Written by Marie Demasi.
Does your mind ever get stuck on a day in your life that you wish you could change? You try not to think about it, but hard as you try, you go back to that day again and again… thinking of all the things you could have done differently. Just maybe you could have changed the outcome. Well, I do. It’s February 19, 1991; it’s a day I wish I could not just change but prevent altogether. I get stuck, frozen in my tracks; it debilitates me at times when I think of how life could have been different.
It was a little after 9 pm on a Tuesday when I found out that my brother, Steven, decided to take his own life at the age of 13. I was 9 at the time and couldn’t have predicted that the words he had said to me the day before were going to become a reality the next day.
On the 18th, he came into the house frustrated, screaming and angry… he was going to kill me if I told anyone. “I am going to go be with mom in heaven. What will you call me in my next life?” I didn’t have a clue that he was actually going to hang himself in our home the next night. I didn’t know the phone call, with the words “something happened to Steven” meant that I was never going to see him again. I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought of my brother not being there for me. He was the one who warned me about things, who was going to guide my path. We fought like cats and dogs but in those quiet moments when no one was looking he was my best friend and protector and confidant.
At 9, I didn’t know how to stop him. My words of support couldn’t make him stay. Even today at 34 years old with children of my own, I can’t fathom his pain at 13 to make the decision that there was no choice other than to take his own life, leaving all of us behind.
Fast forward to 2013. My daughter was born on Feb. 19th. It was a bittersweet day: I struggled to balance between celebrating the life of my miracle daughter and the loss of my big brother. I find myself stuck on his question, “What are you going to call me in my next life?” I thank my brother for his gift and I call her Evelyn Grace. And in the moments where she gives me a “Steven Look,” I look up towards heaven and say, “I guess I will call you Evelyn.”
Recently, to pay tribute to my brother, I got a tattoo on my wrist of his name followed by a semicolon. An author makes the choice to end his sentence with a period or keep the thought going with a semicolon. Steven chose to end his life, and I choose to keep going. I am not saying it has been easy, but if my 34-year-old self could tell my scared 9-year-old self all the amazing things life could bring, I would tell her, “YOU MUST KEEP GOING.”
I can’t go back and change that day no matter how hard I try. And at 9, I couldn’t have done more than I did, but it is my mission to raise more awareness to save a life in the future. I have found tremendous support from The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This year, 25 years after I lost my brother, I plan to complete the 16-18 mile OUT OF THE DARKNESS WALK in NYC on June 4th. I am also holding two fundraisers because in order to walk I have to raise $1000. One event is this Saturday, March 12th, from 12-4 in Norwalk at the Cranbury Chapel and again at the same time and location on May 14th. There will be vendors selling unique hand-made craft items and a fun quarter auction. I hope that many of you will be able to join me in my efforts to support suicide prevention at these events!
To learn more about the OUT OF THE DARKNESS WALK and suicide prevention more generally, please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website at www.afsp.org.