My oldest brother

Baby Rebekah with David 1962-1

(Photo courtesy of Rebekah Demirel)

An excerpt from her new book: “Nothing’s for Nothing” (Rose Hip Press)

by Rebekah Demirel, Contributing Writer

My brother David wasn’t around by the time I was born. He was eighteen years older than me, and from the time he was sixteen, my brother was in jail and he would be in jail for most of his life. I don’t know what David did, but from a young age I’d hear that he was someone who “couldn’t stay out of trouble.” That’s what my dad would say about him.

David was very angry, that was for sure. I remember not seeing him for years at a time, then our front door would suddenly get busted down and he’d storm in and yell at my dad. My other brother, Michael, and I would sit silently, hoping our big brother wouldn’t notice us on the couch. Often though, in a fit of rage and exasperation, usually because my dad wouldn’t give him money, my brother would pick me up, then seeing the terror in my dad’s eyes, threaten to throw me through the window if he didn’t get what he was demanding.

The scene would usually end with my dad pulling twenty dollars out of his wallet, which was money we couldn’t afford. Then David would leave, most often with these parting words to my father: “I’m going to piss on your grave.”

Years later when I was a paramedic working the streets of downtown Vancouver, I saw my brother, high on something, filthy and lying on the curb with another guy, eating sardines out of a can with dirty fingers, laughing. I looked away, not knowing what else to do with my fear and disgust. I was just happy he didn’t see me or recognize me as his little sister.

My brother David was part of my nightmares for many years. I feared him finding me wherever I was, bashing through my door and threatening whatever I held dear. When at age fifty-two, he finally died from a hard life of drugs and booze, I didn’t go to his funeral. I was just relieved that he was gone.

It’s been nineteen years since David died and now I finally have empathy for him. I’m curious about the life of a young man who looked like James Dean and had so much of his life stolen from him in prison.

I have a photo of my brother holding me high in the air when I was a tiny baby. Did he love his little sister? Mom loved David. He would always be her baby boy, and just about the only time I’d see her cry was when she talked about him.

What turns a person mean? What happened to my brother? Did he suffer sexual abuse from our father like my brother Michael did? I can guess, but I may never know for sure.

May your soul rest in peace, my Brother.

rebekah demirel

(Photo: Rex Hohlbein)


“In her haunting memoir, ‘Nothing’s for Nothing,’ Rebekah Demirel reveals a childhood of adversity and neglect, beginning at age three when her mother fled the violence of their home, through her years growing up in a chaotic and abusive household with her Pentecostal father and violent older brother, until leaving home at age thirteen for an uncertain life on the streets. Rebekah takes us on a soulful journey of heartbreak, loss and grief, her own difficult homeless teen years, and the resiliency gained from those experiences, with inspiring messages of hope, healing, forgiveness and personal transformation. ”

  • Rebekah Demirel is an acupuncturist and East Asian medicine practitioner with a private and practice in the Seattle area. She also draws on her fifteen years of experience as a clinical counselor and former paramedic (and paramedic trainer) in presenting workshops to social service agencies and the general public on a variety of topics, including first aid, meditation, qi gong, stress management and trauma integration. 
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