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By Alissa Andrews
Joseph James Costal III was born on a cold January day in Maury County, Tennessee. He was the long awaited boy after two girls, including my sister and myself. He would come to be called "Little Joe" by his family.
We grew up together. We were more than siblings; we were friends. I remember long days of playing as children. I would trade twenty minutes of playing He-Man for ten minutes of My Little Pony. Looking back, the trade doesn't seem quite fair, but I didn't seem to notice then.
Joe loved being outside. I can still feel the sunshine beating down on my arms as we rode our bikes on hot summer days. We spent hours outside, his blond curls bouncing as he ran. He was a gentle child. He was my baby brother.
As the years went by, he shaved off those golden curls. He grew tall and strong and handsome. He still had that gentleness about him, but with age came a temper. He always stuck up for his family and friends. He would go to the edge of the earth for those he loved. He was loyal and trustworthy.
One thing that did not change as he turned into an adult was his love of the outdoors. Joe loved to fish and sit by the creek for hours. He also loved to build bonfires. His nieces and nephews always wanted him to build the fire when we camped because even they knew he could do it best.
In July of 2007, he became a father himself. His daughter was born and he was in love with her. She quickly became a daddy's girl and she was the light of his life. He was so proud of her.
Shortly after she was born, Joe decided to improve their lifestyle by going back to school. After much hard work, he obtained his Emergency Medical Technician license. He was passionate about helping people. He was good at what he did.
Unfortunately, Joe battled with depression. His depression was like a snowball; one thing led to another. He could not see himself the way others saw him. He could only see where he failed, not all that he contributed.
After a period of time of being unable to find a job and a breakup with the mother of his child, he lost his battle with this disease. On April 23, 2013, Joe had a distorted idea that the world would be better without him. On that night, he went outside to his Jeep and shot himself. When he took his last breath, a part of me went with him and that is where my nightmare began.
This journey of being a survivor has shown me more pain than I could ever imagine. The guilt and sadness and intense longing are crippling. My life is no longer lived day by day. It must now be lived moment by moment. A whole day is too intense to battle.
I miss him. I miss everything about him. Now he must live on only in my heart and my memories. I look forward to the day I see him again, in another time and in another life. Rest in peace, Joe.
On that April night, my brother became the judge, the jury, and the executioner. He sentenced himself to death and his family to life in this prison we call "suicide survivor".
NOTE: This story was first published in Faces of Suicide: Volume One, available through Amazon.
The GRief After Suicide Support (GRASS) group first met on Dec. 1, 2005 and has met continuously since then.
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