Overcoming the unspeakable: Jordan pitcher finds purpose playing a sport he loves for a brother he lost

Published: Monday, May 19 2014 7:50 p.m. MDT

Senior Jacob Dirkson is a star pitcher for the top-ranked Jordan Beetdiggers. His younger brother, Chase Larsen, passed away in 2011. Dirkson has found healing from the tragedy on the baseball diamond.

Lee Powell

SANDY — Jacob Dirkson never made a conscious decision to give up.

Every day he woke up and went to school expecting that this would be the day that he would finally regain the joy and drive he felt before the night of March 6, 2011. Instead, within a few hours of waking, he found himself adrift in the kind of agony that is difficult to describe and even more grueling and discouraging to navigate.

As the days dragged into months, the now 18-year-old allowed his grief to chip away at everything — especially his goals and dreams. He even walked away from the one thing he’d loved since he was a toddler — baseball.

“It was just happening to me,” he said of his life in the wake of his younger brother’s suicide. “I was just mad. I had no idea what was happening. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t deal with it, so I just blanked out. I even quit going to school.”

The night that shattered Dirkson’s life began with a phone call. He was spending the evening at a friend’s house when his mother called and simply asked him to come home. As he approached their Sandy home, he knew something was wrong.

“I saw a bunch of ambulances and stuff,” he said. “It scared me way bad. My sister ran up to me and told me that my brother took his own life, and I just took off. I ran, and I didn’t stop running until someone caught me.”

One of his neighbors chased him down and forced him to sit on the curb.

“He talked me down,” Dirkson said. “I just blacked out. It all felt like a dream. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was just out of it. I was out of it for a few weeks. I had no idea what was going on most of the time.”

To this day, Dirkson can’t remember the chronology of what happened. Part of the fog is caused by the searing pain of losing his younger brother, Chase Larson, to suicide. Part of the fog is a choice he made not to delve into the details of that night.

Chase Larson was in seventh grade, two years younger than Dirkson, when he took his own life the night of March 6, 2011. He was the fourth of Randy and Nicole Larson’s five children. Twins Rachelle and Rebecca are 22; Dirkson, is 18; and Bridger Larson is a freshman at Jordan High.

Nicole Larson said she tried repeatedly to talk to her oldest son after Chase’s death.

“I think he took a lot of it on himself,” she said. “He blamed himself for not always being there for his little brother. He didn’t talk; he didn’t say much.”

When the family discussed Chase, he’d listen but kept his feelings to himself.

He wouldn't even visit his brother's grave. He was more aware of the love and affection he had for his family, but he also tried to keep them away from the raw pain he felt when he thought about Chase.

In the wake of his brother’s death, Dirkson, who’d made the Jordan High varsity baseball team as a freshman, struggled in school for the first time.

“I basically failed the last half of ninth grade,” he said.

He refused to go to counseling and the grief made it impossible for him to focus. His parents dropped him off at school where he either skipped, wandered the halls, or just sat in class without engaging in the work.

“They tried, but I told them I didn’t want to go to counseling,” he said of his parents. “They tried hard, but I wasn’t budging. I just didn’t care about anything.”

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