January 27, 2019 by Courtney
My friends lost their mother a few months ago. Since then, they have been so vulnerable in sharing about their feelings as they grieve and about how amazing she was. Reading all that they have written has solidified a few things for me: I need to try to spend more time with my mom and understand where she’s coming from, and I want to spend some time remembering the good about my brother.
I literally only remember the hard things about him the majority of the time. The last year of his life was miserable for him and all around him. March of 2009 he took about 150 pills (when my kids were there). He ended up in ICU. He survived that, but was then in mental hospitals the majority of the rest of that year. The last one was so hard because they did electric shock therapy. I think they over-did it because he pretty much had no memory of anything. Couldn’t play guitar, use a computer, drive/get around; he couldn’t remember much about his niece and nephew. I’m not sure what else he couldn’t remember. He seemed so sweet and innocent, but clearly the therapy didn’t help his depression. A week after he got out of the hospital he used a rifle to his head and died. I still remember my mom yelling “your brother blew his brains out” when she called me (I was the first person she called). I still remember them carrying him out in a body bag when we arrived to the house. I still vividly remember Servpro cleaning out the room where he died. They stripped the walls, carpet, and ceiling. I asked the lady how she handles stuff like that, and she said she just imagines she’s cleaning animal guts. Yeah.
I keep thinking those memories will fade over time, but they haven’t.
I want to remember him when he was healthy. It’s hard. So I’m going to kind of force it! I want to make it happen.
So I will start with us as kids.
He was the most amazing big brother a little girl could want. We were so close, always hugging, and spending every minute playing together. He was super protective of me. When I got in trouble, he would take the blame for it, even though he was totally innocent. I don’t necessarily remember these things well, but they are all over pictures and stories that have been told by my mom.
As a kid, we did so many things together and as a family. Holidays were so precious to me, which is why I focus on them so much as an adult. It brings back amazing memories. I remember when it was Christmas day, one of us would wake the other up super early and we would sneak down the stairs to see the tree lit up and all of the presents under the tree. My parents didn’t have a ton of money, but they always made sure our Christmas was special.
We went on trips together often. Not big trips, but that’s okay. We did go on a couple of big trips (the real big one being California), but the trips to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World, wax museums, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, and the coast stand out to me the most! Those were common things that we did. I kind of want to get season passes to Fiesta Texas now that the kids are big enough to ride all of the rides because those memories are so important to me. I want my kids to experience that! Anyway, I digress.
Our family was super close. We may have eaten in front of the tv, but we did it together. We spent time cooking and baking together. We had routine and regular expectations.
Joey had OCD so he was more than a perfectionist. He always made sure that everything was a certain way. He got it from my Meemaw and dad, and I think I got it from all of them. I remember him fixing the throw pillows on the couch and I would mess them up and laugh when he came and fixed them every time. Now I do the same thing with the pillows on our couch. Haha.
He and I were super involved in church together. I remember going to camp retreats every year. We went to the “Pre-Easter Retreat” at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment every year. In high school, he kind of just went through the motions because he started feeling depressed and when he started trying to commit suicide (so many times) and ended up inpatient, the church kind of shunned us because they didn’t know what to do. He and my parents stopped going to church, but I kept driving myself. See? It always ends sadly. I’m trying.
Despite some relationship issues in college, he seemed to do pretty well! He got a roommate, worked full time (or almost) at HEB (where they kept asking him to be manager but he refused for reasons I will never understand), and went to school full time (making good grades). He struggled some, but he functioned the best in college. We were still close. We went to the same college and saw each other often.
After college he was up and down. He lived with us when I was first pregnant with Karis, then he lived with my parents the majority of the rest of his life.
He still spent a lot of time at my house and we spent a lot of time with him at my parents’ house. We were always together, but we started drifting at this point because I had a hard time relating with him.
He did LOVE his niece and nephew so much. He didn’t know what to do with babies, but he tried hard. He wanted to know how to relate with them.
He was so happy in these pics!! It makes me happy to look back on them.
It does make me sad that the pics that I have are the last that I will ever have. I will never have pictures of him with Levi, or with them as bigger kids. I’m sad that I’m now an only child. I have no sibling with go to in the hard times. I miss being able to pick up the phone and share with him all the things that I’m going through. I mean, he knew it all. He was even at my house when Ethan was born and was one of the first to hold him! He and Lindsey would come over and hang out, do laundry, and eat with us often. It was a special time.
I will keep working on this. It’s super hard to think about his life and not think about how hard it was for him and for us who love him.