my eulogy for my brother who took his own life

My brother Mark and me.

My brother Mark and me.

That’s my brother Mark on your left and me on the right. A rare photo of us together. He took his own life last month. You can read my first post about it here. His memorial was Thursday, May 12, 2016. I was to give the eulogy. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. So I composed a letter to him… in an attempt to keep my emotions in check, to keep me on track, and to ensure I said what I wanted to say. Here it is:

Dear Mark:

This is hard. If you were here now, knowing what I know now, this is what I would say to you.

First, this is what I realize: I know life was hard for you. We had a lot of talks about it. Even the last time we talked, just a day or two before you died, you shared how difficult your life was. You took responsibility for how your life ended up. You said that Karma was paying you back for all your bad decisions. I said we all make poor choices but we can do a lot to repair those. You felt it was too far gone and too late. You fought many battles in your own civil war, and I suppose you lost the last one. But I want to remember you for your victories.

I met your kids and Eunice and your granddaughter Leia. I want you to know how amazing and beautiful they are. They are remarkable young people that I truly admire. I’ve fallen in love with them and they will always remind me of you. Whether it’s because of you or in spite of you, they’re wonderful.

I don’t think you struggled with depression. I think what drove you to do what you did was your pride. I don’t mean pride in a negative way although in this case it had negative consequences. I mean pride as in self-respect. You could not face the shame of your impossible situation that you believed you created for yourself. You were too proud to beg, to admit defeat, to find yourself in an embarrassing situation. I think you felt you were doing the last honorable act available to you. Rather than face your shame, you faced your death. I won’t judge you for that.

Second, this is what I wish: I wish your baloney meter wasn’t so sensitive. In order to be a part of a family you have to put up with baloney. I’ve come to believe that healthy relationships not only love each other in spite of our issues but because of them. But you couldn’t tolerate one offense. I found this a subtle and treacherous path to tread. But we learned how to do it. But this made it impossible for you to live peaceably in this world. I told you that most of our problems arise from believing in fantasies, including about family. We have a fantasy of what family should be like and must learn to love the one we have. You thought that was funny but true. Which made me realize that you really did love family… but especially the idea of it. You couldn’t live up to your own personal fantasy of what a family should be. You thought you failed and lost hope in repairing it.

I wish you had been more clear and direct. But wish I had been more clear and direct too. I wish we could have learned to quit playing mind games, guarding our hearts, and just speak our minds directly and clearly. I wish we would let our love speak. You could have said, “Dave, I love you and need your help.” And I could have said, “Mark, I love you, and I’m here for you.” I think we did say that in veiled speech. But you left this world before we finished the conversation. I wish you hadn’t done that. I hoped in the long run we would all work this out.

Third, this is what I will remember: I remember when you broke your finger when you wanted to see what it would feel like in the washing machine wringer. I remember when you broke your leg on the toboggan hill. I remember when you broke your arm when we were playing on a steep hill. And I think I was finally there when your life broke your heart.

I remember preaching to you in our beds when we were teens… for hours late into the night trying to get you to repent and get saved. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, you surrendered and said the sinner’s prayer. I now believe you did that just so I would leave you alone and let you go to sleep. I remember losing touch for so many years then reconnecting to build our brotherhood.

I remember whenever we did get together we ate well, drank and smoked too much, and talked and cried and laughed a lot.

I remember when we rented a cabin on a lake to go fishing. The fishing wasn’t very good. In fact, we were catching nothing. Then I caught something, but discovered it was someone’s broken line with a lure attached. I thought I’d try that lure, and I started catching the nice trout. You weren’t pleased. Then, on one cast, the line caught and snapped and we both watched the lure fly into the distance. You rejoiced over that. You said God was punishing me for catching too much fish, being too proud, and making you look bad.

I remember how you loved to cook. We always ate and drank and talked well when we were together. Even the last time we were together we chose some good beer and some good buffalo wings.

I gave you some money, not knowing it wasn’t nearly enough for what you needed and it was more than what I could provide anyway. When we were about to part ways, we hugged each other and said we loved each other, and then you said, “Well, tonight will be a good night, thanks to you.” Was that your last night?

So I’m going to remember you for your fierce independence that brought you so much pain and caused us so much pain. But I’m also going to remember you and your love of family, friends, fun, fishing, and food. You cried a lot, and it was always over your own family and your failure with it. You were living your unfulfilled dream. I’m going to miss you.

Love, your brother, David

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19 Responses

  1. Bob Stoner says:

    My sincere prayers for you and your family at this time. It must have been so hard to read the letter out but what comfort it must have brought to the family and to those outside of the direct family, and now to others in your ‘net community.

  2. Kenton says:

    Prayers for peace for you and the rest of Mark’s family.

  3. Scott Amundsen says:

    Okay who is chopping onions in here?

    That is a beautiful eulogy, David.

  4. Vanessa Wells says:

    God, I’m so sorry. Just saw this and the FB post I missed. My (unfortunately) sympathetic thoughts are with you, if you see what I mean.

  5. maura says:

    deeply sorry for your loss. how ever as someone who struggles with this issue all day every day, i can only say
    that for sure his mind is no longer torturing him and there is peace. i am not a believer, so i don’t think he’s in heaven or hell. but for sure he’s not agonizing over problems anymore

  6. Shirley MacNaughton says:

    Beautiful tribute to your brother. So sorry

  7. Wendy says:

    🙁

  8. Wendy says:

    Somehow, the hug I sent got missed. Here it is again: hug!

  9. terri jo says:

    I am sorry Mark found no peace in this life…… Perhaps another time he will. Take care David

  10. Caryn LeMur says:

    Hugs, my friend. My deep sympathies to you and the family.

    A good officer realizes that he cannot save all his troops…. and you are a good officer, David.

    And, you wrote a beautiful tribute to a complex man. Job well done, soldier. Job well done.

  11. Dee Parsons says:

    I am so sorry.

  12. Julie McMahon says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Painful.