LETTER #28

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I’ve often thought about myself before I was ever physically born. 

I’ve pictured myself sitting on a bench thinking of all the things I wanted to feel, to experience, when in my physical body.

“I want to experience depth.

I want to experience beauty.

I want to experience love, a love that has no limits.

I want to experience living an authentic existence.

I want to experience creativity and connection.

I want to experience triumph.

I want to experience what it’s like to be bold and resilient in the face of trials.

I want to experience what it’s like to be moved from such a place of passion that I’m unstoppable in the pursuit of feeling it.

I want to know what it’s like to trust myself and my intuition even when standing alone.

I want to experience growth, real soul expanding growth.

I want to know what it’s like to truly own my power as a human being.

I want to experience what it’s like to feel the spirit world all around me, the magic of the unseen.

I want to experience myself in a way that will make me grow into the most breathtaking flower my eyes will ever see.”

Sitting on the sidelines of life waiting for my time to be born.

To be born and pushed into the place where I can learn. 

A place where I can evolve.

Your death was the catalyst for a deeper awaking inside of myself. An experience that drove me so deep inside my emotional body and that there was no way I was coming back out the same. 

I’ve often thought about that bench. 

I’ve often thought about sitting on it with you while we told each other the things we wanted to experience during this life. What parts could we play for eachother while simultaneously learning our individual life lessons. Sitting on the bench, we knew that being born and dying was nothing but sailing out past the horizon. We’d always be connected because energy can’t be destroyed and love is the only thing that transcends space and time. 

You jumped first.

Then Aimee.

Then me.

DEAR JESSE MY BROTHER

What a crash course it’s been ever since.

Two years ago I had what I could only describe as one of the most mystical experiences with my [self]. I felt fragmented pieces of my inner world pulling together and clicking into place. I had been drawn to listening to a song over and over at that time. After hearing the song’s lyrics replay, it brought me to my knees with tears streaming down my face…

“ so we’re gonna heal

we’re gonna start again

  you’ve brought the orchestra and synchronized swimmers

you’re the magician

pull me back together again the way you cut me in half

the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life

 conjured beauty in the things left behind

found healing where it did not live

nothing real can be threatened

true love brought salvation back into me.

with every tear came redemption and my torturer became my remedy ”

In that moment it felt as though I was looking down at my life and understanding these extremely painful events with an awareness I’d never had before. Losing mom, losing you the way I did, in that moment I understood the higher purpose it was playing in my life. 

My awareness was actually able to see this deep pain and great loss as a gift. 

I felt your energy and mom’s energy encompassing me in those moments. You both were supporting me as I accepted my truth about my life, your lives, all the things we agreed to experience while simultaneously teaching one another in and out of our bodies. 

It’s still something I become emotional about whenever I’ve tried talking to someone about it. The love and support I felt in those moments still take my breath away. 

Those lyrics, it was as if they were my own love letter to my self… the one sitting on the bench and the one standing in her body that very moment.

LETTER #27

Last night I had a dream.

As my eyes opened this morning I became aware of the subconscious dream still projecting onto the lucid awareness of my conscious.

The funeral home was filled with those who knew you and those who loved you.

With my hands in my pant pockets, I left the side of your casket and started to walk around the room. It was filled with people standing, sitting and waiting. Although no one was watching me, I knew they could see me leaving my post by your casket, the place where I received every single person who came to pay their respects. As I walked back up the aisle leading to where your body was, I was hyper aware of my internal thoughts during my experience at your funeral. I remember thinking to myself as I walked back towards your casket,

“So this is what it feels like to be present during the pain, to be present within the experience of great loss.”

While the words of my internal observation came into my conscious experience during the dream, I suddenly heard your voice say to me,

“Stay awake.”

When I awoke this morning I knew exactly what those two words meant.

Stay awake.

As I look back over the last two years, it feels like it’s been a time period which has been setting the stage for important experiences. Experiences that would eventually evoke change and deep personal realizations from me. Experiences that felt as though I was inside of a compacter, panicking and looking for a way to survive. Since August, I’ve felt as though there has been accelerant drenching every area of my life.

Fire, pressure, pressure, fire.

The internal conditions I’ve been navigating have brought me back to different time periods in my life where there was great loss, a lot of uncertainty and a feeling of floating. Experiences that asked me let go of what I wanted and to accept what was staring back at me. To pick up those pieces of reality and create a masterpiece.

As I sat looking out my living room window this morning, a word came to me…

Moulting.

I am in an intense period of letting go and shedding certain things I’ve identified myself with for some time now. The universe is making room for new growth in my life no matter how much effort I’ve put in to making something happen or even work.

There’s a different plan, one that’s for my highest good, even though I may not understand. I’m being asked to trust this process while so many areas of my life are up in the air. To say this time has been unnerving would be a complete understatement.

Stay awake.

Thank you for reminding me about my power in staying awake through this painful process of letting go, just like I’ve done every step of the way after physically losing both you and mom. That’s how I will grow into the version of myself that lies ahead.

That’s where my magic is.

dear jesse my brother

LETTER #26

It was the third time I almost lost her.

I awoke that morning with a vivid dream that I couldn’t shake. Later that evening I would find out they were the heartbreaking details of a situation simultaneously happening in another state.

It was December 2015.

Standing in an Italian restaurant I looked through a large window onto the busy street. I needed guidance, help, comfort, something that would help stabilize me through the crisis situation at hand, and somehow validate these experiences with you since you died. It had been almost two years packed with immense change, incredible signs, synchronicities and experiences with your spirit after your physical death. Standing in front of the restaurant window I closed my eyes and whispered to you,

“Jesse, I need you to bring me somebody who can help me understand all of this.”

I just started googling the current location I was in with things like “energy reading” and “communicating with those who passed on”. I went through countless pages of searches and websites until after almost 24 hours of searching, I came to a stop. Something about this particular website and this woman I stumbled across instantly connected to something inside me. I didn’t question it and picked up the phone to call her office. After leaving a message she later returned my call and we scheduled an appointment for the following week.

It was an evening appointment. After parking I located the office building and proceeded. I had no idea what was waiting on the other side of the door in front of me. I just did my best to stay positive and in my mind I continually asked you to bring me validation in the session so I knew it was you. Shortly after knocking a petite Indian woman opened the door and greeted me with an incredibly warm smile. Her smile instantly put me at ease as she showed me to where our session would be. I sat down in a comfortable chair as she nestled into the chair next to her desk. Once situated she asked if I was ready to begin to which I said, yes. With a pad of white paper in front of her on the desk she said,

“I have some notes here that I channeled before our session and I’d like to share them with you as we start.”

I nodded my head in agreement and waited to hear what it was she was about to share.

She started…

“Two Circles -- one resting on top of another vertically.
We meet together in this life. We love, laugh, cry and experience in human life.
We part ways on our own journey now. It is not permanent goodbye.
We will meet together in the middle again in another experience, in another lifetime and recognize one another through love and Spiritual awareness. Then we will part again, moving onto exploring new experiences. This is the movement of what is infinity. We will meet again.”

I was speechless.

The number 8 had finally made sense to me after two years.

I finally understood what it was all about.

Aimee had found you dead on February 9, 2014 but I’d always said you died on the 8th. She would get confused by me saying this and at times irritated, rightfully so, because you indeed died on the 9th, it was on your death certificate. But I had always felt an inner knowing that it was on the 8th you started the process of killing yourself, even if your spirit didn’t leave your body until the 9th. For two years after your death the number 8 would pop out to me everywhere I looked. 8, 88, 888, on receipts, license plates, signage, I mean everywhere you can think of. My conscious mind was seeing the number 8 on what seemed like complete overload. Even though I didn’t understand why or what it meant exactly, my intuition always knew it was you.

After hearing this, I finally understood. You really were with me, you were helping guide me, your physical death wasn’t the end, in fact, our relationship and your spirit had only moved into a different space.

I continued to be silent as the woman continued.

“Birds, Thunderbird, a Native American connection from long ago.”


I held back a flood of tears while so many things were internally connecting for me on an emotional and soul level. The very first experience I had had with you was with the bald eagle in the middle of a New Orleans park. This experience was life changing for me as it was the first time I was becoming aware of channeling you in my thoughts as well as feeling connected to a life force greater then I had ever known. It impacted me so much that I had it forever tattooed on my skin. I now understood why I was drawn to a thunderbird style bald eagle and why I chose to place an 8 inside of its heart.

dear jesse my brother
dear jesse my brother

There was also another piece to this, a piece that had nothing to do with your death. It was about me and that I was waking up to a different idea of who I was and my own human existence. Native American culture had always been something I was drawn to from the time I was a young child. There was such a strong pull inside of me to it, however, it was no where in our family lineage, no real explanation for it. One of my most vivid childhood memories was when I was about 7 or 8. Mom and dad had recently divorced and us three children were left navigating this fracture without much emotional support and guidance. I remember sitting in our backyard alone in the grass after school one day. There was this patch of really fine dirt in the middle of the lawn and that’s where I was. I remember feeling extremely sad and scared inside although I didn’t know how to express it. I started gathering sticks and in this patch of fine dirt I constructed a village of teepees. I just remember sitting there by myself and feeling a strong sense of home as I stared at the makeshift village. I experienced a sense of safety and peace in those fleeting moments but never understood why.

Now I finally did.

She continued on…

“J:  I AM Free, flying up above in the jet streams.

You’re waking up to a new paradigm shift within yourself. You need to accept the Spiritual part of you so that it expresses easier through the human aspect. Divine Grace has always been surrounding you. Acknowledge this blessing and gift you have naturally brought in.”

I almost jumped out of the chair. She now had included the letter “J” in connection to specific messages.

This was you, you were showing up for me at a time I so desperately needed.

There was a mix of absolute joy and complete validation simultaneously running through my body, Jesse. First the bald eagle then the vultures, I was right all along. Once the vulture showed up in my life , it was then I knew there was a theme going on and a very strong connection between myself and them, and you, and me being a spiritual being having a human experience.

All of it.

I understood why I’d always see vultures riding the jet streams so frequently. Why I was drawn to visiting a place they’d all perch together as a committee when I lived in South Carolina. Some days I’d drive my car there, alone, to just be with 70+ birds. It gave me a deep sense of connection to something so much greater then I could understand.

dear jesse my brother
dear jesse my brother

There was more.

“J:  is looking over your right shoulder as you write. He reads everything as you are writing and thinking over what to place.

You and J:  Partnership for a creative endeavor now. Both of you in this new redefined relationship will create something that will benefit Group consciousness.”

I had already been writing you letters for the last year and a half on, Dear Jesse My Brother. I had been publically giving a voice to my journey, your journey, our journey. I never had real clarity on why I initially chose to make it public other then having an overwhelming knowing it just had to be public. You impressed upon me that I was to focus on nothing else other then publically speaking my truth.

There is no end goal, no finish line, no other objective.

The ripple effect of me doing so is what matters, something that will take on a life of it’s own as long as I stay focused and committed to one thing and one thing only…

Speaking my truth.

I also understood what she was talking about when she said, “ J is looking over your right shoulder when you write and thinking over what to place.” The last time we lived together I was in my mid twenties. You stayed with me at my apartment in Philly for several months after moving back from San Francisco. At that time I was doing a lot a creative video editing. You would always come in, stand behind me and lean over my right side, watching how I chose to put the frames together. So many times I got annoyed because I could hear your breathing and I’d tell you in my sisterly way to, “get out!” We’d always erupt in laughter because you knew you were doing it on purpose and I knew you were too.

But this time is different.

This time neither one of us are laughing.

This time we’re helping one another from either sides of the veil now separating us.

She had a few more things written down for me but it was this last piece that really took me back to our childhood together.

“Ring with initials (gold or lighter metal) - Mom: her ring or given a ring to someone.”

It was our last vacation as a family before mom and dad split. We were at Sandy Cove. Mom had recently had a gold ring made for you with your initials, JPB, inscribed on the top of it. You had worn it out when you went water skiing that weekend. Something happened while you were on the water leaving the ropes to get tangled within your hands while it pulled you. Your finger broke and when the boat brought you back, they had to cut the ring off of your finger due to swelling. Although you never wore the ring again, I did as a preteen even with the bottom part cut because you and I had the same initials.

dear jesse my brother

You never knew that when you were alive, that I had kept your broken ring after all those years.

When my session was over, I asked her if she could type up the notes and email them to me. I never wanted to forget the messages you had waiting for me, ever. I knew there would be a day in the future when I needed to look back on this experience, this validation, to help remind me to keep moving forward in the midst of my struggles. To remind me that no matter what challenges are in front of me, I am alive for something that is so much greater then what meets the human eye, or my bank account, my business, or my hurting heart. That the death of something is the birth of something completely brand new.

Thank you for choosing me as your sister this go round,

I love you, Jesse.

dear jesse my brother spheres of essence dipali desai

LETTER #25

It’s been 308 days since I last wrote you a letter.

308 days of immense movement and change, both stretching my emotional and mental flexibility.

 

308 days of choices that have led me right here to this moment as I type this very letter.

 

In the last 308 days I’ve done a lot and certain experiences have taught me the most about myself, about life, about love, about my purpose.

 

On March 6th I stood on a stage in front of an entire highschool and publicly told our story for the very first time. This dance that you and I are crafting, it’s never slowed down on it’s own. Only when I’ve sat out to catch my breath and regain my footing for the next round. I admit there have been times I’ve left you standing there waiting longer then I intended. I admit I’ve allowed the busyness of my life to keep me sitting on the bench tied up in life’s details and responsibilities.

 

On May 12th of this year I took a huge leap and opened up a flagship store for The LB brand… but you already knew that.

 

You, our mother, Dylan, my story, it was always woven in the details. Thank you for playing your part in sending me those meant to come my way and play their role in this endeavor. I’ve learned so much about my life, myself, my purpose, and the relationships that surround me through this experience of having a store. I’ve learned so much more about fear and risk and connection and the unexpected.

 

The most important thing I’ve learned though, through all of it, is that self care and resilience go hand-in-hand.

 

You cannot successfully have one without the other.

 

You cannot expect yourself to be resilient if you are not taken care of. There’s a huge difference between resilience and survival. This is not the first time I’ve had to learn about the well in which something springs from has to be number one in the order of things.

 

August 21st.

 

The most life changing day I’ve had yet this year.

 

Love has brought Andrew and I a son and his name will be, Sailor.

 

This dance my son and I have been doing for 18 weeks now, my god, it has been reflecting so much back to me, especially the process that a mother and child create together while she carries a baby. Pregnancy has been a time of deep self spirituality for me, a time when I can feel the connection to the unseen, but also where the cycle of life has been front and center in my process. I lost our mother just three months before I found out I was pregnant with Dylan. That pregnancy, our dance as mother and son, the birthing to bring him earth side, it was a journey only he and I experienced.

 

There is a magic in the process of a woman creating, sustaining and growing a life inside her body and then birthing her child into the earthly realm. Birth has the capacity to draw a woman deep inside herself and tap into her own divinity like nothing else.

 

Since finding out about, Sailor, and experiencing the gift of a new life again, our connection after your death has been front and center in my mind, my heart and my emotions.

 

But why?

 

I didn’t lose you three months ago like I lost mom in my first pregnancy. You and I have been on this new path for close to 5 years. Why am I feeling as though your so close to me I could practically reach out and hold your hand?

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said,

 

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”

 

One thread, Jesse.

 

The same line, Jesse.

 

The place in which my son, Sailor, is created from is the place in which you returned to on February 9, 2014.

 

The place every one of us will return to at some point.

 

The place that is separated by just a thin veil. I’m feeling the connection between life and death more then I ever have before in my life. The absolute beauty in the gifts your death has given me because I’ve allowed myself to lean into it. People have often said to me throughout these 5 years,

 

“You speak of your brother as if he’s right here with you.”

 

They’re right, I do, because you are, Jesse. Our connection has taught me about love, real love. Even in your choices and horrific death, you just about shook the ground I walked on to get my attention and establish our connection after your physical death. To show me that you had only sailed out beyond the limit of my sight. To show me that we had healing work to do together, simultaneously, from both sides of the horizon. To show me that we have a partnership in this life to not just heal and transform ourselves, but in our family, in the lineage that runs through us.

 

In a way, I’ve felt our brother and sister bond much more powerfully once you sailed out past the horizon. There is a gratefulness in my heart, an understanding that me losing you physically the way I did, would ultimetly prepare me for the things to come in my life.

 

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said it beautifully,

 

“A boat exists on the ocean, even if it sails out beyond the limits of our sight. The person in the boat has not vanished; they are simply moving to a different shore.”

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LETTER #24

I haven't written to you in a while, but today became the day I couldn't ignore this 24th letter forcing its way out.

I've been feeling it coming for a while. There are times I am able to understand everything about what has happened and times when it doesn't matter if I understand. The immense sorrow and void of you gone out ways any healing I've done. Our dance as brother and sister existing in two different worlds hasn't been easy. 

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I keep this picture of myself at 5 years old in my bedroom on my shelf. I do this as a reminder to honor the child part of me, the part of me that has required a lot of love, understanding and healing before I ever lost you. It's the one picture I didn't discover of myself until my early 20's, but it's the one picture that's spoke to me the most though I'm unable to pinpoint why. As I became filled with emotion today I looked at this picture of her, of myself, and I could hear that little girl,

"I miss him, I miss my brother, Jesse."

I completely unraveled at that moment and allowed myself to feel what was waiting to be felt.

She, I , we miss you. I miss feeling a sense of belonging with you, a sense of family, a sense of coming home to. Growing up I so proud when people knew I was, "Jesse's little sister." Even at 35 years old I still crave it.

About a year after you had died, one of your high school friend's, JIm Wenger, got in touch with me. He had traveled frequently for work and it ended up bring him to Charleston where I was living. I'll never forget the first time we got to spend time together just visiting and talking, laughing and eventually allowing our tears while we sat on my porch.

He was a piece of you.

He is a piece of you.

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On his visit this past September I can remember sitting at my dining room table talking. I told him about the new person who had come into my life, a man named, Andrew, and how much I really loved him.

He was so happy for me and in that moment I got to feel you, my brother, happy for me.

Some time later the phone rang and it was, Andrew. I put him on FaceTime so he could meet Jim and as they exchanged greetings, I asked Jim to tell Andrew about you.

"Tell him something about, Jesse." I said.

So there he was telling the person who I loved about my brother, about your spunk, your personality, a story or two, now all simply memories. I sat there in that moment with a grin as I watched them converse with each other. Although the moment was fleeting, I was able to feel proud again like that little girl in the picture, or the preteen who was eager to tell someone who her brother was.

In that moment I was able to, in my own way, have the person I fell in love with meet the brother I once had. 

The brother I so desperetly miss.

 

LETTER #23

I walked four miles by myself yesterday.

Somewhere along mile two vivid images started flooding my mind of the moments just before, during and after when I found out you were dead.

I started seeing everything again.

The colors of the sunlight as it peered through the windows that morning. The subtle amount of dust that lined the window pain I banged with my hand over and over again fucking screaming. These moments started to become alive again in micro form as I relived my experiences walking on a sidewalk yesterday.

I didn't fight it.

I let my memory present everything again with each step I took. With every car that passed me I wondered if the experiences I was carrying were able to be seen by those driving by. Was it visible through the way my shoulders hung or by the way my head looked down instead of ahead? I felt extremely vulnerable navigating this internally while passing people.

You had two tattoos in your life.

The last one you had done just two years before you would die. It was a drawing you had created which signified the feelings inside yourself regarding events in our childhood which you never could quite articulate. But it was the first one you got at 18,  a black panther cat on your right shoulder cap, that was the one people who knew you remembered the most.

Something was happening inside of me as I walked those miles alone yesterday. Not only was my inner world replaying the moment I lost you but I was also remembering your black panther cat tattoo. I saw visual symbols of my pain, my terror, my incredible loss.

I saw your suicide, your drug addiction, your choice to die.  

I saw your tattoo.

I saw the black panther.

It pounced out of the shadows and into my life the morning of February 9, 2014. It gripped me by my throat with its mouth almost suffocating out every scream of mine. It tackled me to the floor as I lay holding my stomach screaming for you and it drug me away deep into a jungle.  Deep into a place I never had known before.

Your death had cracked open a part of myself I never touched.

The experience of losing you was more powerful then the ability one has to remain in control of themselves. I looked directly into the eyes of my terror and it enveloped me. I looked deep into the eyes of my worst fear and collapsed into it.

Every part of me.

In time, my lifeless body slowly started to move. Some days the rain in the jungle was so heavy that I couldn't move at all, while other days I would move an inch more then the day before. During all of this there was one constant in the jungle with me; the panther.

It watched me from the branches above.

It studied me, my movements and in return I studied the way it looked at me. The way it elongated it's body on the tree limb while unflinchingly gazing at my every movement. The way I could get lost with fear in the darkness of its' coat while yellow eyes pierced my heart with reality.

 

There were moments in the jungle I felt as though I was bobbing around the vast and dark ocean while waves knocked me around. I was panicking, losing the strength to stay afloat and breath. I didn't want to die like this. I didn't want this to be the end.

Then something happened .

The panther slowly came down off the tree limb. No longer watching from above it now watched me from the ground. In time I sat up and started to exist closer to where it layed.  Something different was happening between us, the panther and I. Its' presence no longer was evoking intense terror but rather a state of coexistence with one another. I started looking at it from different angles as I became stronger and climbed the trees it once layed on. I started seeing the things it taught me about itself and the jungle it existed in. A place very few humans spend their time awake.

While the panthers' yellow eyes watched me, I leaned into its' gaze and heard wisdom from the thing that once filled me with terror.

"You will not stay here in the jungle forever unless you choose. It is up to you to accept the lessons you have learned here with me because if not, you won't find your way out. You must see the gift that has been given to you."

 

 

 

 

--

(panther images found via google)

 

LETTER #22

Within 2 months from my experience with the vulture my marriage had not only changed forever but we were packing up to relocate to Charleston, SC, from New Orleans. Not only was change happening at a rapid rate but I was now relocating to be just an hour away from him, the person who had entered my life and was waking up parts of myself that I couldn't ignore. I remember the road trip there to South Carolina like it was yesterday. There was a sense inside of walking into the complete unknown but also a feeling of knowing. I knew I was somehow being guided as crazy as it may have sounded to myself at that time.

I wasn't more then fifteen minutes into the trip when my eye caught a bird launching out of a tree into the sky from the side of the highway. I watched as it flew across the highway lanes when suddenly it swooped down and with ease gliding directly over my car.

It was a vulture.

From that moment on 10 minutes didn't pass by without me noticing vultures either circling above the highway or flying high across in the sky. Their presence was with me the entire time over the two day road trip.

I didn't understand any of it... yet something deep inside of me did.

It was no coincidence that where we were moving to was full of vulture habitat. Their presence was around me constantly. Their open wings while perched on tree tops started to become a visual representation of what was happening to me. When I could I'd escape off to the beach alone to connect deeper and deeper within myself. It was there in the open space that I felt that I could safely become vulnerable. I remember one evening having this deep desire to stretch my arms wide open. I wanted to physically emulate the very thing the vulture seemed to be showing me time and time again. I propped my phone up, walked out onto the sand and stood with my arms wide open facing the vast ocean.

Little by little I was opening up in more ways then I had ever imagined. At the same time my heart was being intensely drawn to the person whose presence was connecting to parts of myself that had been forgotten. But it wasn't until the moment I received a text message from him one morning that my heart cracked open... wide open.

When I opened the message there was a picture of him but my eyes couldn't escape what was hanging on the wall just behind him...

An open winged vulture.

It was a picture he had taken. Within an instant such deep emotions surged through my body as I was absolutely speechless. This was the moment I couldn't fight it anymore and I sank deep into the feelings inside myself. It wasn't until I verbalized my truth to him that things became deeper. He was the only person during this time that I could talk about what was happening with me and with you, Jesse. There was this sense of such comfort that existed between he and I that I never could quite understand and it brought tears to my eyes so many times. Nothing about it made sense from the outside looking in but what was existing between us had nothing to do with what met the eye. I remember the phone conversation we had concerning our connection.

I couldn't not address what was going on inside of me.

I told him that I had to pull away from connecting while I continued to dismantle my marriage. The deep emotional and physical pull towards him was incredibly overwhelming. It was like feeling an extreme magnetic pull towards another person. To hear him tell me the same feelings were inside of him made the absence of our connection for a few months even harder, but our connection was making the tension in my home unbearable.

I felt like a tower crumbling.

Like having a fire bolt strike and the structure I had once stood as for years was collapsing.

Piece by piece.

Everything I once thought, life as I had known it, was being torn away yet there was something inside of me that was going to see myself through it. This very feeling is what kept me standing in the midst of all the rubble, the intense grief and my aloneness.

The unknown was becoming the very thing I craved although it meant change, radical change.

But it was the only way to a freedom I had never known and I couldn't look back.

The year before you took your life we had had a conversation I've never forgotten. You had been drinking heavily. I could tell by the slur of your words on the other end of the line.

"I don't know, there's something different about you",  you'd muttered to me in an almost curious way as we both talked in-depth about our childhood experience together.

That moment has never left my memory.

In some of my darkest and scariest moments of giving into the change that was happening along this journey I've held onto that moment between us. Not because I thought I was different from you, but because I was going to step out into the unknown and believe that my life could be different from everything I had ever believed or known. 

LETTER #21

It was just a little over a year since you had died, March 2015, and I was still living in New Orleans. Your death was breaking me open in a way I couldn't resist and I felt terrified. My life had grown increasingly heavy and my ability to keep feelings and truth stuffed down inside of me had come to a head.

It was my marriage.

This was a confrontation I did not have the emotional strength to bear in addition to accepting the truth of what had been swirling around inside of me. I can remember dropping to my knees in our New Orleans living room one morning after Dylan was at preschool and just sobbing, begging to not have to do go through with it.

A divorce.

It had been quite sometime and the discourse between us behind close doors had grown to a place that was unbearable for me. There was such a severe disconnect between us at the core of who we were as people, much less partners. These dynamics took such a toll on my internal world in addition to losing you and I couldn't keep everything in anymore. I couldn't keep going along pretending.

During this time someone came into my life whose presence woke up parts of me that I had been disowning for quite some time. His presence made me come face-to-face with myself in a way that I couldn't escape.

I couldn't escape myself any longer.

The night things came to a head between Jeremy and I our world as a family of three was forever changed. I knew the road ahead was going to be a hard one as we unraveled our marriage with a then 3 year old while remaining under one roof.

It was March 11, 2015, just three months after my experience with the bald eagle. I was standing in my kitchen in New Orleans trying to wrap my head around everything happening regarding my marriage and life as I had known it.

Did I really have the strength and emotional capacity to go through with this?

I had to just get out of the house. I was terrified and the scared part of me wanted to just ignore my truth and live unconscious again. Honoring my truth would mean change, it would mean stepping out into the unknown. It would mean making really hard decisions with lasting effects. I didn't have a family unit to fall back on. My two best friends lived states away, my mother was dead, you were dead, and my sister was unable to be there for her own self let alone me.

I needed you, I needed you more then ever, Jesse.

I needed another sign. 

I grabbed my jacket and headed outside for a walk. Just before arriving to the end of our driveway I stopped to see if any cars were coming before crossing the road. While stopped I sensed something above me. When I looked up to my left there was a huge vulture on the top of our telephone pole. Its wings were wide open as it starred right down at me.

"Oh-My-God"

Those three words slowly came out of my mouth one after another as I stood there frozen. We had lived in this neighborhood of New Orleans for a year and I had never seen a vulture, not once. I took out my phone to document what was happening so I didn't second guess myself again like before.

Dear Jesse My Brother - Vulture

 

As scared as I was I felt a surge of life energy and a knowing inside of me. A knowing that although your were dead you were with me and showing me you would be with me every step of the way.

"Jesse" I said to myself as I looked right up at the vulture.

I crossed the road and stood on the other side of my street to take in this experience from a different view. I quickly hit record on my phone to take video as best as I could with shaky hands...

 

 

This was the first day the vulture entered my life physically and spiritually. After this experience I devoured everything about them. Come to find out these birds are quite misunderstood as most people associate them with just death or even some sort of bad omen. The more I researched the more I learned. From a spiritual perspective, in short, it is said that when the vulture is working with you it is a time of purification, a time of death and rebirth and a time of new vision. When the vulture comes in as a totem it is a strong message that a higher purpose is at work and any suffering experienced is temporary but necessary for this new birth to come to fruition.

I felt protected and supported in a way I had never felt before.

Two weeks later I received the email below from a stranger off the Dear Jesse My Brother Blog:


3/31/15

I lost my brother Jude to suicide the day after Christmas 2014, almost exactly 23 years after we lost our father to suicide. A friend told me she was working with you and she sent me a link to your blog. The day that I decided to finally click on the link to read it, Jude's best friend sent me something that he found on Jude's iPad that Jude had written in February 2014, not long after the second time we had him picked up for suicide watch and ironically, around the same time you lost Jesse. I wanted to share it with you, so here it is.....

"I wish more than anything I ever wished for.. including all the money and weed and land and salt and gold and answers and love and time and freight trains.. that I was a bird. The pain in my heart and the mess in my head are too much for me to bear as a man. All I know is that if I were a bird I would fly high above the trees and live in a thick white cloud. I would sing to my friends back on earth and never have to worry about anyone else knowing who I was or why I live in a cloud and sing beautiful songs to these people down on earth. I would be free to come and go as I please, and I would only take what I need from the earth to get by. I would try my best to eat only the oldest and most useless insects, or berries from a tree with many to spare. I would not flock, nor ever intrude on another birds home. I would soar as high as the heavens and dive into the sea to quench my thirst. I would climb again and let the wind take me away to wherever the wind chooses to go. But I would be free to choose my path with nobody ever telling me where I can or cannot go. I would be content, if not joyous to be a bird floating freely in the sky. I would love everything as it is, because I would love myself. I wish I was a bird."       ~Jude Erny

I have had quite a few "strange" interactions with birds since his death. After reading his note, I can't help but wonder if maybe he's been stopping by to let me know he's okay. I find peace in the thought of it, although I hate that he hurt so badly and that he didn't love himself. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that you are finding some peace. Even after going through it personally, it's interesting that I still struggle to find the right words.

-Victoria


I couldn't believe what I had just read, Jesse.

I was covered in goosebumps.

These types of synchronicities were happening at an accelerated rate in so many ways. Shortly after I received this email I opened up your hard drive that had all of your photography work in it. There were so many folders and thousands of pictures. One of the folders I stumbled upon was from when you came to stay with me at my farmhouse in New Jersey in 2011. We spent part of our day driving on back country roads together while periodically pulling over so you could photograph my pregnant belly and other surroundings. As I looked at the tiny thumbnails I was drawn to two photographs next to eachother and what seem to be facing one another.

I wasn't prepared for what my eyes would see when I opened the files...

It was a vulture, Jesse.

Vulture Jesse Brittell
jen brittell roberts

LETTER #20

It was late September 2015, just a year and a half after you'd died.

I drove there with dad and my son, Dylan, in the car. It was the day before I would travel back home to South Carolina after being in our hometown filming interviews for the Dear Jesse My Brother documentary.

After I parked the car I handed dad the ipad to keep Dylan occupied while I was gone. As I approached the door entering into the police station I allowed myself to pause and take a deep breath before walking in.

Inside waiting was the terror she has been running from since the moment it happened.

Our sister.

She was the one carrying the weight of finding you, seeing what that final scene looked like. Seeing our brother alone... alone and dead.

The nightmares haven't stopped for her, Jesse. I had been watching her suffer and struggle with the hand dealt to her in this situation and it hasn't been pretty, in fact, it's been pretty painful. She still thought there was something she could have done. If she had never left after knocking on your door when you hadn't answered the day before we found you.

The ifs can kill a person if they let it.

"Hi, my name is Jen Roberts. My brother passed away about a year and a half ago and I would like to speak to your sergeant, please."

Shortly after the sergeant came to greet me and waved me in through the door. As I walked down the hall I followed him to the second office on the right and turned in. We both had a seat and then I spoke.

"First, bear with me if I become emotional."

"Of course, my sincerest apologies about your brother." he kindly said.

I took a breath.

"I know this is not necessarily something you may experience in here a lot from family members of the deceased, but I'd like to see the photos from my brother's scene."

There was silence.

He quietly just looked at me and then he spoke,

"Are you sure this is something you want to do? To be honest, this is quite unusual as most family members absolutely do not want to see any scene photos, especially in a case involving suicide."

"Do I actually want to see them? No, but that's not why I'm here. I'm in the process of telling my brother's story. If I am going to actually tell his story then I need to know his whole story, every part of it."

He continued to look at me then took a deep breath and said,

"Well because you feel this strongly then okay."

What he didn't realize was that it wasn't just about knowing your whole story so I could tell it. It was about seeing the visual picture that haunts our sister. Letting her know that I too saw it so she didn't have to be completely alone with it.

But it was also about us.

You and me.

I wanted to gather the courage to go to the ending place with you and witness it. Not because I was able to change anything but because it was my way of silently saying to you,

"No matter how dark it got for you, Jesse, it was never enough to keep me from loving you even in your darkest hour."

The sergeant picked up the phone and rang the next office down requesting for your file to be pulled. He signaled for us to go ahead and get up and I followed behind him. We walked into the room while a second detective got things together on a computer.

I just stood there.

It was happening.

The detective looked back at me from over his shoulder with a nod to let me know he was ready to start... and then just like that...

There you were.

This was what your darkest hour looked like. This is what our sister, Aimee, saw as she peered through the 6 inch door opening screaming helplessly for you.

You were wearing red warm up pants and no shirt. Your body lay 3/4 flat on the bed as your shoulders and head were slightly propped up on the pillow. Your body was leaned over slightly to the left. I remember your skin color, it had hues of yellow while the pulling of blood in your body fell to your left side.

Jesse.

My brother.

My one and only brother.

I nodded my head to the detective to continue on after he turned back to make sure I was able to.

I often wonder how long you looked at that liner in the trashcan before putting it over your head. This question has never left me and still haunts me. I often wonder if there was a part of you screaming terrified inside just wishing you could have hit the restart button on your entire life.

I often wonder in these moments if you just wanted your mom.

Our mom.

I can't help but think of you sometimes when I see my own son, Dylan, crying and wanting me to kiss his scraped knee or hug him until his hurt feelings are better. I've realized that no matter how old I become or how much I grow and mature, I still yearn for mom. I still ache for her to just hold me at times so I can fall apart for a little bit. I still wish that she was here to tell me she's going to be here with me through the bumps ahead.

But she's not.

She's gone and I can never forget that it was you who found her dead just three years before you ended your own life.

The next image was one that I will forever see so clear.

The trashcan liner was concave around your mouth. The only way I can describe it is it was like seeing white spider webs attached to the sunken space of the liner as your mouth lay open searching for air.

I had finally come face to face with your final breath.

Condensation filled the bag even though it was tight against your face and head. Everything was in a fog underneath the bag. The visual was a representation of your internal world to me when you killed yourself. Like standing in the deep wilderness, completely alone and enveloped in the thickest of fogs. A fog so thick that you couldn't even see your hand while holding it an inch from your face. You couldn't see one inch in front of you, Jesse. You couldn't see a future, purpose or even a way out of the pain. You couldn't even see your reflection in the mirror which hung on the wall across from that bed.

It's taken me this past year of silence to understand what was happening to me the moment I came face to face with your last breath. As I wrote to you in my very first letter here, time felt like it was suspended in front of me during those moments before Aimee found you dead. Once again, time felt as though it was frozen and suspended right in front of me as I stared at you dead, your mouth wide open and suffocated in complete finality. 

It has taken me a year to be able to articulate the thing that has pulled me through in the moments I felt the fog enveloping me along this journey of losing you.

Freedom.

Just beyond this horrific trauma was my freedom and the only way to it was through this nightmare staring back at me through your scene photo.

I felt your presence around me the entire time I was standing there.

Even in your death, Jesse, you were loving me through the veil separating us. You were showing me that my very freedom was in the choice, act and courage to heal and love myself, the very things you did not do while alive.

I promised you in that moment that I wouldn't let my freedom stay trapped underneath that plastic bag where yours had died.

jesse.png

LETTER #17

“Your thoughts, he’s telling me he is already in your thoughts”, the medium said said to me.

I could have thrown up the moment she said that.

I remember the first time something weird happened. It had been about two months after your death. Jeremy, Dylan and I went to a friend’s 1st birthday party they were having for their son at City Park in New Orleans. It was the first time I had done my hair and put on makeup since you died.

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LETTER #14

I’ve often thought about how you left this world, how you chose what the final act of your life would look like, and I fucking hate it. I hate the last scene. One thing I have commonly heard from those left picking up the pieces of a suicide or a drug addict overdosing has been this, “I will remember them not as a drug addict or person who decided to end their life, but as the person they were before it all.” As I wrote to you before, the only way through something is just that- through it.

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LETTER #13

Received 11/19/14 through Dear Jesse My Brother by an anonymous person:

“Your writing is heartbreaking and profound. I went to school with Jesse, and though we weren’t friends, when I saw his work on Facebook I reached out to him to see if he would be available to shoot a friend’s wedding and we had a nice exchange. He seemed flattered that I compared his work to that of other well known photographers in the area, and I was surprised at how humble he was, given his obvious talent. It saddens me that we won’t continue to see the world through his lens anymore.

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LETTER #12

“You are going to shine like the stars in your generation.”

He’s told each of us this from the time we were young kids.

Dad.

He did, and still does, believe this with all of his heart. At your funeral, he spoke of you as his shooting star. He said although brief, he enjoyed your burn. He was having to rethink what his definition of “shining like a star in his generation”now meant.

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