Friday, October 29, 2010

Meet Bó

Early Tuesday morning, I came upon a post on the "Pets" section of Craigslist, that had been placed by an animal rescue group looking to save "Bruno," an 3-year-old, 80-lb. "American Staffordshire Terrier mix." This sweet boy was advertised as being good with people and other dogs, yet hadn't found a home and was scheduled to be euthanized yesterday (Thursday). The rescue group was pleading with somebody to help save him, either by adopting or fostering him. Well, it's not the first such post I've seen on Craigslist, nor is it the first to sadden me. However, I had such a visceral reaction as I looked at the forlorn expression on this beautiful animal with cow-like markings. I couldn't get over how a dog could be rescued from the streets by putting his trust in people, only to lose his second chance at a family and a better life because the time ran out on some arbitrary due date.

Well, he was just as much of a "sad sack" when I met him in person, and was even manhandled by the shelter workers when they went to microchip him and vaccinate him against rabies; they tied his mouth shut so tightly that they gave him a huge gash across his muzzle, and since there had already been a scar there, I HIGHLY doubt that it was the first time. But by the time he got home, was fed and watered, and had a short nap, you could already see the change in him. He woke up ready to play and to give kisses, and now, after three days in a loving home, where he's safe and well cared for, you can already see his true personality: a laidback yet playful, friendly baby. He even has a new name to go with his new home: Bó, the Irish word for "cow."

Now it's just a matter of getting the cat to accept him. It shouldn't be a problem; Andy has already told Bó that he's God, and the dog readily agreed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big Shoes to Fill

At my brother's wake, I was told by a well-meaning yet misguided mourner that I "had some big shoes to fill." While it is ridiculous, not to mention impossible, even to imagine that I could replace my brother in any way, for myself or for anyone else, not a day goes by when I don't remember that I'm my parents' only remaining child, and that with that, comes certain responsibilities.

When my brother first died, my thoughts were filled with my own, personal losses: how I would never be an aunt. How when my parents eventually died, I'd be alone, with no sibling to share the grief and the responsibilities. But as time has passed, I've also started to feel the pressure resulting from my desire to minimize my family's losses.

It's been many years since I have doubted my own mortality; my surgeries and my battle with depression have necessitated the formation of both short-term and long-term goals, showing me the importance of making each day count. But while I still feel (and am) relatively young, my family's recent losses and health scares have served as yet another reminder of the relentless passage of time.

My husband and I eloped, and while my parents love him and are thrilled with our marriage, I know that they are disappointed not to have been there, and their disappointment serves as a glaring reminder that this was their only chance to witness the marriage of their child; my brother is no longer around to afford them a second opportunity. The same sentiment holds true for my grandmother. Therefore, while I don't regret the way we were married for a moment, I do feel twinges of guilt at denying my parents a moment of happiness and hope for the future. I can't help but feel the same weight of responsibility with regard to having children. My grandmother is ninety-four years old, and while she's in good health, I still recognize that her remaining days on this earth are numbered. Will she live long enough to see her first great-grandchild? After my father's stroke, one of my first thoughts was, would he live long enough to see his first grandchild? While certainly not a good reason to have children, I cannot help but remember that I am my parents' only opportunity for grandchildren. And now there is no son to pass along the family name; it will die with my father.

I have always felt somewhat of a disappointment to my family, particularly when compared to my brother. I neither attended the college my parents wanted me to, nor chose the career they would have wanted for me. And my brother's effortless intelligence couldn't help but inspire a spark of inferiority in my heart of hearts, however unintentionally. And while I can't do anything to change the past, I do find myself preoccupied with future decisions, wanting to protect and care for them when they need me.

I may not be perfect, but I'm all they have.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This is Why I Walk....

This is my brother's memorial photograph from the AFSP's "Out of the Darkness" community walk on Staten Island. It's important to put faces to the statistics, so that people may realize how prevalent--and personally devastating--it is to lose someone to suicide.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Out of the Darkness

Yesterday was my second year walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) annual "Out of the Darkness" community walk. While it's heartbreaking that I or anyone else would need to walk in memory of a loved one lost to suicide, I've found the whole experience to be very therapeutic, a way to honor my brother's memory while doing something constructive, in the hope of ensuring that others may be spared the same heartbreak in the future.

That said, I also hope that these walks may help to make the topic of suicide less taboo. Today's annual "Making Strides for Breast Cancer" walk had 20,000 participants; "Out of the Darkness" had between 200-300 walkers. I know for a fact that countless more Staten Islanders have been touched by suicide. Since losing my brother, it seems as though almost everywhere I go, I encounter someone who has lost a loved one this way. So my question is: why aren't these people walking? Is it because they haven't heard of the walk? Until losing my brother and finding a Survivors After Suicide support group on Staten Island, I hadn't either. Why isn't such an important cause more publicized? Are people afraid to talk about it? Are they afraid of being on the wrong end of negative gossip?

Why is suicide a topic that most people avoid, especially when it's so prevalent? According to the AFSP and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the eleventh-leading cause of death in 2007, the latest available data. It was the fourth-leading cause of death among adults ages 18 to 65, and the third-leading cause of death among adolescents. It seems to me as if more must be done to publicize the tragedy of suicide, rather than sensationalize it. The stigma must be removed, in order to suicide awareness and prevention.

Perhaps then, our loved ones' deaths will not have been in vain.