Four weeks ago the person who has been closest to me all my life, my brother, Mark, (I just called him “Brother” and he called me, “Sister,”) who was like my other self, committed suicide.
We were scared and worried about him. But we didn’t think this would happen. Then it happened. He was dead. I still can’t really believe it.
What does it feel like when
the person you trust most in the world does a thing like this;
when someone you love that much takes himself out of your reach for the rest of this present life;
when the mystery of suffering, which usually bonded, instead terribly back -fired somehow;
when you think you should have done something different, not done something you did do, or just done something, anything, to save him, and you, from his taking of his own life;
when you realize none of this matters because there are no chances anymore for either of you to say or do anything about it;
I don’t know, Reader.
I don’t know how it feels because I can’t even get to that part most of the time. Sometimes I can. I will try to tell you about it.
Every time the shock wears off, the confusion falls away, or the useless speculation is conquered and set aside, what I feel is pretty scary. It’s as if I am standing near the massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. A couple of times I have fallen in for a while. That part feels like it sounds.
My family is in painful disarray; irrevocably wounded; each one, and the family too.
What to do?
I don’t know, Reader.
I had been living with my brother, and we were building a house for me after I sold mine to go out and live with him on his land. We had such happy ideas about all we would do and accomplish, how we would wave at each other from our front porches in the morning.
None of that will happen now and my brother is gone.
I lost him to terrible depression and possibly a thyroid cancer that may have gotten into his brain and caused his self destructive behavior. We won’t know yet about the possible cancer or other factors, until the autopsy results come in. There were other circumstances I could not control, unseen forces in a destructive whirlwind of about six months’ duration. None of us knew what to do. The life of our household was upended. My brother refused outside help. Then he refused family help. In a way I lost him already during that downward spiral, though I thought it was temporary. Then I lost him to death.
This is the third death of someone very close to me in about as many years.
What do I do?
How do I recover, if ever?
I don’t know.
Here’s what I do know:
God is not surprised, or shocked, about what has happened here.
God is all wisdom.
God is love.
There is only one place for me to go… in my new little apartment, or in my car, at work, or wherever I am, and that is into God, Who is a constant and real presence in my soul; God, more real than anything else around me, closer than my breath is to my body.
His raiment is darkness and cloud. (Ps. 97:2) So it would seem that the darkness I live in would not bother Him. In a way, it seems I can receive Him and let Him receive me, far better than I was able to ever before. It seems I would be able to walk right into The Cloud of Unknowing* where He lives, without impediments. There is not much left of me.
At the core, it feels like I am in the darkness of faith, “naked faith.” * This dark faith seems to be the way I am breathing and functioning at this time. This silent pitch black where I reside, I think of as the immense, dark safety of the Heart of God.
I am trusting Him that He will turn all this pain, confusion, horror… into love somehow as He does with everything, always, every time; in my life, as He did in His own life.
After a hard day, I was relieved to be at daily mass this Thursday. I was pleased and surprised that the Gospel reading included the story about St. Mary Magdalene breaking the alabaster jar, pouring out its’ perfumed oil over the feet of Jesus, kissing them, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair.
I had just been staring at a picture before I left for mass, of that very scene, thinking about what it might mean to me right now.
After mass, I went to meet The Pontifical Biblical Institute of the Holy Hippie Sisterhood (aka my friends) for our coffee night.
The lights were dim at Jocie’s house where we met that night. There was coffee brewing. There was a bouquet of a dozen orange roses on the table, a big bowl of cut fruit, and plates of vegetables and hummus. Sheila Chandra was playing on Jocie’s stereo, (dreamy, prayerful, beautiful singing.) There were lit candles everywhere, and two massage tables set up in the living room. My friend, Amy, is a massage therapist, and the plan was to do “Raindrop sessions” with essential oils on one another, praying over each other.
This was done in a mostly solemn, quiet manner (except for Nan’s giggling- the high point of the night to me.) The scent of essential oils was heady and rich, filling the house, and even our hearts, like the healing balm of the Holy Spirit, the Comfortor.
I left feeling lighter than I had come in; lighter of heart. As they each embraced me, they said my face looked lighter, too. On my way down the sidewalk, I thought of how blessed I am in the love of my friends. Theirs is the love of God poured out over me.
I looked up at the night sky.
“Oh Jesus, Your Name is like an oil poured out.”
Later as I walked my dog, Flower, I prayed the rosary. It was hard to keep my mind on it but the rhythm and the attempt felt right. I knew Mother Mary understood and walked with me. I knew I had a supportive call to look forward to from my boy friend, Mark, who loves me with a gentle, Christly love I am continually amazed by, to help me off to sleep.
That is how I made it through the day.
I don’t know how I will get through this loss of my brother. I don’t know how the ugly, gaping wound it has left in all of us, and on my family, will heal.
Knowledge does not seem to mean much right now, or to be of help.
But God has drawn me close into His heart where it is warm. I feel, at times, a deep, unspoken adoration and praise pour out from me as from the the Magdalene’s jar that was broken. This oil of my heart streaming out over the feet of Jesus, mixed with tears; that is my prayer these days.
He will not send me away or leave me orphaned. Instead, He draws His cloak over me; dark, warm, and safe… somehow full of stars.
*The Cloud of Unknowing is a classic of Christian mysticism, anonymously authored in the later half of the 14TH century. The meaning of the title is the author’s understanding that God is not reach-able by knowledge, but by love alone.
*“Naked faith” ~ St. John of the Cross
Here is a link to what Kelly Brown, Editor of our local paper, The Eagle, where my brother worked brilliantly all his adult life, had to say about him and his death. She did a great job.