My brother Mike took his own life three years ago today. It’s hard to believe that it is already three years past. In a lot of ways it still feels fresh. It makes me sad that it is already three years. As time moves on we get further and further from when he was here. Lots of things keep happening in between the time that he left and now and I just wish sometimes I could make it stop.
For some reason it reminds me of a Native American story about dogs. Long ago people and animals all lived together and at one point God decided that it was time to separate them. God created a great chasm in the earth and started to put the people on one side and the animals on the other. All the while the space between them kept getting bigger and bigger. Just before the very moment when it would have been too great a distance to make it to the other side, dog jumped over to be with man. I can’t make that leap anymore. I lost my chance. I’m losing him and I’ve been losing him for three years now and it makes me so sad.
Here is what I wrote to read at his memorial service. I thought I’d share it with you now.
We were supposed to see you at our parent’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m angry that you couldn’t have just said that you didn’t want to come home. They would have been really upset and mad but it would have saved us from this new world of pain. Speaking as a parent myself, I can’t even begin to understand what it must feel like to lose your child. No matter how old they get they will also always be the tiny baby you held in your arms. All the planning, shopping, cleaning and hoping they did to get ready for your visit must feel like a cruel dirty trick now. You never dream that someone you love so much could do something so final and terrible to you. If you hadn’t gone and done this insane thing I know I probably would have been whining about the long ride out to Long Island and it makes me feel so petty and guilty now. Now I’d gladly take the four hour car trip and listening to everyone arguing over nothing to this bizzaro-world alternative. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and I don’t have to tell you, the perspective from this end is a real kick in the ass.
Your full name is Michael Roy Peluso but you seemed to go by many names. In our family you were always Michael and Erica called you Michael. You and Erica visited us for Piper’s third birthday almost two years ago. The morning after you left I asked her if she liked having her Auntie Erica and Uncle Michael at our house. She turned and said to me, “I don’t call him Uncle Michael, I call him Uncle Mike!” To your friends, you were Mike, Peluso, Pelusi, Big P, Huge P and sometimes just P. I have always thought of you when I hear that Rentals’ song, “Friends of P.”
If you’re friends with P.
Well, then you’re friends with me
If you’re down with P.
Well, then you’re down with me
Having this happen at Thanksgiving has helped me to see that I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my life, my parents who love me and my health. I’m thankful that I’m able to recognize and appreciate all the love from friends and family that surrounds me. I don’t think that you knew how many people really loved you or maybe you did but didn’t trust it. I’m so very thankful for my husband Glenn. I almost lost him in February in a horrific car accident. He shattered his knee and has been working on his recovery ever since. He has leaned on me a lot throughout this past year and I tried my best to hold him up to support and comfort him. Now when I look to him for support and comfort and he opens his loving arms to me I know how truly lucky I am. I’m thankful for my beautiful daughter Piper. She teaches me to be patient and to appreciate life’s smallest joys. The Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us took a little family trip to a nearby farm. We were chased around by a paranoid looking turkey. We saw some emus, llamas, turtles, some pigs and a peacock. Piper got to pet the fluffy bunnies and goats, feed a bottle to a baby lamb and have a pony ride. Her smile was eight miles wide the entire time. It beamed its glee right into our hearts that day. She doesn’t bother to stop for sadness when there is happiness all around her. I’m sorry that you won’t now get a chance to really know the funny, wonderful person she is becoming.
I’ve taken comfort from the many conversations I’ve had with your friends. Without fail they’ve told me how much they loved you and what a special person you were. Without fail they’ve told me that they were in regular (sometimes daily) contact with you. And without fail they’ve told me that they had no idea you were feeling this way. And if they had known, they would have dropped everything to be by your side in the deep dark hole you’d fallen into. Mike, they would have carried you out on their backs.
Our 90-year-old friend and neighbor Alice Potter passed away recently. She attended the same church in our town for over 50 years. I went to the 8:30 am service there the Sunday after you died. I felt she would have wanted me to go there. I walked from my house even though it was only 20-something degrees out. The church felt warm and welcoming once I passed through the heavy wooden doors. I didn’t know anyone there though everyone I made eye contact with wished me a smiling good morning. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t smiling. The service was good. I liked the hymns and the lesson about needing to stand up in the word of God. As I walked out the minister shook my hand and I introduced myself to her by saying that I was a friend of Alice’s. She seemed to remember me from the funeral. Then I just started telling her what had happened. She immediately put her giant arm around me and spoke gently to me. She told me that the moment you left this life God was there to welcome you and hold you in his arms. She prayed while I just cried and let myself sink deeper into her enormous shoulder. I’m not sure how you’d feel about me becoming a regular churchgoer though I have a feeling you wouldn’t like it. But since your action compels me to seek more meaning in my life, I really don’t care.
Mike, I’m angry with you. I’m angry with you for leaving me an only child. I’m angry with you for leaving our parents without their only son. I’m angry with you for leaving them with the final image of you dying in a hospital bed. I’m angry at you for leaving Erica behind with so much sadness. She really loves you and didn’t deserve this from you. I’m angry with you for leaving us with all these questions that we can never have answers to. And I’m angry with you for forever depriving me of the pleasure of making you laugh and of ever seeing your beautiful face again. Even with all this anger, I still love you and will miss you for the rest of my life. As you know, I have also struggled with depression and loneliness in my life. To me, it felt like being trapped in the very smallest room with an even smaller door. I hope that wherever you are now you’ve got the key in hand and you’re striding for the door headed for peace.