Back in November of 2011, shortly after the one year anniversary of your death, I was put in touch with a filmmaker who also lost a brother to suicide. She was about to begin making a documentary about sibling survivors of suicide and she interviewed me to see if I might be a good fit for the project… she ended up coming to Austin in January of 2012 to film me.
You know how camera shy I’ve always been– getting me to sit still for a nice picture was never easy but getting me on video camera was far more challenging. It was definitely a stretch for me as sitting in front of a camera being interviewed was so far out of my comfort zone. But a few things helped me through the process: first of all, Caley also had lost her brother to suicide so the feelings we were talking about I knew she could understand first hand so it felt more like we were having a conversation rather than me being on “display.” Secondly, she has such a calm, warm and encouraging demeanor about her that I found myself thinking about the camera less and less.
She spent about 3 hours filming at my home one evening and we covered a lot of territory! We spoke so much about you, what it was like growing up together and what my life has been like since your suicide. While being on camera was hard, it meant so much to me to have someone sitting there asking me about you and genuinely wanting to hear what I had to say, no matter how difficult some of it was. A year had already passed since you died so the caring thoughts and sympathies had long dwindled away… the rest of the world had moved on but I still had so much to work through yet. Furthermore, the topic of suicide is so taboo that when people learn how you died the conversation stops. People are afraid of it and don’t know what to say, so… they just stop talking. Can’t say I blame them… it’s an uncomfortable place to be– and they have a choice of whether or not to be around the subject; I however, do not. She also walked with me to my special tree to film me placing some of your ashes beneath it. Since you were cremated, I don’t have a gravesite to visit. And home is so far away that I can’t go visit places or people that remind me of you when I need it. That tree has become very special to me. Though I’ve loved it since I first saw it (a year before you died) I somehow feel your presence more intensely there now. I remember so clearly the first time I went to see the tree after you died. It’s strange… before your death I didn’t make any connection between you and that tree. But on the one year anniversary of losing you I decided to go visit the tree. As I got closer and closer to it I found myself walking faster and faster… by the time it nearly came into view I was almost running. I could feel my heart rising up into my throat and the moment I saw it, I buckled. I fell at the foot of the tree and just started sobbing. The last time I’d seen that tree you were still alive… and I wanted to go back to that time so badly. But there was something so powerful about that day– it felt like you were right there with me; and as if maybe, in some way, you were part of that tree now and were there again in physical form sheltering me as I sat there and sobbed at your feet.
Caley emailed me a few days ago to let me know the project is coming along and that the trailer should be released within the next few weeks. She has set up a website and a Facebook page for the documentary and wanted the subjects of the film to be the first to view it. It hit me really hard, for some reason. One obvious trigger is the pressure of seeing myself on film… it makes me very uncomfortable. But I think the larger part of my apprehension is watching it and being transported right back to where I was a year and a half ago. While I’m still a bit of a walking disaster, I’ve managed to work through a lot of feelings and am far more put together than I was back then. But I’m afraid to be triggered by the intensity of the emotions and the depth of the despair I was feeling… and now it will be out there for the world to see. Don’t get me wrong… I’m so glad I participated because I think her work will help a lot of people. Siblings tend to be so overlooked in the wake of a suicide; Caley and I spoke of how few resources there are out there for siblings and she’s going to help change that. It still baffles me to this day how someone could look me in the eye and say, “Oh, I heard about your brother. Please tell your Mom and Dad how sorry I am.” Part of me wanted to jump up and down and scream, “I’m here too! He was my brother and I’m hurting, too!!” And it happened many times. I’m so glad she’s given a few of us the opportunity to share our stories and let the world know about our brothers and how their deaths have affected us and changed our lives… I feel very lucky that she chose me!
I hope you’re proud of what I’m doing… It is so important to me to continue to find ways to keep your memory alive!