• Michael Sara

Death and Defense Mechanisms

I consider myself a smiley person. But! When you are staring death in the face, do you still smile? This blog contains sensitive matter

It was early morning on May 12th 2012. Big sister walked up to Big brother's room to have him sign the Mother's Day card. She opened the door and screamed the most horrendous scream you would ever hear. Like in all those scary movies...but, worse. I rushed upstairs and saw her over him. I can still see the scene in my head. His body...

Ummm...what the heck? What am I looking at?

I rushed downstairs to let the rest of the family know what had happened. Hysteria. Mass hysteria. Crying, running, screaming and the call to the police. I decided to take Little brother to the park. What? The park? Yeah...


Whilst everyone panicked I was cool, calm, collected and got dressed. I packed up Little brother's things and began our 30 second walk to the park. In my head, this was the best decision at the time because I didn't want him to see the cops, the coroner, and Big brother (his hero) like that. How does one even explain to a child with Down syndrome what happened to his big brother? Anyways, on our way to the park, we bumped into our neighbor (she grew up with Big brother) and also witnessed me and my other siblings grow up as well. She asked me how Mother's Day was going so far. My response:

Big brother is dead...

I probably should have worked on my delivery, but at that moment (and for years to come) it was the only way I knew how. I noticed a small smile emerging from the corner of my mouth with a giggle wanting to escape. I immediately covered my mouth with my hand as she had her reaction. Obviously she was in disbelief, but my non-processing-emotions self pointed towards the house and told her that she would see the coroners once she continued walking.


Hey! Everyone processes death differently. I unfortunately giggle and smile whenever I tell the story to friends or hear something tragic. I didn't know what was happening to me, clearly I knew it was weird. I just had some work to do in the near distant future. It was my first time being so close to death or even witnessing it. How does one even predict their reaction if they were to ever be in such a situation? It's weird, but I smile/laugh at everything. When I'm upset, when I'm scared, when I'm happy (haha) and when I'm staring death in the face. Still actively working on it, but it is a process.


I spent about 2 hours at the park with Little brother before returning home. Back at the house there were now a couple of people over church members and my mom's friends. All I remember next (yes, with trauma you block things out) was me opening the door to about 15 people whom I had never seen before in my life.

Hi my name is...I am: in a band with Big brother... went to elementary school with Big brother... went to high school with Big brother...

The other people proceeded to introduce themselves as well. I asked them how they knew Big brother had passed, and they all said that they had seen a post my neighbor from earlier made on social media. Everyone flooded his page in disbelief and condolences, then several made their way to our house. No other family member had ever met any of them. They loved Big brother so much and none had an inkling he was depressed. He too, was known to be the happiest most smiley person in his circles. For the next couple of days leading up to the funeral they would come over and share many stories. Over 600 people attended his funeral. He was beyond loved but, sometimes when you deal with mental illness it isn't so apparent.


I think back and just see how amazing God is. If I hadn't been calm and gone to the park, I would have never bumped into the neighbor, who would have never posted about Big brother on social media. We would have never been introduced to my new extended family. They new family members are currently still in our lives as we continue to share stories and celebrate Big brother 9 years later.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 1-833-456-4566

Forever paying homage to Big brother

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