Friday, March 5, 2010

On the Anniversary of My Brother's Death - March 4th, 2004

An Excerpt From Soul Biography

My Brother Ron
Death Date: March 2004

Our family had grown to include another sister and a brother—one on whom my father had placed all the conventional hopes a father has for a son, as well as the impossible expectations, while my mother spent on him whatever energy she had—energy a woman might invest hoping to be appreciated and understood more by a son than a husband. 

From the start my brother seemed to spin a dark web around himself—one in which every member of the family was eventually caught up. That he was a troubled soul became increasingly clear as the years passed, as he went his own way, and lived by his own rules--disappearing from the neighborhood leaving everyone to look for him periodically, destroying property, getting into fights, or some sort of trouble—which happened early on and often.

I have wondered if the meaning of his life was to move us to break the silence and cycle blame the lack of self-knowledge brings, to force us to "take a stand," to help each other, to acknowledge what we lived, or to get my mother and father to reorder their priorities so that there were hopes, dreams and energy for all their children, and for each other, but that was my wish and hope-no one else’s. Not then, not ever.

Not long after I had married, my brother came home from Vietnam addicted to heroin, and continued life on his own terms—ones that brought him up short of any chance for balance in body, mind and soul. Instead, his life was one long decent into self-destruction, tragically playing itself out over many years, and leaving a lifetime of sorrow and despair for the rest of the family to cope with. I think his life was more of a mystery to him than to any one else. There was always a kind of innocence about him and strange naive incredulity on his part that anyone would be concerned with his life at all.

Many years later, when I looked at my brother’s death certificate, the thing that struck me most sadly—even more than “manner of death— accident. cause of death--adverse effect of drugs—self-administered” was the line which read “never married.” I don’t know why, I guess it just affirmed that my brother had none of the ordinary joys and struggles most people have in life. He did have extraordinary highs and deep and long downward spirals, which never resulted in the motivation to do anything differently.

Now, I can look at it all with less emotion, less judgment about anyone’s motives, actions or shortcomings. Why? Because I have had to look at my own human failings and have learned how life can catch us up like a butterfly in a web, like a leaf in the spindrift of a stream—not able, willing or even aware that we are so fixed for a time or a lifetime, not aware that the slightest movement could set us free. 

Death set him free.

My brother was a butterfly; he was a leaf.

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