Wednesday, December 28, 2016

This Girl

I have to tell you about this girl, but I should say woman. She's a great mom. She's a stellar human being. She's been a great support to me.

Tara came forward via Facebook messenger shortly after Adam died (2/3/16 to be exact) to tell me how much Adam meant to her and how devastated she was. You see, she had previously experienced a huge loss to suicide.

Tara's path first crossed Adam's in third grade, Mr. Dunham's class, Adam's first year in Macomb. I don't know the nature of their grade school relationship, but she kept appearing in his class pictures over the ensuing years. They were both of small stature, tiny really.

Through high school I heard from a couple of people that Adam had a crush on Tara, but probably never pursued his feelings. In college at Spoon River, they started hanging out more, and I saw her at our house once. That's once more than any other girl Adam was associated with. I remember when she was cashiering at the local grocery store one day, and I made small talk with her. I was always way curious about any friend of Adam's, since he did not really bring friends home or even  talk about his friends much to us after elementary school. I think I tried to pick her brain a little about who my son was. I remember she was getting ready to go to an internship in Texas.

Fast forward to February 2016. In those early, foggy days, Adam's roommate Tim told me he wanted Tara from Macomb to know about Adam and couldn't find her on Facebook. I hadn't a clue that Adam's Springfield friends crossed over with his Macombie homies. Tara later told me she visited Adam in Springfield a few times when Adam was in college, but they lost touch years ago.

Tara has shared her impressions of Adam with me, filling in some blanks and helping me know he had a good heart that others could see. She has shared the signs from Adam she has received and her dreams where he has brought her comfort. She understands what it's like to lose a close family member to the terrible disease of suicide. She is there for me in a way that is totally unique. I can totally see why she was special to Adam.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26, 2015

I have been thinking about and dreading this day for quite some time. Today marks one entire year since I last saw with my own eyes, hugged with my own arms, and heard with my own ears his voice. We had some electronic communication in the following month, nothing big, nothing amiss. It was a cold, cold January. It was a colder February, at least in my heart.

Those days with Adam from Wednesday evening through late Saturday morning last December are vague. I have scoured, as a detective would work a case, for clues, snippets, writings, memos, calendar notations, pictures, anything to tell me what was going on for Adam to end his life a mere month later. If I am honest, it feels like a ghost was walking through that last visit. Betsy noted on Christmas Eve last year, Adam laid on the floor, but did participate in the Mafia games we played with the whole family. I noted in my Christmas Memories, he declared the Potato Soup, the best ever. He went to Concussion on Christmas Day with all the boys. He had a faraway, thin, haunted look in the family pictures.

Late on the morning of 26 December, we all headed out our separate ways: Cal to Guatemala via Chicago, Pat and I to the Quad Cities, Eli I'm not really sure about, Adam to Springfield. One unmemorable moment, one quick hug, one good-bye frozen in time.

And so we soldier on, many of us bearing our grief in silence, or alone-ness. Not on purpose, it just happens.

Some advice to the grieving I read in a book, which does seem to occur naturally: reconnect with life, honor the life of your loved one and create meaning.

Our family has not broken; we returned to work, friends, life, each other. We laugh, cry, and talk a little deeper. I write more letters, journals, and blogs.

In September, I participated in planting a tree, partly in Adam's honor. Many of us contributed to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in his name. My parents donated for a memorial decorated tree in their front yard for the Christmas season for their "beloved grandson Adam Nicholas Tuttle." We filled a stocking for Adam and dropped it at the men's homeless shelter on Christmas Eve, and later wrote notes to or about Adam and put them in his stocking to read next year. We speak his name as often as we can.

Life has taken on new meaning. We take less for granted and consider more what lies behind the exterior shell people present to the world. I think we are all re-evaluating our lives and how we can best contribute to making the world a better place, and fill our lives with more joy. We were able to establish a successful Out of the Darkness Walk to bring suicide out in the open, and connect with others who have experienced this anguish. We are honest and real about our feelings, we appreciate those who have come forward and shared with us what Adam meant to them, and everyone who supports us in so many ways. We can't always be happy but Adam has taught us to live each day to the fullest, to focus on what's important, and always, always love with all our hearts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Yes, it is winter. This is the season Adam died in. I'll be blunt; it's a trigger, along with many other things. Little did we know Christmas 2015 would be our last with Adam.

Life keeps moving. Eli was delighted to get called for two days of weather related closings at his school. Pat is off work for two weeks. We were blessed to have Hannah, Eli and Cal over for dinner last night. Then Cal had high school friends over. They seemed to be having a ball.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Twice in recent weeks I had clients direct me to watch the PBS documentary Happy. Well, not really direct me, but I do often feed off suggestions and ideas of my clients, which is a wonderful benefit of the work I do. I had heard of it before, and honestly, the word Happy just kind throws up a resistant wall for me, so it took three times of hearing about the movie for me to finally take action.

I have long had a hard time relating to the word "happy" or notion of "happiness" as some kind of squad goal. To me happiness is a fleeting emotion I experience occasionally which fades all too quickly. I don't see it as a sustainable state of mind, nor would I really want to. Part of the beauty and spice of life is experiencing a myriad of emotions: heartbreak, disappointment, sadness, excitement, unease, delight.

In counseling when I ask clients what they want to get out of counseling they often say they want to be happy. I always ask them to define this, as it seems to me such a dubious concept. My own definition of happiness would be something like a life filled with love, laughter, peace, and contentment.

So, my goal for today is to finish the documentary, come back, and close this blog with some kind of new wisdom.


It took a few days, but I finally finished the movie and have had time to digest it and come back here. I took notes but unfortunately I left them at work to discuss with my clients. Here's my takeaway for what it's worth:

Research fellows presented a pie, where 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% circumstances and 40% things within our control such as exercise, human connection, nature, helping others, mindfulness, and experiencing flow.

Flow is doing something just because you love to, those times where you lose track of time because you are so into whatever you are doing.

Mindful Moment: A leafless tree against the most exquisite blue sky this morning at 6:51 a.m.

Flow: Reading a book and soaking the characters, stories and lessons into the fiber of my soul.

Joy is a beautiful word and apropos this time of year. I like joy much more than happiness.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

"Real joy seems to me almost as unlike security or prosperity as it is unlike agony.  It jumps under one’s ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights. It shocks one awake when the other puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. "

I don't have Adam here for Christmas, but I have love. Sometimes I experience joy.  Life is good. Choose life.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Some titles from books I collected from Adam's room:

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The Intellectual Devotional by David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim

Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On by Mark Reinecke

I hope that Adam's spiritual journey continues and that it includes seeing each other again.

As I was decorating for Christmas I found Adam's stocking, the one Grandma Tuttle gave him when he was little. It was a little odd because it hung the opposite way of the other stockings and it holds way more stuff. I had been tossing around the idea for some time that this year we could each put something in the stocking and then give it to someone who might need a boost at the holidays.

I decided to put on REM's Everybody Hurts while I actually hung the stockings just now. I hadn't really thought of it as a decision, whether to put up his stocking or not, take his ashes and portrait off the mantle where they have been for nearly 10 months. It feels right to have him with us. I didn't decorate much else.

Here's what I came up with:

I think it needs some greenery and/or light. I'll work on that.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Adam is heavy on my mind and my heart, of course. How could he not be? I got up at 5:00 and was in the grocery store this Thanksgiving morning before 7:00 a.m. As I was entering the final turn (frozen foods), the song Africa by Toto came on overhead. If you are a close follower, you know what that song now means to me. I was pissed when "Jimmy" interrupted the song to make a Hy-vee commercial announcement, as it interrupted my flow. But the song came back on and it gave me great comfort to feel Adam was near.

It hadn't really hit me until last night at 5:04 p.m. pulling into my driveway. "Adam should be coming home tonight."  I could dismiss Mother's Day, his birthday, etc. but Thanksgiving is a definite. I walked into the house in tears and was amazed to find Pat, Eli and Calvin all sitting together in the living room discussing Marcel Dareus' Snapchat hack. Very interesting that when I set up Adam's computer, I found he had a bit of an obsession with the Bills' nose tackle; pictures and files he saved of this guy. And there wasn't that much saved on this new-ish computer. So, could Adam have messed with his computer as a joke and a message? We quietly acknowledged his absence (and his presence) as a family.

Last year Adam brought Bella home for Thanksgiving. His whole demeanor was changed. He was quiet, and attentive to her. I think Betsy asked her at dinner if she had a boyfriend back in Korea? She said no, so I 'slyly' asked if she had a boyfriend here, and she smiled and said "no." We know by several indicators that Adam wished to continue a relationship with her after she returned to Korea late last fall.

 The family Christmas card shoot 2015
 Before or after the pics
 Bella, Adam, Moi, Cal
 Pat, Bella, Adam, sparkling juice
 Bella, Adam, Cal, Ethan, Chuck

Last year Thanksgiving I was giving thanks each night for God keeping my children healthy and safe.

I am still saying that prayer, but it feels different now. Today will mark the first of our Thanksgivings without Adam in the flesh. He will be forever felt in our hearts and our souls. Rest easy, best boy. We got you. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I have been struggling (overused word #1) with moods, thoughts, and direction as the holidays approach, the days are darker and colder, and the reality continues to sink in. Adam's death has made me question everything about life, not all the time, and realize there are so many sides to people we will never know.

2016 was an astonishingly bad year, for me and my community. The worst in fact. You might not know that if you see me going about life, smiling, occasionally laughing, keeping busy. It's not an intentional front I put up. There are happy times and there is good in the world. The individuals who killed themselves this year, they didn't "look" different. They may have felt they were 'faking' it. Some of the suicide books say it results from a "perfect storm" of factors coming together to overwhelm a person. Those would be different for each person, but could include drug or alcohol use, depression, triggering event, stoic nature, time and means. The list is endless.

Ask me the right (or wrong depending on how you look at it) question, and I will cry on the spot. Hear a particular song, and it will trigger (overused word #2) a stream of tears. See me in bed at night; my pillow is damp, my eyes crusty in the morning (but not every night anymore).

Just know that we are all doing our best, and we will never know all that is behind each face we meet everyday. Be kind, stay positive, give hope when you can. Someone may need it.

*I received condolences yesterday from two people I used to work with, one in the form of a card, the other a face to face conversation. I know those are the hardest for people because everyone wants to cry when you speak to someone about losing a child. It's okay. And more than that, it is so appreciated.