Thursday, February 16, 2017


While in Florida, I built a sandcastle for Adam. It wasn't much, nothing like the effort he put into his sandcastles. I just wanted to do something for him. I drew his name and the year in the sand. The next day I walked down to the area, and found some remains.

I was pleased that some of it was still there and I took this picture. You can almost see the 2 in the lower right corner.

I left his name on a giant chalkboard outside the movie theater. The next day when we went back, the whole board was erased and new chalkings were drawn. A little like life, nothing is permanent.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Second Year


And so begins the second year without Adam. The year 2017 that he was never alive in. The feelings come flooding back at any time. Just now, reading an article about hospice.

On our trip to Florida, so many things reminded me of Adam: I-Hop, vaping, Men's Wearhouse, Sonic, Impalas, Chattanooga, Asian restaurants, tea, sandcastles, H & M, Barnes and Noble. These reminders give me pangs of nervousness and a sick feeling in my stomach. Knowing it's real.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Signature of All Things

Unlike most women of a certain age, I have not read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I did pick up this novel with a funny name by her, and would not have believed reading the first 100 pages how much I would come to love it.

Mixing up botanical exploration and study, 18th and 19 century shipping, a love (?) story, Tahitian religious history, mental health and abolition into a cohesive novel is no small feat. Gilbert somehow manages it. Alma Whittaker, the main character, is the daughter of a wealthy botanical shipping magnate, and a naturalist herself. A bryologist, to be exact. An expert in the study of mosses. How captivating, you say?

What I admire most about Elizabeth Gilbert and this epic 500 page tome, is her exquisite research detail, ability to keep the language and tone true to the time period, and the oftentimes hilarious, and all together quirky characters and dialogue. There is Retta Snow, the pinheaded and carefree neighbor and Ambrose Pike, the angelic, enigmatic hero, both of whom speak in the most original voice I probably ever heard in a book.

On page 229 we find out the meaning the strange title. It comes from the writings of a 17 century German cobbler who had mystical visions about plants. Jacob Boehme believed that God left clues for humanity in the natural world. That's why walnuts, shaped like brains, are helpful for headaches, and basil, shaped like the liver, can help with ailments of the liver. He called God's imprint "the signature of all things."

Alma develops a theory of the natural world simultaneously with one of the greatest scientists of all time, but hesitates to publish her results, which she calls "The Theory of Competitive Alteration." When the ultimate theory is actually published (we know it by another name) by someone else, she is at peace with it.

And here is the tie-in to Adam. Spoiler Alert. Ambrose Pike ends his life in Tahiti, for reasons unknown, however, Alma many years later comes to peace with it, too, in this way:

            Ambrose believed in such things [there is a supreme intelligence in the universe
            which wishes for communion with wants us to find it. It wants union with
            us more than anything]. He longed for that union you mention, with the supreme
            intelligence. He died searching for that union.

And so the novel ends with a thoughtful debate about the greatest spiritual question of all time. What a satisfying ending to a magnificent story.

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.