Archive | October, 2014

Older Than My Older Brother

12 Oct

“I wanted you to know,

That I love the way you laugh,

I wanna hold you high and steal your pain away,

I keep your photograph,

And I know it serves me well,

I wanna hold you high and steal your pain,

‘Cause I’m broken, when I’m lonesome,

And I don’t feel right, when you’re gone away,

You’ve gone away; you don’t feel me here anymore”

Broken”, Seether (Feat. Amy Lee)

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As of today, I have lived one day longer than my older brother, who was born four years before I was. There aren’t really adequate words to describe how that makes me feel, especially since it was his choice for it to have turned out this way, but in this post, I will try.

Simply put, it is a strange, horrible, confusing and mystifying feeling that I am technically “older than my older brother.”  As for my parents, I really don’t want to even imagine how they must feel.  They tell me that without Brett and me, their prospects for going forward would have been a lot different.  Regardless, they’ve been brave and strong ever since, and they are truly special people because of that.

 I find myself often thinking about the course of events that have occurred throughout my life, and the people who have come and gone along the ride. I enjoy doing this, in fact, and I’m a big believer in the classic saying “everything happens for a reason”. However this is obviously the one instance where that is not true; Jeff leaving us could not have happened for any valid reason. The only real positive counter to this statement would be that the Kleinsaucer blog was formed, and especially as of late, more and more people are reading about the epidemic of suicide, and feeling more comfortable expressing themselves, thereby preventing themselves from doing such a horrible thing.

It goes without saying that I took Jeff’s death very hard; I had felt closer to him than ever during the fall of 2010, but I was simply unaware of any difficulties that he was going through. I had just transitioned to a new school, and while it wasn’t heaven, it was better than my previous school, so I was at least happy with that. Jeff, of course, kept in regular contact with me, asking about how I was doing and whether I was enjoying myself. And I was ecstatic telling him that it was possible I might perform at the halftime show at a Philadelphia 76ers game as part of a new dance class I was taking! Even just four days before he left us, we were also talking about our beloved Knicks, and what their season held in store. There was literally no sign of trouble in any of our text conversations.  Jeff’s texts are in gray, and mine are in yellow.

jeff drew text 2

Jeff drew text 3

Jeff drew text 4

jeff drew text 5

Drew nice profile picture

jeff drew text 6

jeff drew text 7

Jeff Drew Text 1

We kept in contact frequently until the end, and I’m glad, but I feel that we could have been even closer. We were both relatively restrained when it came to conversing with each other. Suffice to say, I have had funnier/more outrageous/exciting text conversations with other people. And I still am kicking myself every day over the fact that once upon a time I used to lock the door of my room during high school. I always used to hear him try and come in, not be able to, and walk away… Just unacceptable on my part.

It’s funny when I think about it, because I feel that action of locking my door is something indicative of how our generation lives today. In other words, we focus more on ourselves, interact more with our various devices, and communicate less effectively with other people. I consider what happened a completely lost opportunity to cement our relationship. He was right across the hall, and we should have spent hours together.

While it’s not acceptable that Jeff left us, I feel it’s quite ironic that he would absolutely hate the way the world operates today. For example, we may care about how many likes we get on a social media post more than we care about brightening the days of other people. In sports, people take shortcuts to achieve their goals faster (“Our team isn’t good enough to contend? Let’s buy better players to make us contenders!”). I’m looking at you, Denver Broncos and Cleveland Cavaliers. Jeff wasn’t a Lebron fan to begin with, and he would have despised his return to Cleveland. He would have seen through Lebron’s declaration that he wanted to come home again and would have blogged that his return was really rooted in selfish interest merely to surround himself with a better supporting cast than the one he spent four years with and spontaneously ran away from.

If been here to watch the NBA playoffs with me last spring, we would have been laughing over the disparities in attendance from arena to arena; the Staples Center packed with fans who marvel over the incredible ball movement of the LA Clippers, while fans in the Verizon Center attending the Wizards’ games apparently being more concerned with the quality and quantity of their drinks than actually watching the game. But I digress, and I don’t want to make it seem like I wrote this post to take shots at others… because I didn’t, and I don’t want to come across as someone that I’m not. I actually feel that I’m starting to view these types of things in a similar way that Jeff would have; it’s cool and interesting, but nothing could ever compare to spending time with him right next to me.

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Anyway, it meant the world having Jeff as an older brother for the time that I did. Having him to look up to for anything always made me feel so secure. I will always be able to take away from watching him the diligence that he approached every aspect of life with, whether it was pursuing his studies (and his very brief amount of time as a paralegal), his work ethic towards sports, and his ability to maintain relationships, to name a few. I want to approach my life the same way he did, and also be a top-notch role model for Brett. I can’t imagine the effect this has had on him. I want to fill the void and be the best older brother I can be for him, while also approaching the rest of my life with an unparalleled sense of fearlessness and resilience. I know I’ll get hit here and there, but nothing can ever take me down.

As for myself, my brother, and my parents, we will always have each other for support and to lean on for the rest of our lives, and that is obviously quite certain.  Because of what has happened, I actually can’t picture a tighter bond possible between family members.

I am now older than my older brother was, and I am going to live out my life to its natural conclusion. Had Jeff never left us, he and I would have taken on life’s challenges, and had quite an amazing time doing so. All the more reason I just wish I could have held him high, and stolen his pain away.

–Drew Klein

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A Change Of Season And Our Community’s Latest Suicide Bring Back The Terror of 2010

7 Oct

When a member of the Friends of Jeff Klein group contacted me on Monday morning to express her concern about how our family was taking the news of the latest suicide in our community, neither Carey nor I had heard a thing about it. We had somehow missed the local news stories over the entire previous week about the 21 year old Armonk man who went missing on Monday, September 29th after leaving his family’s home for work and not returning that evening. And then there was a vigil and the desperate attempts by his family, police and community members to find him. On Thursday afternoon, October 2nd, the police did find him in Glazier Preserve in Chappaqua, and everyone’s worst fears were realized.

Terror gripped me immediately when I searched for online news stories and found the headline, “Miles Applebaum’s Father Desperate To Find Missing Son” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/miles-applebaum-missing_n_5916684.html).

Oh, the desperation, the inability to catch your breath, the frantic attempts to call and text, and the utter helplessness of not knowing what to do, especially when you know that every second is precious and could make the difference between saving them or not. As I sat at my desk at work reading the articles, it was November 9th, 2010 all over again, and my breathing became labored.

According to the article, Ed Applebaum had the same set of facts about his son staring him in the face as I did. Like Jeff, Miles was severely depressed and had expressed suicidal ideation. When he went missing, I know well the desperation that must have set in.

According to the article written on Wednesday October 1st before the young man was found, “…his phone has not been turned on since Monday morning — something his dad said is ‘out of character’”.

Of course it was turned off. By all news accounts, Miles was part of a close-knit, loving family. Just as Jeff was. When suicidal young people with adoring families cross that final mental threshold and commit to going through with it, they know they must turn off all potential channels of communication. That’s because if they were to hear the voice of any loving family member or friend while on the way to ending their life, the plan to commit suicide would be derailed. While continuing to read the article, I impulsively stopped and called Jeff’s number, reliving the horror of my November 9th calls going straight to voicemail over and over again. I do not know why I chose to torture myself in that way.

The article shared the following quote: “He was suicidal and has been on and off various medications,” Edward Applebaum said.”

Oh, the meds. I have no idea if the meds had any role in what happened in this case, but that statement alone brought back all the guilt of having allowed Jeff’s psychiatrist to prescribe, prescribe and then prescribe again. It started with Celexa, and then he added Remeron, and to top it off, he advised a three drug cocktail to include Abillify as the third. Ultimately, the side effects were so brutal that we needed to check Jeff into a hospital to gradually wean him off this stuff over a week’s time.

And then the article’s crushing line from my perspective: “”He said, ‘Goodbye, I’m going to work, I love you,'” Edward Applebaum said of his last interaction with his son.”

A little before midnight on November 8th, 2010, after we had watched Monday Night Football together, I told Jeff to sleep well and that I loved him. He was sitting at his desk in his room and had just updated the NBA standings board that hung on his wall, based on the results of that night’s games. He told me loved me too, and that was it. Though I spoke with him a few times by phone during the first half of the next day, I never saw him again. Jeff did love me, just as Miles Applebaum loved his dad and the rest of his family. It remains baffling to me that love does not conquer all.

“I’m hopeful,” Edward Applebaum said. “It’s just that as the hours tick by, my optimism is waning.”

From the second I was notified at 4:05 p.m. on November 9th that Jeff had not shown up for his 3:30 behavioral therapy appointment, I was 90% sure it was over and he was gone. When I called his cell phone, and it was off, I knew it with certainty. Jeff didn’t just not show up for an appointment and turn his phone off for no reason. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Despite that, panic doesn’t allow you to quit and accept what you know in your heart of hearts to be true, and so I called and texted frantically. I asked Carey to drive to any place he could reasonably be—Club Fit and Taco Bell topped the list—to see if she could find him. I headed home. In our case, the period of terror and uncertainty from when I was notified that Jeff missed his appointment to when News 12 broke the news that “a young man” was found dead on the train tracks under the Bear Mountain Bridge was about three hours. For the Applebaum family, that terror and desperation lasted over three days. I truly cannot imagine going through that trauma for that long. My thoughts, prayers, heart and soul go out to them.

begging jeff to call me

So now, let me talk turkey with every one of you that has ever thought about, come close to, or attempted suicide. I would wager that you have at least one person—and likely many more–in your lives who would be absolutely devastated by losing you. The terror and fright that those people would feel when you first disappear are feelings that are not easily captured by words. It is torture. It is gasping for breath while suffocating. But it doesn’t stop there. When you’re gone and supposedly “at peace”, your survivors’ pain is enduring, and as I now know, it is everlasting. It is brutal. There is pain, anger, guilt, frustration and rage every day. The lives of the survivors are altered in a terrible way forever.

I understand your likely retort. You feel those same horrible things every day right now, and that’s why you think about suicide. Ok, but the bottom line is that every day you wake up presents an opportunity to try to make things a little better. And if you do have loved ones, you can lock arms with them and battle it out every day. Dig in and establish a foothold in the sand when the waves of sorrow wash over you. Hold your ground until they pass, and then put one foot in front of the other to take a step forward. The waves will come again, and you will need to dig in again. This is a long term war that you can win. I believe we are all capable of more than we think we are. There is more strength inside you than you realize.

For the last four years, you and I have shared something in common—we deal with pain every day. Prior to November 9th, 2010, I couldn’t have related to what you go through. But I can now, and you can’t tell me anymore that I don’t understand what it’s like to feel agony and anxiety. Ask Drew and Brett what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like in their father, and they’ll have more examples than you’ll care to hear. But I have them, I have Carey, as well as my friends and broader family, and I lean on them and love them all. And they have been there for me unconditionally, as your loved ones will be for you.

So now that we’re on the same playing field, I’m asking you to follow my lead and fight. I have learned that I can’t eliminate the pain, but I can beat it back to its own end of the field and I can manage it   I want you to fight with me, through your own struggles, forever and always.

Another precious young life has been lost in a neighboring town. We pray for Ed Applebaum and his family, and I hope to meet him someday and help him in any way that I can.

There is no way for me to avoid flashback terror and desperation when reading about a depressed young person who has vanished. Some will say that I am selfish for wanting Jeff to have stayed with us through his great pain, and for imploring all those who struggle to do the same. I don’t believe I am. I simply believe that life is precious and that banding together with your family and friends to fight through adversity is always the right thing to do, because troubled lives can, and often do, improve over time. And I just can’t stand the thought of any more parents experiencing those breathless moments when they realize their child is missing and may not be coming back.

–Rich Klein