These are some of the photos I have of my brother. Even though he was a teenager when he died - this is how I think of him, and how I tend to remeber him as - a little boy. These pictures of him and I are some of my favorites.
I feel like it is important to remeber him on his birthday. To mourn the loss of my brother, the kid's loss of their uncle. He loved my kids when he was alive and he would have loved getting to know them if he were still alive.
He was my favorite person to photograph before I had kids of my own - that one in the mirror was one of my first attempts at an artistic photoshoot. We read together, we did our school work together. He reminds me so much of my Josiah. He was so friendly, he was passionate, he was kind to all kinds of people, especially the ones some people might have not wanted to befriend. He was my brother. He was a pain. He drove us all crazy. But we loved him and we all miss him and wanted to see him succeed in life.
I also feel like it's important to remember him out loud. To say "I lost my brother to suicide" out loud because this is a real thing. It is a serious issue that I can not be silent about. He was a good kid with great grades, a family who loved him and friends who would have done anything to help him. But he also had friends who talked about suicide and who were planning their own deaths and encouraged him to plan his own.
Mourning his death was hard. I had just seen him a week before, and hadn't noticed anything to make me worry. If anything he seemed like he was doing better than ever. Figuring out how to deal with all of the thoughts and emotions after was hard. Letting go of guilt and blame took me a long time. I would have let him live with me. I would have picked up the phone day or night. I felt like getting married and moving out while he was so young was letting him down in the big-sister department. It was, oddly enough, watching the episode of House where one of the doctors commits suicide, that helped me deal with how I was feeling.
Loosing my brother definitely shapes how I think about parenting. I hold my kids tight, I tell them over and over to treasure each other. I try to teach them not to trust all of their emotions. That even when we feel alone - there will always be someone there for us if we just speak up.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide - please speak up. Please don't joke about death or talk carelessly about killing yourself. Tell someone. All kinds of people, no matter how perfect-looking your their life might look, or how messed up everything is, struggle with thoughts of suicide. There is help, but you have to speak up.
I miss my brother, today more than ever. I wish I would have made more of an effort to stay close to him. I just assumed it would be easier for is to have a relationship when he got older, and took him for granted. I wish I hadn't been so consumed with my own life. I wish he could have seen my kids grow up as much as they have. I wish he would have talked to me about what was going on with his life. I wish he could have known how much I loved him.