A Denver-based comic’s account of losing his younger sister to suicide and learning to cope with her death.
Cayton-Holland, who created and stars in the sitcom Those Who Can’t, grew up in a family under the guidance of “flower children” parents, who raised him and his two sisters “to rage against the injustices of the world.” But exposure to the suffering of others, combined with his own natural hypersensitivity, caused the author to seek ways of “circumventing the hurt and upset.” As a child, he developed personal rituals—he was later diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder—to make sure “life as I knew it didn’t collapse.” As he got older, Cayton-Holland discovered that comedy also helped him feel better about the world and himself. The childhood bits he performed in front of his parents, schoolmates, and, later, audiences at Denver’s premier comedy clubs eventually led to a career as a respected stand-up comic. But his brilliant and beloved younger sister Lydia, who shared both her brother’s hypersensitivity and quirky sense of humor, chose to live a quiet life outside the hustle and bustle of Denver, fostering “dogs and cats and musicians and outcasts.” The family gently tried to prod her toward a career, but she refused until finally Cayton-Holland convinced her to return to Denver to help him at his comedy shows. Not long afterward, Lydia had the first of several breakdowns. While she struggled with depression and exasperated family members with her despair, the author’s career soared. The reality of just how serious her illness was only registered when Lydia killed herself in 2012. Devastated, Cayton-Holland and his family began a long and painful journey toward emotional healing that forced them to learn difficult lessons in letting go and self-forgiveness. This candid and humane book not only memorializes the life of a beloved sister; it also celebrates the gift of awakened spiritual and emotional sensibilities that loss inevitably leaves in its wake.
Both funny and darkly poignant.