Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My Brother Died

*This post is written from a raw, gut-level, visceral place. It isn't for everyone.*

On July 16, 2011, my baby brother, Paul Hickenbottom, Jr., known as Sam to most everyone, passed away. He was 25.

Except passed away implies something peaceful, with soft music in the background, family gathered around, and then your loved one just drifts off into the afterlife. As if your family member had actually expired at the funeral home.

The phrase passed away does not convey a death in which professionals must be called to clean up the aftermath. Or a death in which the family is at the complete mercy of two law enforcement agencies, a coroner and an autopsy. Passed away doesn't communicate the gut punch or the nausea as details come.

Or the anger.

People have said some ridiculous things. (Why would a stranger tell the family who has violently lost a loved one that there is a "Season For Everything"? True, yes. I get that. But not at all comforting or helpful. Just stupid.) People have asked me how I'm doing. But no one has really asked me how I feel. Maybe because everyone assumed I am sad. And I am sad.

I am sad thinking about my baby brother, who blew his own head off with an authentic WWII Russian rifle. I am sad thinking about him laying around the morgue with his head gone for a week before the pathologist deigned to complete his autopsy. I am sad that the death notice posted in his local paper said there were no services planned. I am sad they took what was left of his body, and placed it in a cardboard box, and put it in an oven and burnt him up. I am sad the "receiving" funeral home tried to convince us to bury him in the shipping box. I am sad that my brother felt like there was no one to turn to and yet, the chapel was full of people there to pay their respects. A folder in my inbox has over 140 messages from people extending their sympathies.

But I am angry.

I know it's natural. Understandable. Expected.


I am angry that my brother blew his head off when his son was in the next room. I am angry that law enforcement stonewalled us and continue to do so. I am angry that we could get no answer as to why his autopsy was delayed nor do we officially know the results. I am angry that the secretary at the Coroner's Office didn't see fit to treat me with compassion or at the very least, a minimal amount common courtesy. I am angry that in the funeral industry, anything that can fit a whole body in it, is called a casket, whether it's solid bronze or a cardboard box. I don't like that anything that you put ashes in is an urn, whether it's a plastic shipping container or a marble box.

I am angry that I had to completely rewrite the obituary because it was just plain wrong. I am angry that I had to go to funeral home here in town to pick an urn suitable for burial because the receiving funeral home insisted that we could just bury my brother, a person, in the shipping box he arrived in. People treat their pets better than this.

I am incensed that people in California knew he was on the edge. And they called no one. Alerted no one. They knew he was not taking his medication. They didn't want Sam to be mad at them. Well, now he's dead. He's not going to be mad at anyone. But I am. I am angry. I don't care if it's a little selfish and aside from my dad, I don't care how hard it is for anyone else. I don't care about who loved him and who didn't. People who loved him would have tried to get him help. Like my dad and my mother and I did. For years.

I am angry with friends and family that have ignored this tragedy.

I am angry with California. For all the phone calls I had to make, people I had to talk to, and arrangements I had to make. I am angry because before I could make one phone call, I had to make sure it wasn't 7am in California. Of course, there were people who didn't bother to extend me the same courtesy. I am angry because a tragedy in my life was another day at the office for police, sheriffs and doctors. I am angry because 2 women who couldn't get along in California, made that my problem. I am angry because hours after my brother's death, I had to decide who is going to get my brother's dirty clothes and old shoes.

I am angry because this is the only place I can be angry. I have spent so much time comforting everyone else and being strong, I am empty. I'm not the parent. Only the sister. I'm tired of being there for everyone else and saying, "It's such a tragedy for everyone." "He was sick." "This kind of behavior is a hallmark of that disease." "He was troubled."

And even after all that, it doesn't seem real.


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what you are going thru yet, your words brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. I have a son who is sick also. As much as I hate to say it I thankGod he has been in prison most of his life because i know there they make him take his medicine. He will be out soon and I pray that he will continue on his medicine. I really am sorry you are going thru this and applaud you for writing your feelings.
Kathy Black

Anonymous said...

Having lost my Daddy to suicide, I totally understand your feelings of anger and I know it doesn't matter what anyone else says; they cannot fully know YOUR experience--Your pain is your own. People cannot know what you're going through,(especially law enforcement & funeral directors, as they "do their job"). I think it is healthy for you to express your feelings and I am praying for you as you walk this hard journey.

Shanon said...

You be angry as as you want to be, Georgia. Nobody knows your feelings, because nobody lost Sam the same way you did. Even your dad lost him differently, and has different feelings, than you. You are entitled to be as pissed off as you need to be, and nobody should judge that. I am thankful you have found an outlet here for some of those emotions, and I pray that it does help you to get it out where you can look at it, and process it. I can promise you, as a person who stuffs emotions, it will come back to bite you in the ass if you try to cover it up and 'make nice'. The people it bothers don't matter. Open phone line, email, chat box, etc.. whenever you need it. It won't hurt my feelings to listen to you rant if you need to. I know your heart. And mine breaks for you. Love you.

McDowell Family said...

That is raw and truthful and amazingly written. I can offer you nothing but the knowledge that I am thinking of you. I know that is not much and for that I am sorry.

misty said...

Im so sorry Califonia sucks...I couldn't imagine having the same experience when we buried our dad. He was treated with respect and so were we. My heart breaks for you and your brother.