This is a hard blog to write. My little brother, Chris, took his own life April 8 of this year. The last two months have been complete turmoil. Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide knows that every single day is a roller coaster of emotion, from anger to devastation, denial to fear to anger again. Chris was my buddy, my bratty little bro who grew up into a military man, a volunteer firefighter, a loving father, a dedicated hard worker and one hell of a griller. He loved hunting, tinkering (he was always taking things apart and putting them back together), cars, his country (I found a shirt in his things that simply said “Merica.” I kept it), the mountains, pizza, a nice cold beer and his dogs. I look at these pictures, and it feels like I can just reach right through the computer screen and hug him. The fact that I can’t is more heartbreaking than I can ever put into words. He’s right there! And I can’t touch him.
These pictures were actually taken in 2014, but I remember it all like it was yesterday. Isn’t it funny how that works? You blink and three years have gone by, and everything is changed. I started going through all my photos I have of my baby brother, and spent hours re-editing all of these. I had never been very happy with them since they were earlier shoots of mine, and hospital lighting is the absolute worst (I’ve been known to be extremely hard on myself when it comes to my photography). But now…I’m so in love with every single one. Chris was so exhausted, and so in love. He and Bailey made the most beautiful of babies, a tiny, chubby, towheaded cherub named Carter James. I’m so grateful Chris got to experience fatherhood. Even though he was only 25 when he passed, he had lived a full life. There was so much more I wish he could have done…including visit me in Colorado (he really wanted to learn to snowboard and I couldn’t wait to teach him), watch Carter grow up and have a family of his own, continue climbing up the ranks in the military, travel to Ireland (his father was Irish), be at our sister’s wedding next year…the list goes on and on. But sometimes hurts go too deep, and my brother struggled so much with depression. He lived in Minnesota, and we always did everything we could to help him. But it’s the same story so many tell…we had no idea how sad he actually was. He seemed better, happier. He had recently come home to visit a couple days, and Mom said he seemed quieter than normal but in good spirits. Chris gave no hints of his struggles until that night in April, when he sent Mom a short text goodbye, ending it with “Love you guys.” Since Chris tired of fighting for himself, I have made it my lifelong mission to continue the fight on his behalf. Suicide is becoming far too prevalent (at least 44,193 people lose their lives every year in the US alone. Worldwide that number is 800,000), so something needs to change. We need to show those struggling that we are NOT better off without them.
I have started a blog about my family’s experience with Chris’ passing. I wanted to share what it is like for those of us who are grieving a suicide (we are called “suicide survivors”), in the hopes that it could potentially help someone grieving my brother or another loved one lost, or maybe even help someone contemplating hurting themselves see that suicide does not end the pain but rather transfers it to the ones they leave behind. You can read it here.
I have also joined as a team captain for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Walk out of the Darkness fundraiser. I may not have been able to save my brother, but maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else’s brother. If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact the AFSP at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
My brother had the most beautiful eyelashes his entire life. Carter has them, too.
Being held by Grandma Anika.
Jump forward a week to Carter’s newborn session. Here you see Chris taming the wild beast that is Oliver.
That beautiful head of hair!
Bella wanted so badly to cuddle with Carter, and of course I couldn’t say no. She has the biggest heart in that teeny tiny four pound fluffy body of hers.
Wiping something off Carter’s face who, as you can plainly see, wasn’t too happy about it…
We had a family get-together so everyone could meet Carter, BBQ, smoke cigars (the men, anyway!) and enjoy the weather on my parent’s patio.
Complete with Carter’s great-grandparents!
This is THE Uncle Tim. He was a huge teddy bear, joker, lover of God and Bob Marley, and cocktail extraordinaire.
He passed away unexpectedly April 30th, 2015. We believe he and Chris are reunited and go fishing regularly. And probably smoke cigars.
I had somehow missed Chris smiling behind my cousin, David, until Uncle Tim’s daughter commented on this picture on Facebook the other day:
“Isn’t it crazy that 2 people in this pic aren’t here anymore? I mean it’s just so crazy. They’re right there! I can picture what they looked like right
after the pic was taken. I can see them talking, breathing, enjoying family time. But now they’re gone. It doesn’t seem real.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself, Hannah.
My hubby and our dog, Scotland, were also there enjoying the festivities.
Great grandma Irene snuggling Carter.