My life comes in two parts, and my soul comes with baggage.
I call it BC. AC.
Before Cole after Cole.
Life was as simple as it could be in a water tower town. My two brothers and I? We grew up good on love and sunshine. We drank iced tea in the summers and hot chocolate in the winters. We had all you could dream of as a kid, bikes, scooters, baseball bats. We played all kinds of sports from street hockey to horseback riding. Our lives were out of a home life magazine for the most part. My mom stayed at home with us our entire childhood, my dad worked as a State Trooper. My mom is a soft woman with hands that heal. My dad is a rough and tough man with hands worn from providing for us. We had everything we needed and whatever we wanted. Around the holidays we would send out christmas cards and, for thanksgiving we would visit with every side of the family we could. In the summers we would spend every waking moment in bare feet and bathing suits by the lake and when it wasn’t summer…we were waiting for it. A Picket fence family with a little bit of closed-door drama but nothing other families don’t deal with.
Then everything went black and, closed-door drama shifted into a town wide tragedy.
February gets its reputation truthfully, cold, bitter, and miserable. But, the morning I woke up to the blood curdling screams of my mother, crying over my baby brother, it was sunny and still. The water in the lake behind my house was a sheet of glass…as if it was frozen in fear. My brother had committed suicide and it was as if nature knew. There were no sounds from the outside world. A chilling silence behind the screams of terror in the room above mine. I called the first person I could think of, my high school english teacher. She couldn’t understand me through the phone as I tried to get the words out that, my life has just become the same tragedy I have watched repeat in my home town over and over again. She gave me the strength, for a moment, to breathe.
The moments after were a flood of flashing lights and blaring sirens. Men with black boots quietly wadded though my house as if walking on shattered glass, tip toeing around broken people. My mother had to be torn from my brother’s body. We were shuffled into the downstairs bedroom, that belonged to my other brother Jake, as they put Coles body in the ambulance. All I could think in my head was how ugly it was. How ugly the world became in a matter of minutes. The ambulance drove away with my brother and my innocence.
Throughout the day family and close friends quietly snuck through the front door brining enough food to feed an army. It was a good thing because, an army sure came. I can’t even re-call the amount of people who showed up to the house that day but all I knew was the support system around us, could swallow us whole. But still, even with all the love in the room everything was ugly. The room was quiet beyond a few whispers here and there. Emotion was either out of control or completely withdrawn.
The funeral was held that Friday. It was raining and dark out. The world was no longer in fear…it was crying. It was the first funeral I had ever been too and looking back now I should have drug the time on for a million more years because, even now after all this time, I am not ready to let go of the last moment I saw him or all the moments before that. If I could have climbed in the casket that day and been buried with him I would have. I said my final goodbyes but couldn’t stay to watch the casket close, that was the last time I saw my little brother’s face.
It was not the last time I thought of him.
Everyday from that day on I have thought of him.
I watched the middle school Cole attended, and the high school I went to, erupt in both love and sadness. Sadness derived from love is the strangest emotion to feel. It’s so bittersweet. Theres so much good that gets overshadowed by pain. Still, to this day I see support of my brother and posts about missing him and they all describe a sad love.
The thing we forget to tell people about suicide is it’s so much deeper than just you being gone. It’s every moment of the day you left, engraved in the hearts of your loved ones. It’s all the missed moments spotted from the sidelines…they should have been here..they would have loved that. It’s the haunting of the loss. It’s not understanding the definition of, “a mothers love” until you see it ripped from her. It’s the memories that are tattooed all over town. The time goes by, but the memories never fade and, while we become good at masking it and coping with it, the pain never fades either.
Loss is ugly. Remembering loss is ugly. Being reminded of loss is ugly. There are beautiful moments in celebrating the past of the person you lost, but not nearly as many as if they were here. When people leave the world feels it. Suicide doesn’t end the pain, it gives the pain a way to spread with no way to stop it.
To be truthful I know he’s still here. Cole shows up everywhere I go, on road signs that clearly spell out his name, in his favorite songs that come on the radio in all the moments after I almost crash my car. The forces above us, whatever they may be, bring him near to me all the time. Even though I may never know whats up head, I know what’s gone lingers to watch me grow.
Put good energy into the world, have a heart that heals, and find strength in the sunflowers.