A disturbing dream I had about my brother forced me to make the call.
Posted in , Oct 27, 2014
Early on a Sunday morning, I was startled awake by vivid, disturbing images, settling into my consciousness as if I had seen them in reality. In my dream, I had seen inside the office of a U.S. Army first lieutenant—walls adorned with matted certificates and a few framed army medals, a wooden desk and an American flag standing at attention in the corner. What frightened me were the pages of reports that sat front and center on the desk, with the word “suicide” written prominently across them.
I immediately thought of my brother, Mike, a first lieutenant Green Beret in the 82nd Airborne, on active duty at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Since he’d been on training missions, I’d barely talked to him—he was unreachable by phone.
I had my own busy life, happily married and teaching second grade. I knew all about soldiers suffering with PTSD, unable to shake the traumatic experiences they’d had in the war, but Mike never mentioned anything like that.
Even with the distance between us, I knew my baby brother. No, not Mike. He’d never consider...
I shoved the images aside, but by Monday morning they were front and center again. Every idle moment, Mike pressed heavy on my heart. I was anxious for school to end so I could get in touch with him. When I finally arrived home that evening, I snatched up the phone and made the call.
“Hello?” a voice echoed from the other end.
“Mike?” I said. “Is everything alright?”
I launched into the details of my dream. “I knew it was silly because you’d never do anything like that,” I concluded. Complete silence followed. Had I struck a nerve?
Mike finally spoke. “I was the officer in charge on Friday night,” he said. “There was a soldier who hung himself. It’s been weighing on me, Pat.”
The miles that separated us instantly disappeared. I was Mike’s big sister again, helping him unburden himself of the emotions he’d been keeping inside. He’d investigated the tragic scene and was responsible for filling out the incident report. It was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do.
“I sat in my office—I could barely bring myself to write, ‘suicide’ as the cause of death,” he said. He needed someone to talk to about it. Somehow, I knew.