This I believe…I believe in the healing powers of my big brother’s love. I have seen it first hand in his life: melt away childhood scars, resentment, the fear and bitterness of being poor, homeless, and easily victimized by people and fear alike. He used to say it was my love for him that kept him alive so long. But I know it was his love for me. He wouldn’t leave me without my permission, no matter how his demons tormented him, no matter how deep his aching loneliness ran. I swore I wouldn’t give up on him as long as he agreed to be here for me. I begged him to endure a hell I had no real comprehension of, just because I didn’t want him to leave me behind to face my own. So, for love, he’s endured. He’s settled down, planted roots, formulated dreams, fallen in love, fought the darkness when it comes, and emerged into light every time – all for the sake of Love.
As I age with the same illness, I’ve become more intimate with my brother’s life challenges. Manic-depression claims nearly 20% of it’s victims by suicide; most of those don’t make it past the first 10 years of the illness. It wreaks havoc in life plans – school, work, friendships, lovers – almost all ordinary endeavors fail in the face of euphoric, grandiose highs and devastating lows. It is impossible for some to manage or predict, or to separate self from illness. The pain of depression is excruciating, relentless, and profoundly isolating. The disappointment of loved ones is heart-breaking. In the darkness of such moments, it truly seems as if the most kind, generous thing to do for those we love is to quietly die.
But I believe anyone who has conquered that temptation at least once with love – knowing they have a responsibility to others to endure and transcend this illness, not succumb to the seduction of suicide – that person then has the responsibility to show others how Love can defeat despair. It was not being loved that saved my brother in his darkest moments – he has always been loved. It was realizing his duty to be loving in moments of greatest pain that changed his life. And so I believe in the power of my big brother’s love to heal the deepest chasms of grief, injury, and fear. If Love can do that for him, then perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us. It’s keeping me here so far.
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