alive (aside from growing up listening to Jimmy Buffett with our Mom) it now has a very powerful affect on me and can bring me to big tears in mere seconds.

On Saturday, October 16th, 2010 we were headed from Red Wing up to Brooklyn Park to clean out Brian’s condo…  only 3 days after I’d learned of his death.  In the car with me was my Mom, my Dad and Brian’s good friend Chad… he had graciously offered to help us out.  It was only an hour drive but it felt like it was taking forever… but on the other hand I was grateful for that as I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get there.  We had no idea what we would encounter there– after all, the last people to have been there were the police and the coroner.  We didn’t know if Brian had already packed his things up (we half expected that), if there would be any visible signs of the decomposition or, honestly, what his home would smell like as he’d been found a week after his death.  I was absolutely terrified of what we would see, smell and feel.

Chad was working hard to keep us all distracted and decided to play DJ for a while.  He plugged in his phone and started picking songs for each of us.  I don’t actually recall what song was picked for me, but he played a John Hiatt song for Dad and for Mom he chose “Come Monday” because she always loved Jimmy Buffett.  The song started and soon enough we were all singing along and fighting back the tears but yet smiling in the great moment we were sharing.

To this day, heading this song brings me right back to that moment in the car and I find myself crying pretty quickly.

Tonight I will be going with my good friend Marcy to see Jimmy Buffett in concert thanks to her sister, Tamara, who has given us all tickets.  I’ve never seen him live and can’t wait!  While the concert is sure to be an absolute party I know there will be a 4 minute period at some point in the concert, when “Come Monday” is played, that I won’t be able to help but be transported back to that day in 2010.  Like then, I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears but will also be smiling at how even on that day, just for a few minutes, we were smiling.

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