Ten years

Dear Dan,

Sometimes it seems like a minute; sometimes it seems like 100 years. I miss you as much as ever. I look back over the past ten years and wonder: how different would life be if you were still in it?

Mom would still have dementia, but probably not quite as far along as she is. The stress of your death accelerated the process. I probably would not be living with her yet, so more of my sanity would be intact. I would have more freedom to travel, even overnight.

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Tattoo

Dear Dan,

So I got this tattoo last Christmas eve. I know. I know. It’s going to be on my arm forever. That’s the whole point.

I got a semicolon. A semicolon is used when a writer could have ended the sentence, but chose to pause, and continue on. You are the author and the sentence is your life. Danny boy, you put a period on your sentence. The tattoo is to remind me of you. Like I’m going to forget? Not likely.

semicolon

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life. The tattoo also reminds me of what suicide does to the ones left behind.

As a kid, whenever something “tragic” would happen to me at school, I’d remember back several years before and tell myself that I got through that; I’d get through this. What happened to make me think, at 12 years old, that my life was over wasn’t nearly as devastating when I was 16. At 20, what happened when I was 16 didn’t shake my world any longer. That thing that happened at 12 wasn’t even on the Richter scale. Every time I think that I can’t continue, I remember the lessons of my adolescence and know that tomorrow, the pain will ease just a bit. The day after, it’ll be just a slight bit better than the day before.

The semicolon reminds me of that as well. Life is a story; don’t put a period on your story. It’s to be continued. The grammarian in me would have preferred the symbol be an ellipse, but …

A semicolon symbolizes solidarity with people who share the same struggles. The tattoo artist that did mine has done a number of them. Even though I have not seen anyone else with a similar tattoo, I know they are out there.

But the best thing? The very best — our brother lives across the street from where I got the tattoo. It was such a lovely warm day; he was sitting outside and saw me when I exited the shop. I walked over and he said, “Got a tattoo, did ya? Nik has a lot of tattoos.”

I told him what I got (it was still covered until I could get the recommended salve) and he gave me a quizzical look. I told him, “Yes. It shows my deep commitment to the use of proper punctuation.”

I heard you laugh.

I love you and miss you.

Robin Williams

Dear Dan,

Well, now you get to meet Robin Williams. I’m sorry you two couldn’t figure out another way.

I’d sort of like to be a fly on the wall for the meeting. Two of my favorite funny men, cracking jokes. I don’t know that you would actually be making the jokes, though. You would be like that poor guy during Robin’s first appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio — the one that had to go to the hospital because he got a hernia from laughing so hard.

Robin William’s suicide brings back so many harsh memories. I feel so badly for the family he left behind. For seven years, I have been trying to do what Robin’s wife said they want to do: “It is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin’s death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter.” I wish them success with that. Mine has been modest and sporadic. Remembering the good and laughing at the funny gets easier with time, but the horror of that night never eases; it never goes away.

I love and miss you, bro.

The notes

Dear Dan,

I don’t know why I suddenly thought about this after 5 tears. You wrote notes before you left. I don’t know how long before. I can’t imagine writing them. But then, I can’t imagine committing suicide either. Dwelling on your thoughts and feelings surrounding the writing of the notes sends me into a downward spiral, so I won’t do that.

However, the police told me about the note in your wallet. You wrapped your note and i.d. in cling wrap. That was the part that made the planning aspect of your suicide really hit home. There was no way to put that down as “spur of the moment.” Another thing that brought it home was having to park on the 5th floor of the parking garage in town. I never spent much time up on the top floor, so I never realized how high the wall was surrounding the parking area. There’s no way to accidentally fall unless you climb up first. That showed me intent.

Brian had a key to your place and went in to make sure there were no animals that needed to be fed. He found the notes you left to people. The general message ended with something he didn’t understand. “Suicide is painless — M*A*S*H.” I guess Brian never saw M*A*S*H. I explained the song and the scene. By the way, bro, you so missed the point of that song and the scene. Just sayin’.

I have to take exception with the idea of suicide being painless. Maybe for the person committing the act, but not for the survivors. I understand you were talking about you. Yeah, I got that, but let me tell you — for those of us left behind, there is a world of pain and hurt. Did you know that everyone was worried about Little David? He looked upon you as a father figure. It almost killed him — literally. The stress caused his disease to worsen. That and the fact he didn’t care enough to take care of himself while he was depressed. Of course his boss didn’t help by saying, “I know how you feel. I lost my dog last year.” Say, what?

So just a little FYI, in case you haven’t clued to this yet — when I meet up with you on the other side, I’m first going to hug the stuffing out of you, then I’ll smack you upside your head. “Don’t you ever do that to us again!” will probably come in there somewhere, too. Mom is going to turn you over her knee, so be prepared. Fair warning. From sister to brother — “Someone’s gonna get it.”

I love you, bro.

Christmas cookies

Dear Dan,

I love the picture of you picking the cookies up off the floor. It makes me laugh to think I was talking to you on the phone at that time. It’s almost like there was a connection and I didn’t disappear from your life. It was a bit of a shock and yes, it hurt, that no one in KC even knew you had a sister.

I guess you kept all the different parts of your life separate from each other.

One year when I was in college I was so depressed one Christmas. I couldn’t really have our usual tree because Scott had recently married Cathy and Nikki was a very young child. I was living upstairs and they were living downstairs.

You didn’t want me to be depressed so you went out and bought me a tree that I could have in my room. I thought that was the most wonderful thing ever! I just wonder why you never let me try to help you.