My name is Courtney and I am a survivor of my brother’s suicide.

My brother’s name is David Garrett Carter and he left us on July 21st, 2018. He was the third child born to our parents. I am the oldest, then our sister Dava, him, and finally our baby sister Casey. We were all very close in age. At his death I was 29, Dava 28, Bub was 26, and Casey was 25. As a family, we have lost a lot of family members but never have we lost one to suicide. Cancer, accidents, and old age are the ways we have experienced losing a loved one, until him. I never knew how much of a difference mentally it can cause in the way someone you love dies; but suicide… it grips your heart, your mind, and your soul in such a grasp that at times I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. The guilt is by far the worst and to this day still cripples me at times. How did I not know? What didn’t I see? Why didn’t he come to me? WHY DIDN’T HE COME TO ME?!

I would have moved the earth for him.

When I look back at that first year I think to myself, how are we still here and functioning? Between his suicide and our mother leaving us two months after his death and never looking back, I don’t know how we did it. Most especially how our father did it, they were married 29 years. We not only lost our brother/son/uncle but also our mother/wife/grandmother. We may not have lost her to death but we lost her all the same. I personally have not seen my mother since Dec 24th of 2018. So in one month, it’ll be a year since I’ve seen her.

We learned to cope with his death by celebrating his life in every way we could.

During the darkest times of our lives, somehow the good has truly been shining the brightest. I know my family is still here and functioning because we will never give up on each other. Even while we were crying inside we still found joy in every single football game for the kids, every single race for my brother’s son and cheered even harder for him in the absence of his father, took his daughter to buy him a fathers day card and gift to put by his urn, watched my father take my brother’s daughter to her daddy-daughter dance, celebrating my brothers birthday playing cards against humanity, eating his favorite cake, and releasing Chinese lanterns on the anniversary of his death.

I will never forget how a tree taught me that out of pain, death, and grief… comes life.

We received this beautiful array of flowers at my brother’s service. With the flowers were two twig-like vines attached to each other by a glittery twine, to make them arch around the flower arrangement. They weren’t very big. Around a two and a half foot, I’d say. When we brought all the arrangements home from the funeral services we started arranging them on our back porch, beneath the canopy, among all the flowers we already had growing in pots from the summer. We loved to go there for peace at night, especially with candles lit. Along the top railing behind one of the outdoor love seats is an oblong-shaped planter that we stuck those two twine together; dead but pretty arching branches. All just because they were pretty. Then something amazing happened. These arched branches rooted and while one died that winter the other flourished and it has become a tree. The symbolism was not lost on me. With death comes life. One died while one lived. Life and death. Joy and sorrow.

It’s about waist height right now (I’m 5’6) and currently in a very large potted plant in our living room so it doesn’t die this winter. I touch it and smile thinking of my baby brother every day.

If you or someone you care about are struggling with suicidal thoughts please get help. 911 | 1-800-273-8255 | text “4hope” to 741741