I was supposed to get a phone call this week. Maybe yesterday, maybe today. I'm not sure who would have called me. I would guess maybe my mom. Maybe not. I was supposed to pick up the phone to learn that my brother's body had been found. I was supposed to hear the word, "Suicide". I was supposed to help plan his funeral. I was supposed to mourn the loss of his life.
Instead, I got a very different call. I was wrapping up my shift at work when I got a call saying that my brother was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital. I didn't know if he was okay, or even if he would still be alive when I got there. But right then, when he was supposed to be gone, he was alive.
I went there, to the hospital, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night. I was calm, I was numb, I was as prepared as one can ever be for what I would find. I was taken to the critical care unit, to my brother's room, where the nurse told me I could not come in: he did not want visitors. Inside the room a woman in a jacket sat near his bed. I did not know her; who was she, and why was she allowed to be there? I'm sure I glared at her, though I didn't intend to. But then the nurse said my name, and my brother's groggy voice said, "Oh, she can come in. Let her in." So I was brought in, too.
The woman in the jacket turned out to be another nurse, sent to watch my brother, to keep him safe. She gave me a pager so I could call her if I needed help, and she left us. I sat next to my brother's bed, in the dark room, holding his hand, watching him sleep. He would wake, and we'd talk a bit, and he'd be out again. Still safe.
Nurses came, took vitals, took blood. Morning came. I had to go, to start on the phone calls, very different phone calls than the ones I should have had to make. Thank you, God, for ruining the plan. Thank you. I will gladly make one thousand of these phone calls, though I hate them. How to you tell your mother, "No, it wasn't an accident. You have to face that, Mom, or you won't be able to help him. Yes, I'm sure, it was not an accident. He told me so. He meant it." How to you cause your mother that kind of pain? But you do, because you have to.
I called my mom from the hospital parking lot, while I waited for the ice to melt from my truck windows. Walker was waiting for me when I got home. I was several hours late. Explain again, then make more calls. Explain again over the phone. Late morning, I tried to sleep. Early afternoon, I got up and went back to the hospital. The nurses tell me how lucky we are: he should be okay. It looks like he was found in time. Thank you, God, thank you.
I am angry, I am hurt, I am scared. Most of all, I am sad. Whatever I am feeling, I imagine my brother is feeling 100 times more. I do not understand. I will never understand. I want to hug him. I want to smack him. I want him safe.
Some people will wonder why I'm writing about this. I asked myself that, too: should I really blog this? Is it fair to my brother? I think this story is not mine to tell. But here's the thing: we all need depression to not be a secret. Maybe, if we can learn to talk about it, people in pain will realize that they are not alone. Maybe more of them will ask for help. Maybe there will be someone else out there who does not get the call I almost got. Maybe someone else will be saved.