August 5, 2013. That’s the date that changed my life forever: the day I lost my big brother to suicide. The memories surrounding this day are burned in my brain and easily play on repeat – and in slow motion – if I let them. These memories have crushed me. They’ve devastated me beyond my understanding. They’ve ripped my heart apart and turned my life upside down. Yes, these memories have hurt me. They will not hold me down and keep me from living my life to the fullest, however. I will endure.
Endure. It’s a simple word, yet so complex. Definitions of the word include to suffer patiently, to remain in existence, and to undergo a hardship without giving in. Synonyms for the word include sustain, undergo, survive, persist, and persevere. After studying the definitions of the word “endure,” I decided that it would be my word for the year. This would be the word for me to focus on and to live out to the best of my ability. To endure. Yes, I will endure in 2015. But how am I going to do it?
To suffer patiently. This definition, at times, is laughable. Patiently? Suffer patiently? What does that even mean? In grieving my brother I have had times of anger that I am left without him. I’ve felt resentment toward people who have a close bond with their siblings. I have questioned God, thrown and punched things, and cried in a heap on the floor. These are not the actions of a person suffering patiently. I’m suffering all right, but I’m doing it loudly, and, at times, it can be pretty ugly.
So I go right back to my dictionary and look up “patience.” Some of the definitions include bearing pain, being tolerant, and persevering. This information brings a slight smile to my lips. It seems that I have never truly understood the meaning of the word. I am bearing pain and have tolerated it for the last 18 months. I am choosing to persevere through the hard times. If the mere act of suffering is a form of having patience, then maybe I am suffering patiently after all.
To remain in existence. That one is easier for me. I am still here. I’m not going anywhere. In fact, if anything, my presence on this planet is even more pronounced than it was before my loss. If I have to go through the experience of losing my big brother, one of my closest friends, to suicide, then I am going to do great things with my loss. My loss will become a gain for others.
I have chosen to stand up and fight. I have decided to speak about suicide awareness any time I get the chance. I’ve written a blog post about suicide and grief. You see, through my suffering, I am determined to help others. I don’t want to go through this horrible tragedy without doing something with the things I have learned. This epidemic of suicide, this taboo subject society is not comfortable discussing, will not hold me down. No, I will continue to stand up and fight for those who cannot fight any longer. I will tell everyone who needs to hear it, every single one of you who is reading this article, that you are important. You are worthy. You are loved. You serve a purpose in this world, and the world could never be the same without you. I will endure by continuing to exist. And I want you to continue to exist with me.
To undergo a hardship without giving in. We’ve all undergone some kind of hardship, haven’t we? And, if you’re reading this, you haven’t given in. I refuse to let the pain take me under. However, I have learned that it’s OK to embrace the suffering. Last year I came to a point where I just didn’t want to cry one more tear. But why? Those tears of mine represent so much more than just sadness. Each tear cried represents a memory of my brother or a memory that I won’t get to create with him. My tears represent thirty-three years of memories I had with my brother – some wonderful, some ugly, some hilarious, and some sad. Those are memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Now there are days or even weeks that I go without crying. But sometimes I will glimpse a Chevy truck like the one he drove when he was a teenager or hear a Pearl Jam song in the middle of a store or smell cologne that reminds me of him, and I find myself in tears in an instant. There are still moments when something ridiculous happens that I need to tell my brother, but as I pick up my phone to begin a text I remember that he’s gone. In those moments, I cry. I let the tears flow. I don’t care any longer where I am or who is watching. If I need to cry, I am going to embrace it and let it happen and not apologize for it. The tears I have shed have brought me great healing and strength. I will give in to the tears, but I will not give in to the idea that I cannot handle the journey I am traveling. I will endure by undergoing this hardship without giving in.
As I sit here and write, I have a smile on my face but tears in my eyes. That often happens when I think about memories of my brother now. I can find joy in the memories, but I still end up with my eyes dripping. But that is OK because I have come so far in the last few months from where I was during the first year after losing my brother. My life has changed in so many ways in the last year and a half. I was naïve to think that these changes and experiences could never happen to our family, but I am learning something new each day as I travel this winding road of grief. So as I look forward to the rest of this year, I will continue to endure. Some days I will endure with a smile on my face, and some days I will endure with tear-stained cheeks. Whatever hardships you are facing today, you can endure them. Together we can face this world head-on. Together we can suffer patiently and continue to exist. Together we can face our hardships without giving in. Together we can endure.