Today I want to speak on a subject that has unfortunately utterly destroyed my family. Suicide. Tomorrow would have been my brother’s 36th birthday had he not chosen to end his own life. Mental illness and addiction runs rampant through my family…to the point I have lost not only my brother but also a grandpa and cousin to suicide. What is left is the stigma and bad feeling that attaches to death by suicide. And if there wasn’t such a stigma following addiction and mental health, perhaps my beloved family members could have been saved.
I am not placing the blame on anyone, but this world is a cold and lonely place sometimes which is why I always promote acceptance, love, and light. My wish is that every person can find a set of loving arms to hold them when they cry, a safe place to land when they’ve taken off into the lonely abyss of their own thoughts, and that they find a reason to hang on for one more day for the rest of their days.
Here is Dale’s story as I’ve never told it before. I will warn ahead of time I am being completely candid, raw, and open and that there may be details you find emotionally disturbing.
My brother was born on March 29th 1981 and I was born in 1987. From the get go we were inseparable in a way I can’t even put into words. He was my best friend, partner in crime, adventure seeking buddy, and mischief maker in command. I fondly look back at our memories together and often shake my head wondering how we survived. We built tree forts on property we had trespassed on, he fell out of said tree fort and broke his arm and I laughed the whole way home because that’s what shit head little sisters do. We broke into the shed in the middle of July and decorated our trailer with all the Christmas decorations because sometimes life was hard for us and we were kids and wanted to feel some joy. My mom came home and asked us what in the name of God we were doing in the middle of summer hanging up stockings?! Our response was shouted over the Elvis Christmas album blaring was “BEING JOLLY!” We spent every summer at a resort in Eastern Washington called Mardon where we pretended we were Skully and Mulder from X-Files or the boys from “Stand by Me” looking for Ray Brower’s body. He got a guitar and we formed a band that never got further then me singing from my top bunk and him strumming from the bottom. When I got my first boyfriend and he broke my heart my brother showed up at the school to stare him down and let him know it wouldn’t fly and to leave me alone. Then he gave me a tattoo on my ankle with indian ink to make me feel better, which is probably why I have always gotten a tattoo after my heart is broken.
Dale was an outlaw. I have letters I wrote to him while he was in Pierce County Jail. Even then he was funny and kind and supportive. Others saw him as a rebel but I saw his unwavering loyalty, kind spirit, and incomparable sense of humor. Yes he made mistakes growing up and there is never an excuse to break the law but what I choose to remember is the good in my brother.
On September 28th 2010 after mixing alcohol with anti-depressants my brother shot himself. His girlfriend and two daughters found him. The next morning when my mom called to tell me I physically collapsed in a heap on the ground and just screamed “no” over and over. I had to take on the task of calling and telling my older sister who was also very close to him as well as his friends. The months that followed were some of the roughest of my life.
The last thing I spoke to my brother about was why I hadn’t informed him I had gotten engaged. After he had moved from Washington to North Dakota we had some falling outs and weren’t speaking as much…something that haunts me to this day. He texted me to congratulate me and ask if him and my fiance (Brennen) could make bunk beds like Dale and Brennen from the movie “Step Brothers”. It was light hearted and happy and that is the light I aways choose to see my brother in.
Suicide is selfish, no doubt about it. I have felt all the waves of anger, sadness and emptiness since the day my brother chose to end his life. But I choose to think of the good things about him and sympathize with the fact he had a mental illness and didn’t have the tools in his toolbox to cope with it….like so many others in this life.
If you take anything form this post I hope you think to go home and reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to lately or hug your family tighter. If you know someone is struggling emotionally, be there for them. Life is precious and not guaranteed.