• Jane Leder

WHEN THE PAST COMES MARCHING BACK

If you've read my posts over the past year or two, you know that my brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday--some forty-two-plus years ago. I think I posted the link to a piece that was published last year online in Entropy. If not, here it is:

https://entropymag.org/a-suicide/


And you know that my book about teen suicide first hit the bookshelves back in 1987 (Yikes!) and that I wrote the 2nd edition in 2018. (Check out Amazon, if you're interested.)


I don't have to tell you that suicide leaves behind a host of unanswerable questions and a deep hole that can never be filled. Sure, the passing of time helps dull the ache, but the pain is just there hiding out beneath the surface and can rear its ugly head from seemingly out of the blue.


And that's what happened yesterday. I received an email that I almost deleted out of hand because I didn't recognize the name of the sender. But curiosity got the best of me. It was from an elementary and junior high friend of my brother's who, when opening a copy of Dead Serious, found an email that I'd written to him in 2007. I had not a shred of memory of this person or the email.


My brother in background and on the left on the trampoline. Friend in foreground and in center on trampoline.

But there was my brother alive and well, looking happy, strong with not an apparent care in the world. And there was my brother back in my life. His friend wrote that he'd held on to these two photos for sixty years!


The photo was taken at my going-away-party. My family moved to Minneapolis shortly after this party. Robin and I had recently peroxided our hair (His idea I'm sure?!).
You may recall that Robin and I roomed together at CU before he dropped out and drifted away with Hal
In Jr. High, Robin was one of my very close friends. As I told you in 2007, I have told his story many times - still do. Of course the ache is still there.
I have Stage IV cancer, so reminiscing occupies some of my thought life, naturally. I'm well for now, have ample time to live, but always, always find time to be grateful for the good things in my life. Robin, in fact your family, is part of what I'm grateful for.

I sobbed. I was inconsolable. I wanted my brother back. I wanted his wide grin with those two front teeth that were just a tad too big. I wanted to share birthdays and anniversaries and holidays. I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted the nightmare to end.


For a few, brief moments, it did.


Then he was gone again.




I shut my eyes and pictured the two of us during the thirty years we shared. There we were sharing a large chair in the summer cottage on Lake Erie. There we were in the hallway of our home that connected our bedrooms. I was popping pimples on his back which to me was a symbol of trust. (And, yes, I still enjoy popping.) Again, there we were at my first wedding in 1968. He was dead by my second. I remembered a photo of him holding my infant son and another at a family gathering to celebrate my parents' anniversary. We looked so happy with not a hint of the tragedy to come.


I picked up the phone and called my "baby" sister. She couldn't remember my brother's friend, either. At first, I don't think she understood the impact his email had. I forwarded it to her.

I see why you burst into tears! It's hard to imagine that this is really part of our lives. At times, I don't even know if I just dreamed it all up, if I just dreamed Robin all up. And, certainly, the nightmare of his time on this earth, that too, I often think it must have been a dream. At times, I can't find him. Unlike so many others of my long lost loves, he rarely hoovers round, he rarely shows in dreamtime. When he does, I marvel at the connection, the time honored love, the familial ring. Yet, off again, he goes sight unseen for long periods of time, very long.

Yep, there he goes sight unseen for long periods of time, very long. But thanks to an old friend of my brother's who just happened to find an email from me sent so long ago, my sister and I were able to "marvel at the connection, the time-honored love we all shared."


We were able to reconnect with Robin and remember all that we loved and shared.

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