September 14, 2019 I was reading through Facebook and came across a friend’s page with an obituary. I took a double take as I recognized the picture of a young man and then I sent her a message through messenger asking if he had turned ill. While I waited for her reply I was hoping that suicide was not going to be her response but I knew it was a very good possibility. She responded by saying “It was his own doing”. She also knew that I would not be surprised.
A good person. An intelligent person. A caring person. A victim of depression. My heart was broken but knew his pain was now mended. I do understand how much he struggled.
She posted a picture of her brother probably from high school when he was much younger than the 59 years of age he gained his angel wings. I always like to see people when they were younger because that’s truly who they are. She said the version I had met was just a “shell of broken pieces”. She’s absolutely right.
I am a better person for meeting Robert and his family. I mean that sincerely. She thanked me for helping him and for getting him home. I would have had it no other way. Robert had told me it had been many years since he had spoken to his family. He was very somber and did not want to burden them. Not knowing his family, I knew they must care about him and wonder where he was and how he was doing. I was on a mission to reunite them. I am always on a mission! I think of what would’ve happened had he not been home for the last three years. People cross paths for a reason.
There are many families who push their loved ones away and can’t/won’t support/help/assist their loved ones and his sister was right there to take him in as soon as she could. One cannot be more fortunate as Robert Thompson for he had a loving sister and family who cared about him.
Depression is a family illness. It is not an individual problem. There are genetics that play a role. Environment plays a role. Life is often not kind to those with mental illness. Adapting to difficult circumstances takes skill, healthy coping and resilience. These things we are not born with but we must learn as we live. People can grow tired and weary and no longer ‘hold on’.
I met Robert while he was going through a tough time. Depression had taken control. I spoke with Robert and listened as he spoke of many accomplishments, describing a man who had cared for family members and had accomplished anything he set out to do but the tone of his voice revealed profound depression and no longer a will to live.
I assisted him in getting his disability payments reinstated as he purposefully stopped receiving his checks voicing that would give him more motive to want to leave this earth. When he mentioned losing his disability payments his head was held low and his appearance was total hopelessness. I then told him that I could help him get his payments reinstated and he raised his head, his eyes got big and he said “you can?” in what I thought was total relief. I saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes but I wasn’t sure at that point if he was disappointed because getting his disability payments back meant he would have the ability to live and in his mind having no money provided more motivation to die. I told him we would talk.
Not having an income he then lost his ability to pay for his apartment and was left homeless. He said this was by design. It was very cold outside at the time and after spending a few days outside a neighbor took him in. He said that did not go so well and he left the apartment. He ended up in the hospital. In listening to him it was clear that he was going to take his own life at some point. He stayed in the hospital and agreed to ECT treatments. After a number of treatments that seemed to be working he allowed me to contact his sister after much encouragement over several weeks. His sister said they had not known his whereabouts for about 6 years. I could not imagine. She said immediately to let her know when she could come pick him up and she would take him back to her home. She said there was a place on her property where he could live. She emailed me pictures so I could show him in the hopes it would spark interest. I showed him the pictures. He was not super excited to go but he did not decline the offer, either. I encouraged him to contact her and discuss.
The day came where he could go home and he agreed to go with his sister. He was never agitated nor aggressive while in our care. He was soft spoken and a gentle soul. He participated in some groups but for the most part he kept to himself. When he did participate in groups he would speak to the others and provide his wisdom and empathy. He had accomplished so much in his life one would be amazed he suffered from any illness. Words from his family; “Brett was a kind and caring person, always there for others, making him an excellent care giver. He was quiet, reserved, and never pretentious. Brett was an avid reader, and his intellect allowed him to retain everything he learned. If you had a question on how to do something, Brett would know how to do it. He was one of kind.”
I kept in touch with his sister and she would send me pictures and let me know how he was doing. I was always elated to hear that he was doing so well. It was one of those success stories and that is what keeps me doing what I do.
At one point he became ill and she had to take him to Lubbock because he contracted a brain abscess most likely from a tooth abscess. I so wanted to go and help her but my schedule would not allow. I thought….we can’t lose him now after all he has been through! After a lengthy stay in the hospital, he had many teeth pulled and the infection resolved. He blamed himself as he said he knew he needed dental work and had not sought a dentist. It was not his fault. I am sure going to the dentist was not on the top of the list especially when one does not want to live.
I went to visit my mother and drove to California stopping in New Mexico to visit with Robert and his sister. I had not seen him since he left the hospital. He seemed to be doing OK at that time and he looked good. It was good to see him and meet her. He had a feral cat that he was feeding. He was always working on some type of project. She said he stayed to himself most of the time but that he would come eat dinner with them on occasion. She was happy to have him home and near.
Sister said Robert did leave a note and said she was feeling hurt, guilty, sad and lost. I hope the past year she has had some resolve but grief is a lifelong process. I don’t know of a more loving sister. She took him in right away. I have seen the opposite many times. Families are destroyed by depression. I did not ask her for details of the note. I know he loved his sister and family. He did not take his life to hurt them but to relieve his own pain. It’s a terrible tragedy and I know he is at peace now. That sounds so cliche but so much truth lies behind those words.
I cried myself to sleep the night I learned of his death and many more since then. My mission has become more resolute, if that is even possible and my passion for helping others unwavering.
Rest In Peace Robert. Friend, brother, son. You are now healed. You will forever be on my mind. Thank you for being you and for being a part of my journey.
National Suicide Prevention Week – September 6-12, 2020
I Care. Let’s Talk.