Since Barbara asked, I am going to go ahead and post about my cousin Brad. I was going to wait until the 17th to post about him, but I'm going to be going out of town for a few days then and I seem to be on the subject now so .....
Where to begin talking about Brad. At age 28, he was my youngest cousin and was possibly the last person I would have expected to commit suicide. He was bright, funny, sweet, loved his niece, his cat, hockey, and seemingly loved life. His parents are wealthy and live in the house that was the Parade Home of the Year. That of course brought lots of onlookers who would drive by the house to get a look at it. While that might annoy a lot of people (me), it seemed to only provide Brad with another way to have fun. One person told of his hanging out of the upstairs window shouting, "Come on in ... for a quarter you can have the grand tour". Giving the "Grand Tour" was something Brad did for anyone who happened by that he took a liking to. Never being shy, Brad was the kind of person who never met a stranger and loved having fun.
On the other hand, Brad was a very sensitive kid. He loved cats and adopted one that had been hit on the road. From that time on he and his cat were together all the time. He cared about people too. Even though his dad owned the company, Brad was never "too good" to mingle with the factory workers. He preferred bring a brown bag lunch and sitting with the guys on their lunch breaks to ordering out and eating with the "big guys".
But Brad suffered from depression. Severe depression. I'm not sure that he was ever diagnosed but he seemed to have several of the symptoms of bi-polar disorder. I am also not sure of Brad's spiritual condition but I know that a year before he died he made a profession of faith and asked to be baptized. His girlfriend has told us that many times when Brad was in the depths of depression she would find him curled up in bed with his Bible. It was that dark depression that eventually got the best of Brad. In April of 2005, at 4:30 in the morning, Brad hung himself in his grandmother's barn. His dad and brother found him the next morning as they were getting ready to work in the fields. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to open a barn door and see your son hanging, dead. And then to have to cut him down and hold his body for an hour or more before the police arrive. I'm not sure I could stand it. I am sure my uncle will never be the same. Actually, none of us will be.
Brad's death has left so many people with so many questions. Questions that will never be answered. It did bring to light, in the most hideous way, the dysfunctional ways our family relates. You see, we all knew Brad was in trouble, but we weren't supposed to know. That's how it works in my family (or doesn't work). One person will tell another person but tell them not to tell knowing full well that they will tell. Then we all end up knowing stuff that "we're not supposed to know" so we act as if everything is normal - even when things are terribly, terribly wrong. I've seen that pattern for years and have joked about it because frankly, there is little chance that it will change. But when Brad died, it wasn't something to be joked about anymore. Two or three of us "kids" brought it up, hoping that our parent's generation would be willing to acknowledge this unhealthy behavior and maybe change it. Afterall, it was a bit hard to deny the damnable nature of it with one of the "kids" laying in a casket. A year later, things have not changed.
I will never forget the moment I learned of Brad's death. It was after the morning service at church and we were meeting friends to have lunch at Popeye's. My two sons and I as well as our friends were all there waiting for my husband to arrive and wondering where in the heck he was at. He finally arrived but instead of taking his place in line, he gave some money to our boys and said, "Amber, come with me, we have a ministery errand to run". What??? A ministery errand??? I had worked a 12 hour shift the night before and then rushed to church and I was HUNGRY. I asked him why we couldn't eat first and then go but he insisted that we leave immediately. Looking back, he just wanted to get me out of Popeye's so he could tell me about Brad. My mother had gotten home from church and gotten the call from her sister and she had called Brian (my husband) screaming. Once in the parking lot, Brian told me that Brad had killed himself. I have to say I was shocked but not surprised. A week earlier I had told my parents that Brad's parents needed to take him to a hospital because if they didn't he would kill himself. So, my immediate reaction was anger. I was angry about so many thing ... that his parents didn't take him to a hospital... that our family was so screwed up that none of us could reach out to Brad without letting the family secret out ... and finally I was angry with myself for allowing the sick family system to keep me from reaching out to Brad. I was as guilty as anyone else because with my training in psychology and my experience in working with mentally ill people, I knew he was going to attempt suicide and I did nothing. Least of all I was angry with Brad. There were times during the funeral that I wanted to pull him out of the casket and smack the kid for what he'd done, but I also know that he was not in his right mind and had no idea of the pain he would leave behind. I understand why he felt he needed to go. I just hate it. It was SO unnecessary.
A year later I have dealt with those feeligns as well as anyone can I suppose. I am no longer angry, just empty.
One thing I am grateful for... at the funeral I really did enjoy being "home". I seldom go home anymore. There is joy there but in the past there has been a fair amount of pain there for me too so I've avoided it. Now it's just that I don't take the time. After Brad's funeral another of my cousins and I took a long ride of his Harley. It was great. We rode out past the cemetery where we'd just buried Brad and then took off to feel the wind in our hair and talk - something we never do anymore. It was good and is a memory I will always cherish.