2017 was a very bad year

Dear Dan,

2017 sucked … and not well. Let’s forget the whole politics/Republican jackasses in Congress/racism/tax cut for the wealthy/Trump vs. women, immigrants, Constitution, etc., etc., but pro-Russia/ad nauseum disaster portions of the year.

Every year that passes, I feel like I lose more of you. This year I lost two major pieces of you, but in an odd way, I gained a piece, too.

First, what I lost: three of my rock gods.

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5 years

Dear Dan,

Tonight it’s 5 years since you left. I miss you every day. However, a friend of yours got in touch yesterday. That’s always nice — talking to someone who knew you. Yes. It can be hard. Yes, I can sometimes still get a little weepy. But as I told your friend, instead of disappearing from the world, I see you in everyone whose life you touched. Everyone I’ve spoken to has told me how you’ve changed their life, sometimes in big and sometimes in small ways. That’s the best testament to a person. That’s the big way you stay with us.

Scott got a little teary and his voice broke when he spoke of some neighbors putting a puzzle together in the community room. The puzzle was of frogs. I recently bought a clay teapot with small frogs climbing on the legs, spout and handle. I never would have bought that for myself. I would have sent it to you. I find small ways of remembering you every day.

I think the hardest part of your death is knowing that you aren’t anywhere on this earth. I can’t call you. I can’t plan to meet you for coffee or a meal when you pass through town.

The second hardest thing is something I think is specific to suicides and sudden, violent deaths. That is the questions left behind. Why did you do it. Why didn’t you let anyone know something was wrong. I have a hard time believing the note you left. That reason you gave feels superficial, not the real, deep down reason. You always were good at hiding behind half truths.

There are supposedly 5 stages of grief, according to the Kübler-Ross model. I think the stages are misleading or maybe I don’t really understand them. Denial lasted for about 10 minutes and only because there was some confusion on the part of the police. It’s not their fault. They were playing “whisper down the alley” and were told David at first. Considering we have a cousin David, there was an instant of “maybe Dan’s not dead.” Soon there was confirmation and that was the end of denial. I might have had and still do have trouble with the fact that you committed suicide. I never had trouble with the fact that you’re dead once there was confirmation.

I never hit the anger stage. Ever. Mom did, but that’s her default mode so … you know. I got frustrated sometimes — mostly with the legal stuff and having to work a lot of the estate stuff on my own until I found the right attorney here. Your poor executor. He might have a few choice words, but he can write them in his own blog if he wants to.

Bargaining — um … who was I supposed to bargain with over what? Fod? To bring you back? It doesn’t work like that.  You were gone and no amount of bargaining was going to change that fact. Within this stage is supposed to be guilt. That isn’t it’s own stage. Ok, so there was a little guilt but not that “maybe if I … then he wouldn’t have” guilt. “What If” only leads down a path where I refuse to go. Scarlett O’Hara and I are in agreement on that part. Even the regrets part of the guilt stage is something I keep a tight rein on if at all possible. Because that leads irrevocably to the next stage …

Depression. That is MY fallback position and always has been since birth. You would be amazed at how many people who know me through work or in a moderately social setting have no idea I suffer from depression. Talk about better living through chemistry! So yeah, I suffered through that stage — and still do on occasion — over your death.

Which brings us to acceptance. My question is — acceptance of what? That you died. Yeah. I accept that. Do I have a choice? It’s not like I think you faked all this and disappeared. Acceptance is the only option unless I want to be certified batshit crazy. Nope. You’re dead.

But acceptance of how you died/why you committed suicide? That, my man, is the hell of being a survivor — the one left behind. There is no acceptance because there are no answers. The one person who can answer those questions — YOU — is gone and you’re not talking to me.

So this is what remains for me — memories, both the sublime and the ridiculous — and contact with the ones whose  lives you impacted.

I love you and I miss you, bro.

Photos

Dear Dan,

My new office looks nice. The guys from OPP came and hung some of your photos for me. The truck photos have been very popular with people stopping by. It’s funny — some of the reactions — since those are not girly photos. I also have the tri-fold with one additional photo sitting on my file cabinet. The frog at the preserve in Costa Rica and the carousel horse with the Eiffel Tower are on the bookcase. Above that are two more of your photos: the green door and the lion door knocker from The Dom. I also have the digital frame on my desk. It scrolls through a lot of the photos you took.

I’m thinking about making a print of Western Auto and framing that for in here too. I saved a few others for home — like the women in the store window. I think I might also make a print of the stockings in Amsterdam for home as well.

I can keep you around me all the time. These photos make me smile.

Organ donation

Dear Dan,

I know you wanted to donate your organs. I got a call from the organ donation group in KC the day after you committed suicide. The woman on the other end was very nice. She was very delicate in describing the organs that could possibly be “harvested,” depending on the damage done when you landed.

At that point I was so hopeful that something good could be salvaged from the situation. She mentioned the type of testing that would be done before the organs were donated. Of course I thought AIDS testing was a good idea. At that point she asked if you were gay. Apparently the FDA does not allow transplant from anyone with a history of any homosexual activity. None at all.

That’s when I asked Brian point blank. I told him we always “knew” but   that you hadn’t “come out” to us. Of course not. No more than you would have “come out” that your eyes were brown.

I called the woman back  and told her we had confirmation. That I was sorry but we could not donate your organs. One or two people would not see because they would not have your corneas. Two people would have to wait for other heart valves. You would not be donating bone marrow and helping someone with leukemia.

I understand the problem. My head tells me that the AIDS tests cannot test for AIDS in tissue. My head tells me that you can test negative for viral load if you are on certain cocktails.

However, my heart tells me that they were rejecting my dear, now dead, brother. His last wish would not be granted. Almost as if he wasn’t good enough!

As if your death was not heartache enough.

The back story

On July 25, 2007 Dan had a friend drive him to a bar in downtown Kansas City. At about 10:30 PM local time, Dan got out of the car, waited for the driver to pull away and walked about 15 minutes to a parking garage. On the top level – the seventh floor – Dan climbed on the wall and jumped.

At 5:00 AM the police came to mom’s door and notified her. She called me and said the police were there looking for Dan. I lived at the back of her condo building so I told her I would be there right away. I grabbed my phone, called Dan and got his voicemail. I left a message saying the police were there, please call ASAP and asking “What the hell are you into? Let me know what I can do to help.”

There was a knock on my door. A police woman was there. I told her to come on in while I grabbed my shoes. She came in and told me she had something to tell me before we went to mom’s. That’s when she told me Dan jumped. I looked at her and waited. She didn’t say anything. I asked “Is he alive?” I was expecting to hear he was in the hospital in KC and in my mind I was already making plans to take care of him. The police woman said “No.”

And that, my friends, is when the world crashed to a halt.

It still amazes me that no one else heard the crashing sound. No one else felt the earth slam on its brakes. How is it that people were still asleep and didn’t know the world ended?

For the past 14 months I’ve been dealing with this loss and all the emotion and legal issues that accompany death. Sometimes well and sometimes not.

This is my life with and without Dan.