Two phone calls changed my life forever.
The first one, from my 26-year-old younger brother, Louie, was filled with laughter and jokes — his usual type of phone call to me, his older sister by two years. It was an unusual call, in that he seemed more sentimental than usual.
Four hours later, my world came crashing down around me, when my older sibling called to tell me that Louie was dead — from a self-inflicted gunshot to his head.
The next few days are forever a blur — a frantic flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix, with my head buried in an airline seat soaked with tears. Memories of my father, bereft at the loss of his youngest of six children, sitting dazed and grief-stricken in his chair. My two older sisters, and two older brothers — unable to speak, with all of us just holding one another.
Later, we would discover that each one of us had received a call that afternoon — not knowing that it would be the last time that we would ever speak to our baby brother.
Having lost my mom to cancer just the year before, our entire family drifted through grief both together and apart in the following years.
I took a leave of absence from my teaching career to care for my dad … I attended survivors of suicide support groups. I railed in anger, I withdrew in despair and I finally decided that in my brother’s memory, I had to help others. I have been a family therapist now for almost 20 years. I work with troubled children and adolescents, and I volunteer as a Survivor Lead in Nevada with Moms Demand Action/Everytown. I was elected last November as a School Board Trustee for the fifth largest school district in the nation. School safety and student mental heath services are two of my highest priorities.
Louis Arthur Pacheco, my younger brother, took his vibrant, bursting-with-life future with a single shot to his head with a gun that did not belong to him — I will forever fight for common sense gun laws in his memory. #LoveforLouie