Guest post by Christine Wilson
Christine will walk 18 miles for suicide prevention in memory of Rafael Montoya Jr., Jeffrey Brian Wise II, Shane Clifford Nelson, Daniel Samsonov, Jerry Waltman, Evan Schwantner, Bill Curran, Durrail Martee King. You can support her team, For The Boys, by donating online.
While my brother, Jeff, was 10 years younger than me, there is still a lot that I’ve learned from him. Like the importance of always using the best spices when making fried rice.
Jeff and I had a unique relationship. While most siblings seem to fight and argue, we were very close. When he was a baby I would rock him to sleep. When he was four we would play school. I took care of him after school, instead of participating in clubs or sports. I helped raise Jeff, so when he died my entire world came crashing down.
Grateful for the beauty that surrounds us
The way I viewed the world was drastically changed after he left mine. When the shock wore off I started to view the world in technicolor. All of a sudden, I felt I was seeing the world through his eyes. I started to take notice of the colors of the leaves, the scent of the rain and the humming of the wind. At times, it is overwhelmingly beautiful and I can only assume this is what the earth looks like to Jeff – from wherever he is. When everyone’s going so fast to notice the wonders that are around us, he makes sure I am stopping to appreciate them. I am watching. I am listening.
Visits from hummingbirds and guardian angels
The day of his death, my mother was in the garden when a hummingbird began following her around. It stuck around for nearly five minutes hovering right over her shoulder. After the hummingbird flew away she checked the time because she was going to watch Ellen at 4 p.m. The time on her watch was 3:14 p.m., which the coroner later confirmed was Jeff’s time of death. Now hummingbirds are little reminders that he’s with me.
Jeff and I loved to take road trips. After he died, I took a road trip while it was late and started to fall asleep at the wheel. Moments before nearly crashing into a center guard rail, one of Jeff’s favorite songs came on, waking me with enough time to correct myself and avoid a potentially fatal accident. He is my guardian angel. These are just a few of the signs. While some may not believe in this, there are far too many coincidences that have occurred since he died that I can believe to be Jeff’s presence.
A healing homecoming this weekend
His passing has given me the ability to love more deeply, to help others when most might turn away, and to speak up and stand for something. I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to live for him, to honor him. My volunteer work with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention started as a healing process, and has turned into my passion. I take great pride in supporting a cause that gets people talking about our mental health, and how we can erase the stigma that surrounds suicide. I am about to participate in my third Overnight Walk from dusk till dawn in San Francisco on May 21. The timing is unique because May 28 would have been Jeff’s twenty-third birthday. We grew up in Alameda, California, so being back in the bay area for this year’s Overnight Walk will be like we’re taking a vacation home together.
We need to talk about mental health
At times the journey is tiresome because the topic of suicide is uncomfortable for a lot of people. However, what is most uncomfortable is living with the heartache of never seeing your brother and best friend again. To never again exchange Christmas and birthday gifts together, or cook the best fried rice ever. I would never wish this kind of sorrow on anyone. I believe if Jeff got the help he needed he would still be with us today. But that is part of the stigma. People often feel like being sad, or depressed is a weakness. It is okay not to be okay, and there are resources that most have no idea exist because we’re not talking about our mental health.
Today, I strive to live the best life possible and seize every opportunity to do something great. Jeff is not here to leave his mark, so I will live my life with purpose, passion and empathy in honor of him to continue his legacy. What was the greatest lesson my brother ever taught me? My brother taught me how to live.