Dear Brian,

Three years ago today I was in Dallas visiting a friend for the weekend.  It was a Saturday.  That morning I received a text message from you that said, “Hey, I’m having trouble with my email.  If you happen to get anything from me, just delete it.”  I really didn’t think much of it at the time… I figured maybe your account was hacked and it was just a head’s up to not open any attachments.  I had no idea what was in store for me the following day.

Upon my return home the next afternoon I unpacked, took a shower and got settled in.  I had been home several hours when I decided to check my email, completely having forgotten about the text message.  There was an email from you with subject line that simply read “Important.”  There was a word document attached but the body of the message said only this: “Hey Laura, this is very important and you will want to open it right away.  -Brian.”  I sat there for a moment debating whether or not to open it based off of your text message the previous day; but something told me it was absolutely necessary that I open that attachment.  Opening that document changed my life forever.

Dear Laura,

I’m very, very sorry to need to let you know this way, but if you’re reading this then that means that I’ve made the decision to end it all and it should be over and too late right now.  I scheduled this email to be sent with a time-delay and I left plenty of time.  I’m sorry that you had to find out like this, but I didn’t know what else to do.

You included the phone number for the Brooklyn Park police department and your address; that information was immediately followed by a lone, haunting paragraph that said only this:

“My front door will be unlocked.”

You went on to detail things that would need addressing after your death– your request for a small, simple funeral, your life insurance policy information, your car title, your banking information, and you listed your few remaining possessions and their estimated worth.  You also had several paragraphs lovingly describing your hopes for what was to happen to your beloved cats, Maximus and Marcus; you asked me to tell them goodbye for you as you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it before you left us.  I hesitate to be more specific with the remaining contents of your letter because they were your words to me and they are so very personal…  and honestly I don’t feel that they are my words to share.

There are no words that could ever come close to conveying what I was feeling when I read that first paragraph.  My head was spinning so unbelievably fast and I grabbed the phone and called Mom and Dad in a frenzy and immediately asked them when they’d last heard from you.  They had not received the email, you sent it only to me.  I forwarded it to them and said, “You need to call the police and send them over.”  You had actually sent the email the day before so I was already preparing myself for the possibility that you were already gone.  I was absolutely terrified.

While I waited to hear back from Mom and Dad after calling the police to do a wellness check I was frantically calling your cell phone repeatedly for about ten minutes straight.  As I picked up the phone one more time to try calling yet again, it began to ring… it was you!  My heart about jumped out of my chest!!   I heard your voice and knew you were OK… I could breathe again.

You kept apologizing for worrying me and kept saying you meant to SAVE the email, not SEND it and you were so embarrassed and ashamed.  I then found out the reason for your text the previous day; once you realized you actually sent the message you were trying to keep me from seeing it.  I kept telling you there was a reason I got it– clearly I was meant to see it and I was going to get you some help.  That’s why I struggle so much between July and October– the past couple summers since you died I’ve been reliving those months over and over again and recall the panic I felt each and every single day… worrying that you might be dead until I got a text, an email or you called so I could hear your voice.  I keep going over those months in my mind wondering what I could have done or said differently.  Knowing ahead of time that I was likely to lose you makes me feel like more of a failure– because I wasn’t able to prevent it even knowing what I knew. You had told me once that you regretted having gotten us involved at all because it gave us a false sense of hope that we could help you when in your mind you knew you were fairly certain you never wanted the help at all. I still painfully recall a conversation we had one day where I’d asked you to promise that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt yourself… there was a substantial pause on your end of the line until you simply sighed and said, “I… I really can’t promise you that, Laura.”  In my heart I knew you couldn’t promise me that– and I also knew that it really didn’t feel right asking you to promise that, either.  I knew how much pain you were in! I’d been there so many times myself before and because of that I understood that to ask you to endure that pain for me wasn’t entirely fair.  While it hurt to hear you say that, I also respect that you didn’t make me a promise you knew you would not be able to keep.  I’m so sorry for having asked that of you.

Please watch over me these next few months as we approach the 3 year anniversary of your death– I think this year is going to be extra hard for me.

As always, I hope that you are at peace now and are healing on the other side.

Love Always,
Laura

Dear Brian,

I need to begin this letter to you by reiterating, yet again, that I’m not angry at you for taking your life as I know you didn’t do it TO me… you did it in spite of how much you loved me and I know you tried to hang in there longer because of me as well as the rest of our family.  OK, that having been said… you need to know that what I AM angry at is the unsettling side effects your death has created in my life and within my relationships with others.  Because of your death, which was a conscious choice to leave, a few things regularly happen that I need to tell you about.

One of those things is this– when I can’t reach someone after multiple attempts I often have panic attacks.  I wasn’t hearing back from you after emailing you and texting you and leaving you voicemails over the course of a whole day and it turned out you didn’t reply to me because you were dead.  It creates such an intense sense of panic in me now when I can’t reach those that I care about.  My logical mind realizes that the likelihood of the same thing happening again is not exactly high; but the fear is there because there’s always that chance… it happened with you.  I panic nearly every time that my phone rings and I see that it is Mom calling me.  Each and every time since your death when I’ve looked down at the screen to see her name pop up as an incoming call, my heart stops and my stomach drops and I hold my breath– the tension remains until I actually hear her voice and am able to deduce from her tone whether the purpose of the call is a pleasant one or if it is another call to deliver devastating news to me like she did about 9:30pm on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010.

Secondly, it’s not just a fear of someone I love dying, but also an unfounded fear that they’ll just leave me… period.  I now have this unsettling need to hold tightly to things and to people whom I do not want to lose– whether that loss is by death or by them simply choosing to leave for personal reasons.  While very different situations, the underlying fear is the same. My love for you was not enough to help you overcome your desire to die.  As a result I now have an irrational fear of people choosing to walk away because my love, or their love for me, is not enough to give them reason to stay.  It now takes longer than it ever did before for me to settle in to a relationship (whether a with a new friend or with a romantic partner) as I’m afraid of allowing myself to get close to someone who has the potential to leave.  And of course, they ALL have the potential to leave– after all, no relationship is ever a guarantee; it would be completely naïve to think otherwise.  But the fear of experiencing that rejection again instills a hesitation within me that I do not appreciate nor is it fair to the person with whom I am hesitating to take that chance. When I begin to have a feeling that there is any potential threat to the relationship (regardless of whether or not that threat truly exists or was completely fabricated within my own imagination) I begin to tell myself if I wasn’t enough for even my own brother to stay, how could I ever possibly be enough for someone else?  This fear that causes me to be so cautious is not fair to myself nor is it fair to those closest to me.

I am very aware that it is not the responsibility of anyone else to cater to my need to be reassured.  I know that the reassurance I seek needs to originate from within me, not them– I need to work through these feelings on my own.  But I’m not going to lie– a little reassurance from the outside is equally as important now and then.  I realize that I am a work in progress!  But I do also realize that I’m a kind, caring, loving and decent person who is worth the extra reassurance and TLC while I work through all this shit you left behind. Coversely, I am very aware that it absolutely needs to go both ways– and there are some pretty amazing people out there for whom I am willing to work extra hard to get through this stuff to get to the really good stuff… which is what life is really all about.  I’m more self-aware than I’ve ever been (thanks to ongoing therapy) and I think that is crucial to making ANY relationship work– for each person to really know themselves, to know their own boundaries and limitations and to not be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for a little help now and then. You should know that I’ve found me one such kind and gentle soul whom I feel is very worthy of me taking that chance so… wish me luck.  🙂

It felt good getting that out. As always, thanks for letting me vent, dude.

Love,
Laura

Dear Brian,

Three years ago last night, on the Fourth of July, we were together as a family for the last time and we watched the movie “Up.”  I spent last night watching that movie again… for the first time since I saw it with you that night in 2010.  I really loved it the first time but watching it again last night there were so many things that stood out to me and seemed more fitting to my life now than I could have ever possibly imagined when I first watched it with you just 3 months before your death.

Carl was heartbroken after Ellie, the love of his life, died.  He was hanging on to pictures, their house and their belongings so tightly as if letting them go meant letting go of her as well.  When Carl and Ellie met as children, Ellie had shown him her “Adventure Book.”  It contained pictures of things that excited her and places which she planned on visiting.  Following the page that said “Stuff I’m Going to Do” was nothing but empty pages she had saved for documenting all the adventures she was going to have.  Upon getting married, Carl and Ellie had planned on visiting those places together and finishing her book; but things (and life) got in the way.  They continually had to dip in to their adventure money to fix the car, fix the house, etc… things always seemed to come up and push their trip off further and further.  Carl had always wondered if he let Ellie down by not getting her to South America for their adventure and helping her fill those empty pages.  That is, until he took a look at her book one more time and saw that after the “Stuff I’m Going to Do” page she had added pictures of their life together; pictures of their wedding, shared birthdays, shared laughter, them holding hands in the park and of them sitting side by side in their comfy chairs in their living room.  No adventure to South America but yet she didn’t regret a single thing because she had loved Carl and she had so treasured her life with him.  Knowing her time was coming to an end, she had written him one last note and ended the book by signing, “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one!  Love, Ellie.”  It was that note that seemed to finally allow him to see that he hadn’t let her down at all and that it really was OK for him to let go.   As he looked around the house you could intensely feel him coming to the realization that it was now only a shell of what it used to be… after all, they were just things. He’d been hanging on to something that was holding him back.  The pictures and furniture and house he shared with Ellie were not Ellie herself; she now lived in his heart and his memory and by letting go of those things he was free to continue living his life without her.

I have so much trouble letting go of things that belonged to you because some small part of me feels as though by doing so that I’m betraying you or letting you slip further and further away from me.  Unlike Carl, I’m not ready to completely separate Just as Carl had been burdening himself with the thought that he had let Ellie down by never making it to South America, I’ve been burdening myself with the thought that I let you down by not being able to save you. And while I know that you want me to continue living and have new adventures, I’m still finding that I’m holding back yet.  There are times yet when I find myself feeling so guilty for enjoying myself or having a good time or even smiling… because a tiny part of me feels as if it is a betrayal.  I know in my heart that it isn’t, but it feels that way.  I’m getting better… just very slowly.

Want to know something amazing?  When we finished the movie we turned the TV to a channel broadcasting a 4th of July concert in Philadelphia.  Literally a second after we clicked on that channel I we saw Grace Potter on the stage strapping on her acoustic guitar saying, “This is a song for a friend who left us too early.”  I knew immediately that she was about to sing “Stars.”  I had posted that song on this blog a while back because it has been so meaningful to me since losing you.  When she finished the song she said, “That goes out to anyone out there that is missing someone on this 4th of July.”  And I sure am missing you, Brian.

Love,
Laura

p.s.  A very special thank you to John Tyler and Lindsay for letting me borrow their copy of the movie “Up.”  Meant the WORLD to me to see that movie again! 🙂

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