Colton, was the oldest child of our Derr clan. He was our fearless leader. He was one of the strongest people I knew. Never, did I think I would lose my brother, my hero, to suicide.
In 2012 I was attending school at South Dakota State in Brookings, SD. Colton was heading home on leave after his Afghanistan combat mission. He stopped in Brookings just before Easter to see my brother Haley and I. Colton then proceeded to go home and we would meet again over Easter break. Little did I know, that Easter day would be the last time I saw my oldest brother.
On April 28, 2012, I started the early morning by hitting the snooze button one too many times. I had plans to go workout with a friend that morning. Soon, instead of an alarm, I received a phone call from my dad. Something in his voice was off. He asked me to go to my brother’s house and see if he was home. I asked if everything was okay, but he insisted that I go find my brother Haley. Once I arrived at Haley’s house, I discovered that he was not home. I called my dad and demanded that he tell me what was going on. My dad that told me that Colton had hurt himself and that he was not okay. I knew, at that point, that my brother had taken his life. I had never felt so alone, scared, and devastated in my life.
To this day, I can remember every detail of the moments leading up to Colton’s funeral. It seemed like the days drug on as we waited for his arrival. I have lost people in my life before. There is something about the death of a sibling that sticks with you for a lifetime. A death from suicide, puts grief on a whole different level. Losing a sibling is literally like losing a part of yourself.
It is now September 22, 2019. I sit here today as a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. It has been roughly seven and a half years since we lost Colton. The pain today, is a different pain than back in 2012. This pain makes me wonder about all the things my brother has missed out on. In addition to that, I wonder what kind of relationship Colton would have with my daughters and husband. I can tell them all about the wonderful man that was once apart of my life, but he will never be a part of theirs.
Yesterday, my family visited Colton’s grave at the National Cemetery. I watched my youngest daughter lay her head on Colton’s grave and give him a hug. I then listened to my eldest daughter tell him that she loves him and asks when she can see him. These are just some of the little moments and pieces that my daughters will get with their uncle. I will continue to tell them stories of their brave, strong, and loving uncle.
Everyday, we must move forward. Somedays, the pain will hit you like a train for no reason. None the less, my family fights to help other veterans struggling with PTSD. Wounds are not always visible. Once again, I never thought I would lose my brother to suicide. Be aware. Reach out.