Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning

The title of this post (and subject matter) and the photo don't have anything to do with each other. I've just been listening to Willie quite a bit lately and didn't realize until I was downloading the photo that it is "first thing this morning" too! I just thought it was a pretty sunrise the other morning and happen to get a shot.
The title and the subject matter are kinda related in that sometimes, when it seems that things are trying enough as it is, Life just wants to really push us further than we can go. However, as I have sometimes learned although not part of the song, if you will go ahead with it, there is often a lesson or some benefit to it. This post is also mainly for a friend; someone who's words meant a great deal to me many years ago, although I'm sure he is completely unaware. Often times random things we say in the course of conversation can really hurt or help the other person without us ever knowing but this event turned out to be a great benefit to me even though it started out badly in my mind.

This post is not a downer but does have some serious content at first so if you prefer lighter fare I won't be offended if you go on to the next blog. Except you Buddy, you keep reading. Fifteen years ago, during the last week of September, my brother died at his own hand. For many years afterward I had a lot of trouble accepting this and often blamed myself for his actions. I was the last person to speak to him or see him alive. It wore on me for a long time and I constantly questioned what I could have done to have stopped him or changed something. Now, at the time of his death I was working at a large, old church on the south side of Birmingham. That was the last place I ever saw my brother, so for many years, and really even to this day, I avoided even that neighborhood. We lived about a quarter mile from this church also, so I didn't want to be around there at all.
Well, skip ahead about 5 years, I'm newly divorced and living north of Birmingham. The personnel director for my company called and asked me to go run some trim at a church. It was a small job, just one carpenter and the superintendent were all that was needed and I'd only be there about a week. The church was over on the south side of Birmingham, not the one, but right next door. In fact, you could literally stand between the 2 churches, stretch out your arms and touch both buildings at the same time.
Well, when would I be needed there? Oh, the last week of September. Just that week.
Couldn't they get someone else? There are better trim carpenters than me! Nope. No one else is available.
I couldn't really say, "I can't go" and didn't want to get into why. It's highly frowned upon in our business if you refuse to go to a certain job without very good reason so, having just turned out as a journeyman, I felt that I had to just suck it up, as they say. After all, it was just for a few days but God, what a slap in the face. I mean, any other time of year or any other place but this!
So, I made it through the first couple of days but my mind was really working on me and I felt myself becoming quite depressed. The third day was the exact anniversary of my brother's death and I was really struggling to make it all the way to quitting time. So, at lunch the superintendent and I were sitting around chatting about various things, when he started telling me about his wife and family. As far as I know, he was unaware of my situation so I'm not sure what brought that subject or the one that followed up, it's been 10 years after all, but we talked on and then he started telling me about his wife's grandfather, I think it was. It might have been his grandfather but at any rate, this man had told him (my boss) that years before something had happened to him and it really brought him down. He became very depressed and finally one day decided that he could no longer take it. He took a loaded gun and went outside, I think to the barn. He was completely alone and had all the freedom to carry out his plan. No one was there to stop him. As he sat there for a few moments collecting himself, his thoughts turned to his granddaughter. She was very young and he loved his granddaughter very much, so much so that he decided that was the one thing that he could stand to live for.
It was like someone had turned a light on in my head. Though we really want to help our loved ones, everyone is ultimately responsible for themselves. You can't make people do what you thing is best for them, we all have to find our life on our own. Whether you choose to believe in God or another person or the greater collective of mankind, each person must have something to hold on to. You can only hold on to someone's hand for so long after they've let go. I didn't say anything at the time for whatever reason but from then on the load seemed a little lighter and I began to accept what had happened. I will always miss my brother and still feel somewhat that I could have done more but I have a better understanding of things now.
So, when things get rough for me or it seems that I'm being asked to "take one on the chin" I try and remember that there may be something in it for me after all. Maybe a chance to learn or see from a new perspective. And thank you Buddy, for sitting down and having lunch with me that day. You may not remember that job but I always will.

*Willie Nelson


Ron said...

Hey, Annie, those tilt-up panels are amazing. I sure as heck would not want to be near one when they were being put in place though! I can't believe that they actually bend in the middle... wow.

I'm sorry about your brother, and for how it has weighed on your mind. It's not your fault. Everyone is ultimately responsible for themselves.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

ER, you are so right. Words are the most powerful weapon on the face of the earth. They have the power to build or destroy.

You are also right in stating that each one if us is responsible for choices, having said that, suicide is a choice made when people are in a fog of desperation of one sort or another, the choice is never made with the same logic as we who have not attempted it apply to it.

I remember many years ago sitting listening to a group of people who had survived attempted suicide tell their stories. The most common theme amongst the group was that they could see no alternative, the hole they were in was too deep, too dark-in their minds. The pain was just too much to cope with.

You cannot take on your brothers death as something you may have changed, what you can remember is that whilst he was alive you loved him, you created memories with him and that he is always with you in heart and mind.


edifice rex said...

Hey Ron! Yeah, the tilt ups are very cool. I never get tired of watching them place them.
Thank you for your comments on my brother. I have been surprised over the years how very few people will offer condolences over that situation. I guess it's because it's such an uncomfortable subject. I wasn't fishing for sympathy, just trying to tell a story, but I thank you for your words.

Hello Molly! Thank you also for your words. You are right and I didn't mean to imply I thought my brother make a clear minded choice; obviously not, but try as you might, you can't always get people to see clearly due to many physical and mental issues.

Anonymous said...

ER, I have a sister with clinical depression, what is sad is that from comments she has made over the years, I have a feeling that we will lose her in the same manner. I hope I am wrong, I have talked with her about my thoughts and feelings, but, as you say, we just cannot seem to get through with what we see as logic.

I think you are right too, death for many is uncomfortable, finding the right words for what we all know is a terrible pain is hard for many.

What I always find strange is that although I believe we go to a far better place when we die, I don't want to lose those I love anyway....a conundrum to be sure....


edifice rex said...

Hey Molly, I hope with all my heart that you are wrong too. May your sister find some therapy or something that can help her.
Suicide still has such a horrible stigma associated with it, a lot of people won't even acknowledge the people it affects. Especially here in the south, where religion has such a hold on people and teaches suicide is a major sin. I leave that up to God; it's for him to decide, not me.