When amazing people die it hits close to home…

With the recent deaths of Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington…my heart can’t help but ache. I lost my brother October 29, 2013. The death certificate states his death was undetermined through asphyxia by hanging.

Certificate of Death with information on the cause of death.


When first finding him in our family home we thought suicide, murder, then absolute confusion….later when our minds cleared, and we put the pieces together we realized it was autoerotic asphyxiation. What the HELL is that you ask? Why are you sharing that? I’m sharing for a number of reasons: to keep my brother’s memory alive, to help others that may had a similar experience, and didn’t know what to think or believe, to help people understand the danger behind it, to support those who suffer.

Autoerotic asphyxiation: The intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for purposes of sexual arousal. Who and Why would anyone put themselves at risk to achieve sexual arousal? Well many people do it. In fact the detective investigating my brother’s death told my mom that he sees this type of death occur frequently. Why do they do it? Fetish, to get a high or rush, to feel something. Think about it…Why do people cut, do drugs, drink alcohol??? All actions can end in death if you lose control, but everyone has their own reasons for why they do it.


I believe my brother was chasing the high. He was diagnosed with Bipolar as a teenager. He struggled with alcohol, drug use, depression, and anxiety throughout his short life. As a teenager, and young adult he cut, sniffed, restricted food from his body, he was mugged, survived an elevator fire, stole, did all kinds of weird stuff. He was always looking for the next high…whether he put himself at risk, or not he was fearless, and adventurous. He put himself into rehab two times, and after the last time in rehab he died.

My brother suffered silently. Not many knew about his struggle, so when they heard about his death it was shocking. He was a champion debater, he attended College at George Washington University, and later transferred to University of Texas at San Antonio; when he realized he needed his family’s support. He received his Bachelor degree in Political science, and planned to conquer the world. He was charismatic, and loved by many.

I knew SUICIDE was never, never an option for him, so of course I kept digging. His last journal entry was a few hours before he died, and he talked about his future, becoming better, and doing amazing things. He had just poured himself a glass of coke, and vodka his favorite. In my mind he was about to sit, relax, and wait for us to get home to talk about his day. The thing about my brother is that he just always had the worst coping skills, and this one killed him. He ran out of lives, and God couldn’t save him. I like to believe he went peacefully with my deceased family members around him.

When I hear that these amazing, talented artists die by committing suicide, and are found hanging. I start to wonder…Is it really suicide, or did they suffer as my brother did? It pains me to see the media speculate. Leave the families alone. It’s hard enough to lose your loved one, but to see people talk about them…It hurts. I remember people talking, and speculating about my brother. In fact they still do, but I guess people need closure. All these amazing people suffered from bipolar, or depression of some sort, but would they really commit suicide? My brother was artistic, creative, he wrote music and played many instruments without lessons, he was a writer, an artist. He loved, and valued himself too much to kill himself. I can still picture his soul kneeling & crying next to us (I could feel him), as we gathered around him, and cried over his body; telling us how sorry he was. I just tell him not to worry, that we love him, and we aren’t mad at him. We accept all of him, and know he didn’t do it on purpose; he wanted to LIVE! Now I have to do it for him.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is an addiction, but people don’t speak of it. Like a drug or alcohol addiction you can lose control. My brother lost consciousness, and couldn’t get himself up even though he was so close to the ground, he couldn’t save himself it was too late. That’s how it happened. I pray this brings some people the closure they need to allow these amazing people to rest. We must keep them alive through their accomplishments, and always remember the good. Share the music, and the movies they created.  Have them continue to touch others lives as they touched yours. The bad happened, and unfortunately they are no longer here. But I’ll never forget my brother, and I will always share his memory, help, support, and defend those who suffer from any mental illness. Join me to do the same.

Juan Antonio Lira

March 30, 1986-October 29, 2013

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  1. Thank you for enlightening others through your pain and very personal life event, Jeannette. Your insight offers a way to achieve acceptance through grace and compassion.

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