Friday, December 30, 2011

I carry your heart with me...

Song for this post: "There's Hope Yet" ~ Raised By Swans

I want to thank the amazing family for being who they are, infecting all of us with their love, wisdom and peace, and allowing me to write about this. You are amazing people and I am blessed to know you.


I grew up in a small town. There was only one high school and each graduating class had around 200 students. Because of that, everyone knew each other.  I attended my senior year of high school with the same people I went to kindergarten with. We were all very close.

By the time I got to high school, different grade levels had started co-mingling and becoming friends. I hung out with a few girls in the class below me who went to my foster father's church.  They introduced me to their friends and their boyfriends. Everyone had fun and everyone was glad to spend time. At 16, experimentation was no big shock. I was always too afraid to do drugs or anything that I could get into any kind of real trouble for. But some of my best memories are of us all hanging out on summer nights, drinking beers, smoking cigerettes (and for some, pot) and listening to Isaac play the guitar.

In the years leading up to that my best friend, who had also become my foster sister, had had a huge crush on Isaac's older brother. We'd hung out with him a number of times and, secretly, I guess I had a crush too.  I think any underclassmen's heart skips a beat a little when you get to spend time with the cool upper classmen. And he was cool.  He had an impressive disregard for the conservatism of our small town but managed to maneuver through it, doing whatever he pleased with a smile on his face.  Everyone loved him.  He continues to be one of the friendliest, most genuine people who ever came out of that small town.  His little brother, the guitar player, grew up to be much the same: incredibly kind, funny, charming, and eager to make those around him laugh and feel good.  The two of them were the type of boys who light up the world around them. And the apple didn't fall far from the tree.  Their parents were the coolest parents I knew...the kind EVERY kid wishes they had.  The boys called their parents by their first names and the dad was one funny guy. I clearly remember hanging out at their house once and being shocked by their father, who had come in with an antique flight helmet on his head, goggles, swim trunks, and was holding some kind of cocktail in his hand.  It was like a softcore scene out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel.

As the little brother got older my two worlds combined: us girls pining after the older brother and my new friends from church hanging out with the younger.  It was a good time in my life; long summers, group get-togethers, hours and hours of music and singing and creating bonds that last a lifetime. Eventually we all graduated and left that town. Some moved back to create families and businesses.  Some created new lives elsewhere. We all still love each retrospect, I wish I would have spent more time.  It's true that, if you don't say it now, you may never get your chance.

The younger brother suffered from a mood disorder.  The same one I do. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder years ago and have taken medication ever since.  I'm thankful for the medication and have learned through trial and error that life without the medication is a very dark place for me. I've also learned that mood stabilizing medications create a chemical and PERMANENT change in your brain.  You're worse off getting off of them than you were before you ever took them. I guess this means that I'll most likely be on them forever. And that's okay. I like being stable and happy and able to sleep at night and not debilitatingly frozen by a crushing despair.  Sure, the majority of "us" go through periods where we think we're cured. We feel better. The therapy and medication worked.  And we get off of our medication. What we don't realize is that it's the medication that's making us feel that way. Take that out of the equation and things can get real really fast.  What most people also don't know is that insanity is a sneaky mistress.  She sneaks up on us cleverly and takes us over before we know it. There's never time to get back on the medication before she takes hold. She goes from silent to screaming with no in between.

I was working as a waitress in a casino at the time.  A few of my coworkers were friends with my childhood friends.  As I said, it was a small town.  Christmas had just passed and everyone was in great spirits.  I think it was around 9:00 PM on New Year's Eve when I was clearing a table from some customers who had just left when one of my favorite coworkers approached. A mutual childhood friend of ours had just had twins and my coworker had been coming up to me at work nearly daily to discuss how the family was doing.  I assumed that's what was going to happen as he approached. But he wasn't smiling...and he looked concerned.

When he closed the distance between us a hand went to my shoulder as if bracing me and loving me at the same time. He leaned very closely in to my ear and, in a voice just above a whisper, he said, "Isaac is dead."

It's funny how the brain interprets the world around it. My memory is quite literally of the room spinning and then time stopping.  I had fainted.  Right then and there my eyes fluttered shut and I dropped to the ground.

I woke up a minute later or so in the kitchen. Two of the male employees had picked me up and moved me. My coworker friend was there in front of me, a look of worry and concern sweeping across his face. I remembered what he had said to me moments ago.

This has to be some kind of sick joke. This can't be real. Why would he say that? What a cruel thing for him to do.

My coworker friend swept a piece of hair out of my eye and said it again.  "Isaac is dead."

"How did it happen?" I asked.

"I'm not going to tell you that," he responded. "You don't want to know.

I became angry. "Tell me!  I want to know."

My coworker friend's shoulders slumped in defeat. "He shot himself Danielle." He continued with more details...details that wouldn't be right to mention here.

All I could do was cry. And cry. And cry some more.

Days passed.  It felt like one of those scenes in a movie where the character stands perfectly still and the world around them is sped up.  The funeral came. I went with my mother and a close friend.  It was held at the local performing arts theatre.  It was a grand, antique theatre with red velvet seats, gold leafed pillars and a great domed, painted glass ceiling that's always reminded me of the Sistine Chapel. I grew up in that theatre. When I was a little girl my father was a sound tech there so I got to watch shows for free and crawl around the secret spaces between the walls and in the ceiling.  It was a magical world for me then.  All that magic died in that funeral.

I'm assuming it was held there because Isaac was an incredible musician. He'd taken 6th (at least, that's how I remember it) in the nation in a Jimi Hendrix guitar playing contest. Maybe they thought a theatre was the appropriate venue...and they'd be right. I'm thankful they held it there...any other location wouldn't have had the space to house the HUNDREDS of people who showed up. That's what was amazing about Isaac. He touched the lives of so many people with his talent, his joy, his infectious love, and his incredible smile that would light up the room. The greatest ones tinker on the edge of genius and madness.  Isaac's love was infectious, yes. But his illness had infected his heart.

Another childhood friend of mine sang a song on the stage for him.  She has always had a voice like a bird and, hearing such a beautiful voice sing such sad music, and hearing her choke up and struggle to get through it was heartbreaking. My mother and my friend and I held hands through the ceremony and cried together. Everyone hugged, whether we knew each other or not. When it was over, we all filed out of the theatre.  The sun hit our tear stained eyes like fire. I remember thinking how abnormally bright it it hurt my eyes after crying so much.  Standing on that sidewalk after experiencing something so tragic in that theatre felt out of none of us belonged in the world at that we'd returned from a long journey through another world, a much sadder world, and had been bound together by an experience we all wished we could undo.

There was a reception at the civic center. We all sat and talked and ate and hugged. We all tried to smile.  A line formed to give our condolences to the family.  I waited my turn and, when I approached Isaac's parents I choked back the part of me that wanted to cry. I had no right to cry in front of them, I thought.  I told them I was sorry for their loss...that I loved them all.  I teared up.  Isaac's father hugged me. I was so shocked by that. He had lost his son and he was consoling me. He patted my head and stroked my hair a little.  He said he knew Isaac enjoyed our friendship very much. I felt so guilty, so horribly selfish for tearing up and allowing someone who should be wrapped in a hug the size of the world console me. I had made him and his wife a lasagna. I had tried to be thoughtful. But I had forgotten to bring it with me. I told him this. I'm not sure why. I guess I wanted him to know that I did care...I wanted to be there for them.  I told him I would bring it by their house.  He smiled and said thank you.  He always was such a nice man.  As I said before, they were the kind of parents you wish were yours.

I never did take the lasagna to them. After that day it just felt wrong; to invade their space while they were mourning.  I couldn't bring myself to do it, to make myself a part of their world.

It's been 6 years today. Since then, I've gotten off of my own medication twice.  Twice I've thought the same thing that so many think, "I feel better. I'm cured. I don't need the pills anymore."  I'm thankful to still be here. But I'm so sad that it's what happened to him that terrified me enough to get back on the medication.  I'm so terrified to feel like how he did. And there's a part of my heart that breaks for him every day because I do know EXACTLY what he felt like in the weeks leading up to his final choice.  I've been there. I know that feeling of desperation.  I wish I could have been there to tell him I was the same and it DOES get better.  I want to shake my fists at him and scream and cry out and say, "IT LIES TO YOU! CAN'T YOU SEE IT LIES?!?!?" I want to hold him until the lies subside and tell him to be passes. I want to smile with him when it does...

A very selfish part of me feels like, because I can identify with him so much, maybe a small glimmer of him lives in my memory.  His life and what he went through consciously influences my decisions for my own mental health every day of my life.

I think about him often...not just because we both struggled with the same illness...but because he was my friend. And I love him. And I will love him forever.

And I miss him.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)
i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant 
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


  1. Brought me to tears...
    Beautiful words...
    I will share them w/ my parents...
    Thank you for sharing the real...
    He came in 2nd by 1 point...

  2. I'm very very relieved! I was so worried I had overstepped and was prepared to delete the entire thing. Please do share it with your parents. :)

  3. Sending you such love. Isaac sounds like a wonderful man. The world needs more Isaacs.

    1. Thank you so much, Jenny. The world DOES need more Isaacs. :)

  4. Hi, Oh dear .....
    I just arrived here by way of Jenny's page, which I visited today after seeing her FB post on Suicide Prevention Week. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, and I wish you well in your continuing battle against that lying bastard--DEPRESSION. Keep fighting!

    1. Thanks for commenting and for stopping by! Jenny has been so wonderful to cast a light onto some pretty serious topics that need attention.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. :)

      Don't be a stranger!