On Losing My Brother | Cup of Jo


In the times proper after Mark died, I got here throughout one thing he wrote when he was in second grade. They had been learning tenses and Mark had stuffed within the blanks.

brother died suicide

I may image him smirking as he wrote — hunched, freckled, and positive he’d make his classmates giggle. One August afternoon, when it had been practically 18 months with out him, I took the primary “my sister” written in his hand and had it tattooed on my forearm, slightly below the elbow. It harm after which it was executed. The tattoo artist taped black plastic over my arm.

Maybe I drove him nuts the week earlier than this college task; perhaps he thought it will drive me nuts to see his solutions on the bulletin board in our kitchen. Mostly there was love between us. Mark’s battle with despair started in center college. Some issues helped; others didn’t. Depression returned time and again.

As his siblings, we shifted and rotated roles. One fearful, one other cautiously optimistic, the third unsure. And then we’d commerce with out ever discussing it. As issues bought worse, we learn indicators and swapped theories. Sometimes all of us agreed and it was Mark who didn’t. Mark who refused to go to the hospital, Mark who wouldn’t meet the most recent physician. He was the infant of our household, however he would not be bossed round. He’d executed so many issues, he’d tried so laborious, and he didn’t really feel that something gave him lasting reduction. When he died, at 21, it was suicide.

I liked the quick afternoon I spent strolling by Brooklyn and using the prepare with that black plastic utilized by the tattoo artist. It seemed like a conventional mourning armband. I used to be, I’m. I needed a tattoo for Mark that might make him giggle.

I didn’t know the tattoo would scab and peel, nevertheless it left little flecks on my arm, the sheets, and as soon as, my boyfriend’s brow. “Hold on,” I stated, reaching for it. “I think my tattoo is coming off on you.” It was grim however satisfying, the best way it fell away to disclose a extra everlasting model of itself.

Tenses not really feel proper for my household. Sometimes it hits like a sucker punch when folks ask “How are your brothers?” and I do know they imply two, not three. But on occasion, I snatch the chance after I see it, when somebody doesn’t know. I really like my dentist, however I lied to him when he requested. Good, good, they’re all fairly good. I plotted them on the map: Andrew in Harlem, Robert in Queens, and Mark I put in Brooklyn, subsequent to me, the place he lived the final summer time of his life. “Given how long it’s been, I hope they’re seeing someone else,” the dentist stated and we shared amusing.

Six years on, it’s nonetheless a shock that Mark isn’t right here or there, asking if I need to go for a swim, texting one thing that made him giggle. I’ve three brothers, however I don’t at all times know the way to converse to Mark’s goneness on the identical time I hint Robert and Andrew’s presence. I need to hold them in the identical sentence, the identical tense, no two-thirds good and one-third lifeless, no sitting up within the dental chair to spit and say we misplaced Mark.

It’s laborious to cease counting how lengthy it has been for the reason that lifeless had been residing, however there’s little satisfaction to it. In “To _____________”, the poet W.S. Merwin likens it to fastidiously letting out a kite with out a string. I can’t pull Mark again to me, irrespective of how clearly I outline his distance.

Merwin died at 91. He’d spent his last many years “painstaking[ly] restor[ing] depleted flora, including hundreds of species of palm, on the remote former pineapple plantation in Hawaii where he made his home,” according to the New York Times obituary written by Margalit Fox. There are so some ways to dwell on this world and I want Mark had discovered one which labored for him. If Mark was nonetheless right here, I’d ship him that sentence and the next one: “He had lived there, in blissful near-solitude, since the 1970s, refusing to answer the telephone.”

There had been instances within the early days after Mark’s demise after I may fake he wasn’t lifeless, simply elsewhere. There had been days I wakened and didn’t keep in mind after which the data got here to me as merciless as ever. I’d wish to assume Mark is fortunately tending palm timber whereas a telephone rings within the distance, however that doesn’t take me very far. For right this moment, all there’s is the understanding that these strains about Merwin would make him smile. I can image a hint of delight spreading throughout his face, virtually as if he had been right here.

A number of weeks after I bought my tattoo, I may shut my eyes and run my hand over it and never really feel the letters anymore, which meant they’d final without end. My sister. No tenses.

brother died suicide


Alex Ronan is a writer and investigative reporter from New York. Her work has been printed by Elle, New York Magazine, Vogue, and The New York Times. She lives in Brooklyn and is on Instagram (an excessive amount of) and Twitter (typically).

P.S. Why suicide isn’t selfish, and how to write a condolence note.

(Photo by Nina Zivkovic/Stocksy.)





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