Last Sunday my mother called and told me that my Uncle Kyle, who I was named after, had shot himself and was dead. Kyle was her baby brother, and she was frantically upset, but managed to tell me that my Aunt Carolyn had been away at her brother and sister in laws house, and Kyle had called and said he needed Steve(Carolyn’s brother) to come over and help him with something. Steve found Kyle’s body on the back porch, where he always sat and drank coffee and smoked cigars, and just watched nature.
Thanksgiving before last, Kyle gave me a guitar that he had bought a few months earlier. He had been trying to get back in to playing music as he had when he was younger. Heck, when I was a kid, he taught me a lot about playing guitar, but now he had trouble. We sat in my garage and talked, and it was the one and only time we ever spoke of his addiction battle with food. See, his fingers were so big, he couldn’t play the guitar. His stomach was so big that he couldn’t reach the guitar neck. It was no use. It wasn’t just the guitar either. He couldn’t walk very far without losing his breath. His back and knees were in bad shape. He seriously just could reach the steering wheel of his car around his stomach. Along with the guitar, he gave me his old three ring binder song book that he had used when he played the clubs like I do now. I should have known then, and I did know, but I figured he would die of a heart attack, and it never once crossed my mind that he would commit suicide. I gave him an A.A. big book and 12 and 12.(The two main A.A. books) I told him he was just like an alcoholic or an addict, except his drug was food. I told him all about Overeater’s Anonymous, how he needed to get some help. He said, and I quote him here: “No I couldn’t do that. I’ve got too much pride.” We spoke on the phone a few months later, and I asked him if he had read the books. He just changed the subject, and I didn’t say anything more about it.
I think back tonight about when he was in the Navy. I was just a kid, and he would come and visit us and he was just so full of life. He had a blue van, and he travelled around to lots of bluegrass festivals and played his banjo and guitar in clubs around Charleston. He would show me stuff on guitar, and he once took me to the mall and bought me the Heart “Dreamboat Annie” lp and the Boston lp with “More Than A Feeling” on it. (that would have been 1976) Then I remember my mom and dad taking me to Charleston when he got married. He was the coolest Uncle a kid could have, but when he got married, it all stopped. He lost interest in me, he got a job, he quit playing music, and “settled down” or better yet “grew up”. Over 30 something years, he took up photography and then stopped, took up fishing and then stopped, took up going to various church’s and then stopped, all the while battling with his weight. He would sometimes starve himself, try diets, he was grabbing at straws, because he always ended up on the losing side.
On the same day in 2009 when he gave me the guitar, he told me he was tired of fighting, and was going to just do whatever he wanted. He quoted from the bible that Jesus loves us no matter what, and I couldn’t much argue with him. I took the guitar and hung it on a hanger in my room, where it stayed untouched for months. One day I just randomly picked it up, put it in an alternative tuning, and started playing. WOW it was perfect for these “New Age” kinds of sounds. As life has evolved these last few months, I have taken it to Yoga classes, Meditation sessions, and I played it this morning at Unity during service, and then during my friend Cleveland’s meditation workshop. Seven days after his departure. I find it odd that it is this particular guitar that is so perfect for my healing and meditation music. I sort of believe that it is my Uncle Kyle’s SPIRIT that comes through it. What “could have been”. Another lifetime of another man totally whipped by this thing we call “addiction”.
I did all my gigs this week except for Saturday. We played a late one Friday and I got home around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. My other Uncle, his wife, and two of my cousins, along with my wife, all went to Columbia S.C. on Saturday, to the memorial. Tonight I feel like I just saw the ghost of “Me without this gift of recovery” that I have been granted. What’s done is done, and my mom, my other Uncle, and Aunt Carolyn will all go on with their lives the best they can. I will go on with mine too, but with more resolve and purpose than ever. I have a mission to carry SPIRIT and LIFE and HEALING to the world, and tonight I feel it deeper than ever. How I love my life and my friends, and my family, and all the music and people I get to play music with, and how I love this SPIRIT group!!! Like the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends”.
R.I.P. Kyle Ross Mitchell(Mitch)
Born on December 3, 1951
Passed on August 7th, 2011