Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Words

light, originally uploaded by Diana Kimball.

Spencer Miles Kimball was born on April 21, 1989. He came into the world blue: his circulation was slow to acclimate. But when he came home, he was home for good.

His hair was light red, at first, and wispy.

When he was two, our sister Laura was born. Her brain could not tell her how to breathe. She stayed in the hospital for weeks, until she had to be taken off the respirator at last. Spencer and I sat outside Laura's hospital room, working on farm animal coloring books quietly. We went into the room to kiss her goodbye. This was one of Spencer's first memories.

When he was four, Jordan was born. With red hair, too: things changed forever.

In second grade, Spencer got in trouble for daydreaming; he couldn’t stop. After school, he would design imaginary dream homes and think about wolves.

At seven, Spencer started a paper route, which we shared. Walking down cul-de-sacs, we both daydreamed; the paper route lasted five years.

High school was difficult. He was a writer. Too far ahead in math for comfort, too far behind in his classes to relax, Spencer in his junior year adopted “the vampire schedule.” He would go to sleep as soon as he returned from school each afternoon, and wake up before the rest of us had turned in for the night. He would work until morning, watching episodes in between essays. He was fond of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but he believed in Angel.

Fall 2007, he started at the University of Michigan. It was a dark fall: a close friend of his friends committed suicide. Toward winter, Spencer was briefly hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. It was only his fourth time in a hospital: birth, Laura's death; a popcorn kernel stuck in his ear as a toddler. For a dark fall, the fourth time was dark, too.

But things looked up. Spencer lived in a dorm room and learned about music. He learned about Russian literature; he wrote poetry. He wrote about his fears and his revelations. His poems drew tears of recognition. His words were naked, precise, and aching; and lovely.

In December 2008, Spencer fell in love. It was winter break; he came home in disbelief, shy ecstasy. “She kissed me.”

His fondest, most urgent hope was to become a writer. He spent the first part of 2009 sending his work in to writing contest after writing contest. On his computer, he kept a document called LIST OF THINGS I WANT. The list was only writing prizes, and contained a note to himself at the end: CHECK WIKIPEDIA LIST OF POETRY AWARDS FOR MORE THINGS IF SUCCESS AT ANY STAGE ACHIEVED. At the end of summer, he won second place in two separate contests—one for nonfiction, one for poetry.

It’s important to know that, on the last day of summer, 2009, Spencer tried to kill himself. Five days later, he died.

Spencer was a devoted underliner. He was loyal to his impulses. On a page with every sentence marked, one passage held the distinction of being underscored twice. “People call me a saint,” Paul Farmer said, “and I think, I have to work harder. Because a saint would be a great thing to be.”

Spencer was no saint: he never stopped trying.

At this impossible time, the kind words of dear friends and strangers have sustained me and sustained my family. They've made things lighter; I hold them closer than you know. Thank you.


Toni said...

I've hesitated to comment, as a complete stranger who reads your blog, but I wanted to say how very sorry I am about your brother. As a mother of three sons, a sister, a friend, and one who has experienced depression - this loss is too vast for any heart and mind to contain, and yet here it is. Your tribute to him here is absolutely lovely, and my heart goes out to you and your family.

Rich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich said...

Sorry to hear about your brother. From what I've read elsewhere he was definitely a wonderful person. At least the world has his poetry and other writing to enjoy and remember him with.

connie mancillas said...

Diana,I did not know your brother well,he was living with my son when this happened and our family met your brother a few times when we came to visit. The words you have written are a beautiful tribute to a wonderfully funny, kind young man. It is easy to see how much Spencer was treasured by his big sister. I will be thinking of you and your family daily and praying for your solace in this unbearable loss. He will be missed.

Glimmer said...

I am humbled that you were able to come here and leave this tribute to your brother. It gives shining testimony to the only truth that matters at the end of the day: Love is all.

Sarah Camilla said...

Diana, what a writer you are! I can't imagine how you and Jordan and your Mom and Dad are doing. I hurt...for you all and in the rememberance of one who delighted me. When he was here in July we had a fun conversation about books he had received for Christmas which he loved and other writing and authors he had found and most certainly devoured with relish over the years. I love him and feel lucky and blessed to have known him as my nephew! You have done an amazing job of sharing his life eloquently! Thank you and much love to you!

rickysanowara said...

Just curious if this is aN hoax

If its not.. im sorry, human do die. If its not becoz of our delicate flesh its becoz of our delicate heart. Leaving everyone else in deep sorrow.
Im sořy if my comment a lil bit dry, im not good with giving condolesence.
But truly! I know how it fells like losing someone

Be strong girl!

ZephyrProcess said...

It seems that you've honored your brother in a form that he would have truly appreciated. My deepest sympathies for your loss.

My name is David Fisher said...

I am terribly sorry to hear about your brother. I wish I knew what else to say as I never met him, but from your writing and his relation to you I know that he was a wonderful person. You helped me the other year push through some things and you know that you can always call me any day if there's any way I can help you.

Bibby's Rocket said...

How painful. I am so sorry.

Furious Blue said...

I met Spencer the summer before he started at Michigan. To say he was "promising" would have been such an understatement. It's crushing to hear that he's gone. Thank you for this tribute, which must have been difficult to write but helps very much.

pam said...

I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I have had my own share of depressions on and off in life, and I truly feel saddened and difficult. May peace prevail all over.

Jasper said...

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto your flickr pictures and decided to start following your photostream, but as someone that doesn't know you or your brother, I found your tribute moving and beautiful. I'll pray for your family.

mws said...

Diana, I had no idea that you had lost Spencer. You are a wonderful sister, this much is very clear. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Taylor said...

I find myself too hesistating to comment but I can feel the rawness of your pain in this, and I am so sorry about Spencer. He is one year older than I am, and it just makes me think. Spencer sounds like he was a genuinely kind person, a thinker. I am sorry about your loss.

Anurag said...

Hi Diana,

You probably don't remember me. I had got in touch with you in the Summer of 2009 for help on my HBS app.

I came by your blog after a long time. I hesitated to comment, but I have to tell you, this brought me to tears. I am really sorry for your loss, but you must know that this is a fitting tribute. Your brother is someone I definitely would have like to know.