Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Brother's Suicide

On Wed. October 12th I got a text message from my little brother. The text said, "I just wanted to tell you that I love you". My heart sank and I thought that he was saying goodbye. I called him immediately and he convinced me that he was just expressing himself. We started talking about dinner reservations and other mundane topics. This is what I wrote to my girlfriends afterwards:
This is so messed of me... My brother texts me that he loves me and my first though is "Oh my God he's saying goodbye before he kills himself" WFT - I am so warped. FWIW - after I called panicked he said that he doesn't tell the people in his life how he feels enough and he's trying to remedy that. I am SUCH A JERK!
On Monday the 17th I got a call from Jonny's best friend David. David asked me if I had heard from Jon. I said that I had spoken to him last week. David said that Jonny wasn't calling him back, which is very out of character for him. I called him on my other line and he didn't pick up for me either. I asked David if he had gotten an "I love you text". David said yes and then I knew. I called my dad and asked him the same thing and he also said yes. I told him to call the police in Florida and have them go check on Jon.

At this point I was feeling a little bit silly for calling the police; I was hoping that Jon had taken off for Vegas or something and didn't tell anyone.

My dad called the police around 1pm.  I was going nuts waiting. At 2:30 I had to go pick my kids up from school. After I got them in the car; around 3:15, I got a call from my friend Morgan. She asked me where I was and I said picking the kids up. She said, "You have to go to your mom's house right now honey. Right now!"

I knew for sure that something horrible had happened. I began to cry uncontrollably and when my 11 year old asked me why I was crying I said, "Something happened to Uncle Jonny and I think he died". I had five kids with me and they all started crying. I called my oldest daughter who is at college and told her to drop everything and go to Nanny's house (my mom). I called my husband and told him the same thing.

When I got to my mom's house around 3:40 - I was met by Jordan, my oldest daughter. She ran to the car and I was surprised to see her because I had forgotten that I called. I must have already been in shock. She said, "They found his body". I started screaming and wailing like in the movies. I literally dropped to the ground and my mom had to come pick me up. I am not one for drama but that was my reaction. My poor kids had witnessed the entire thing.

The rest of the day is a blur. I know that many of my mom's friends came over to be with us. I called my sister-in-law because I had her son with me and told her what happened and she didn't even leave work to come get him, she sent her mom. (obviously I am still pissy about that). My husband was literally holding me up all day because my body was jelly and I couldn't stand on my own.

At some point we found out that my brother had shot himself in the heart. There was a note but the police had it.

The days after are also a blur. I packed, or rather my husband packed for me to go to Cleveland. I played detective trying to piece together what happened. This is my version:

After reading Jon's writings and evaluations from professionals I can say for certain that he was depressed and suicidal since the 90's. I didn't see it and there is a good reason why. He was happy with his family. His big hole in life was passionate love; he didn't know how to connect to peers or women. He was lonely and in love with a woman who didn't reciprocate.  He thought that he was too ugly for a woman to love. (Obviously I am summing up quite a bit)

So, after looking at his bank records and credit cards I know this. He spent thousands on this woman that he was in love with, but the money wasn't only spent on her. He flew her, her new husband and her son out to DisneyWorld all expenses paid. That was just one example, he did similar things several times.

Did she know how he felt? I don't know. Do I blame her for his death? No. I do think that she used him and no woman, or man would accept such extravagant gifts without an ulterior motive. I do think she is a gold digger but I don't think that anyone can be blamed for my brother's choice.

She got married 2 or 3 days before my brother ended his life. That right there says it all.

 I got on a plane and went to Cleveland to be with my family and have the funeral for my brother. People rallied around us there. There was someone at our (my dad's) house almost all the time feeding us, cleaning or just sitting. My girlfriends Jodi and Michelle hardly left my side. Several families chipped in to cater meals while we were in mourning. My cousins, grandparents and Aunt and Uncle were constant companions. My Aunt, who rightfully should have been waited on like the rest of us, insisted on organizing all the meals and picking them up.

I slept at Jodi's most nights and I got to crawl into bed with her and her husband (both friends of mine since childhood). Jodi and Michelle ran errands for me, drove me around and held me while I cried. I am so grateful to have them.

If there can be a bright side to this nightmare - it's that I re-connected with my family in Cleveland. They started a "Get Ali To Move Back To Cleveland" campaign and I really do want to move back home. The trouble is that I have a blended family and I will be taking three kids away from their other parents. Chuck and I decided to spend the summer in Cleveland and then to really decide after a year of mourning has passed so that we know our decision wasn't made out of grief.

Right now I feel really alone in Tucson - my mom is here and she's wonderful and loving and present but I don't have the same level of friend and family support that I do in Cleveland. One of my girlfriends came over a couple of times and that was about it. No one calls. No one stops in to check on me. It's just me, my family and my mom.  My heart hurts because I miss my family in Cleveland and my friends.

I found a support group for suicide survivors and I am taking some comfort from that.

I know that it's only been three weeks but I can't imagine ever feeling complete again. My brother was not just my brother; he was my confidant, my stable adult male in my kids life, my best friend and my partner in crime. I miss him every minute of every day. I'm not mad at him but I am so, so, so sad that he was in so much pain and no one knew. Furthermore, even if I did know, that was a hole that I just couldn't fill.  All my life I protected him, advocated from him and loved him. Now he's gone and it's surreal.

Me and Jonny in 1991

Jonny and I as kids

One of Jon and Jordan's Disney Trips - Uncle Jonny really spoiled her :)

A rare photo of Jon smiling as an adult. This is his best friend David.

Last May at Jordan's high school graduation; the last family photo I have with me, Jon and both our parents

Disney World 2005 with three of my girls

This is classic Jon

A year ago today; Jonny with me and my mom

My girls SO loved their uncle

Old family photo that Jonny had on his FaceBook; these are some of my cousins

Hanging out with his nieces in Florida

I'm pasting my Eulogy below in case you want to read about Jon's life:

My brother was born Oct. 1, 1976. He was silly, inquisitive and kind and he had the biggest heart and the most contagious smile. He was the most generous man – he would help anyone out with anything; no questions asked. He loved his family and friends fiercely and he would do anything to make our lives more wonderful.

As a small child, Jonathan had a language disorder called Aphasia, which meant that he had difficulty remembering words and sometimes he mixed up grammar and tenses.. As a result he had some memorable “jon-isms”. Bananas were balabahs, Aunt Bonnie was “hey Lady” at first and then progressed to “Aunt Boonie” as he got older. Lisa; our babysitter of several years, was just plain “babysittar!”

When Jonny  was a toddler he held out his arms to Aunt Judy saying, “unc Denny!” My parents didn’t keep much junk food in the house but Jon knew where to go to get his fix. On arriving at Aunt Judy and Uncle Denny’s house he frequently said “You got anything with sugah?” My Aunt Judy used to make molded chocolate candy and Jonny discovered where she was storing the trays. Soon after the candy mysteriously vanished and jon had chocolate around his mouth.

Another famous Jon-ism was “you got anything was bwoken?” When Jonny was a kid he was fascinated by how things worked, specifically electronics. He would walk up and down our street looking for TVs that people were throwing away. If he was lucky enough to find one; he would either haul it home or enlist the help of our neighbor Larry Chernikoff to help him get his treasure home. Once Jonny got the TV home he would spend hours taking it apart in our basement. Once the television was unrecognizable; he would abandon it to find another. Not once did he put anything back together.

As Jon grew; his curiosity abounded. When he was 6 or 7 my parents had our entire backyard bordered in heavy stone pavers. Jonathan wanted to see the bugs underneath the pavers so he systematically lifted each paver, looked underneath for bugs and then discarded it onto the grass until the entire border was a pile of rocks on the grass. My parents saw the mess and were so surprised that such a little guy could life those heavy pavers that they just had to laugh.

Another time that year Jonny was sent to his room for a time-out. I can’t remember what the offense was but he was so irate at being sent to his room that he took every single piece of furniture; including his bed and dresser, and put them out in the hallway. No one could get through until he was calm enough to put everything back. Again; my parents shook their heads in wonder and laughed. My dad was famous for telling jonny, “Im laughing but I’m really mad”

There was a period of time when Jonny was little that every morning he would tell my parents, “I see you”. They really didn’t think much of it until they discovered the hole he had somehow drilled into the suitcase closet in his room which was next to their room. Sure enough – Jonathan was spying on our parents through the hole. Luckily all he could really see was their ceiling.

Jonny enjoyed food immensely, so much that when he was eating something particularly yummy, he would hum. Like this (hum) One December we were at my Uncle Al and Aunt Sue’s house in Florida and Jonny was eating cheesecake. He asked for seconds and when my mom said “you must have really enjoyed that”, Jonny came back at her with, “well, I wasn’t humming”.

As Jonny got older he really enjoyed organizing things.  My room looked like a small tornado had run through it and it drove Jonny crazy. So much so that he would sneak into my bedroom when I wasn’t home, to clean and organize it. I came home after one of his organizing sprees to find that he had not only organized my stuff; he had helpfully thrown away all my trash which included my term paper that was due the next day.

Some of Jon’s fondest memories are of Hershey Family Vacations and 4th of July gatherings. He truly loved being surrounded by his family. He loved to reminisce and he had been trying to get everyone on board for another trip this year.

Jonathan spared no expense when it came to me and his nieces – he enjoyed the finer things in life and he showed his love by lavishing what he could on us. He was a loving uncle; my kids adored him. He spent quality time with each and every one of my kids on a regular basis; spoiling them as only as Uncle Jon can do. When Jordan moved out to start college this fall she had the essentials that any college student would need. Jonny, however, wanted her to have everything and proceeded to buy her a plasma tv, a wii, more furniture and a bunch of other stuff that she really didn’t need. I said to him, Jon it’s supposed to be a little but harder then this and his reply was, “She’s my neice and I don’t want her to do without”. Obviously, Jonny and I had different ideas of what doing without meant.

Jonny had been begging me to bring my family to Disney World and Universal Studios. I explained to him over and over that it was just way too expensive to take a family of 8 cross country and especially to theme parks. He couldn’t wrap his mind around that because he so loved to play. In true Jonathan fashion, he made sure that I took the girls to Disney. His last wishes were that we spread his ashes in a lake by Disney World and Universal Studios. That’s Jon for you.

Jonathan – you are missed and loved more then you will every know. Safe journeys little brother, rest in peace. I love you and I forgive you.


Erlinda said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your strength and courage for sharing this. It gave me a lot to think about.

Anonymous said...

I know I've said it a million times, but it just needs saying again and again. I love you.