Telling their stories
PERSONAL INJURY –
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
July 22, 1986, was a beautiful day in St. Louis. I was 32,
working at my first law firm, in an office with a view of the
Gateway Arch. I got to the office at about 7 a.m. The phone
rang at 7: 30. It was my mother, who told me that my twin
brother, Brett, had committed suicide.
It happened in our parents’ house, where Brett was
living; in his bedroom in the basement, with my mom and
grandma upstairs. My little brother, a cop on duty that
morning, heard on his cruiser radio that there had been a
shooting at our folks’ house—he raced there, and then to
the hospital. Brett had shot himself through the heart. He
Brett Kevin Reeg and I were identical twins, according to
our birth certificates; I think the doctor was mistaken, as we
were not an exact matched set. We were born 10 minutes
apart, survived viral pneumonia together at 17 months,
and were close—very close. We roomed together, played
together, went through high school together, hunted and
fished together, even double-dated. I went to law school;
he went into the Navy as a quartermaster on a carrier that
toted nuclear missiles.
At my brother’s memorial service, I gave his eulogy at the
urging of my family. It was the toughest thing I have ever
done then or since, period. I tried to sum up my brother’s
life in 10 minutes. Really not fair.
If you didn’t know Brett, you really missed something.
He was the kindest, gentlest soul. He loved everybody and
everything, and never had a hateful thought any day of
I always joked that Brett stepped out of line while God
was dishing out common sense. He fell asleep driving sev-
eral times—drove off the interstate, down an embankment
and through a fence, coming to rest with the car rocking on
a gravel pile, without a scratch. He drove an hour and a half
to go fishing one morning, fell asleep, missed the curve,
and woke up in a corn field, without a scratch. With that
kind of karma, what could go wrong?
I think Brett was always trying to find himself. He
went to Naval Station Great Lakes, near Chicago, for
basic training. He came down with pneumonia, again. It
almost killed him, but he cleared basic. He was assigned
to the USS Coral Sea. His bunk was a deck above the
missile room; he said the missiles fell off the racks in
rough seas and clanked side to side. I asked if that ever
worried him; he said no—You had to arm the nuclear
warheads, and if they did go off, it wouldn’t matter, as
he’d be cosmic dust. Pretty good attitude, I thought.
He sent me pictures when he was playing golf in the
Philippines. He had a girl on each arm—“Those are my
caddies,” he wrote.
The Survivors’ Club
After losing his twin to suicide, Kurt Reeg dug in to help others BY KURT REEG
Six months at a time at sea took its toll. Brett came
home to my parents’ house after being discharged. He went
to the VA; he was unnerved; he had trouble settling down.
After Brett’s death, my therapy was to work with the local
suicide hotline. I served on its board for several years. I tried
to help fresh survivors know that while we can’t ignore what
happened, there were many happy times to remember,
and many opportunites to help those who were struggling
with the wolf at the door, as well as those left behind in the
It took me 17 years to get over my brother’s death. Every
birthday, every holiday, every day—I couldn’t get it off my
mind. I finally decided one day to get over it. I decided that
every time a negative thought about the way Brett died
hit me, I would shift to positive memories. I’d read letters
he wrote me, flip through photos he sent me, recall happy
times. It got easier as time marched on.
Unfortunately, the suicide survivors’ club is bigger than
you think. You find out your friends and coworkers are survi-
vors, much to your surprise. I’m a survivor. I hope you never
have to join our club.
Kurt (left) and Brett, at age 2,
in 1956. “These are the kinds of
photos that take me to my happy
place about Brett,” Reeg says.