My little brother was the smartest, sweetest, kindest person I've ever known. I will always remember his beautiful smile and sensitivity to others' feelings. He grew up the youngest of five children in a military family. We moved a lot, so it was often very challenging to keep friends for any length of time. By 6th grade he said he was going to read the entire set of World Book Encyclopedias. We didn't have television overseas, so reading is what we did. He had polio as a child and felt self-conscious about his partially paralyzed left hand, even though others rarely noticed.
When he went away to college, he felt very lost and alone. He told us that he tried LSD with some new friends, but had a bad trip. This caused a permanent psychotic break. He thought he could fly and was stopped several times from jumping off the tops of tall buildings on campus. He spent time in the Utah State mental hospital, but hated the way that the medications made him feel. There are better medications today, but the medications back then had a lot of terrible side effects. He was miserable.
When he was released, he tried living at home for a while, but often got into arguments with my parents. In February 1977, his body was found by my dad at the bottom of a tall cliff in Utah, Cedar Breaks. He had been missing for a few days, but my dad knew that he loved Cedar Breaks and would probably want to try to fly from that cliff. Dad refers to his death as a "hiking accident" when people ask. Fewer questions.
We were all devastated by his loss for many years. All of our lives changed. My parents became religious and prayed a lot for him. It took my parents about ten years before they could talk about him without crying. I decided to become a drug and alcohol counselor. I needed to know how to prevent such terrible tragedies in other families. In a "teen first offender" program in our county, I now teach parents how to identify risk factors for drug abuse and strengthen protective factors so that they don't have to go through what my parents went through.
I love this memorial website because it allows us to connect with others who have gone through similar pain and sorrow. We need to be supportive of each other and do whatever we can to prevent the devastation of drug abuse and death. Thanks to all who contribute their stories. It has certainly helped me.
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