My Thoughts

Publisher’s Note: I have the good fortune to know Blythe Miller. She has given courageously and generously of herself in hopes of preventing more tragic losses to suicide. For anyone who might think that loved ones “get over” a suicide, her story is a touching counterpoint. Thank you Blythe…I am humbled by your courage.

I lost my daughter to suicide on 10/20/10. I share our story to help others.

The last 2 years on 10/20 I find a place where I can clear my mind, find peace, and I write. These are my thoughts:

Year 1- Sitting her by the ocean…It’s almost been a year to the minute since I came home to find my life had changed forever:( Some people think life changing things happen everyday (a new job, a new baby, a marriage) but those are things that you do and then right after you say to yourself “How did I ever live my life without this before?” They make your life complete. Tragedy happens everyday…to normal, ordinary, good people (just like me). When your life is good (not perfect just good), you never think a tragedy will happen to you. It’s always someone else.

People ask me everyday how I am? Well here’s the answer…MY LIFE SUCKS!!! Before you all say Don’t say that, or You’re strong, or You will be O.K. let me explain myself. I know, I will be O.K. (there’s no other option). That ‘s not the point. I’m a healthy 36 year old who gets up everyday and goes to work. I’m still a mom and I do mom things for my son. The point is I have lost a piece of me that I will never get back! The person I once was is no more. Sure I will still laugh and have good times but nothing will ever be the same.

They say you find a new normal, well let me tell you there is nothing normal about losing your teenager to suicide. It is a mother’s job to protect their children, and now I have to put my faith in GOD that he’s watching over her and loving her. I’m trying to provide my son the most normal life I can so he doesn’t have to lose anything more than he already has. He is my strength and the reason I get out of bed each morning:) I look completely healthy on the outside, but on the inside I’m on life support. I can’t believe this is my life, and that I will never see or hear my baby girl again. (at least in this life)

NO LICENSE, NO PROM, NO GRADATION, NO COLLEGE, NO FUTURE, NO HOUSE, NO MARRIAGE, NO CHILDREN, NO MORE OF HER HUMOR, HER LAUGH, HER SMILE, HER GRUMPINESS, HER ART, HER EVERYTHING. NO MORE!!!

I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around what has happened. Some days I still call her to ask her to set the DVR or start dinner, only to be completely hit by reality all over again.

I hope no one else ever has to experience this pain in their lives and for those of you who share this pain remember you are not alone. We will continue to help each other through this nightmare we call our lives. My daughter means the world to me and almost half my life I had her in it. I don’t know how to live without her. All I can do is continue to do what I’ve been doing, taking life one second at a time.

Year 2- Sitting here today surrounded by people that I love, sitting on a beach, clearing my mind, and finding a little peace. This time two years ago my daughter passed away. My life at that moment changed forever. Unless you have lost a child you will never understand the pain. It’s not even something that can be explained. I do know that I am sad. Not just today, but always. You will see me function in life, even smile, and laugh but the sadness is always there. I have realized that being sad and happy can co-exist.  I miss the old me and my old life that will never be again.

People tell me that I will be o.k. Those people have never lost their children. This year was different from the first. It’s when the numbness goes away and the reality of what has happened sinks in. Time does not heal this. My daughter should be a senior this year. I wonder how her brother and her would be now that they are older. There are so many things that we were all cheated from.  She was so young and acted on one thought and no one can fix this. There is no rewind or second chances. No do overs. I still can’t imagine my life without her in it. To so many, two years is so long, but to me it’s like yesterday. So I am sad. That is me. What kind of mother would I be if I wasn’t.

Blythe Miller

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Hope Comes in the Morning

There are times in our lives that never seem to end. The world is darkness. Cries to God bounce back unanswered. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, and no hint of a way out. We have all been there. I remember those times distinctly.

I recall times in my life, especially when I was younger, when veins of harsh, self-destructive thoughts ran through my mind on a regular basis. It bore the thorny fruit of a very self-destructive lifestyle. I am fortunate to have survived it. I am 53 now.

Hope does not does not come easy, but there are signs of it everywhere. Spring follows winter as surely as summer follows spring. The sun, the stars and the moon cannot always be seen, but they are there nevertheless. To everything there is a season. There is comfort in finding perspective.

The world can be harsh and cold, but it can also be warm and beautiful. We all go through seasons in our lives that are better than others. The bad times will pass, and the good times will come again. Hang on for the good times. If you are not looking, you will miss the rainbow.

It can be a struggle just to take the next step, but life is worth the effort. Nothing remains the same. Life is always changing, and every change is an opportunity. A person must be looking to find them.

Looking back on my life, I recall that I became conscious of the fact that I was thinking harsh, ugly thoughts of myself. I stepped into that vile stream like an observer in my own ghetto. At first, I just “stood” there. Then, as I would become aware of that bitter strain, I took some initiative. As I examined my own self-abjection, I found I could diffuse the stream; I could refuse those thoughts. It was a revelation. I turned off the stream.

Around the same time, I set off on a journey. I did not realize it at the time. Looking back, it is undeniable. I became a seeker. At first, it was just fancy. It became a life journey. Life had to have some meaning. There must be some truth to be found.

I wrestled with the truth, and I faced the reality I had always assumed, but had never confronted: that the universe must have some intelligence behind it. My first attempts to address my “maker” were like talking to the clouds and walking in the fog. There seemed to be no response, not even an echo. I could not see where I was going.

Thirty some years later I cannot say the journey has been easy, but it has been rewarding. It does get better! I found what I believe to be truth and a connection with my Maker that is satisfying and challenges me forward. The morning does come. The sun does come out. Rainbows are found after the storm recedes. There is hope. It starts by facing those demons and wrestling control away from them. It continues when we turn to face the world that is bigger than us and seek to grab hold of it. It continues when we move forward on the journey that is life.

A ship at anchor cannot be steered. A ship without its sail up cannot catch the wind. Pull up the anchor. Raise the sails. Do not give ground to the negative thoughts that course through your mind. Refuse them entry and reach forward for the opportunities that you will encounter as you move forward. Life is a worthy journey.

KD

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My Beautiful Butterfly

I was born on a cold December morning to two thankful and love-struck parents. I was born at the start of a new beginning. My family suffered through a few hardships before I came around that I will never feel the true pain for. My dad watched his parents fight through an ugly divorce early in his adulthood and eventually saw his mother remarry five times. My uncle welcomed his first son into the world and would later lose him from a brain tumor two years later. For my mom, she would watch her husband get airlifted and fight for his life on a vacation they went on to spend time together. What a nightmare for all of them. I guess you could say I am living a dream in a beautiful world with the people that love me.

I was raised with my younger brother, Joe and we sure loved to goof around together. If I was upset he’d do anything to get a smile back on my face. He’d run into walls, tell jokes or come up with some dance to make my tears disappear. He’s always been able to make me laugh when I need it. My dad is always looking for new ways to embarrass me or tell me his new corny joke, I may turn red and act like I don’t care, but I live for those little things. And my mom, she’s the sweetest, most compassionate woman I will ever know. I tell her everything, and she listens. They’re my family and I could not be luckier for having the privilege to say that.

I may live in a dream, but that does not mean that I don’t have nightmares. My dream world came crashing down on top of me one spring afternoon two years ago. I stepped off of the bus and began my walk home when my phone rang. It was my dad. I answered cautiously-something wasn’t right. He told me he and my mom would not be home that night. He did not try to reassure me and say everything was okay, or don’t worry because things weren’t okay. All he told me was that they were at the hospital and my papa was sick. I had just seen my papa a week prior and he was just fine.

My curiosity turned to anger and tears fell from my cheeks. I soon learned that my papa had a brain aneurysm and he was in a coma. He went through multiple brain surgeries. He still didn’t wake up. All I wanted was to go to his house and see him sitting at the kitchen table playing his Yahtzee game and eating a piece of pie. But this time I had to visit him in a cold, blank hospital. He’d lost so much weight. He could open his eyes, but that was about it. He couldn’t hug me back, he couldn’t respond no matter how many stories I told him, & the worst part? I said I love you, papa as I was leaving and he didn’t reply.

That was the last time I saw my papa. But, he shows his love in other ways. The day we got in the car to attend his funeral a butterfly landed on my uncle’s shoulder, and another on the windshield of our car. Butterflies have always seemed to pop up everywhere after he passed, and I truly believe that is him telling me he loves me a thousand times over.

I fell hard and woke up from my nightmare. It was at that moment when your heart races as you’re falling off a tall building and you wake up. Now, I know I can continue my dream. I can continue to love and be loved by my family because I have gotten through it.

I have learned so many valuable lessons from losing my papa, but I know it’s not the end of my world. It’s a new beginning. I have made many accomplishments since then, like when I turned sixteen and carried my papa’s lucky penny with me to the DMV to get my drivers license. I know he was smiling down on me then. I wish I had the words to share all of the things I am thankful for. I do not reflect on the one horrible event in my life, I reflect on all the small wonderful events. I am living a dream and stand by the rest of you that still haven’t waken up from your nightmare. But let me tell you, you’ll wake up. You are more than the nightmares you’ve had. Live for your dreams. I know I am no longer afraid of falling asleep and having a nightmare because I choose to live for my dreams.

Rachel Bryza

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The Lampshade

Sometimes we can learn life’s most precious lessons from our furry friends.  Cazzie, our Yellow Lab (who is now long gone, but the memory remains strong) was just a pup of about 8 months.  She developed a Hot Spot on her cheek and after a visit to the doctor; we arrived home with medicine and a protective cone for Cazzie to wear so that the wound could heal without her scratching it.

Cazzie was not at all happy about wearing a lampshade on her head.  After bumping into furniture, walls, doorways and not being able to pick up her favorite toys, she put herself in the corner.  She sat with her back to the world as she stared at the walls coming together at a point.  She refused to eat and rejected our urges to play. For an entire day Cazzie pouted.

The next morning we woke to a beautiful scene as it had snowed leaving the ground with about 6 inches of soft powder.  Again, Cazzie refused to eat, but she desperately needed to go outside.  As I went about my usual morning cleanup, through the kitchen window, I spotted Cazzie.  There she was running gleefully around the yard, scooping snow up with her cone … throwing it wildly high up in the air … and catching it in her mouth!

The Lampshade was no longer a problem.  She had found her joy.

In life, I have found that many issues, situations, and problems can attack my sense of security and joy.  And we have to allow ourselves to be upset, cry, shout, scream, be angry, and pout.  But just for a time, then we need to go about the business of pulling ourselves up, figuring out solutions and finding our joy.

We need to go out and scoop snow!

Mindy Wilson

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Memorial Remarks on September 11, 2011

The following are my remarks on September 11, 2011 just prior to lighting luminaria for those who died ten years earlier.

Thank you Mayor Schielke

In his poem “This Being Human is a Guest House” Rumi suggested the following:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

How, even ten years later, could we conceive of being grateful for the horrific momentary awareness that visited our house on September 11, 2001? How can we ever forget or forgive the violent deaths represented by the candles that remind us that the light of 3023 lives has been extinguished?

It turns out “How?” is seldom the right question. A better question is “Why?” Why should we choose gratitude? Because here, in this moment, we have a choice about how to move forward.

We can choose sadness, or it’s painful relative, depression, as our guide. But anyone who has lost a loved one knows that sadness, grief and depression become a hole out of which we must climb if we ever hope to begin moving forward.

If not sadness, we could choose anger, or it’s more vicious, destructive relative, hatred. But if we choose hatred, then those who, on this day ten years ago, were motivated by hatred have won. We will have been recruited by them into the dark side of our nature…the side of our humanity that has always dragged us backward.

So if not sadness or anger, perhaps we should choose fear, or terror…cower and tremble in a corner. But that path forward truly dishonors the 3023 we are here to remember.

So if not sadness, depression, anger, hatred, fear or terror, then what.

We might choose…admiration…admiration for the more than 300 public servants who raced with courage into harms way, and gave their lives to keep thousands of other lives from being extinguished.

We might even, as the poet Rumi suggests, choose gratitude. We could be grateful for the billions of acts of generosity—both large and small—that erupted during the past ten years. We could be grateful for each person who came here tonight hoping to find a new way forward. Look around and be grateful for the intentions, hopes and humanity of these, your neighbors.

We might even choose joy. Why joy? Because the more than 3000 lives extinguished on 9/11 contributed to humanity before their tragic end. In the late 1970s, I taught Algebra and Geometry to a quiet, young man named Richard Guadagno. Richard went on to become a naturalist and inspire hundreds to love the wilderness that remains on this planet we lovingly call Mother Earth. Rich was on United flight 93 that ended its journey, and his, in a field in Pennsylvania. He is represented by one of these candles tonight. I will choose to honor Rich’s life by remembering the joy he brought to so many…including me.

9 years ago tonight we stood here silent and sad, because 10 years ago we stood in disbelief. Tonight we stand here having been given an opportunity to turn our dis-belief into new beliefs…and make new choices.

There have been nearly 316 million seconds since the tragedies of 9/11. 316 million moments of truth in which I could have chosen, with heart ripped open, the possibility of becoming new.

At the memorial nine years ago, I said,

“It is not within my power to change anyone but myself. So here is the commitment I make. I will honor the pain by living each moment with more kindness and generosity… honor the loss of loved ones by living each moment with more awareness of the needs of those around me…honor the loss of my sense of humanity by living each moment with more integrity and love. And I will honor each of you by trying ever more diligently to understand—truly understand—our differences and disagreements.”

It has been said that the path forward can seem backward and the path into light seems dark. As I ignite a few of the candles that will share their light with us, I pray to be shown ways in which I might shine light wherever there is darkness, joy wherever there is sadness, gratitude wherever there is hopelessness, and love wherever there is hatred.

Tonight I ask you join me in making new choices that will move us all forward with a new understanding of what it means to be human.

Thank You

Roger Breisch

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If It Were That Easy…

If it were that easy, we would all do it, and put an end to much of human misery.

The world can be frightening for any of us, but for teens who are struggling to awaken to who they are in the world, it’s especially difficult. Recently, a courageous young man led a conversation with thirty or more of his peers. He invited them to put pen to paper and anonymously suggest topics for discussion. While the ensuing conversation ranged widely, it spent some time wandering the treacherous terrain of drug addiction, depression, bullying, and the pain that often flows from failed relationships and young love.

As the teens shared the challenges they face, it became clear that elevated self-esteem and self-worth might remedy, or at least assuage, some of their misery. It is, after all, difficult to destroy, or even harm, a human who enjoys a strong sense of worth. Most of us know well the childhood aphorism, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But a name can hurt, maim or even kill, when hurled viciously at a human in doubt of their value.

There were several adults stung by the awareness that these wonderful young people were in pain, and lacked the personal armor to protect them against the “Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune.” Few of us knew how to respond other than to offer reassurances. “You have to know you are valuable,” “You are all amazing” or “Don’t ever doubt yourself.” We utter these words with kindness and generosity, even though we know full-well that when we are beaten and battered by the world, unable to glimpse our self-worth, being told we should not turn a blind eye to our inner value is of little help. A typical private reaction to such a command might begin “If only they knew…”

While teens are particularly vulnerable to the poison arrows that can pierce their fragile self-worth, most of us find ourselves wandering the darkness sometime during our lives. I know I have been brought to my knees any number of times when I failed as a spouse, parent or friend. Few things claw at my self-worth more ferociously than the fear that I may have damaged the worth of those I love.

And yet, even in those moments we are least able to glimpse our own value, most of us can look at others and be witness to, and blessed by, theirs. There is a Buddhist tradition that suggests that if we could see deeply into the soul of those in front of us we would never accomplish anything…we would be too busy bowing to one another.

Why is it we can have such clarity in discerning the value of others, and be so blind to our own? Many years ago, I was given a hint when visiting with improvisational pianist, Michael Jones. He suggested that our true gifts come to us so naturally, we believe they are nothing special. When another holds up a mirror so we can see our gifts reflected back to us, we are as likely as not to disavow their uniqueness. “Oh that! That’s easy,” we argue. “Anyone could do that.” Michael, himself, denied his rare ability to spontaneously tease melodies from the ivorys of his piano until he was more than 30. He subsequently sold several million CDs worldwide.

So, if someday you find yourself wondering the darkness, certain your life is, as a friend once feared, a “throwaway line,” look courageously into the world and find those willing to bow in your direction. Allow yourself to look into the mirror they hold up and see yourself as they see you. Instead of immediately denying the gifts they see in you, try this instead: take a moment to sincerely absorb their wisdom and generosity, and then say “Thank you, I am honored.”

It can be very difficult, but, as I suggested as I began, if it were that easy…

Roger Breisch

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Beauty So Very Difficult to See

I wrote this December 31, 2011

He sat alone, with his head buried in his hands. One of the other adults on the Snowball weekend turned to me and suggested he didn’t look good. I offered to speak with him. As I approached, he looked up and I asked if he was okay. With sad, averted eyes he told me he was.

As I turned to leave, something inside begged me not to walk away; I knew he was not telling me the truth of his life. I returned as he stood up, looked into his eyes and said, “Here is what your words and body language just spoke to me. ‘I am really not okay, but you are not the person I would talk with about it.’ You don’t need to talk with me; I just want to know you have someone you can talk with.” In that instant, his body language, and our relationship, changed. He looked directly into my eyes and said, “Thank you, I’m just going through some tough times, but I’ll be okay…and yes, I do have people I can talk with.” I offered him a hug and left. I still didn’t even know his name.

At the end of the weekend, intermixed with numerous “warm fuzzies” written to me by participants, was one that said, in part, “You’ve shown that some people really do care. You’ve given me a reason to carry on.” The note was signed, “Love, Dakota”. It was several days before I could confirm that this kind and generous note was from the young man with whom I had the brief exchange the Saturday before.

For the next two years, I saw Dakota Lewis on Snowball weekends and at occasional Thursday night meetings. We shared many emotionally horrific times, including the suicide of his father. Dakota continued to affirm—through sincere embraces and many kind, generous words—the beautiful person he saw in me; even if I was often unable to see it in myself. I too, spoke to him of the beautiful young man he had become—a person able to instantly see, and speak to, the beauty in others.

After he graduated from high school, our opportunity to see, or speak with, one another became more and more rare. A graduation gift, and several text and voice messages, went unanswered.

The year 2010 ended quietly in my life, but I awoke early New Year’s morning to learn that the young man who so often pointed to my inner beauty had taken his life in the moments before the new year emerged. As hard as so many of us tried, Dakota was never able to see the extraordinary gifts we could see shining from within him.

On this, the first anniversary of his suicide, I sit with tears welling up inside…tears that represent a mix of sadness over losing him, and guilt for not being there one more time to draw him back into his life…a life that touched and changed many others.

As the New Year begins a few hours from now, I will continue to try to help others see the beauty that exists within them. But I will try to remain cognizant that the only one who I can truly help see inner beauty is me. If I cannot learn to witness mine, I remain a hypocrite when I try to point others towards theirs. As is so often noted, changing the world truly is an inside job.

I love you Dakota. You taught me a great deal in life, and remain one of my most profound teachers.

Roger Breisch

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Footprints

“But Roger,” she said with tears in her eyes, “it feels like I am throwing him away. I can’t throw him away.”

In the months following my father’s death, my mother, God bless her, spent many hours cleaning out the house—going through my dad’s things and making painful decisions about what to do with what often feels like mountains of personal effects. While she did much of this in solitude, because my father and I were partners in a consulting practice, she wanted me with her as we approached the file cabinet that contained most of his written history. We faced thousands of articles, pictures, certificates, awards, letters, notes and other memorabilia. Knowing we couldn’t keep it all—it’s hard enough to go through it once—we discarded all but the most sacred reminders of his journey. But there were times when, I admit, it felt as though pieces of him were being discarded with the tattered fragments of paper.

But then I recalled what I learned in the days immediately after he died, during which hundreds of people came to tell us stories of how they were changed by something my father did. I learned of a neighbor, dying from ALS, who my father picked up every morning so he could go to church, and for coffee at McDonald’s afterwards. I met a recently widowed church elder. He told my mother tearfully, “Just a few weeks ago, Wally told me he loved me. You have no idea how much that means.” I learned of the church secretary who loved how my dad would leave a quarter in the office every time he took a cup of coffee. “No one else ever does that,” she told us.

These are a few of the footprints my father left behind. You can’t put those in a file folder and you can’t throw them away at the end of a person’s life. It is in the changing of others that we continue to live on in this world—not through the awards and certificates we file.

It’s vain I know, but I too have file folders stuffed with memorabilia about the “whats” of my life. Having experienced both the “whats” and the “whos” of my father’s life, I now wonder about who I have been, who I am today, and who I will choose to be in my future—in the next decade, the next year, the next week…even in the very next moment. I wonder if the footprints I am leaving are ones that will leave the world a more generous and joyful place.

That becomes one last footprint my father left in my life—one I can never throw away.

Roger Breisch

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Welcome

Welcome to the heart and soul of The-Dream.us. We hope that by searching these pages, you can find those that help you to know you are not alone. By dwelling in the words and lives of those who have shared on these pages, we hope you will regain an appreciation for the ways in which life teaches us; even if so many are so very difficult.

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