The Classroom of Bereavement

I’m in a different sort of classroom this week, the classroom of bereavement. There are no rules here. Anything goes. The student may do pretty much as he or she pleases, so it pleases me to write about my brother’s death, and to try to make some sense out of what appears to have been a completely senseless act.

My sister was the first to break the news to me. She said that her son had received a phone call from one of his cousins, saying that her father was dead; my nephew then passed the news along to his mother. When she told me, I said, “What if it wasn’t J? What if it was some homeless person and J paid the coroner to keep quiet? What if this is all a scam so he can assume a new identity?”

If you knew our brother, you’d know that the scenario I imagined was not at all farfetched. Indeed, when I talked to the deputy coroner this morning, he told me that a number of people had called his office, concerned that J had faked his death.

But as I listened to the deputy coroner’s story unfold, I became more convinced that it was the truth—especially when I heard that J’s body had been positively identified by his ex-wife’s current husband, a law-enforcement officer.

There is so much more that I want to know, so many questions that I’d like to ask my brother: Did you really kill yourself, as the coroner has ruled, or did you underestimate the power of the two drugs you took at the same time, one an anti-depressant, the other an antihistamine? You tried, dramatically and unsuccessfully, to kill yourself on two separate occasions many years ago, once by slitting your wrists, and once by cutting your throat, so why “go gentle into that good night” with a mere overdose of drugs?

My brother will never answer my questions, of course. But as every good teacher knows, asking questions does not necessarily presuppose that there are easy (or any) answers. Teachers pose questions to stimulate thought. In fact, when my students don’t know the answer to a question I’ve asked, I don’t permit them to shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” Instead, I invite them to probe deeper by saying, “I’m not sure, but I think….”

I’m not sure about so many issues surrounding my brother’s death, but I think that if I keep listening to the Spirit of truth, one day I will see some good come out of this tragedy.

Posted on October 19, 2009, in bereavement, death, family, relationships, suicide. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. You’re right about the questions not necessarily leading to answers. Perhaps the answers don’t matter? Run with me for a second, here:

    I gave my students a painting to look at and interpret. All but one kid did it – this holdout kid wanted to know what the ARTIST intended. I contend that it doesn’t matter a bit what the artist meant when he painted it, because we cannot live the artist’s experience. What matters is what WE take away from his representation of that experience. Holdout boy wasn’t buying it, but the rest of the class got the message.

    Your brother’s reasons for what he did are his own. The effect those actions have on YOU are YOUR own. Find comfort in the idea that the answers are inside of you.

  2. I’m so sorry! 😦 Even in your grief, you write just beautifully.

  3. Yes, I am so sorry, too. If the two drugs that he took were found to be the cause of his death, why is there not a question about suicide when it could have been accidental. How many people know NOT to take those two drugs together – I certainly don’t! But now I know, so I am wiser because of reading your story. This week I very nearly did take the second one mentioned but I didn’t, not because I thought it would be dangerous, but because I decided to put it off another day. Thank you!

  4. I am so sorry for your family and for anyone who goes through an experience like this. May His comfort be yours during these days.

  5. What can one say at a time like this? And so it is…

  6. i’m so so sorry. My 2nd period read the book MONSTER, which leaves more questions than they had…

    and sometimes, life is like that ….full of questions with no answers.

    my heart hurts for you.

  7. Ohh, I haven’t been by here in so long, but I saw you in the fav bar and had to check in. I think something was guiding me here. I’m so, so very sorry for the pain you are in. I know the classroom of bereavement, too. Please take care of yourself and know you are in His hands. Blessings and peace to you, always.

  8. I am a bereaved mum, my baby died of a syndrome. So there were less questions to ask. needless to say, there are lots of scenarios.

    He’s gone, don’t blame yourself.

  9. Now it would be very good if I had English as a mother tongue. I understand everything you wrote but it is difficult to write the feeling I got in English. I will try but if it sound wrong pleas do not be offended.

    It is alway sad when someone die and it is very hard when you never know why or how.
    I feel sorry for you, but I can also tell that even if it is still on your mind you have taken one step ahead. And like you said some good will come out of it in the end.

    Maria Berg

  10. dear magical teacher…
    i just came now to see your ruby tuesday because they are always so good and then i saw this.
    i am so sorry for you and your family.,
    family is so important and it is always sad times when one of them leaves us and we never see them again.
    please accept my sympathies dear magical muscal teacher..
    love terry

  11. If there’s anything I know about suicide, and I know it from a very up close experience, it’s that there are more questions than there are answers. Even the years don’t help clarify things very much. I’ve come to accept that there are no answers, that all I can do is accept.

    Most of the time, I don’t feel like doing that.

    It’s a supremely selfish act. There is no thought of any one else. But, I do think that a person who does such a thing is mentally off.

    Here I am babbling and babbling when I really mean to say I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry for the pain and confusion that your brother felt and for what you are all enduring right now.

  12. my heart weeps for yours

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