My younger brother Mel, 58, took his life sometime during the night of Sept 10. His wife Burdon found him in the morning. For many years, more then I can remember, but maybe 10, he suffered from a severe and chronic headache. Prior to the onset of the headaches he was a recovering alcoholic/addict, a faithful member and sponsor in AA, whose addictions were kept at bay. The initial pain treatment, however, was to prescribe opioids
Over the years he suffered he underwent surgeries, counseling, psychotropic drugs, faith healing, anything that held out hope he flew to embrace it. Over $100,000 in out of pocket expenses. The opiates were the only thing that decreased the pain. When the opioid crisis became an epidemic and legislatures passed laws about how much a doctor could prescribe, his various doctors were no longer able to prescribe a dose that kept his pain under control.
In attempting to control the pain he returned to alcohol to numb himself. After his last surgery in May he was also left partially paralyzed on one side with debilitating back pain. The last few months of his life were spent vegetating in a recliner in a dark room, drinking himself into a stupor, so much in pain he could not run his business or maintain his large horse property.
His wife, Burdon, suffered trying to control his inadequate medication and taking on the burden of an incontinent, inebriated man who wanted nothing else but to stop the pain. Knowing how much Burdon was suffering taking care of him, he gathered what little courage, cognition and body control he had left and dragged a gas generator into a small room, turned it on, fell asleep and did not wake up.
We all knew he would go after our mother died in May. That he took the pain for ten years in order for her to die first was a testament to his strength and love.
September 21 two completely different men were eulogized. To most, his work crews, band members and AA buddies, Mel was a loving, compassionate, generous, happy, hardworking, thoughtful, outgoing, fabulous boon to humanity who had a chronic, debilitating headache, causing him to seek relief however he could find it. To others he was a drug seeking addict, using the excuse of a fake headache to game the system.
Regardless, as a licensed contractor, he built a construction business that was sought after, well respected and employed upwards of 15 men. He took a palmetto covered acreage in Florida and turned it into a paradise of house, barn, apartment, chicken coop, goat pens, round horse pen, all graced with a menagerie of animals and a wonderful boat for the weekends.
I grieve....grieve...grieve his loss to me and our family. I am, at the same time, relieved to know he is no longer in pain. He died knowing he was loved and cherished and also knowing after ten years of every imaginable treatment: drugs, surgeries, and hospitalizations there was no way to relieve the pounding pain in his head.
My hope is that someday, we as a society, find a way for families to join with their loved one as he or she takes this, for some, necessary step.
I grieve his loss, truly.
However, my greater grief is that he had to walk this path alone in the dead of night with no loving arms to hold him. The Clark family joins in finding ways to console his beloved Burdon, whose burden the last years of Mel’s life were heavy and as excruciating for her as it was for him.