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Today is my brother Chris’ birthday.

Happy birthday, brother.

Except, Chris is no longer with us.

He would have celebrated his 47th birthday today – save for a tragic mistake he made 11 years ago.

Circumstances in his life had backed him into a corner, and I guess he didn’t see a way out.

So, he committed suicide, sending surviving family members searching for answers to questions that will never have any.

I have learned that suicide is a selfish act.

Chris saw an easy way out – maybe – but left his family battling emotions we weren’t equipped to handle.

Anger. Guilt. Abandonment. Embarrassment. Denial. Numbness.

Check.

For me, guilt may have been the worst.

Chris and I grew up only a couple of years apart. As an older brother, he was my protector, confidant, teacher and a measuring stick to whom I wanted to be.

He helped me navigate my parents’ divorce and other childhood predicaments. Mostly, he was my friend.

His suicide left me frazzled, defeated, questioning.

Where was I? Did I miss something? Did I not ask the right questions in our conversations?

Years later, I realize those answers will never come.

His final act was one of both selfishness and desperation.

It robbed my family of our brother, son, cousin, nephew, grandson, a passionate, beautiful, awesome and fun-loving guy.

It didn't have to be that way.

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, I urge you to seek help.

There’s always a solution. There was for my brother. He just didn’t take it.

Happy birthday, brother. I hope you found the peace you were looking for.

Image

Thomas and Christopher Martinez, right, circa 1983, at Denver South High School.