Michael

Michael

Michael Eblen Farah my brother, died on the 4th of June this year, 2019.[1] Whilst a shock, his death was not entirely unexpected. He had a high risk of mortality at the time of his death and in the two or three years preceding it. He battled his entire adult life with depression and generalised anxiety disorder; and, few years ago, was also diagnosed with adult ADHD, which was certainly consistent with his behaviour and lifestyle. These issues, whilst undoubtedly major contributing factors in his death by suicide, were not his only significant pathology. He suffered from a young age with a major substance abuse disorder.

Beyond these DSM style diagnoses, at a psychological and spiritual level, Michael suffered with a loss of faith, an absence of meaning and an impending sense of apocalyptic doom. As a young boy, his faith in God, the world and the inherent value of human life was strong. I was impressed to learn that on an occasion when I was dealing with a personal crisis and in a less than ideal circumstances, Michael had sat with my late grandmother[2], a devout Maronite Catholic, for several hours, praying the Rosary for my salvation.[3] His cousin Tanya[4] wrote something about him shortly after his wake, which I think captures something of this early optimism,

 I once knew a boy with a beautiful smile, infectious laughter, kind heart and a brilliant mind…….he was my childhood friend who introduced me to Bruce Lee movies…showing me martial art moves in his Chinese slippers… talking endlessly about characters from his comic books and accompanying me on occasion through the streets of Hillbrow in the days when it was still safe to walk the streets…So fond are my memories of this boy that hearing of his sudden departure left me shocked and feeling numb as if this truth I learned can’t be….

Hillbrow the once famous, now infamous, centre of Joburg nightlife and counterculture during its heyday, symbolised a  more innocent and optimistic time, not only perhaps for Michael, but for many who lived, worked or played there during the seventies and eighties.[5] I misspent much of my own youth in Hillbrow, mostly underground in the Carvette Snooker Saloon. [6] Hillbrow was where as a young man Michael worked at Rhythm Records and, as a kid, spent so much time in and around  the Berea Nurses Institute, where our mother worked for over twenty-five years.”Berea”, as we would refer to BNI, was where we met Dion Wood and his three sisters, who were so quintessentially children of Hillbrow.  The Barnato Park High School, on the border of Hillbrow, where Michael spent much of his high school career, for a time literally the only white kid in his class. This topography was deeply impressed upoun Michael’s psyche. It was also Hillbrow, in the late eighties and early nineties, by then a slum and portrait of urban desolation, populated by the casualties of the Rainbow Nation and run by Nigerian drug lords, where he returned to in the grip of his addiction. Hillbrow would haunt Michael’s dreams to the end of his life.[7]

As a young man in his twenties, after an extended binge, he spent time in rehab and shortly thereafter relocated to England where he met his wife to be Joanne and this, in combination with a cocktail of psychotropic medication, allowed him to clean up his act and he went straight for about fifteen years. Hardly a picture of happiness though, most of this time ‘on the wagon’. His anti-depressants and whatever other medication he was taking, had the effect of stabilising his mood at a pretty low-level of joy, effectively anesthetizing  him as it does, so that his emotional spectrum was radically reduced. He gained a significant amount of weight, which no doubt contributed to his overall sense of malaise. He certainly wasn’t the first choice for a dinner party or a night out on the town. This was less about his sobriety, because even during these years, he wasn’t a tea-totaller and could handle a drink. It was rather his mood, which was invariably heavy. It was only on the rare occasion when he would laugh, and I would see a glimpse of the boy I once knew.

In concert with the urban decay of Hillbrow, something essential to the human condition, if such condition is to be bearable, was lost to Michael, the possibility of transcendence. He was spiritually crushed by physical, secular and scientific reductionism. The intellectual imperative of modernity that we are nothing but. He became dogmatically secular. I, on the other hand found myself philosophically and psychologically on the opposite end of this spectrum. In the discipline of Jungian psychology, like so many others, I found a home for this orientation. In typical Jungian fashion I am neither theist nor atheist, so naturally find myself in conflict with both camps(!), but, significantly, attuned to the possibility and experience of the numinous.

In Michael’s case, I spent the better part of two decades, trying to persuade him of the possibility of transcendence and redemption that I had discovered in Jung’s work. His own secular orientation and reductive views clearly engendering existential anguish, for him at least. Whilst natural science is a wonderful tool to tell us how things work, it is terrible at offering us a reason for why being alive is a worthwhile endeavour. On the contrary, viewed through the lens of the sciences, human life appears, if anything, a blight, an ecological disaster![8] The question of meaning, which is precisely what Michael lost, requires an alternate lens, something closer to the mythological.[9]  Although he was amenable to my efforts, studied Jung and even entered analysis for a time, the approach ultimately didn’t take root in his psyche and, although for a time an enthusiast, was not ultimately dissuaded from his intractable nihilism.

I went to watch the movie Joker on Friday night[10], partly in tribute to Michael for whom the Dark Knight and his mythological universe was emblematic.[11] There is a scene in the film where the Joker, brilliantly acted by Joaquin Phoenix, confronts his mother. In the course of the confrontation, in contradiction of the moral imperative that she tyrannised him with – that he was born with a purpose, to bring joy and laughter to the world, informs her that he hasn’t been happy “a single minute of my entire fucking life!” Whilst not wholly true of my brother who was happy at times, symbolically the sentiment and existential protest against life itself and the one who gave him this barbed gift resonates.

About ten years before his death, during a better time, Michael traveled with Joanne and his eldest daughter Siena, to Sydney, Joanne’s city of origin. Despite having one of the best holidays of his life, he was deeply troubled by a nightmare he had whilst there. In the course of this nightmare he was captured by the maniacal Joker, who in the dream had been pursuing him for years. He was so frightened and disturbed by the dream he woke up in a cold sweat and for a few minutes was unable to discern waking life from dream time -as can happen after very vivid or emotive dreams. As it turned out the dream was indeed a premonition, as dreams so often are.

Michael relapsed into active addiction about five years before his suicide earlier this year. Initially it was, if anything, an improvement! His going off anti-depressants, and self-medicating with an array of narcotics lifted his sombre mood. Although his relapse was a shock, well maybe “shock” is an overstatement, worrying or disturbing, may be closer to what I felt,[12] it was also, ironically, cause for celebration. I had my brother back! Whilst naturally imbued with pathos, there were moments of something ecstatic and almost, not quite, but almost, joyful. Of these, one early evening stands out. Michael came over to my home and played a favourite song from his youth off his playlist,  an anthem at the Door’s nightclub: Nellie the Elephant, played religiously, where Michael and his friends used to go dance and  mosh wildly. My two sons Ruarc and Teague, twelve and ten, respectively, at the time, watched transfixed as Michael, enraptured, sang the lyrics, accompanying the song.

To Bombay

A travelling circus came

They brought an intelligent elephant

and Nellie was her name

 

One dark night

she slipped her iron chain, and of she ran

to Hindustan and was never seen again

 

oooooooooooooooooo…

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and

said goodbye to the circus

off she road with a trumpety trump

trump trump trump

 

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk

and trumbled off to the jungle

off she road with a trumpety trump

trump trump trump

Night by night she danced to the circus band

When Nellie was leading the big parade, she looked

so proud and grand

 

No more tricks for Nellie to perform

They taught her how to take a bow and she took

the crowd by storm

 

oooooooooooooooooo…

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and

said goodbye to the circus

off she road with a trumety trump

trump trump trump

 

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk

and trumbled of to the jungle

off she road with a thrumety trump

trump trump trump

 

The head of the heard was calling far far away

they meet one night in silver light

on the road to Mandaley

 

oooooooooooooooooo…

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and

said goodbye to the circus

off she road with a trumety trump

trump trump trump

 

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk

and trumbled of to the jungle

off she road with a trumpety trump

trump trump trump[13]

It was dusk when Michael gave the impromptu performance. His lost innocence and sense of wonder temporarily returning. He seemed genuinely happy, as though all were well with the world, albeit for an all too brief moment.

On the occasion of my fiftieth birthday, two years ago, he flew in from Sydney, where he and his family had emigrated to a few years before and where ultimately, he would take his own life. My fiftieth was a pretty surreal event, for other independent reasons, but this was added to by Michael’s presence and demeanour on the day. After offering the night before to assist in any way he could or was needed, he slept until about four that afternoon before calling me, as I was scrambling around attending to last minute arrangements, to ask if I could pick up a couple packs of Marlboros for him on my way home!

As the evening’s festivities got under way, he disappeared in typical Michael fashion only to return a little while later with two large wads of cash tucked into his belt, from a successful blitzkrieg visit to Monte Casino. Gambling being just another one of his many vices! After the foray at the casino, he was upbeat and wasted no time in distributing copious amounts of LSD to any who cared to join him for what he determined would be a good night for a wild party.

These trifles aside, he gave a spontaneous speech at the long dinner table laden with Lebanese cuisine after the arranged speeches. I can’t recall everything he said that night, but one thing he did say stays with me. It was something he had said to me on more than one occasion. He said he was proud of me. That he looked up to me and that he found my life somehow exemplary. This was vindicating and remains one of my proudest moments and most cherished memories. More so, because whilst we were very close, our relationship was tempestuous, with frequent and sometimes violent outbursts. Whilst we never actually came to blows, we had many stand-up-shouting-storm-out-the-door style arguments!

Not all my memories of Michael are happy ones, not by a long shot. But It is not the intention of this post however to exemplify self-pity or to engender pity in the reader and so I will share only a single example of a painful moment. This occurred shortly after he first relapsed. We were standing in the parking lot at Nicolway Centre in Jo’burg, where we would often meet. Michael had been on a binge and had been kicked out of his home by his wife or had left of his own accord, I can’t recall which. There were many incidents of both scenarios during his active addiction. Either way, he somehow ended up walking around the Northern Suburbs in which he lived, barefoot. His feet unused to being bare and traversing the urban landscape for an extensive period of time had ended up lacerated and bled for days afterwards. As he relayed this story, the image of him walking barefoot, locked out of his home, his feet bleeding, no money and in the grips of his addiction, broke my heart. It was possibly the only occasion that I actually cried in front of him. I put my arms around him and begged him to take better care of himself.

Despite, or arguably in symphony with his depression and addiction, Michael was an extraordinary individual. I am weary of hyperbole and overstatement, given his recent death and my vulnerable emotional state with the loss of my only sibling and closest friend. Both my parents are dead, Michael was my only surviving family member. Having now lost my entire family I was born into is a challenging and somewhat alienating experience. In a fundamental sense, the world I was born into is not the same world I am called on to live in today. I have long been of the view that adulthood proper only commences at the point you lose both your parents. As long as they are alive, you remain symbolically and psychologically a child. What I never gave any thought to, although I might well have, is what it may mean to then lose my only brother, best friend, confidant and comrade in arms. I still do not know the answer to this question, my life now, and to a degree this post, is an attempt at an answer. This acknowledged, I realise I am not alone or special in having lost my family and don’t wish to claim privileged status for it.

My brother was as fallible as any and more than most. To now claim he was a saint in disguise would be disingenuous. He wasn’t. However, whilst no saint, he did display some striking characteristics, not entirely without virtue. He was an exceptionally enterprising individual and from a young age demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit. This was unusual given that neither of our parents were so inclined. He had as many failures in his various business ventures as he had success, but this talent and impulse sustained and motivated him his entire life. He was something of a pioneer and trailblazer among his peers. He was more often vilified than praised for this by the parsimonious spirits of our extended family, but hey that’s just fucking family for you -isn’t it.

What Michael had in abundance, besides energy – God knows the man wasn’t afraid of hard work, was courage. Maybe, “courage” is the wrong word, he had balls. You know the old expression, don’t rush in where angels fear to tread. Well in the textbook of platitudes and folk wisdom where that admonishment is printed, the accompanying photo is of none other than Michael rushing in! He was never guilty of hesitation. He did everything quickly, he spoke quickly, thought quickly and acted without hesitation.  As someone who is so often guilty of hesitation, excessive analysis and passivity, I greatly admired this in him. To boot, he also just happened to be highly competent! So not only did he act quickly but invariably he did whatever he was doing, better and more competently than anyone else could. He was intellectually gifted and possessed of an irresistible will. He was not easily stopped or dissuaded from a course of action. Unfortunately, that iron will and lack of hesitation was also his undoing, because it was as unstoppable whether turned to the pursuit of vice or virtue.

Despite the tremendous suffering he endured and inflicted on others during his descent in the hell of full blow addiction, something interesting, and, I argue, redemptive happened. Before I get into that, let me first acknowledge the massive destructive capacity and effect of substance addiction. This is something I have spent the best part of my life learning about, through exposure to my parent’s alcoholism and my brother’s addiction to narcotics. I will resist getting into what I have learned about the psyche of the addict, for to do it any justice would take us too far afield of the focus of this short article. What I can say is it is traumatic, both for the addict and their family. Besides my own family and immediate experiences, I have had occasion to work with several students either in active addition or in recovery. Just last year, losing a student to alcoholism[14], who synchronistically ended up in the same rehab Michael was in that year, 2018. All of which is to say, I don’t wish to in anyway sanitise, whitewash or minimise the pathology and impact of substance abuse.

The above caveat in place, as I mentioned the journey down the rabbit hole, in Michael’s case at least, was not wholly devoid of psychological and spiritual value.  Being an addict is surrendering to an unconscious impulse, in the case of narcotics or alcohol, that impulse is malevolent and will given time, cost the addict their life. That is where it inevitably leads, but death has to be earned and in the interim much suffering will be endured, loss of dignity, sovereignty (agency) and ultimately sanity. Nevertheless, the giving over to the unconscious can also lead to something akin to accelerated individuation. Once again, I qualify this, by admitting that such individuation doesn’t grow straight and true – not that any individuation ever does, but its perverting aspect is much more obvious in the case of addiction. Also, critically for Jung, such an individuating impulse is then not mediated by consciousness, it does not adhere to the reality principle and so creates an ever-greater dissonance between the subject and the world. Still these qualifications in place, although we all prayed Michael’s governing archetype would be Batman, the Joker, too, in the right light, is a type of individuation. It is freakish, malevolent and maniacal, but it is not without a certain numinosity, a certain spirituality.

In the last two or three years of his life, Michael individuated beyond the provisional version of himself, which acted as a placeholder for much of his adult life. For one thing he lost a huge amount of weight, maybe thirty plus kilograms over three years. Someone said to me recently your memories are energetically stored in your fat cells, whilst I don’t wish to claim the literal truth of that idea, metaphorically I think there is something to it. The loss of weight was a shedding, a putting something down carried too long perhaps. An openness, sensitivity and light-heartedness absent in the very solemn sober version of Michael emerged. He experienced life with a vastly increased sense of vulnerability.  He became accessible in a way we only ever do when very vulnerable. The human being was evident in a way I had not seen in him before, nor in too many others. Usually we are too busy holding up the avatar of our personas to be human. It is typically only when we are laid low that the human being can emerge in this way.

Michael died four months ago.[15]

I am left now in his absence with the challenge of making sense of this new world. A world without Michael. A world without his candour or courage to correct me or carry me when the going gets tough and I am at risk of losing my way. A world wherein his light has been extinguished.

I had hoped to say much more in this post, but I guess, in consolation, nothing said, given the subject matter, could ever match its task. I want to sign off. I hope given time, to write more generously about this beautiful and unique soul one day.

I will conclude by sharing with you a letter I wrote and read at his wake. I thank you for your generous spirit in reading and indulging this very personal post.

Dear Michael

I am writing this letter to you three days after your death on Tuesday the 4th of June in the year of our Lord 2019. You died on Tuesday, leaving us all behind to figure out what life means without you. Life without a much-needed father and husband for Joanne and your children. Life for me without my only brother. And, also, life for many out there who called you villain. I’m reminded of that line from that great film from our youth Scarface, where Tony Montana yells out in the restaurant to the members of the proletariat, the members of respectable society. Anyway, as you’ll remember, he yells out, “I’m the bad guy. This is what the bad guy looks like. Take a good look! This is the last time you’ll see him.” Well a lot of people who called you bad, will need to find another bad man to pin a target to. Another target onto which to dispel their own unowned iniquity. You can take yours off now. Your death and final act of penance have earned you that right.

You can lay down the heavy yolk of shame, fear, sadness and self-loathing that stained your soul. You can lay down the cross of responsibility you carried for Joanne, me, Caleb, your girls and so many others. The enormous demands made on you to always have to perform, figure things out, to be the genius and to show us all the way. Lay this weight down now Michael. It is no longer yours to carry, if it ever was to begin with. Lay it down now and rise encumbered, light of heart, free of spirit and as Caleb, said to me recently, may the road rise to meet you on your journey hence.

On more than one occasion you described me as heroic and my life as somehow exemplary. You saw me as setting some example of what a courageous life may look like. I am in your debt for saying this to me. It remains possibly my most valued treasure. Something that enabled me to actually aspire to courage and something to sustain me in the long shadow of your premature absence from our lives.

Your regarding me as somehow heroic, was truthfully, and I said as much to you at the time, not without some irony. I have always experienced myself as dwarfed by you when it came to courage. I say this now, of sober mind and spirt, you were unquestionably the most courageous human being I have ever known. Courageous it must be said, to the point of recklessness, of self-harm, but courageous no less. If ever I met someone willing to walk into the fire, to dive into the abyss, to step into the unknown and uncharted it was you. If anyone inspired me to live more courageously it was and remains you.

Even, I must say, in your final act of taking your own life. As in all else in your life, moderation, circumspection and compromise were clearly not part of your character. As always, you raised the ante and in doing so paid the ultimate price. Your suicide has helped me see how in every moment the stake we put is our very lives, but that was never more apparent to me than in your life and death.

During your journey through the spiritual desert when joy and meaning were absent and you were gripped by existential terror, I tried, in vain I must acknowledge, to reach out and share with you the wisdom that has sustained and nurtured me. In this I regarded myself as teacher and you as student, all be it a dilettante. However, my sense, now, on reflection and with the benefit of hindsight, is it was always you who was the teacher and I the student.[16]

The lessons you have taught me about life and about business (you were my greatest business mentor, bar none), about the courage to take risks and not to play it safe, but also critically about being willing to bear the consequences of failure. You may have failed as often as you succeeded and ultimately lost your way. In the end you paid with your life, but surely that is no more than any of us here will do. The ending after all is a certainty, what we have is the possibility offered whilst we are still alive. For me, what you demonstrated most admirably and for which I will forever be in your debt, is the willingness to take a chance, to roll the dice and let them fall as they may. At least Michael you had the balls and the tenacity to try, which is more than many of us can say. For that my dear and only brother, I salute you.

I am proud to call you brother My world is immeasurably impoverished for your absence. You were not only a brother and I consider you to be the greatest brother any man ever had, but you were my best friend. We shared a bond not only of blood but of spirit. The moments in my life where we sat together talking laughing, philosophizing, even fighting, are my greatest treasures. If ever I loved another human being it was you. To the extent I failed you as a brother and comrade I hang my head in shame and my sorrow knows no bounds. To the degree I failed you I humbly beg your forgiveness, such as that may be at this juncture in time.

Oh Captain my Captain, put your cross down and go now in peace and in love to the Elysian Fields where we will meet again afore long.

Know this, as long as I am alive you live in me too. Not a day shall pass, not an hour, not a minute that you are not with me. I make an oath to you now to live insha’Allah a life that would make you proud. From now on I live for both of us. Every step I take, every breath I draw from today I do in your honor and with you by my side.

Until we meet again may God bless and keep you.

Your brother and comrade,

Stephen.

[1] Born 28 April 1973, he died at the age of forty-six. He leaves behind his wife Joanne Farah (nee, Kelly),  his three daughters Siena, Daisy and Lulu and his adult son Caleb (mom,  Celé Duffy).

[2] Nora Farah, my paternal grandmother and mother of Saleem (Solomon in English, or Solly as he came to be known) Farah, Michael’s and my father.

[3] Fortuitously, God was listening and sympathetic on that occasion.

[4] Tanya du Toit posted on her Facebook wall, Jul 4th, 2019.

[5] Hillbrow is an inner city residential neighbourhood of Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is known for its high levels of population density, unemployment, poverty, prostitution and crime.

In the 1970s it was an Apartheid-designated “whites only” area but soon became a “grey area”, where people of different ethnicities lived together. It acquired a cosmopolitan and politically progressive feel, and was one of the first identifiable gay and lesbian areas in urban South Africa. However, due to the mass growth of the population of poor and unemployed black people after the end of Apartheid, crime soared and the streets became strewn with rubbish. This, together with lack of investment and fear led to an exodus of middle class residents in the 1980s and the decay of major buildings, leaving in its wake an urban slum by the 1990s.

Today, the majority of the residents are incoming migrants from the townships, rural areas and the rest of Africa, many living in abject poverty. An urban regeneration programme is underway. There are street markets, mainly used by local residents, and the Johannesburg Art Gallery contains work by major local artists including William Kentridge. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbrow

[6] I wrote another post about this time in my life, focusing on the issue of courage  https://appliedjung.com/living-courageously/

[7] This idea of a soul’s home is evident in the notion from Henry Corbin of the ‘mundus imginalis’ or what the Sufis refer to as Alam al-mithal’ or the ‘Emerald Palace’. This way of thinking about the role of Hillbrow and how it metaphorically and symbolically factored into Michael’s inner life was inspired by Gaston Bachelard, “our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams. A psychoanalyst should, therefore, turn his attention to this simple localization of our memories. I should like to give the name of topoanalysis to this auxiliary of pyschoanalysis. Topoanalysis, then would be the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives.” From his book The Poetics of Space. I am indebted to Alexia Athalie Figgins for bringing Bachelard’s work to my attention.

[8] Viewed in this fashion, I must side with Slavoj Žižek and view existence as calamitous.

[9] This is central to the Jungian project, the search for meaning and the life of the soul in the age of science, secular values and modernity.

[10] The 4th of October, four months after Michael’s death.

[11] Batman, Gotham, Batman’s various nemeses – the Joker being prominent among these, and more broadly the DC Universe.

[12] To contextualise this, in addition to dealing with my brother’s addiction from a young age, both my parents were alcoholics. I grew up surrounded by addicts and addiction. That was the default status quo, I could hardly accurately describe it as “shocking”.

[13] Toy Dolls – Nelly The Elephant Lyrics | http://www.metrolyrics.com/nelly-the-elephant-lyrics-toy-dolls.html

[14] Henry du Rand (RIP)

[15] Four months and six days to be precise, at the time of writing, 10/10/2019, which also happens to be World Mental Heath Day.

[16]•That fear is an anathema to life. If life is worth living at all, then it is to be lived to the full.

  • Nothing is worth doing that can’t be done with a full heart and spirit.
  • A life of excessive compromise is little more than a march toward death.
  • Nobody in this world, and I mean nobody, is looking out for you. There is no Prince Charming coming on horseback to save you in this story.
  • The only person who owes you anything is yourself. And it’s best to make good on that debt.
  • To thine oneself be true. A life lived in service of anything other than the your own most cherished desires is a wasted life.
  • In a world of deceit, the greatest single virtue is honesty.

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Comments (10)

  • Kiva Farah Reply

    Michael, my uncle, was a character who’s complexity cannot fully be captured. Everyone’s experience of him seemed at once so personal and so vastly unique. My experience of him was one of adoration for a man who was brilliant, intelligent and hilarious. He told stories that would captivate and astonish me, he was at all times a bull in a China shop, a nihilist with a sense of humor and an insatiable appetite for destruction in the pursuit of personal freedom. Freedom, yes, from his own pathology. Though he often times behaved unforgivably, it was this unabashed and shameless nature that I so liked about him. He was alive, he reveled in life’s absurdity and took with both hands what others would do well to cower away from. He was at once a contradiction, riddled with anxiety and yet fearless to a fault, a liar and a conman, and yet he left me with the impression of a man as genuine, authentic and honest as I have ever met. He was a powerful character, ridiculously lucky despite the tragedy that befell him (another contradiction) and undeniably lovable, which is no doubt the reason he got away with so much!

    May his soul rest in peace.

    October 10, 2019 at 14:00
  • Susan Shepler Reply

    Stephen:
    I cried today for your brother, Michael, and I cried today for my son, Dustin. Our oldest son has a wonderful career; he’s (stoically and pragmatically) happy, a good, honorable person, married, with a young daughter. What a champion he is! I feel no different about our youngest son, Dustin, pained beyond pain with a horrible diagnosis, schizophrenia. What a champion he is! He braves or has braved everyday of an illness that he can not control. We were able to keep him safe for awhile. If only love or money could have fixed this…

    October 11, 2019 at 15:45
  • Beverly Reed Scott Reply

    Thank You I am a 59 year old Black Womyn from Chicago and I want you to know how much the telling of you and your brother’s journey meant to me.
    At a time when I am perilously close to losing/leaving much of what I once believed to be necessary to my identity, finding your email and then actually clicking your link has a synchronous quality.
    Thank you for sharing your letter, you gave me insight, deeper understanding and confirmed Esu energy, the Trickster, Papa Legba, Hekate even are present as I move from the center of the crossroad and step onto a path my soul has longed for but my experiences have fought tooth and nail. I’m weary but I’m going and your email a crumb to savor as I go….With Love and My Condolences Oye

    October 11, 2019 at 15:48
  • Max Calligola Reply

    I cried reading this, honestly. I lost three friends by suicide, all three of them amazing people. I have often thought I now live for them also, it is my duty and responsibility, and you stated it clearly in your amazing contribution to you brother. I am humbled, and bow to you in awe.

    October 11, 2019 at 17:03
  • Rain Jewelle Martin Reply

    Deeply touching, and I extend my heartfelt condolences. Thank you for sharing – there is a World in all these words, many would do well to hear. I for one, will pass on the message. And, to quote Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her story on The Four Rabbinim, choose to “live my life better than before”. Gratitude and blessings – for your courage – with appreciation, Rain

    October 11, 2019 at 18:29
  • Terri Vernon Reply

    Stephen, I only know you through the Magnum Opus courses you created. I participated in those courses and my life is better for it. You created a program that offers people a way to deepen, strengthen and heal their lives. It does not surprise me that this sensitive celebration of your brother moves from the personal to the universal, encompassing love, loss, grief, acceptance and spirituality.

    I was moved by much of what you said here, and I cried in places because some of the people I love most dearly live with the suffering and darkness of addiction and mental illness. I was not able to make them better. God knows I tried. This essay reminds me I cannot change other people. I can only be present with love.

    I am sorry for your loss and I thank you for writing this.

    October 11, 2019 at 19:36
  • Elaine Walker Reply

    Stephen, more tears for you, for your brother, for all who die by suicide. And for my own younger brother, Stewart. Until he died in an accident, I had no concept of the trauma one feels at the loss of a sibling. He died also in June and also at the age of 46 but 17 years ago. I share this because that sibling loss is so devastating however it manifests, and in some small way I can hold a corner of your grief with you.

    We cannot know what destiny each life holds, what challenges, addictions, endings. All we can do is truly love one another.

    October 11, 2019 at 19:39
  • Sam Sleeman Reply

    Hi Stephen. Thank you for telling Michaels’s story, and your part in that story. it seems so hard to bridge the gap between the outer story we all see and the inner experience of Michael about his life. Love Sam

    October 12, 2019 at 06:57
  • Savina Reply

    Thanks Stephen for sharing this. I have no words to describe just how much this touched my heart and made me cry. I have to say I thought about my own son whom we lost 26 years ago in a car accident. Someone who also suffered from depression, was on prescription drugs and had ADHD. I have often wondered how he would ever have coped in today’s world. He wanted to be like everyone else, wanted a girlfriend, friends and just wanted to be normal. But that’s not how life turned out. Michael could have been, my brother, my son, and even me!! I don’t have the words to tell you how much this has touched me and how I feel for your pain and longing. Time is a great healer but we never get over it, we just learn to live with the loss and after 26 years it still revisits sometimes when one least expects it. My condolences and thoughts are with you and Michael’s family. He is totally at peace now. I did have a beautiful dream a few months after my sons death and I saw him standing in the kitchen and he said Mum I am fine now. Thanks Stephen Michael is the friend, the father, the brother, the husband, so many have lost.

    October 13, 2019 at 17:03
  • Joyce Tye Reply

    So sorry Stephen, I just lost my only brother too this year in January 2019 to the same horrid disease, he was just 54. Thank you for sharing, you have voiced many of the things that I would like to say to my brother George so I hope he’s listening.
    Again, thanks for sharing.
    love
    Joyce

    October 25, 2019 at 21:19

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