One Third of My Light Is Gone

"...And the fourth angel sounded the trumpet, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, so that the third part of them was darkened. And the day did not shine for a third part of it,, and the night in like manner." --Rev. 8:12

I have three sons. One of them is in the spirit world. On October 26, 2009, one third of the light in my life went out forever.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Message From Tech School Friend

I am grateful when I meet people who cared about Maris.   I understand the purpose of  life on this planet less and less with every passing day.  The only thing that makes sense about it is the quality of our relationships.  That is why it means so much to know that there were so many awesome people who cared about Maris the way they did, and that he had a positive effect on them.  It bringd me joy and comfort thatl they got to know him and spend even a little time with him.  

" My name is Eric Grace and I was Maris's class leader during tech school in Texas. I want to say that I am so sorry for your loss. Butta as I knew him, was by far the smartest kid in the class. He was also my favorite. That's why I made sure that I sat near him the whole six months. I related to him more than any of the other students, with his quiet demeanor and rich sense of humor.
I know that you already know most of this but I wanted to share with you how I see him. When I got the news I was deeply saddened. I am glad to have been enlightened by his caring soul."

Thank you for these kind words, Eric, and I am so happy your path crossed with Maris's.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Shamanic Healing Journey for maris, December 23, 2009

Client Journey 12/23/09, by Joan Forest Mage:

For Maris Butta. This was a followup to the journey 12/22/09.

Immediately upon starting the journey, I saw the same spirit entity as yesterday, a man saying, “There is a debt to be paid!”

I traveled to the Otherworld. Athena and other guides were still at the Spa, healing Maris with the cleansing waters of the hot springs and cold springs.

I saw the African man I had seen yesterday, the one who was glaring. I will call him “Ali”. He was in Africa. He was talking to an African shaman, a tall, stately man of about 60 – 70 years of age. Ali wanted the shaman to put a curse on the slave trader (the person who was Maris in this lifetime) because he was kidnapping people in Ali’s tribe to sell as slaves.

The shaman, a very wise and honorable magical practitioner, said he would not curse anyone, but would put a binding on the slave trader (I’ll call him “Jeremiah”) to keep him from coming to take any more people for slaves. The shaman put the binding on Jeremiah, leaving it up to Spirit to arrange this in the best way. Interestingly, what happened was that the slave trader ran into problems with his (the slave trader’s) partner, another European man.

Apparently the slave trader Jeremiah was not only doing terrible things to the Africans, but had even cheated his partner. The partner (I’ll call him “John”) fond out about it and was livid and demanded to be repaid. They fought, and Jeremiah killed John, thus robbing him not only of his money, but of his life as well.

I realized that at least part of the entity I had seen yesterday, the man who was the debt collector, was John’s energy, demanding to be repaid. I had seen this man as a European rather than African, which had struck me as strange if it was Africans who had the grievance. Now I understood why.

I went up to the shaman and asked if I could talk with him. He was a kindly man, who said his name was Saleem. I explained that I had come to help the person who was Maris in his most recent lifetime. I told Saleem I admired both his skill and professional integrity as a spiritual practitioner in dealing with the situation in such an energetically clean manner.

I asked Saleem if he could release the binding on Jeremiah/Maris. Saleem seemed a bit hesitant, as if he wasn’t sure if he could trust me, and if it was finally all right to release the binding. I searched for what would convince him, and then said, “The mother and father of the man Maris in this lifetime are really praying for him.” I showed Saleem Ray and Deena’s prayers; the energy of the prayers was beautiful and golden and abundant. It was apparent to anyone who saw this that there was merit to the request to end this binding; that this person who was Maris had changed his ways from the way Jeremiah acted. Saleem believed this and was moved, and released the binding.

But I heard a voice say, “The debt must still be paid.” Releasing the binding was only one step; there was still energy to be balanced around the situation.

To do this, the guides took me to a place where Jeremiah was holding a soul part of John’s. I was reminded of the shamanic rule of thumb that whenever there is physical violence, there is energetic violence and soul stealing. Jeremiah killed John physically, and also took part of John’s soul.

The guides returned John’s soul part to him. John was still livid over the money he had lost. Athena came and talked to John, asking him what he needed to repay the debt. Basically, he wanted financial abundance, enough to compensate him for the lifetimes he has lived in financial and energetic poverty, ever since Jeremiah took the soul part from him.

An angel was assigned to John to lead him to this financial abundance.  John was finally satisfied, and left.

Next, I saw the glaring African man. (I’ll call him “Ali”.) It was in Africa, and I saw him walking in shock and rage among the dead bodies of his tribe, including family and relatives. I am not sure of the circumstance, but Jeremiah was to blame. Perhaps the slave traders came had come to the village, and for some reason killed these people rather than taking them as slaves.

Ali demanded justice; he wanted the debt to be paid. I asked the guides what to do. They asked, “Ali, instead of asking how we can pay this debt, we ask: what is it you most want? That is what will pay this debt.”

In answer, the bodies came back to life. That is what Ali really wanted. There were eight people in particular that he wanted to see come to life. They might be his immediate family.

The guides said, “Ali, these people have reincarnated many times since they died in the lifetime you were asking about. You have even lived with them again yourself! That is the real answer to this question: that life is eternal and always triumphs over death.

“Yet, it is true that there is still a debt. These people were robbed of their lives. Also, by being killed in this heinous way, they were robbed of vitality that they otherwise would have had in subsequent lifetimes. Because of this, they were often poor or had other troubles in many lifetimes.”

The guides continued, “To repay this debt, blessings and prayers can be sent to these eight people. This will create abundance for them in this current lifetime.”

I got the sense that I should ask Ray and Deena to do this praying. I said, “I will ask Maris’s mother and father if they will restore the balance of the universe by praying for these people. I cannot guarantee that they will agree to this, but I will ask them. I think they would be willing.” I added, “What if I ask them to pray for these eight people for a year? Or a year and a day, which is a typical contract in our European tradition?”

“Three years,” said Ali counter offered, sternly.

“Very well!” I answered, smiling. “I will ask Ray and Deena if they will pray this way for three years.” I added, “In any case, I will promise to do it myself, so the energy exchange will happen.” Ali was satisfied. I realized it will be 12/24/12 when this contract is up, right after the famous “2012” date of 12/21/12.

The guides said merrily, “The people you are praying for will not even know why they have become so fortunate!”

“If possible,” I said cheerfully, “I would like us – Ray, Deena and me – to meet some of these people, and to know that they are the ones we have been praying for.” It is good when one can feel that one’s prayers have definitely had an effect, even though it might be in a way that is not provable. I got the sense that this will happen.

I heard a voice, “There is still a debt to be paid!” There is one more situation that needs to be balanced. I will journey again, possibly tomorrow, to deal with this situation.

I returned to ordinary reality, thanking the spirits and the Mystic Law.

Shamanic Healing Journey for Maris, January 13, 2010

Client Journey 1/13/10 by Joan Forest Mage:

For Maris Butta, distance healing.

I journeyed to follow up on some of the leads I had been given in previous journeys. I asked about the lifetime Maris had in Atlantis, which seemed to be the origin of many of the problems that Maris has had in subsequent lifetimes.

I saw Maris as a man in Atlantis. I saw him working in a shop of some kind. It seemed he was the proprietor of the shop, and that he was selling something that had to do with their technology. It was interesting to experience this ancient lifetime being similar to ours, with a shop owner working in his shop.

I got the information that he had created some kind of spiritual “working” in that lifetime that is still in effect, and that this has caused problems ever since. I suspect it was a working based in greed, and that the person who was Maris in this lifetime has been feeling the karmic effects ever since.

The guides said that this was enough for today. I returned to ordinary reality, thanking the spirits and the Mystic Law.

Shamanic Healing Journey for Maris--December 31, 2009

Client Journey 12/31/09

For Maris, Ray and Deena Butta, distance healing.

I saw the threatening, accusing man I had seen on the other journeys for Maris. Recalling what Deena had told me, I asked if there was a past life we needed to heal in which Maris was a Nazi. But instead, the guides were telling me about an ancient lifetime in Atlantis in which Maris did something wrong.

However, the guides said that we were not going to deal with that lifetime on this journey, but rather take care of other things related to Maris.

The threatening man morphed into Maris as a child. This soul part of Maris was about 5 years old. He kept trying to grab my energy so he could hold on to me and have protection, but this was not a good thing. I called on guides Athena , Phoenix and other guides to help, and they put protection around me so Maris and the threatening man could not touch me.

Why did I see this man morph into Maris? Did something happen to Maris when he was 5 years old regarding this man, in which the man was attaching to Maris’s energy in a negative way, draining Maris? I did not recognize the man, he was not Maris’s father Ray or another person I would know. The nearest I could tell he might be a teacher Maris had.

I took this 5-year old soul part of Maris to Maris’s adult soul part which was still at the Spa with Athena and the other guides. I blew the 5-year old back into Maris. This can be a necessary part of healing before a person can cross over: they need to get soul parts back before moving on to their next life.

Bear, Hawk and Wolf appeared as Power Animals for Maris. I blew these into Maris.

Bear and Wolf said they wanted to go to Ray as well, to help him. So I brought them to Ray. Ray can benefit by doing practices to honor and connect with Bear and Wolf, and to see what advice they will give him.

Panther wanted to come to Deena. As a healing, Panther ate out her eyes, then regurgitated them back into her eye sockets. The eyes are now healed, and Panther will stay with her for at least a while to help her health conditions. She can benefit by doing practices to honor and connect with Bear and Wolf, and to see what advice they will give her.

There are probably two more journeys to do.

I returned to ordinary reality, thanking the spirits and the Mystic Law.


Shamanic Healing Journey for Maris January 1, 2012

Thank you to Joan Forest Mage of Life Force Arts Center for this healing journey, which was a followup to previous healings for the soul of Maris.  It was an excellent activity for the first day of 2012, the year we have all been waiting for with great interest:

"Client Journey 1/1/12

This was a further journey to help Maris Butta.

I asked what healing needed to be done at this time, specifically to follow up on his lifetime in Atlantis. Saleem, the medicine man from Africa who had put a binding on Maris when Maris was a man named Jeremiah in a former lifetime, appeared. Saleem said he would help with Maris' healing in the Atlantean and other lifetimes.

A healing was done for Ali, the man who was angry with Maris in the African lifetime. Ali was lying on the ground, and Saleem had a energy form that looked like a snake, go through him and dissolve the anger, letting it flow into the earth and be transformed.

We went to the lifetime of Maris in Atlantis. I am using the name "Jo" for the man Maris was in that lifetime. I saw that he was using a device that controlled people's minds. I asked more about the device. The impression I received is that Jo created this because he was angry at a woman (perhaps a woman who rejected his love?) He wanted to have a way of controlling people because of that. It was especially directed towards keeping women disempowered. In other words, Jo made this device not to help people, but from a low life condition, a place of woundedness (anger). That's what makes it negative and wrong: the intention behind why something is made. The need to control comes from feelings of fear or anger 

As I got more impressions about the device, I saw that it worked not so much by directly controlling the person's mind, as it controlled people by allowing the one using the device to implant ideas into the controlee's mind. It worked on the principles of biofeedback as well - the ways people can be controlled through physical means such as sleep deprivation, starvation, creating constant fear, etc. 

Importantly, I saw how this device had created a thought pattern of oppressor and victim throughout history, ever since Atlantean times. The thought pattern lived on far beyond the actual device. Thought patterns are powerful enough in themselves, this was something I became more aware of from this journey.

The guides told me that Jo needed to agree to deactivate and destroy the device. We asked him to do so, and finally he agreed. I saw the thought forms dissolve, as though into ash. Then the ash resurrected into a Phoenix, which meant a better, positive thought form.

Then I saw that not only was it in Jo and his lifetimes, but it was through all (or at least many) humans, ever since Atlantean times. I saw these thought forms being removed from people alive now, all 6 billion people on Earth, and back throughout all their lifetimes. It is a huge project. I asked for many spirit guides to help with this project, and a large team appeared. They will be working on it for a while, perhaps all of 2012. I can also work on this each day a little, lending my energy to the project. The more people who do this, the better. Deena said she would do it as well.

Removing this need to control and be controlled from human consciousness will create a very different world than we have experienced for a long time in human history.

I returned to ordinary reality, thanking the spirits and the Mystic Law."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Out of the Shadows

During October 2011, radio station WBEZ ran an excellent series, Out of the Shadows: Preventing Child Suicide.

It focused on youth aged 14 to 24, which is the group especially at risk.

This excellent series was too little too late for our own family; but it will help others---if everyone tunes in and listens to it.  

I did not get to listen to every episode because they aired while I was at work.  But they are online, and everyone can benefit from hearing them--especially me.

All parents everywhere should be open-minded about the possibility that their child might have a mental illness or be suicidal, and they should educate themselves about the symptoms (or lack of symptoms, which in itself may be a symptom).  No one can afford tobe in denial about this, or closed-minded to the possibility because the symptoms of the suicidal mind are so subtle and ambiguous.

I want the whole world to know about Out of the Shadows so that all parents everywhere will be armed with the information they need.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Philip's Award-Winning Story

People have asked if they could read this story.  Thank you to Philip Butta for permission to reproduce it here.

Philip Butta

 “Little brother, little brother. have you interviewed the whole city yet?”
This was the first and last text message my brother, Maris, would send me.  I received it October 26, 2009 at 12:50AM in Evanston, about 6:50PM in Hawaii, where my brother was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base.  I was asleep at the time. When I checked my phone the next morning, I didn’t think of anything of the message, other than that it was odd for my brother to communicate via texting, especially for something as trivial as what he’d written.  I sent a joking return message while I ate breakfast: “I sure did.”  I went to class.  I went to work. It was a normal day. 
My brother never sent a response, but at that point the only things I was thinking about were midterms.  I didn’t realize until 4:00PM, when I returned my mom’s vague but urgent phone messages telling me to call her, that Maris never received my text.  He’d jumped off the top of a seven-story parking garage two hours before I’d sent the reply.  In the days that followed his death, I always wondered where Maris’ phone was when the text finally reached him.  Was it in his pocket?  Had it been smashed to pieces during the fall?  Was it in a police inventory bin?  An autopsy room?  Did it ring when my message arrived?  I had no idea what had happened at the other end of the line.  A phone could only do so much to traverse the 4,000 miles between us.  We might as well have been living in different worlds.
My brother had left Chicago immediately after graduating high school in 2006.  He enlisted in the Air Force, finished technical school, and ended up serving as a Senior Airman in Hawaii near Pearl Harbor.  I was nonplussed when I first heard him talking about signing up.  Saying my brother was a non-conformist, an anti-authoritarian, might be an understatement.  He went through a phase in eighth grade where he carved the anarchy sign on everything, including the back of his hand.  He wasn’t a delinquent, but he kicked over his fair share of newspaper stands as an adolescent.  He bought chemistry sets just to make combustible reactions that destroyed half the stuffed animals from our childhood.  The other half died at the end of a BB gun.  He was Fight Club’s Tyler Durden, improvisational napalm and all, except he wasn’t a figment of my imagination. 
Maris was three years older than me, and three years younger than our oldest brother, Alex.  The middle kid.  He was always quiet, smart too, and funny as hell. And we looked alike.  Brown hair, brown eyes, tall, thin, and lanky.  But unlike me, he never did his school work, so the teachers told our parents he was a bad student.  Our elementary school expelled him in eighth grade after he brought a pen-knife to class.  Around this time my mom had him committed to the psych ward of a hospital for four days, while she dealt with her mother’s—my grandmother’s—declining health and eventual death.  While he was there, he wrote in a journal about the other kids he saw there.  They were screwed up, on drugs, and many had tried to kill themselves.  He promised he would never end up like that, do what they did to themselves.
I didn’t believe he would either.  The first thought that entered my mind when my mom broke the news to me was that he had accidentally drunk himself to death, or that he’d been consumed by an explosion of his own conception.  That would have been the Maris way to go, as far as I was concerned.  When I found out what actually happened, my voice cracked uncontrollably for the first and only time I can remember in my life.  All I could say was “what?” over and over.  With morbid curiosity and something akin to hopeful desperation that this was all a terrible mistake, I logged onto Facebook and clicked his profile.  Someone had already posted on his Wall: “wtf man…”  Two posts below, about two weeks earlier, someone had written, “whats up man? coming home for the holidays?” My brother had replied, “yep yep, will be home dec 16 thru jan 6.”
The Air Force shipped Maris back to Chicago five days after he died, on Halloween.  On November 1, I went to the funeral home with my family to view the body.  He looked like he might have been sleeping, but I looked closer.  “Just be careful not to move his head…” the funeral home director trailed off into silence.   My mom gently touched the sides of his head and kissed him on the mouth.  I saw his hands.  They had small scratches on them from the fall.  They were wrinkled and twisted from the embalming fluid.  I kept staring at them until I became nauseated.  I walked outside to drink some water, and my brother, Alex, came too.  “That’s fucked up,” he said.  I nodded.  That’s all he needed to say.  The person in that coffin was not the person I knew for 19 years, and I didn’t know why.
As the funeral approached, I only became more confused.  I spent the preceding days sifting through dozens of photo albums, creating a slideshow montage for the wake.  Maris flying a paper airplane, holding an Easter basket, graduating from basic training, smiling.  Every time I had talked to him on the phone, he told me something he was excited about: climbing Mauna Loa, seeing The Misfits, using his newly bought rice cooker for the first time.  The stupidest little things made him happy, and made me happy.  The Air Force had done him well—he was responsible, disciplined.  He wasn’t staying up until 4am playing Call of Duty anymore.  He had a rough time when he was younger, but now he was mature.  He was doing something with his life. He talked about getting a university degree after his enlistment was up, becoming a medic or ambulance driver.  My brother had become a stranger in one night.  He had abandoned our family, leaving nothing behind but a two-line message. 
These were the thoughts that held precedence in my mind for the next two months.  There was no way to explain what happened to my brother, so I contented myself with the belief that the best solution was to ignore it. I would acknowledge his memory, but disregard how he died.  It was my denial stage.  But this state of idiotic forced unawareness only lasted so long.  I still had nightly dreams in which I convinced my brother not to kill himself.  I hypothesized situations in which I’d been awake to answer his text, to change his mind.  Curiosity gnawed at me continually, especially as bits of information trickled in over the following months.  Up to that point, my family knew only a basic, incomplete outline of what had happened that night at the parking garage, which we learned from a quartet of Maris’ friends who flew in from Hawaii for the wake and funeral: Samantha Piper, Kristi-Lee Gibson, Jonathan Moore, and Lennie Cruz.
That night, my brother had gone to Samantha’s house to hang out.  He was unusually quiet, and after a few hours, he left without saying anything other than, “I have to think about some things.”  Several hours later, his friends received texts from him saying that he wished them good lives, telling them goodbye.  Samantha, Kristi, and Jonathan called and texted him repeatedly, eventually tracing him to the parking garage of a nearby airport.  They called their commanding sergeant to inform him of the situation.  Several police officers had reached the top of the garage before they did.  When the officers approached him, my brother jumped.
If anything, this sequence of events mystified me further.  My brother sounded like a lunatic who had gone off the deep end for no apparent reason.  There had to be more that I wasn’t seeing, that I wasn’t allowed to see.  The Air Force had deemed the events of that night confidential information, pending further investigation.  Any details beyond what we already knew were floating out of reach in bureaucratic limbo.
Or that’s what I thought.  In mid-November, my parents had flown to Hawaii for a memorial service for Maris, bringing back some of his belongings, including his cell phone.  My dad was planning to use it as his own from now on.  On my way to bed one night, I saw the phone laying on the coffee table in our living room.  I opened it, scrolling through the message inbox.  I found the messages I thought I would: Maris saying goodbye to his friends, that he needed to think things over.  There was also a series of texts between my brother and Kristi.  I remembered Kristi from the funeral.  She was pretty, with a round face, straight brown hair parted at the side, and square-rimmed glasses.  Like Maris’ other friends, she wore her dress blues the whole time.  We  barely exchanged glances.
The messages went back several weeks.  The earlier exchanges were friendly—jokes, encouragements, commiserations.  The later ones were more intimate.  A few days before he died, my brother told Kristi he felt like she understood him, that he liked her as more than a friend.  She responded that she didn’t know if she could be with him, that she had problems.  My brother said he didn’t care if she was fucked up.  The night he jumped, Kristi pleaded with Maris to tell her where he was, that he could sleep at her place that night if he wanted.  He responded that he was at the airport.  Several minutes later, he sent a one-word text: “Goodbye.”
I grasped onto this one strand of logical explanation.  I still didn’t know the full extent of what had happened between my brother and Kristi.  But I felt like I was closer, that my brother hadn’t gone insane, that maybe his death wasn’t an inexplicable act.  There was a trigger.  He had broken under the strain of emotional duress, but he wasn’t crazy.  It didn’t make me happy, but I could apply reasoning to his death.
In February, the Air Force informed my mom that Maris had left behind a suicide note.  Among other things, he wrote, “I wasn’t meant for this life…My mind is terrible. I am evil inside.”  Within seconds of reading the note, I felt like I was back where I had started in November, no closer to understanding his death, and now feeling like I never would.  These were the ramblings of a depressive, psychologically unbalanced person.  The brother that I knew couldn’t have thought this.  If he did, how could he have hidden it from the world? If his family didn’t know, could anybody?
In eighth grade, Maris dated a girl named Elizabeth Pritts for about a year.  Like Maris, she was tall and thin, but with shortish blonde hair and brown eyes  She now sports an ear-length bob with bluish streaks.  Still, her face is almost just as I remember when I was a 6th grader trailing the two of them around during morning recess.  Maris had understood her, she said.  He was the first person she’d fell in love with, and the hardest to get over.  They both had “problems,” and would commiserate over their common side effects of taking Zoloft.  “Do your hands shake? Yeah, it makes me sweat too!”  They shared a journal that they would both write in—how they hated their lives, how they felt like killing themselves sometimes.  But it wasn’t serious, not then.  They had each other to confide in, and that was enough— to have someone to listen to and be understood by—to keep going.  But Maris’ teachers had tried to convince Elizabeth to break up with Maris.  “You’re a good girl, Elizabeth. You shouldn’t be dating him…Peter likes you…He’s going to ask you out.” 
She did what they said.  She broke up with Maris towards the end of eighth grade, and she immediately regretted it.  Maris refused to talk to Elizabeth for months.  After they had gone their separate ways in high school, though, Maris began to write to her again.  He’d send her e-mails, telling her he felt like shit, that he didn’t trust his thoughts.  She’d send a reply asking to meet, but he never responded.  Still, she was there for him when he needed it.  She thought he would be okay because he had her as an outlet.  Elizabeth was the first of Maris’ friends that I told when he died.  She couldn’t believe it and almost immediately needed to hang up the phone after I’d called her.  She still doesn’t believe that he intended to kill himself that night on the garage. Why else would he have sent text messages telling others where he was? And the suicide note, she said, sounded like the letters he would write her from time to time.  He had survived his thoughts up until now.  He was strong enough to do it again, she thought.
As I drove home after talking with Elizabeth, I felt like I had just been reacquainted with Maris, that he had been entirely reconstructed in my mind as someone new.  The person I saw each day was not the person he actually was, was not who he could be with Elizabeth.  Before, this thought had terrified me—the possibility that the brother I knew for years was disintegrating before my eyes.  Now, it wasn’t a fearful thought.  I felt like I was accomplishing something, and I needed to keep going.  Maybe I would never interview the whole city, per my brother’s query, but I damn well would interview everyone that mattered to me at that moment.  When I got home, I left Kristi a voice message asking her to call me.  She did.  After an awkward greeting (I had never conversed with her face-to-face, even at the funeral), she told me everything that happened the night Maris died, things even my parents didn’t know—they had just filed a Freedom of Information Act and were waiting on the official police report.     
She and Maris had been friends for several months.  They’d spent the night together, were on the verge of dating, but she felt like she wasn’t ready for a relationship.  The night my brother came over to Samantha’s house, Kristi was there.  She couldn’t see him.  She went into the bathroom and wouldn’t come out.  My brother wanted to know what was wrong.  Samantha told him it would be better if he stayed away for now.  So he left.  Kristi followed in her car and texted Maris as she drove.  He said he needed to think about things, that he didn’t mean to hurt her.  She saw him pulled over to the side of the road, texting her, but she couldn’t stop and kept going past him.  Later, she received his text saying goodbye.  She called their sergeant, informing him of the situation.  When she finally got Maris on the phone, she asked him where he was.  “At the airport,” he said. She thought he was booking a flight and leaving Hawaii.  Then he said he was on top of a parking structure.  When she told him the sergeant knew, he freaked out.  He didn’t want his commanding officers involved.  They would force him to go to a shrink, and he might get discharged.  She made him promise he would stay where he was until she came alone. They would drive all night and talk and figure it out.  He told her okay; he would wait.  A few minutes later, she was on the phone with him again.  The last thing he said to her—maybe the last thing he ever said—was, “Oh shit, it’s the cops.”  He hung up the phone.  Two minutes later, she received a call from their sergeant telling her Maris had died. 
Kristi had started crying on the phone.  When he was drunk, Maris would tell her what he told Elizabeth.  His thoughts were evil.  He was evil.  He always had a feeling he would die young, “by his own hand.”  Whenever he did this, she and her friends would tell him to shut up, that they loved him.  Now he had died at his own hand, she said, and it was her fault.  Her voice became garbled as she apologized to me and hoped my parents didn’t hate her. I told her not to worry.  She wasn’t responsible.  I still don’t know if I was lying or telling the truth.  Would Maris have jumped if Kristi had gotten there before the cops?  If she had pulled over next to him on the side of the road and held his hand?  There are always going to be things I cannot fathom.  It’s been more than a year since his death, but I recognize my brother on a different level, the part of himself he was so hesitant to show anyone when he was alive.  I still don’t understand it or like it, and knowing it now doesn’t help at all in accepting his death and moving on.  That’s never going to happen, as long as I live.  But it makes Maris complete in my mind.  And for that one small kernel of satisfaction, I am grateful. 
This November 16th, my brother would have turned 23.  My family threw a party for him, and several of his friends from grade school and high school came to our house.  Each person put a candle in a cake and lit it.  We sang “Happy Birthday.”  I can honestly say it was the weirdest party I have ever attended.  Oddly enough, it wasn’t a somber, formal memorial.  Everyone laughed, telling stories about the time Maris accidentally set his pants on fire then rolled in the snow to put it out, or when he buzzed his hair in emulation of Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle.  Everybody had acknowledged his death but no one tried to explain it anymore.  It had become a part of our lives, a weight on our shoulders that for some lightened a little bit every day, and for others would never disappear.  I don’t know if anybody else had come to the same conclusion I did or felt what I felt at that moment.  Still, everybody was there because of Maris.  Because even if we didn’t understand him and never could, we wanted to.  And if the most we could do on that front was to embrace him for what he was—to love the things that he hated about himself—then we would.  Everybody went outside into our backyard.  It was past nightfall, cold and drizzling.  We had found a handful of old firecrackers on a shelf in my brother’s room, the tiny red dynamites with green wicks.  We lit the wicks and threw the firecrackers high into the air, laughing and exhaling puffs of steam.   The firecrackers exploded with loud, echoing bangs and sulfurous flashes.  It was a Maris way to go.