It’s hard to believe it’s been two years already since my brother Ted passed away. Last Sunday was the anniversary of his death. It just doesn’t seem possible. Two years ago we were all shocked when we learned that his body had been found behind a strip mall in Covina. Shocked by the circumstance of his death, but not by his death itself. He had been killing himself with alcohol and drugs for years, we all knew it was just a matter of time.
Two years ago we speculated that he had overdosed, had gotten so drunk that he choked on his own vomit or perhaps his heart had simply given out. We all secretly hoped it had been his heart, but his lifestyle and habits suggested otherwise. Several weeks later we learned from the autopsy results that he had no illegal drugs in his system and that his blood alcohol level was well below the legal limit. The years of alcohol abuse had taken their toll, his heart and other organs were damaged, and he had died of heart failure.
I miss my little brother. His years of sobriety though brief, were a wonderful time. I don’t miss the havoc and hell he raised when under the influence, the pain he caused and the way he sometimes mistreated my father. I’m sorry that it took death to bring him the peace he sought.. I can only hope he is resting comfortably in the arms of the Lord.
Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty that I did not do enough to help him and that I could have been there for him more often. Maybe the tough love tactics we were employing in dealing with him were too severe, I don’t know. But when I find myself feeling this way I sometimes reach for my cellphone and playback the one message from him that I have saved there and listen to it. It is from about a year before his death. In it he is drunk and extremely angry. He yells, cusses, rants and raves. Eventually he blames his lot in life on me, then in a rage he tells me to F-off and hangs up. After listening to the message I come away with a sense of relief and know that the monster I have just listened to is not my brother but the ravings of an alcoholic in need of help. I realize that we had tried everything possible to help him and nothing had worked, and the tough love tactic was our last resort. In desperation we had to try it, hoping that tough love and prayer could save him and bring him back to us. We never got the chance to find out.
Rest in peace baby brother….
What follows is a reprinted of the original post from the day after his death two years ago.
“Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.” Thomas Aquinas
My younger brother Ted is dead. He was discovered yesterday morning around 7:30AM behind a strip mall not far from my father’s mobile home where he was living. There was no foul play, no trauma, no knife wound, gunshot, bruising or contusions. It is quite possible that he died of aspiration of vomit while lying on his back, passed out or some internal failure caused by his alcoholism.
May he rest in peace…
All my family ever really wanted was a little peace and quiet for my 87 year old father. All we wanted was to relieve the stress my younger brother was putting him through night and day, everyday. All we wanted was for Ted to stop the abusive treatment and show our father the love and respect he deserves.
All we were asking of my 49 year old brother was to find another place to live and move out of our father’s mobile home so that dad wouldn’t be evicted. He’d done it before. Four years ago he’d moved out just days before my dad was to receive an eviction notice. Again the eviction was based on my brother’s irresponsible behavior in the park. That time he managed to get into a rehab program in South El Monte and was dry for two years. The best two years my dad has had in a long time.
Then my brother broke the rules and was asked to leave the facility. With nowhere to go he lived with friends here and there and occasionally showed up at my dad’s mobile home. But in a few short months he managed to work his way back into my father’s home full time. He laid low for several months hiding away in my dad’s trailer, no one, including the family even knew he was living there. In time he began hitting the bottle pretty heavy and soon everyone knew he was back with my dad. He began getting into trouble (see previous Oh Brother post) and eviction was soon back on the table.
This is not what we wanted, this is not the resolution we were looking for. We wanted Ted to get the help he so desperately needed. We wanted Ted to want to be sober again. He had such untapped potential and was such a different man when he was on the sober road. He was kind, loving and a fun guy to be around. I haven’t had that brother for a long, long time. It is that brother that I will truly miss. Alcohol destroyed that Ted, it made him angry, mean and bitter. He was never a happy drunk, always an angry one.
The last time I spoke to my brother was in November. He had been drinking. We did not fight or argue. He pleaded that he was trying to change and when I asked him if he’d been drinking he lied and said no. He cried and said he was lonely. It broke my heart, but I continued to employ the tough love that we had all agreed to use in dealing with him. I remember telling him that we would be there to support him if he would commit to a program and stop the drinking and be there to support him when he got out. He told me he was trying and maybe he was just a little, but it wasn’t enough.
The last thing he asked me was if he could call just to talk. I hesitated a moment and finally said I didn’t think so. Before he could reply I said, “You know what Ted, let me think on that for awhile.” We said goodbye and that was that… I never got back to him, and now I’ll never have the chance.
I feel awful for not being there for him, but he needed to come to terms with his illness and seek help. Tough love was our way of trying to sway him in the right direction. A good friend of mine told me some time ago that “sometimes no help is the best help we can give.” I guess we’ll never know now.
I loved my brother, even though he probably didn’t think so, I simply didn’t like what he’d become. I will not miss the drunken,angry, thug Ted had become, that was not my brother. I will miss the kind, gentle loving brother he once was, the kind, loving, little brother I hoped and prayed he would one day be again.
I Love you little brother, your earthly pain
has finally passed.
Say hi to mom for me….