Isaac Browne
(1981-2005)
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His legacy
Isaac's life story  
The ironic thing is, it seems to me Isaac should be the one writing this, as I feel I can do him no justice compared to his capabilities. He was and always will be, my first born child. He had a difficult and painful life, as all of our family members have had. However, being the firstborn, Isaac carried more on his shoulders in some ways. Spiritually speaking, as well as emotionally. He blazed the trail for his two brothers and sister.
The degree of his brilliance first became apparent to me when I was home schooling him in the first grade - The first step in one of his books was to learn two and a half pages of a glossary. He read it for about 20 minutes and handed it back to me. I told him he needed to be able to tell me what the words meant, not just the words. He proceeded to repeat back to me each word and its meaning, almost verbatum.
But it was not easy having Isaac as an older brother, either. His hyper-focused mind also got him and his siblings into trouble frequently. Life was never boring with Isaac. When he was young, I bought him a box of 8 fat Crayolas, and taped a piece of paper to the tray of his high chair. I would strap him in and let him color until he got squirmy and wanted down. It was the only thing that would keep his attention for more than a few minutes. As he got older and ventured outside, he and his brother James would act out stories told by a family friend who was a smoke jumper, and the boys would build fire trails in the back yard. Our yard was partially surrounded by a large laurel hedge, which endured many of the Browne boy's jungle adventures.


Some of Isaac's young extreme events included climbing with James to the top of one of the Union 76 oil tanks accross the street, burning his bare hiney after a bath, on the woodstove, standing too close to it, and he bent over. (after being warned several times) He and James also climbed on top of the cab of our '65 GMC truck for a better view, and, holding James hand, sent him flying after when Isaac decided to jump down without telling him, breaking James' collar bone. The two were inseperable. Then came sister Sarah, whom he loved very much, and liked to help make her bed. Then came Jon, and our tiny little house got pretty crowded.

We decided to go on an extended vacation, and wound up in Lakeside, Montana at a Youth With a Mission Christian training school. We were accepted into their program at the last minute, and spent our outreach 2,500 miles away in La Penita, Nayarit, Mexico. It is a tiny little town about 50 miles north of Puerta Vayarta, right on the coast. One of the first things I saw when we got there, was a group of 3 or 4 pigs wandering the beach. That is when I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore. Isaac and James spent many hours dggging in the sand there and climbing the rocks looking for puffer fish. Sarah and Jon were still too young to be on the beach by themselves. One night we decided to let one of our friends babysit, and when we came back, found out Isaac and James had nearly burned themselves up playing with spray paint cans in the burning barrel. That was the one and only time we left them with someone else on that trip. After we came home, our marriage fell apart, and I moved to Astoria with the kids. We lived there 18 months and then I decided to move to La Grande in Eastern Oregon, where Jeff's, my now ex-husband, family roots were, and I could go to school and raise the kids in a better environment.

Adventures with Isaac continued, and when Isaac turned 14, finally escelated to a point where I could no longer cope. I was dealing with my own issues at the time, and did not know who I could trust enough to turn to. I lost custody of the kids, and Isaac and the rest of the children moved back to Portland with their father and grandmother. Isaac became even more depressed than he was before he left, to the point it was very frightening to me. He had not been doing well before he left La Grande, and certainly not afterward. Isaac struggled through high school, drinking, experimenting with drugs, and nearly getting himself shot once when he was so loaded he wandered into someone else's house when he thought he was going home. He cut himself on the wrist "while carving on a piece of wood" which his father chose to believe, even though the scar was straight accross. I could tell Isaac was trying, he was just caught in a hold he could not get free of, and was getting no help with. He attended an alternitive school, and then went back to regular HS and graduated in 1999 with his class.

Just before I graduated, and James graduated from HS, Isaac informed me he was joining the Navy. I felt uneasy about it, but his mind was made up. His recruiter helped him "fix things" so he could be accepted, and off he went. He got a high grade on his placement exam, and studied hellicopter electronics. On his first 3 day tour of duty aboard the USS Washington, Isaac became extremely depressed, and was hospitalized for a weekend. They decided to send him on one more 6 week tour of duty, and he got even worse. Then they found out he was not completely honest on his application, and rather than see his dire need for help, gave him a less than honorable discharge.
He came home, and started a job assembling electronic parts. It soon became too monotonous, and he decided to persue a talent he discovered in the Navy - tattooing. It was helping him get really good at his art, and I encouraged him to go on to school with it.

Then, on the morning of Nov. 4, 2004, I got a message on my cell phone that Isaac needed to be picked up from the ER - he had fallen and broken his right heel in 6 places. I am sure I never got the complete story about it, but he had gotten pulled over and his car impounded when they discovered he did not have insurance. He walked home, and according to him, he wandered through the HS yard, looking for a bathroom. He wound up on the backside of the bleechers, where a stairway led to the announcer's box at the top. It was raining, and he fell from the roof feet first onto the pavement below. He had to crawl across the parking lot to the sidewalk where he was finally discovered and taken by ambulance to the hospital. I had my suspicions about why he was up on the roof when the bathrooms were at the bottom, but they were locked. That was as far as he would go with his story. So he had surgery done on his foot, and decided to go on to school to study engineering and medicine. He had finally decided to get his life turned around.
He recovered, and started summer term at Mt. Hood CC. He got off to a good start, taking 19 hours and getting all A's and one B.
Shortly after Isaac's summer term ended, hurricaine Katrina hit New Orleans. Isaac and I attended Red Cross fast-track training courses and prepared to be deployed in the next one or two days. As it turned out, we were told that instead 1,000 people were going to be sent to Portland from the south. We were to stay in Portland, and prepare to receive them. They never came, and Red Cross plans changed again. Isaac and I were asked if we were still willing to deploy south, and by then he needed to get ready to go back to school, and I needed to get back to work. A couple of days later, Isaac called me on Thursday, September 15th, and asked me to write him a letter of recommendation to have his Navy discharge status changed. That was the last time I talked to him.

My oldest son, Isaac, went to bed drunk on Friday night. At about 1:30 AM, on Saturday, September 17th, Isaac got out his .44 revolver. His 24 1/2 years of pain and depression had gotten to be too much for him, and for several reasons, some of which I know, and some of which I will never know, he put the gun behind his right ear and pulled the trigger.
Even though I saw it coming, even though I warned his father and grandmother for the last 10 years how depressed he was, even though I have a bachelor's degree in nursing, even though I lived with the same pain and depression Isaac did, even though I spent countless hours in therapy, and prayed as diligently and sought God as best as I thought I could, it still did not save Isaac. He had a very difficult and broken life. He was very sensitive and artistic, and depressive. He carried a great deal of pain, and would not let anyone near enough to help him.
I sought counseling, tried to talk to Isaac, let go of Isaac, and even tried to intervene with my ex-husband and his mother, whom Isaac lived with. I was on the right track, but I was still learning the hard way. I thought I was doing all I could do, but I wasn't. And somewhere deep inside, I knew this, but I excused myself. I had my own pain and depression to deal with, and constantly asked God to carry me through. All the while, if I had managed to muster just a little more resolve, if I had managed to pray and seek God as I knew I was supposed to do, it may have made a difference between life and death for Isaac. And even if it had not made a difference, I would not have to wonder if it would have. I would know with all certainty that I had done all I could do for him.

Now I see what I could have, should have, would have, done differently. I had found out, when I discovered that Isaac had taken 24 Vicodin in 24 hours (8 is the max) when he broke his heel, that there was a 24 hour walk-in mental health clinic that he could have gotten to easily on the bus from where he lived. In my own fear of past experiences, I avoided going there myself to get information, and did not even try to ask Isaac if he would go there with me. If I had told him about it and where it was, and how to get there, at least he would have had that choice to make before he made the ultimate choice. I would not have let his, or the rest of the family’s anger and denial keep me from talking to him about his growing alcohol dependency and worsening self destruction. Instead, I withdrew, and let him make his own choices. But Isaac was not in a state of mind to be able to make choices in his best interest. I listened to the mental health professionals that told me if someone is determined to commit suicide, they will. And that Isaac was an adult now, and there was nothing I could do to stop him from his behavior. If only, I was stonger and listened to my heart it is possible my son would still be alive today.

After he died, I discovered that he had tried about a year before in his car on Marine drive. And he had aparently writen a note in his journal at that time.  And after he died, I discovered that he probably had bipolar disorder, like my dad did. And after he died, it was too late.
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