You've been gone for three long years now. For three years, I have used this day as an opportunity to write, reflect, call loved ones, and do things that bring me joy. It is my little way of honoring your memory. I try to use these letters as an opportunity to continue the conversation about suicide and its devastating impact. In last year's letter, I focused on post-traumatic stress disorder for those left behind after someone they know and love is suddenly ripped from their world. This year, three years later, I would like to talk about lingering guilt.
At the beginning of the year, I began studying Buddhism. For me, this means time spent studying the teachings of the Buddha, Buddhist thinkers, and meditation. For my meditation practice, I use a wonderful app called Headspace. In ten day segments, it allows me to focus on a wide range of emotions and reactions I have to the physical world. In preparation for this day, I have been focusing on regret and accompanying guilt.
Three years later, regret and guilt are a couple of things I cannot shake when it comes to you. Other survivors of suicide tell me this is natural. In response to a tragic event, it is very common for the human mind to fixate on the things we wish we could have done differently. We want to assume if we would have followed through things would have changed. Regret and guilt are allowed to permeate in between the gaps of what actually happened and what we wish would have occurred.
When it comes to you, my little brother, there are a thousand things I wish I could have done differently. They begin at your birth and move forward to the moment you made a decision that can never be undone. I wish I could have been a better big brother. I wish we teased you less about liking Barney. I wish we would have played together more often. I wish the teenage version of me included you in more of my life. I wish college didn't feel like an escape from a small town but rather served as an opportunity to show you a bigger world. I wish I could have made high school and making friends easier for you. I wish I was less concerned with what you were going to make of your life. I wish I didn't care when you were going to move out of mom and dad's house. I wish we talked on the phone more often. I wish I could have convinced you to move to Seattle. I wish I could have helped you get into college or the Navy. I wish I could have cast aside my judgment when addiction grasped tightly on your life. I wish I would have taken your first attempt more seriously. I wish I didn't look back in anger when mom and dad were forced to miss my graduation from Seattle University because they were afraid you might try again. I wish I wasn't mad that you found yourself in trouble with the law. I wish we hadn't gone an entire year without talking before you died. I wish you had a future and I could be a part of it. I wish upon stars that will never grant me these wishes. Now, I am just left to make the most of them.
Now, little brother don't think for a second that I don't think on the good times. I laugh often about something funny you said or did. I remember a big beautiful life with you in it. Those memories flood my mind at twice the rate of anything I wish I could have done differently. Yet, I am filled with regret and guilt. These feelings of joy and sorrow aren't going anywhere. This life of mine is now one to live filled with cognitive dissonance. That is my burden to bear. It is one to bear by anyone who knew you. What we choose to do with that cross is our choice.
For me, I choose to wrestle those demons to the ground by honoring your memory. I talk about you often. I tell your story. I am unafraid to mention your name. I am not bashful about telling your story. I freely admit my shortcomings, as well as the things we could have all done differently, yourself included. Ultimately, praise or notice of my bravery is not what I am searching for from those who come across these stories. I exercise my demons by insisting that suicide is preventable. Lives can be saved if we talk to one another. If we create safe spaces and cast aside the judgment, we can save people from the abyss. This is now my mission and I will gladly do it until my very last breath. I will do it in everything I do because you are worthy of such a task. For all those times I could have been better, I am choosing to do so now in your honor. It is the best way I know to show love to someone who now only exists in my mind.
Be good to each other,