As the 16th anniversary of the Heaven’s Gate cult mass suicide approaches, my thoughts turn to my brother’s decision to follow his cult family and leave this world. Sometimes this brings memories of Jimmy as a baby, sometimes as a young man struggling to find his purpose in life.
This month, as my husband and I traveled to Memphis for a weekend vacation, we visited Graceland, I was reminded of my brother’s love of Elvis, his music, his movies, and his life.In 1976, Jimmy was living with my family in Norfolk, VA, and we had the opportunity to see Elvis in person, when he performed nearby at Hampton Roads, VA. Jimmy and I talked about the chance to see Elvis in person, to hear him perform and experience his strong presence. It was an event I will long remember, not because of the event, but because it was one of those missed opportunities.I simply could not afford the ticket price, so we did not attend.I recall Jimmy’s disappointment and anger, and my own remorse, especially when Elvis died a few months later.
As we toured the grounds of Graceland this month, , and stood near Elvis’ grave, I found myself surrounded by an intense quiet as other visitors stood in silence at the Graceland Mediation Garden. This is the place where Elvis, his mother, father, and grandmother are buried, and where a small marker serves as a reminder of his twin brother who died at birth.For me, it was both a reflection of the impact of Elvis' life, the loss of someone so talented and young (42), and a sad recollection of my brother’s death, also at a young age (36).
Although I wrote about my brother’s life, his involvement with Heaven’s Gate, and his death in the biography, Closing The Gate, I still find myself deluged with small memories like this one-memories of things I had long ago forgotten. When a memory such as this resurfaces, I return again to the remembered moment and then all too quickly, to Jimmy’s death and the loss of his presence in my life
Although Jimmy loved much of Elvis music, his all time favorite was “In the Ghetto”, and his favorite stanza may have been a hidden message…one we should have better understood.
“People, don’t you understand The child needs a helping hand “