So, again, I’m flipping through my sibling loss file, and I come across something amazing, in this case, a profile of Alison Malmon. When she was a freshman in college, Alison’s 22-year-old brother, Brian, who was on leave from college, committed suicide.
After his death, Alison realized that Brian, who was a star on campus, both for his accomplishments (sports editor of the paper, president of an a cappella group, and a 3.7 gpa, among other accomplishments) had been hiding a terrible secret: he’d been hearing voices for years.
“I firmly believe that Brian took his life because he didn’t know how to live with mental illness,” said Malman, in the New York Times article. In her junior year, Malmon started an organization called Open Minds, designed to raise awareness about mental illness on college campuses. At the first meeting, three people showed up. But she persevered.
In 2003, Malmon graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, incorporated her organization, now called Active Minds, and became the youngest recipient of the Tipper Gore Remember the Children Award from the National Mental Health Association. At the time of the article (2007), she’s just gotten a $100,000 grant from somewhere else to do outreach.
“The goal is a chapter on every campus, but more realistic is that we’ll have about 300 chapters in the next three years,” she said in the NYT. Check out the organization’s website at www.activeminds.org.
And fyi, for those familiar with my sibling loss lingo, this is a beautiful example of carrying. For those not familiar with it, search the blog for an explanation
Not long ago, I got off a plane in Phoenix and confronted the words “Ted is Here,” painted on a pillar in bright orange. I almost cried. Ted, I realized, was the name of a budget airline. But it was also my older brother’s name.
My Ted died of an immune disorder 27 years ago, when I was 14 and he was 17. His story, along with that of another boy in Texas, were merged in the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” (Which my family did not authorize.)
Like most people who’ve lost someone they love, I’ve always wanted him back, or at least present, in some way. As a kid, I wished for a spectral sighting. As a young adult, I sought out psychics and mediums, one of whom once instructed me to ask Ted to give me signs that he was still present. Once, I asked Ted to show me a clown. Two days later, at a coffee shop, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a clown mural. My elation was short-lived, however. Had Ted contrived it, or had I unconsciously found myself a clown?
I’m not making a case for the supernatural here. But seeing that “Ted is Here” sign gave me the old I-see-the-clown feeling again.
This blog, which I’m launching on May 27th, the anniversary of Ted’s death, is an invitation to those who knew him—and those who didn’t—to share their thoughts and memories about the Ted they knew, or the Ted they imagined. Hearing about him, knowing that others are carrying a bit of him around with them, is another way of keeping him present. Honestly, I’d like that much better than seeing a clown.
I’ll also be posting thoughts and commentaries on siblings, sibling loss, families and grief—subjects I have, not surprisingly, become interested in. And for those of you who’ve read my book, The Empty Room, which tells my story and those of others who’ve lost siblings, I welcome your thoughts and messages.