I love my family. I love my extended family. We’re a big mis-mash of various layers of screwed up, as I’m sure most families are, under the surface. I love my cousin.
Two days ago he posted a note on Facebook, laying out his life choices, his decisions up to this point in his life, toasted to the great things he’d done, and at 22, took his life on the 20th of January.
So I’m trying to make sense of this. Emotional reactions are rarely logical in explanation. So I write, eyeballs deep in music that reminded me of my childhood, back when I rode in the back seat and dreamed of the front, where I could only put my hand on the window and stare at the clouds, because I was so short I could see nothing else. I remember the long drives to forests to hike, the short sleeps home, the Pizza Hut stays after watching Casper in the theater, or Aladdin. Of short lawns with green grass and yellow flowers growing up trellises.
I said, when I could finally tie my shoes, I will always remember when I’m five. Five years old, staring in the mirror, laces done. It was the same year I learned how to whistle, and ride a bike. It was the crowning moment in my life, then. I could not imagine accomplishing more in a single year. I turned six. Eight. Twelve. Twenty. I have always remembered that moment. In the mirror. Looking at my shoes. I have never again accomplished so much.
My family tells me they didn’t see it coming. They said he was always so happy. So fulfilled. And I didn’t necessarily see it. He was happy on a level. Like, “Hello.” Smile. And always smiling. I saw him as lost. But, not any more lost than a 20 year old living his life on his own for the first time. He said uncomfortable things I couldn’t quite connect to. Saw the world in a perspective that screamed “I struggle to connect.” But I thought he had.
The note he left wasn’t for him. It wasn’t a cry for help. It wasn’t him looking in the mirror of a memory and saying, “I am worth it. I am still that little boy. I can still accomplish so much.” He never had that memory. It was a note for everyone else, to make sense of it. To answer questions. He didn’t have the same life I lived. He could have been me. I could have been him. Would I have done something different in his shoes?
Nobody can say. I can’t. And I don’t have the feeling I would. Or wouldn’t. “Warm shadow. Won’t you cast yourself on me,” to quote Fink.
So much has changed for me in the past year and a half. So much keeps changing. I’m excited. I also try to mourn the death of things that need to be mourned.
Neither of my brothers are particularly torn up. They say, in some capacity or another, they feel they need to feel bad so others feel connected to them. On some level I understand: I am much more worried about my dad and my aunt than the dead. He is in a better place, yes?
But they, we, are all Catholic. Resoundingly, Midwestern Catholic. And suicide is a very clear decision. I do not understand how people so Catholic can say, “He’s at peace now. His pain is done.” It reinforces my understanding that religion is a kind of guideline.
He was a good guy. A really good, confused guy. Lost. I believe he is in a better place. I believe he found a place. I hope he found himself.
Warm shadow. Won’t you cast yourself on me?