THE LINGERING EFFECTS OF MY BROTHER’S SUICIDE
There is no beginning and there is no end. Bruce’s death just is. But the echoes carry on like a bullet hitting its target, passing through searing flesh, shattering bone and exiting with an unforgiving abandon as it traveled on through time, leaving a gaping wound behind which would only heal to be ripped open with every reminder which presented over the years to come. The temporary scab of respite was a farce; an illusion of peace which was really just a self imposed repression of pain as we tried to cope and tell ourselves it would be all right someday. Bullshit, it would never be all right again; we knew it and would have to endure the hand which was dealt us, much as we fought to move on and get back to life. The gap in our family would never close and turning your back only brought you face to face because it was everywhere. There would be no escape; this was now a permanent and integral part of our lives; like the phantom pain from a lost limb. Bruce was our lost limb; an amputation of our family. He would always be with us as would be the crippling pain of his absence. The cruel reality was that we could no longer have one without the other. The sweet visions of this tender young man whose heart was ever so giving with no expectation in return but to please flooded our every moment. The kindness of his gentle blue eyes and large frame, the image of this handsome muscular but tender soul were omnipresent as we recounted the endless stream of deeds he had extended in his all too brief life. His compassion was incalculable. It could not be measured for there was no method sufficient to contain it. He just gave and gave until there was nothing left for himself.
The residual wake of fallout affected us all in similar and different ways. We all shared the torment of the unrelenting pain but the coping mechanisms of survival took on individual ways and means. Mom struggled with the eternal vacancy day by day, wondering if she would or even wanted to survive. The crushing loss of a child was beyond devastating; it is a parent’s worst nightmare, plummeting into darkness from which there seemed no escape ever. The gravity of the blackness had a reach beyond anything she’d ever experienced. It was unearthly, inhuman, of despicable evil. And yet, she knew that she had two other children and a husband who would need her now more than ever before. The battle would be fierce but she found a heretofore unknown inner strength and mustered every bit of fight left in her to forge onward and overcome the depths of her pain to survive this mortal wound. She wrapped herself in the bandages of life, changing the dressings with every waking moment, determined to not surrender to the so very tempting pull of depression which was but a tick away. She had to stay focused on moving forward as she dragged the weight of the lifeless body of her son in her every breath. It took everything she had to journey a day at a time, through endless nights flooded with nightmares, to the next dawn where she began over again only to wage the same unending war on the grip of the ever daunting and unrelenting vacancy.
It would be a very long and tiring sojourn through cycles of small victories and losses along the way for Mom in this constant fitful fight for survival. It was her civil war of gargantuan proportion where she straddled the boundary of both sides for the fight of her life for which she had not been prepared. There was no battle plan, no precedent upon which she could rely, no mapped out strategy for success, no telling of the outcome. That would rest in her hands which over the course of years, would be solely of her determination. It would be an arduous struggle with lacerations at every turn as she repelled the demons of the critical mass which she confronted valiantly.
Years would pass as the intrusion of pain would ebb and flow with a tide like rhythm. The cycles widened with more daylight than darkness as time very slowly patched the wound with glimmers of life coming through the cracks. Her close circle of family and friends necessitated the very gradual recovery as they strode alongside with every step into the present. The battles would be fewer but the war would know no end. The stain of death would be indelible.
Pop was a mess. He was instantly thrust into a crushing blackness which weighed so heavily on his heart, we didn’t know if he’d make it. He’d lost a part of his soul and blamed himself for not having seen it coming. He knew that Bruce’s forte was not academics and supported him in every endeavor. He was amazing skilled with his hands; his mechanical ability was beyond superior. Pop was going to set up a frame shop for him on the 4th floor of the gallery, so that he could design and fashion frames for the inventory. He’d have done anything for his son to make sure he was happy in his life. From all outward appearances, he was just that; carefree, easy going and simply delightful. But underneath that smiling façade must have been brewing an abnormal level of distress that went thoroughly undetected. He was quite adept at hiding whatever was wreaking havoc within his psyche, for no one had a clue as to the level of unrest which was smoldering with what later became an apparent lack of avenue to vent. It was an intolerable mixture of life elements that would explode in one final destructive act.
Pop’s ever present smiled faded deeply and seemingly irretrievably into obscurity, replaced with a gray cast of pale which aged him in an instant. His days and nights were made of the same nightmare as Mom’s. Life had in one second become a darkened realm into which all light was sucked. Silence was blazing with thickness as Pop fended off his pain by internalizing it as he tried to hide it from Mom. But his suffering was too great to cover. We knew how he writhed in emotional hell seething with anger at his interminable loss. He couldn’t blame his son for that would be tantamount to treason and would to him jeopardize his unconditional love for Bruce, which was now all that was left save for the memories. He was caught in a dead end, facing a wall that was closing in rapidly with but two options; to collapse and yield to his pain, or lash out and vent his anger. He chose a combination of the two and went dark with pain as he wore a defensive shield of anger and defiance. They were opposing sides of the same emotional wall. He had squarely taken the blame upon himself and wore the devastation as he soldiered on toward an as of yet unstated future. He veered blindly into the coming days and soon went back into the gallery which had to have been a mission impossible, as that was where he had found his middle son suspended from the rafters of the 4th floor, dangling lifelessly, forever gone; taking with him more lives than he’d ever imagined. I doubt Pop was able to go back up to the 4th floor for years. The very thought must have sickened him. The very tenor of the building changed as well, having absorbed a horrific act of violence that fractured the once nearly idyllic David family. I remember the days, weeks and months following as Pop would burst through the gallery door, slamming it behind him with enough contempt to shake the building. Not enough though to clear the history now so much a part of our shattered heritage. His dark glasses kept the sun out but also ineffectively attempted to hide the ravages of the rage and distress which was buried just a scratch beneath the face that addressed all who saw it. The ever present laughter was gone. It would take years for it to surface and cautiously make an appearance again.
The scars ran deep and the aching persisted, never going far from target. If it weren’t for the fact that Alan and I were so deeply run through by the swift gouging of death’s sword, the parental need to rescue us perhaps obligated them to not surrender to their grief, and so they had purpose.
About the Author Carl David
Born in Philadelphia, Carl David is the third descendant of a four-generation art dealer family specializing in American and European nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings, watercolors, and drawings.
Carl earned a Bachelor of Arts with a degree in business in 1970 from Oglethorpe College in Atlanta, Georgia. Bader Field is his second published book. He is also the author of Collecting and Care of Fine Art published by Crown Publishers (1981). His article “Martha Walter” appeared in the May 1978 issue of American Art Review.
Mr. David was a charter member of Sotheby’s.com (New York), and is a member of the Art and Antique Dealers League, and La Confederation Internationale De Negotiants En Oeuvres D’Art. He has served as judge for The Manayunk Art Show, co-chairman of the gallery committee member of Rittenhouse Row, guest auctioneer for WHYY, and panel member for The Art News World Art Market (New York). Carl has been involved with The Friends of Rittenhouse Square, The Free Appraisal Clinic, The Philadelphia Art Museum, The Dealer’s Committee for US Artists, and Rittenhouse Row.
Using his knowledge of the fine arts, Carl has taught “Collecting Fine Art” at Main Line School Night, and served as a guest lecturer at the Philadelphia Library, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the U.S. Artists Exhibition (2004–2006). As a philanthropist, David has used art as a backdrop to organize and produce fundraising exhibitions for the Washington, D.C. branch of the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, the Delaware Valley Burn Foundation, The American Red Cross and The Make a Wish Foundation.
Carl has given appraisals and consultations for: the Brandywine River Museum, American Bar Association, The White House, Office of the Attorney General, State of New York, FBI, State Department, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Union League Club of Philadelphia, Buck Hill Falls Art Association, Law Firm of Ronald A. White, Law Firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, the DuPont Family, the Wilmington Library, The Hagley Museum, Strassburger, McKenna, Gutnick & Potter (Pittsburgh), Wilkes College (Sordoni Art Gallery) Wilkes Barre, PA, University of Virginia, Cigna, and Sun Oil Company.
Along with his interest and career as an art dealer, Carl has serious involvement in both music and photography. He does all of the gallery photography work and has photographic images hosted on Webshots.com and istockphoto.com. He has written several ballads. His first (“My Love For You”) was professionally mastered, arranged, and produced by Dave Appell of Decca Records and Cameo-Parkway Records.
For many years, Carl David has had a serious interest in and has been a proponent of all aspects of healing. He has woven spirituality and energy work into his daily life. As a firm believer in “paying it forward,” he knows that karmic debts must be paid, and is very cognizant of keeping a clear conscious and doing the right thing. Life has thrown him some nasty turns, but instead of being bitter and resentful, he has tried to learn from each experience and shift his focus toward something positive.