It was 1977, our new family was sitting at the table having dinner one night when my stepmom announces that we were ¨going to have a new addition to the family.” I was nine years old and I new exactly what this meant! We were going to have a baby!!!! I was so excited! I immediately went straight to the phone and called my best friend to share the news.
The months before the baby was born seemed to go on forever and as the due date got closer when I walked home from school, I would hesitantly turn the corner to our street to see if the family van was still parked in front of the house because I KNEW if it wasn´t there then that meant my parents were at the hospital. Almost two weeks after the due date in the middle of the night my parents woke me up and said they were going to the hospital to have the baby. As the oldest I was ¨in charge,¨ they moved me to their bed and made sure the phone was near. Hours later my Dad came home and said that we had a new brother, they named him Michael O´Farrell Morton. I could not WAIT to see him. The months leading up to his birth seemed like forever but the days leading up to Michael coming home were even longer. Finally a few days later when I came home from school I was able to meet my baby brother. He was adorable and I adored him.
In a house full of girls, Michael was all boy. He had curly dark hair, blue eyes and freckles He loved trucks, tools, toy guns, sports, etc. I remember him wearing a belt and putting all of my Dadś work pens on it like it was amunition. I also remember him as a toddler getting a hold of the hose and spraying everyone, we couldnt get near him because he would just spray us, it was hilarious! Itś interesting because being almost ten years older then Michael most of my memories of him are from his very early childhood, by the time he was eight I was away at college and out of the house. I missed most of his middle school years and his high school years but during that time he played sports, he learned how to play the guitar and he got accepted to Jesuit high school, his freshman year was the last year it was all boys. I remember attending his high school graduation and then the following fall he went off to Southern Oregon State and then eventually U of O (just like his big sis 😉).
Michael and I were definitely in different life stages in our young adult hood years and as we got older we saw each other less and less until it became just seeing each other at our parent’s house for major holidays and occasional birthdays. As the years went by and we became busy with our own lives it seemed the distance grew, but I was always proud of my brother and proud to have a brother. Michael had a good job working for the City of Portland, bought a house, was an excellent guitar player writing and producing his own songs, and was able to pursue all of his interests.
Michael was always a more quiet person, kept to himself and never really divulged too much. About two years ago during Easter brunch with the family it was very apparent he didnt look like he was feeling well and we were concerned. When asked if he was feeling okay, he blew it off explaining that he was on a new diet (it did look like he had lost weight). The next few times we saw him after Easter he looked better but still not healthy. The following August he came to my 50th birthday dance party which I was so happy about especially because a dance party really wasnt his scene.
Fast forward to July of 2019. I had finished happy hour downtown with a friend from work and was waiting for my bus home when I noticed voicemails and texts from my sister. I called her back and she told me Michael is missing. What? How can that be? The person who never misses work had not reported to work or called or returned voicemails all day.
What ensued was my sister taking the lead in contacting the police, the sheriffś office and being the point person for the detective. Meanwhile my parents and I knocked on Michaelś neighbors’ doors´ asking if they had seen him and requesting that they contact us if they see him. As the investigation continued we found out he had been on the coast. My poor parents then drove around coastal towns putting up flyers and going to different shooting ranges (Michael liked to shoot) looking for him. My other sisterś husband drove up and down different logging roads off the highway looking for Michaelś truck, at one point he stopped some loggers asking them if they had seen it, they hadnt but had heard Michael was missing. My friend helped me post a Facebook page (according to the detective this was as far we should go in terms of social media, as Michael was obviously a private person and most likely would not want this). Michaelś friend at work formed a search team who were familiar with the different shooting ranges off the coastal highway and familiar with the rural roads, etc.
Four days later when I returned from my walk, I had missed a call from my sister. I called her back and she told me what I didnt want to hear. Michael was found and he had taken his own life. A person from the search party put together by Michaelś coworker found him. He was four and half miles up in the mountains and finding him was like finding a needle in a haystack. I couldnt believe it. I called my other sisters, I called my parents. I wanted to drive to my parents house immediately, but they wanted to be alone so I spent the evening with my sister, drinking wine, talking about Michael, crying, talking some more, feeling shocked and all of it feeling surreal.
Michael was sick and he was in pain. He was in late stages of cirrhosis of the liver and according to the medical examiner it is a very painful way to die. I dont think Michael was afraid to die and I know he wouldnt have wanted his four sisters and mother fretting over him, so he probably thought he did what was best.
It has been ten months since that horrible day in July and I still cant believe my brother is gone. I think of those last moments before he took his life and the pain he was in and it breaks my heart. I will go days without thinking about him and then I remember he is gone and it is like a kick in the stomach. I am convinced he is around me though. Just the other day I was sitting on my bed putting on my shoes when I thought the dog had come up behind me because it felt like someone had stepped on the mattress, I looked behind me and no one was there.
One year Michael had given each of us a CD of songs he had written, sang and produced. The CD is called Grand Opening and I keep it in my car and listen to it every time I go somewhere. My favorite song on the CD is called Lay My Eyes. Its hard to decipher all of the lyrics but in my brotherś own words he expresses the loss I feel:
Lay My Eyes
Everyday I lay my eyes. On the only picture I have of you and I
Still hasnt faded over all this time ´cause I know again some day you will forever be mine
In the time we spent together, I thought it could last forever…… but again I was wrong this time because as long as I can sing this song, together…….
Iĺl sing it to you………
Iĺl sing it to you……….
Sometimes I cry and laugh (next word inaudible)
I wish and dream to be true. Never thought I could see forever another day without you
In the time we spent together, I thought it could last forever…… but again I was wrong this time because as long as I can sing this song, together
Iĺl sing it to you………
Iĺl sing it you you……….
Michael would have been 42 this year and I miss him terribly. I see him everyday in the photo I have in my hallway, I hear his voice when I play his CD, I dont hesitate to talk about him and on occasion he lets me know he is still around😊.
I love you Michael-O❤