Death takes away the weariness of life and the soul begins anew. — Inayat Khan
My husband just found out that his only remaining brother was killed in a car accident last week. His family was not a very close one, for various reasons, and all of them have died now. This particular brother could have been described as rather a “lost soul,” because David suspects that he had numerous mental and physical problems, although his family was very careful to veil these. I think it was a generational thing: when I was a child, parents did not rush to take their children to a therapist or try to get them into special programs in school if they were dyslexic or hyperactive or had any of the many issues that are currently fashionable for explaining children’s behavior. In those days, if your child had problems, they were either punished to “make” them behave (thus, no doubt, exacerbating their problems), or their problems were denied and attempts were made to veil them. In this case, the statement I often heard was “poor little Leon was anemic.” Evidently, this explained his scholastic failures and what my husband is fairly sure–as a mental health professional–was schizoaffective disorder, or what I would call a unique way of being in the world. A “lost soul,” as I’ve already said…but was he? He did serve in the military, in Germany, and that seemed to work for him, or at least we never knew otherwise; perhaps the clear discipline and routines of military life were helpful, although he never rose in the ranks, and was given an honorable discharge when his time there was finished. After that, he had a series of jobs, and lived at home with his parents for many years, until both parents, successively, died. His older brother and sister-in-law took over the family home, which they had evidently inherited, and adopted children; while Leon lived in the attic until the older brother died and the sister-in-law left. The house, by then in a state of complete disrepair and filth, was sold. He then moved on to a series of jobs and residences, may well have been a “street person,” and was, finally, killed going to work at his “graveyard shift” Walmart job. It was dark and rainy, and he didn’t cross the street at the crosswalk and so died . . . violently and alone. My husband didn’t hear about any of this until a week later, when a cousin saw the news on the television and when he didn’t hear from him contacted another cousin who contacted him on Facebook.
You might ask, where was my husband while all this was happening? One relative criticized him for not moving his family back “home” and becoming Leon’s “custodian.” Leon, when presented with this idea, was not happy, and my husband chose to live his own life with his own family, which means me and our daughters. These were rough years, because one of my daughters had myriad problems, as has been mentioned elsewhere here, and he had his work cut out for him, professionally as well as at home. He wrote to his brother often, sent Christmas presents, and at least tried to call him at a succession of phone numbers his brother gave him, none of which he answered. I know for a fact that he worried about his brother, yet didn’t feel inclined to try to somehow “take charge” of him. He did contact his doctor at the VA hospital, but that didn’t make any real difference. In any event, his brother seemed able to hold a job, although he was occasionally known to lose his temper, jeopardizing at least one job.
And now he’s gone. My darling husband and I have been processing it for the past couple of days, and I know he has been grieving, while trying to get information through friends and relatives, some of whom were attempting to claim his “assets,” such as they may have been. But I think my husband’s chief feelings have been ones of guilt: should he have “taken better care” of him, should he have tried to have him institutionalized, should he have stayed nearer, etc.?
It is easier to do one’s duty to others than to one’s self. If you do your duty to others, you are considered reliable. If you do your duty to yourself, you are considered selfish. — Thomas Szasz, MD
I pointed out that it seemed to me that the conundrum was whether he had “not taken responsibility” or chosen to encourage his brother to be free to live in his own way, as he himself did, in his. Life, to quote my beloved teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, is about “reconciling the irreconciliables.” Or, in my own terms, accepting the unacceptable. How many situations are presented to us, in this planetary life, that have no ready solutions, and are truly unjustifiable in terms of the values we are shaped with as we grow into earthlings. We like to think that love is the greatest law we live by, but in fact power and control are the watchwords of those who have the means to shape the world according to their desires. The archetypal “street person” is called “mentally ill,” said to be “milking the system” for a living, yet when questioned often presents with a desire for freedom, even at the cost of hunger and lack of resources of all kinds. Perhaps they are the strong ones, those who refuse to surrender to those in power and their invented realities.
He who does not accept and respect those who want to reject life does not truly accept and respect life itself. –Thomas Szasz, MD
Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. –R.D. Laing
I think most of us wonder, from time to time, whether these lives we are living in the world have any meaning, whether what we have lived through and said and done have been of use to anyone. I certainly do. Yet here we are in the presence–or recent absence–of someone who probably never once thought that he had any importance to anyone other than his mother….and look what he is teaching us.