It kills the people we love, relationships, families, spirits and dreams.
This “Suicide Kills” book & album project has been brewing in my mind for the last 20 years. Since my brother Walter passed away by suicide on October 31st, 1996. The day my world shattered in a million pieces, never to be the same.
When he passed, I just about gave up music. I couldn’t even imagine going into the studio, let alone perform.
A few months after his passing, I was scheduled to perform at a singing contest that I had started prior to his passing. I had made it to the finals and it was now time to bring home the brass ring. I didn’t think I could do it. I felt sick to my stomach and weak at the knees. I remember my sister telling me that Walter would want me to perform. “Do it for him”, she said. So, against my better judgement and inner core dialogue, I stepped onto the stage to compete. I completely broke down during my performance and dropped to my knees. It was clear that I would need to take a long break to absorb the loss of my brother.
You see, my brother was my biggest fan, my greatest supporter and the reason I had started this musical journey to begin with.
It was my brother’s birthday. I was looking for a unique gift for him. Something no one could give him but me. A way to stand out. I adored my big brother so any time I could do something that made him proud of me, I jumped on with enthusiasm.
I had been singing in the shower my whole life. The girl in the mirror, holding a hairbrush, singing to a crowd of imaginary fans, that was me. I never sang in front of anyone or let anyone know of my interest in music. I didn’t participate much in any of the school music programs or show interest in this sort of thing because of what was going on at home. Music and writing were tools I used to escape my life and the things I was living through at the time.
I was shopping that day, with my brother’s girlfriend, We came across this place called LaLa Land Studios. It was basically a Karaoke Studio. You picked any Karaoke track, stepped into the singing booth and got the song professionally recorded and mixed on a tape. You could even get a video of you singing the song to some groovy backdrop. I thought this would be the perfect gift for my brother. I saw it as more of a joke than anything else. I would record a couple of songs, gift wrap the tape for him, give it to him at dinner, we’d all listen and have a good laugh about it.
I remember getting into the booth to sing the first song, Memories, the theme from the musical “Cats”. My legs were shaking. My voice was trembling. The guy looked at me and was signing to me to “breathe”…”relax”, he mouthed through the window between us. He could tell I was super nervous. I had never sung in a real vocal booth before. Never sung in front of anyone else before. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, that an elephant was sitting on my chest.
The song began playing in my ears. The console guy and my brother’s girlfriend were chatting away among themselves. I closed my eyes. Took a deep breath.
Then it happened, for the very first time, this trance like state where your spirit goes somewhere but your body remains involved in what you are doing. It was as if I was having an outer body experience.
I knew where I was but it was dark and all I could hear was this angelic voice singing “Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days, I was beautiful then. I remember the time I knew what happiness was, Let the memory live again”. My voice, mixed with this reverb that the console guy had added to my vocals made the whole experience surreal. I was completely lost in the moment. When the last note of the song ended in my ears, I opened my eyes to see the console guy and my brother’s girlfriend staring at me in disbelief.
I remember him coming into the booth and being very complimentary and insisting I do a few more songs. To which I indulged. I picked “The Way We Were”, one of my favorite songs and “My Way”, which I knew was one of my brother Walter’s favorite songs (it actually played at his funeral).
The whole experience of that day was one I will never quite forget. Little did I know that It would become the beginning of my musical journey.
When my brother unwrapped that tape and played it, I expected him, and everyone else in the room, to tease me and make fun of it but it wasn't the case. He was floored and so was everyone else. The silence in that room was deafening and they were all staring straight me in complete awe. It was the first time in my life where I felt "seen"...and heard. Moreso, I felt really special in his eyes and from that moment on, he would take on a very supportive role in my musical journey. Paying for demos, driving me to and from studios to work with different producers, showing up wherever and whenever I was performing. He was not only proud of me, he was convinced I was going to be the next big star!
"Suicide Kills" is an hommage of sorts to my brother. His only wish through his passing was that he never be forgotten, that his name live on forever. His wish has been my command ever since he passed in 1996.
In honor of his memory and of his never ending, never wavering support, I chose my artistic name to be "Klaude Walters". His name and mine forever living beside each other, never to be forgotten.
The project is meant to add value to people's lives. By sharing some of my darkest moments, and also revealing how I got through them, I can possibly become the light in someone else's darkness and prevent someone from making a choice they could never undo. In order to really get people to connect and relate, I have to be vulnerable, honest and raw about some of the most intimate moments in my life and that is really scary. I am opening myself to judgement and persecution from the people closest to me. I may even destroy relationships that I fought desperately to save in the past. It is going to be a tough road and it has been.
Having to revisit some of the darkest moments in my life has brought up many unhappy memories to the surface. The human brain is such an amazing organ. It understands what you can and cannot handle and it compartmentalizes things in a way that it locks the troublesome memories away so you don't have to deal with them on a daily basis but doesn't destroy them just in case you may want to revisit and reconcile your inner brokenness when you are strong enough to do so.
In order to do this project and do it right, I had to be honest and open and understand that the end result was bigger than my small self and that if it could help someone choose life in the end, then I had accomplished what I had set out to do.
It's been a truly difficult project but probably one that will make me the proudest in the end when I get to launch it out into the world.
Here is an excerpt of on of the chapters of the book:
“Where is he. Where’s Walter. Where’s my brother. I know he’s here hiding somewhere.” She looked terrified! (You have to picture what I must have looked like to her. My face was twice its normal size because it had swollen up because I had been crying for hours now. My eyes were bloodshot. My clothes were covered with mud because I had fallen on the ground in my driveway. I hadn’t changed my shirt from my being sick on the highway. She probably thought I was a drug junkie high on some heavy duty drug.) Thankfully, my husband came running in behind me and explained the situation to her. She became very helpful very quickly. I was running all over the hospital, knocking my head on the walls and behaving quite erratically. All I can remember is that she came towards us and said that we had the wrong hospital. They had brought him to a hospital down the road but that he had been pronounced “dead at the scene”. I heard the words but could not register them into my brain. So, my husband took my arm and guided me towards the car and gently placed me in the front seat. At this time…my head was bleeding from the hits to the hospital walls. My knuckles were bruised as well from constantly hitting stuff around me. I was a mess. I remember the cold and heavy silence in the car on the way to the 2nd hospital. I was not whimpering, crying or screaming. I was now completely numb. Like a zombie. I could no longer feel…anything. My brain had shut down from fear of completely losing my mind. I had gone into, what I now realize was “survival mode”. I couldn’t handle the shock so my body did the only thing it knew how to keep me alive. It shut down."
Help Me Let You Go remains the greatest song I've ever written...in memory of Walter.
The project contains a book, an album and an online interactive course that helps the reader work through their own trauma using the tools and resources I used to get myself through all the traumatic events in my life.
To get this project developed, produced and launched into the world is going to take time and funding. If you want to help with the funding of this project, you can.
Every little bit helps!
Most of us have been affected by suicide one way or another during our lifetime, help me bring this story to the world so that it may, someday, save a life. It may be the life of someone you know.