Monday, June 17, 2024 at 10:59 AM

Take a moment; make a difference

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or a loved one or someone you know, is going through something — anything — that shakes your being, or begins to alter your perspective, reach out. Reach. Out.


I write this with a great deal of trepidation.

Truly, there are events that shape our lives, mold our character, influence who we are to become.

When those moments occur, reaction depends on an individual’s resolve, maturity and coping mechanisms. The greater the awareness, the easier it becomes to handle and overcome.

Most of us, however, aren’t prepared for cataclysmic moments that will rock our world — that leave us teetering, without a lifeline, without a sense of where to turn.

My moment — the day my younger brother Rex held a shotgun to his chin and pulled the trigger, ending his life.

Rex was a gifted musician, a young guy with an infectious laugh and an inane sense of humor. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to make you laugh. He was a friend to everyone he met.

As the summer of 1980 drew to a close, Rex had this laissez-faire attitude toward things. Nothing about his demeanor, his behavior, his reaction to stimuli, seemed out of place.

But his life was unraveling before his eyes: His rock band, Suburban, broke up when other members moved away; His girlfriend left the country for a Peace Corps-type term of service; His closest friends were headed to “start a new life” as college freshmen; One of his roommates was leaving to join the military; he was going to have to leave their rental home — dubbed “The Pink House” — and move back in with our parents.

And he faced the prospect of having to work for our father’s construction company — a job he absolutely despised with all his soul.

But let me rephrase an earlier statement: Actually, his life was unraveling before OUR eyes; we just didn’t “see it.”

How? Why? As a musician, Rex loved to write, both song and lyric. Guitars and basses were always lying around The Pink House, as both of my brothers played (I have no musical talent whatsoever).

Dozens and dozens of sheets of lyrics were always lying around “The Pink.”

But over time, his lyrics became much more than just words, they became his life. Or rather, his life became the lyrics.

A short time after his death, I began to pour over his writings. I soon realized his death was contained within his verse.

How had I been so blind not to see it? He wrote: -- “You know, you only get a glimpse of a good thing. The times I think, and the times I wish, far surpass the times I write.”

-- “I sit here late once again, alone with my truest love, my paper and pen. I’ve sat here alone so many times before — wondering why I can’t be free, and what have people done to me.”

In one of his final writings that we’ve deemed his suicide note, he penned: “Death is a mere essence of mind Gone is the body but the soul will find That peace that is promised in the end It was a good time, being your friend.”

Rex never “lashed out,” he never threatened, he never tried to harm himself. He seemed at peace with what was his ultimate decision.

But had he reached out to someone — had I, or my brother, or Jim, or Paul, or any of the rest of us, seen his lyrics for what they really were ... how could we have helped?

In the months that followed, my own life spiraled out of control. My grades tumbled a full grade level; I smiled each day but suffered each night; my junior year at Ohio University devolved into a chaotic snarl of daily drug use.

I smoked and snorted just to survive, as I soon realized I had no coping skills of my own.

Winter break at OU was a full six weeks. The trip home was the release I needed, the comfort I sought, the regimen I wantonly resumed. Thank God.

It’ll be 44 years this September since his death. I still wonder about Rex: What would he have become? What kind of uncle would he be to my kids? Would he have ever “made it” in the music industry?

But I’ll never know. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or a loved one or someone you know, is going through something — anything — that shakes your being, or begins to alter your perspective, reach out. Reach. Out. Rex did not; nor did his friends or our family, right when he needed us the most. Nor did I, when my own life hit the skids.

The motto for National Mental Health Awareness Month is “Take A Moment.”

Take a moment. Make a moment. Make a difference.



Boerne Star