January 3, 2011 will be a day that I will never forget. It started out as any other day. My oldest brother and his wife were both working and had dropped their two small children off at my house so that I could babysit.
I was in the middle of making brunch for my two nephews when my cousin called me asking why someone would be calling his parents to have them go to my mothers work. I called my mother on her work phone and cell phone and could not get an answer. I continued to call until one of her co-workers answered the phone. She wouldn’t tell me what was going on other than something had happened to my brother. I begged her to tell me what was going on. Finally she told me that my brother had died.
I fell to the floor in anger, disbelief, and shock. All I could do was scream and cry.
The next few days were a complete blur. People were coming in and out of my parents house. I was staying there and all I wanted to do was be left alone. Having people come in and be there for us was the best thing happened.
Looking from the outside we were a so called normal family. My parents divorced when we were all teenagers. I was a freshman in high school and Ken was a junior and my oldest brother was a freshman in college. Just like any family we all had our issues and each of us had a different way of handling these issues.
Ken turned to drugs. He started smoking marijuana. His drug use never really went that far until he got older. He turned to pills and alcohol. No one really recognized the signs until things in the house started showing up missing.
In the summer of 2008, our extended family had taken a trip to Florida for my cousins wedding. My step father who was on disability for a back injury, had just had his pain pills refilled and only took a few with him on the trip. I had called Ken every day or so to check in on the dog. One night he had called and I could tell that something was wrong because of the way that his speech was slurred and he was talking crazy. It wasn’t until we got home a few days later that we had found that he had traded my step fathers pain medication for stronger drugs.
As a drug and alcohol counselor, I attempted to help my brother. Just like any other addict, he told me all the right words and started to do the right thing. He went thru rehab a few times and got set up with a counselor, but stopped going cause he thought it wasn’t helping.
Mid-December 2010, my step father was at my house helping me with some of my projects that I was working on when my mom called me on my cell phone. I could tell that she was upset, but just wanted to talk to my step father. When he hung up the phone, he said that my brother was in their neighbors garage and tried to hang himself.
I had called my mother back and told her to get him to the local hospital and have him admitted for a psychiatric evaluation. They took him to the local ER where the admitting doctor told my parents that there was nothing that they could do for him because he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They suggested that he get into the local detox center. A phone call was made and they only took people with insurance, a $500 co-pay, and there was at least a 4 week waiting list.
New Years day I spent the day with my mother. Before we headed out to go shopping her phone rang. It was my brother. He told her that he needed money to pay off some of his drug dealers. She told him she would get back to him. My mother and I spoke about the issue and hand and I had explained to her that if it was this amount of money this time, it will be more next time.
Later that night my mother and Ken talked on the phone for a long time. She had told him that she couldn’t help him out this time. Little did we know that this would be the last time that any of our family members would speak to him.
Around 9:03 am on Monday, January 3, 2011, my brother committed suicide in the bathroom in the parking garage in the apartment building he lived in. The custodian had found him. He shot himself in the head. There was no note left.
My gut instinct was that he had been killed. I had called one of my former co-workers whose brother is a homicide detective with the police department that was handling the investigation. I had asked to him review the case to make sure that my brother was not murdered due to his drug addiction. A few days later I had gone down to the police department to pick up his belongings. This is where I learned that the gun that he used was not his and that he did take his own life. His friend had given him a gun and up until October 2011 I didn’t know that she knew that he was going to use it in that manner.
At first, I was unable to speak to his friend who gave him the gun. In October 2011, I got a group of friends together and we participated in our local AFSP chapters Out of the Darkness Walk. I sent her an email asking her to join us for the walk. This is when I discovered that she had no clue what he was planning to do. She had explained to me that if she had known, she would have never given him the gun. We have become good friends because of what happened.
We had a small funeral for family and very close friends. His is buried next to my grandmother who passed away in 1949.
We held a local memorial service in the church that we grew up in as children. It was standing room only. We gave people the opportunity to speak and share their memories of Ken. Everyone said something very similar. Ken was very quick to lend a hand to our elderly neighbors or anyone who needed it.
A year later not much has changed. I often think of him and cry for what should have been. We have celebrated his 32 birthday, Christmas, and the 1st anniversary of his passing. My oldest nephew speaks of him often for they shared a love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-man and other comic book heroes. Unfortunately, my youngest nephew, who had just turned 1, will never remember his loving, caring, and kind Uncle. However we will never let his spirit die and he will always be remembered by those who loved him the most.
Today I remember the heartache I felt when you went to Heaven, But the memories of our time shared on this earth will never be forgotten. I miss you Big Brother…