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

Winter

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, November 27, 2016

Titles

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

Messages

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

Faces

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.

Monday, November 07, 2016

College Days (Daze?)

As my Little Sister Marissa said, "Cubs won the World Serious." Sweet Kelsey found a batch more pictures from their UIS days, and this was among them. Bills hat, Cubs shirt. Wish Adam was here to break down this W.  




I'm posting this pic, because Kelsey looks so cute (not that she doesn't always):


Obviously, this is not flattering of Adam...however, every picture I treasure, because I can analyze and try to learn more about him.  Look at the guys at the top of the first picture, placing another liquor bottle on the cupboard. Most of these pictures from UIS are taken at the on-campus apartments that Adam lived in for two years. I remember moving him in the first year. Pretty sure the second year, he just drove down and moved himself in.

He should be here.


Friday, November 04, 2016

Him



things that kill me


  • seeing his handwriting
  • pictures where he is wearing a shirt I gave him (Mackinac Island, Skagway)
  • pictures of him having fun
  • only having pictures
  • his laugh
  • songs
  • that he won't be coming through the door on Thanksgiving
  • pretty soon I will not be able to say, "I saw him last year at this time"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's October 25th, and I don't know where this month has gone. There have been highs and lows, as usual, one of the lows being a trip to Springfield to visit a doctor. The GPS took us from the doctor past the house on Burton Street, past Little Saigon and all the memories of Adam those places contain. We proceeded to the mall, and while waiting for Pat to use the restroom in the food court area, I had the most profound sense of sadness for all the times we met there, ate there, shopped there. H & M next door was a favorite store, and Teavana where he bought my last Christmas present. I thought of him walking that mall shopping for us a year ago, and how thoughtfully he chose our gifts in 2015 in particular. I'm sure we all treasure those last momentos handed from him to us the last time we saw him.

After this sad day, I really needed to see Cal, and drove over to Blo No on that Sunday. I made him recount a couple of times he spent with Adam, and he shared a Snap Chat app where he put Adam's eyes onto his face, and they were actually alive. He thought it might freak me out, but it was comforting to me.



A sign that was given to Pat on 10/20/16, that exact evening after travelling to Springfield:

 I was randomly digging in the yard last night. Pulling weeds, moving plants etc. I put the shovel in the ground and hit something unusual. Upon further investigation, i discovered an old toy army jeep that Adam must have buried 20 years ago. Simple as they were, he loved these toys. Since his untimely passing, there have been some odd unexplainable occurrences. Makes your mind wonder at times. I could only think he was sending me a message of some sort that everything is good! My mind immediately thought only positive thoughts and for this I felt some relief. He had an active imagination and used these toys to pretend and expand his world. How I would love to have shared this story with him if he were still here. Things in life are different in life for a "surviving parent". I'm choosing to use these oddities in a positive way. Love you Nuke...keep me wondering.



Here's the little guy...


The phrase that keeps going through my mind lately is, "he decided to take himself out (of this world)" and just sitting with that thought. This past week, a neighbor and former wrestling coach and dad of Adam's childhood friend Derek, passed away. I am picturing Adam greeting him to the other world and Kevin smiling and giving him some encouraging words.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Dark and Light

Words of Kelley Quinn,labyrinth creator, spoken at our first Out of the Darkness Walk in Macomb/McDonough County Illinois:

Autumn is a season of paradox. As the leaves change color and the air grows crisp, we are invited to release and surrender what no longer works for us, to shed old ways, to clear space for the new.

In this season of change, autumn also invites us to gather the harvest, to celebrate in the bounty of what we have planted and watered, to name and share our abundance with others.

In holding these two ideas in tension, we are reminded that in letting go and releasing we also find abundance.

Autumn is also a time of reflection. At this time of the year, with equal night and day, we are reminded of the balance of light and dark within ourselves. We are invited to look at darkness not as something to fear but as a place where slow steady growth of the soul can occur.


On the labyrinth we can trust that we can walk to the center of our souls and not get lost. We can trust that we can follow the path out from complete darkness into the light with the gifts we have gained from the center. And we can trust that no matter how dark the path may seem, or how difficult the journey, we are never on the path alone.

My words:
I am profoundly grateful for a successful first Out of the Darkness Walk. Despite a drizzling rain, the participation and money raised for suicide prevention is overwhelming. Best of all, I was able to stay in the moment more than I thought I would. Team Tut consisted of 21 friends and family of Adam.




I have met some incredible people on this journey and had some amazing experiences. I have gone out of my comfort zone to speak to groups, individuals, and the media about my loss of Adam to suicide. But I would give it all back in a heartbeat to have one more day with Adam; to make sure he knows I love him, that no problem is too big to solve, that I would do anything to help him. 

Last night I went to bed with that content and satisfied feeling of love and support I had the night of Adam's memorial service. In spite of the profound sense of loss, there is hope and goodness in the world that I can hold onto. This is for you, Adam.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Monarchs and Burr Oaks

I am grateful for a butterfly. My day started at 4:00 a.m. At some point, I opened an envelope containing Adam's last notes, and I was compelled to re-read those painful words.  I shed a few more tears while walking around the track at the Y. Earlier in the week, I was catapulted back to 1992 (?) when I heard the new country mash-up of "I Will Always Love You," "Country Roads," and "On the Road Again." Adam absolutely hated when we would sing along with Whitney Houston's version of  IWALY which played on the radio seemingly every five minutes when he was about 4. He would yell at us to "Stop Singing!!"

Looking at my calendar I realized I had been invited at 11:30 to a tree planting by Adam's high school class of 2006. A friend Max conceived and collected money from classmates at their recent reunion for a tree and plaque to be placed at Macomb High School in memory of classmates they have lost. I arrived early and watched the process and learned the steps to successful tree planting from Max's dad, the city arborist, however this was not an official duty, but done out of love. He was assisted by Michael T, stepping in for Max who has moved to the state of Vermont and couldn't see this happen. Another classmate Sarah G attended to remember her friend Suzie R who was killed in a car accident the summer after 8th grade.



I was able to sprinkle some of his ashes and a note in the hole before it was filled. Tim had remembered planting a tree in front of our house many years ago, and Adam slipping a note into the hole with his name on it. It was really sweet how he said Adam could now rest here, too.



The tree is a Burr Oak (also spelled Bur); no pretty fall colors, but a strong, large, shady native tree, one of Tim's favorites. As they were staking the tree, a Monarch butterfly passed over, a fitting sign.



Michael T and Tim H 


Sarah, Michael, me, Tim
Max's mom Suzan N served as photographer and supporter. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Grilled Cheese

I learned a few things last weekend from Adam's friends. His usual order at Red Robin was a Tavern Double, no mayo, no cheese. Typical Adam. Betsy and I ordered the Tavern Double with onion straws in his honor.

So, Adam wouldn't eat anything with cheese; mac and cheese, cheeseburgers, casseroles with cheese, tacos with cheese. EXCEPT grilled cheese and pizza with cheese.

Ashleigh (Adam's roommate) told me last weekend, he never let anyone make his grilled cheese, and he had a special dedicated grilled cheese pan.

Here's how a typical visit from Adam would begin.  No matter the time of day or night, somewhat sheepishly he would say, "Mom, could you make me two grilled cheese?" Whatever bread was on hand, (always wheat) and plain old American cheese, one slice per sandwich, fried in a pan with butter. Oh, I forgot. He didn't put butter on anything, EXCEPT grilled cheese. It was one of the few things Adam allowed me to do for him, and I enjoyed doing it. Doesn't every mom love to feed their kid?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September Sunday

For some reason this fall I am remembering a lot of events I experienced last fall: the start of school, a Labor Day parade, Al Sears Jazz Festival, attending Ethan's performance of Man of LaMancha, visiting my friend in New Town, tidying up the Japanese way, watching Making a Murderer, ordering Yankee candles from Cal to make money for his Guatemala trip, followed by the thought, "when Adam was alive." This may have been around the time last year when Adam met Bella. There are more heartbreaking milestones coming up to get through in this journey I wish I weren't on.


Here is some of the Springfield gang February 6, 2016 after Adam's memorial service.





Here are some of the same peeps, seven months and a few days later, gathering to honor Adam at Springfield's Out of the Darkness Walk. It was wonderful and humbling to be with these friends, even though my only wish is that we could have been together with Adam having fun.

I am now left with the sad hangover I get after visiting Springfield and Adam's friends who I only got to know after his passing. I can only imagine how strange and awful it must feel to have a lost a friend at such a young age. I pray for these young adults and am grateful for their love and support in these trying times.

Friday, August 26, 2016

OOTD

Time is charging forward, and I am laser focused on the upcoming Out of the Darkness Walk for Macomb/McDonough County. I just read the heartbreaking story of another young life lost (friend of a friend of a sister-in-law in NH). When will it end?

What started as my attempt to comfort myself by creating an event aimed at supporting survivors of suicide loss and my need to put something in place so that my Adam would not be forgotten, has morphed into a semi-permanent labyrinth that anchors me to Adam.



The symmetry and beauty of this place amazes me. If others can find comfort in the labyrinth and/or this event, it will bring me great satisfaction. If we succeed in preventing suicide in some small way, even better.




Labyrinth at sunset by Sharon Walters Knight.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

I am proud of this guy. I probably didn't say this enough but that's another story.



Adam hadn't lived at home since the summer of 2010. He went back to Springfield that fall to complete a required internship for his psychology degree. I helped him connect with the Illinois office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. One project he worked on was preparing written guidance for videos developed to help teens learn about depression and other mental health disorders. He was proud of this work and provided me with copies that I used with my high school students.

In the spring he had to finish one ECCE class to graduate which he did in May 2011. ECCE classes are Engaged Citizenship Common Experience, a set of courses tied to UIS’ heritage, mission, vision, and values. That's when he began working at Kiku and later Little Saigon. 

I don't remember Adam ever asking for money or help with anything financial after that point. He bought his own cars and took care of his mishaps. In short, he took care of his own business. I know he wanted a professional job in psychology in the worst way, but we were pleased he was supporting himself and working hard to do so. It limited his time with us, especially since restaurant work requires weekend hours. He always made the time, and was always home for holidays and short visits in between. 

I'm pretty sure it was Memorial Day of 2013 (the day I got a call Uncle Cal died), that I had gone down to Springfield for the day to prepare a cookout with Adam and his friends. I was excited to finally meet some of his friends, and that he wanted to share this with me.  Unfortunately, a bad storm came up, and we went out to eat instead at one of his favorite places, the totally old school Chesapeake. This choice surprised me a little; it looks like one of those places my parents would have gone to: low ceilings, wood paneling, fishing gear on the walls, "cocktails" for those who partake, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, you know the kind. When the check came, I remember vividly that he insisted on paying. That's when I knew something had changed, and he was really an adult. It was honestly a very important moment for me as a parent. 

I don't think I took our time for granted. I do wish I had seen where Adam's dreams would have taken him; teaching ESL in another country, grad school, working with vulnerable populations....I pray every night he has found the peace and freedom he was looking for.



Monday, August 08, 2016


This past Friday and Saturday I attended a spiritual retreat in Cedar Rapids, IA. Part of the process was painting and crafting what I called my 'soul cottage.' They called it a house, but I kept seeing signs for Cottage Grove this and that around Cedar Rapids and that was a street I lived on in Des Moines so many years ago, and so cottage resonated with me more than house. Friday evening the leaders said we could bring in a momento to add to the collage, and I was disappointed that I didn't know ahead of time, or I would have brought something to remember Adam in the painting. 

That evening before bed, Julie (my friend who had invited me to share this experience) came into my room and gave me an envelope of pictures her mom had saved, and carefully documented name, place, time on the backs (except for this one): 



I of course knew this was taken at my brother Chris' wedding in 2002 in New Hampshire. What I wasn't sure was why my friend's mom had it (she and I live in Julie's and my hometown and became friends in our own right when I moved back here 20 years ago). Julie's mom had passed on last April and her father moved out of their home, carefully making packets to deliver to people of things they might make more use of than he. Well, I knew immediately this family photo would be part of my creation. How serendipitous was this?

Stage 1 was assessing our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual status (rooms) and writing that with Sharpie on a piece of foam insulation (like the construction theme going here?). You can see that peeking through:


Stage 2 was me painting with blue and green, and then Julie bringing her red and yellow and applying it to my piece.

In Stage 3 we got either black or white paint and a tool of some sort. I had  black and a sea sponge; Julie had white and the flower stamp:


We got to go around to everyone's painting in the room and add our mark. This was difficult for some people but I was into letting it flow. Then the crafting up began, with each adding our house and embellishments, and a paint wash if desired.

Here is my completed work. See if you can find the cherished family photo:



As we gathered to share with each other what was created and the meaning behind it, Adam's death came spilling out of me, in this cozy conversation corner:




It was cathartic without taking over the room. I felt supported and accepted by these mostly moms of young adults. One woman approached me in the bathroom afterwards and shared that she had seen me struggle with my emotions as another woman shared about her relationship with her young adult son. She hugged me and later asked me what Adam was like as a kid which made me feel pretty special.

The retreat ended with sharing a meal at one leader's gorgeous home. What a lovely way to wrap up a fantastic weekend.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

8-2-16

Guest Blogger: my baby boy Calvin

6 Months Later
(8-2-16)
            To say the last six months of my life have been the roughest I’ve experienced would be an understatement. What started off as a normal day during my senior year at ISU quickly turned into an unforgettable nightmare. After a puzzling text message around 3:30 PM followed by a few phone calls I was informed that my oldest brother, Adam (27), had taken his own life in Springfield. My parents then said that they were on their way to Bloomington-Normal to be with me and my brother, Eli (22). I immediately started pacing around my apartment with my hands on my head not knowing what to do. My roommate who is my best friend asked what was wrong and I told him that my brother had just died. He immediately e-mailed his teacher and said that he could not go to class that day so that he could be with me which I was extremely grateful for. Still in complete shock, I heard my phone vibrate and it was my brother Eli returning my call from earlier. The moment I told him that Adam was no longer with us was the first time it actually hit me that our big brother was gone. I waited for 20 minutes for Eli to get to my apartment and when we saw each other for the first time we embraced each other and I could feel his body shaking as we hugged and did not let go. We laid on my bed for a few hours and waited for my parents to arrive; tears, nothing but tears ran down our faces for two hours as we sat there confused and in dismay. Eventually my mom and dad arrived at a nearby hotel and Eli and I made the walk over to see them. I entered the room and immediately hugged both of my parents and could feel the tension looming in the air. It was a surreal moment in my life; sitting in the hotel room with my family wondering what had just happened and where we go from here. After hours of speculation and crying we got some dinner and my parents went to bed and Eli and I went back to our apartments which were located in the same building. Coincidentally, one of my good friends from home was in Bloomington and heard the news from my dad’s Facebook post and came over to comfort me for the night as well as a friend from school. As I cried myself to sleep that night, I knew that my life would be forever changed as of 2-2-16.
            Waking up the next morning it was as if someone had stabbed me in the heart. The realization of it all came that morning when I woke up and it wasn’t a bad dream, it was real life. My brother was gone and I would never see him again. I would never get to watch NBA basketball with him, never get to have an argument, my future children would never get to meet their uncle. It all hit me like a brick wall that morning, I was absolutely devastated and did not know how I would move forward. That night I made a Facebook post in memory of my brother and was bombarded with over 100 text and Facebook messages. I had to use a generic thank you response that I had copied and pasted so that I could keep up with all of the overwhelming support. Despite everyone showing their love to me that night, it almost felt as if I couldn’t take it all in. There were people I had barely known or did not even have their number telling me they had attempted suicide before or knew someone that committed. That night was a blur to me but I still to this day remember the people who took the time to send very detailed texts that showed that they truly cared about me.
            A few days later was Adam’s funeral in Macomb. Throughout these last six months I have had nights where I feel isolated and alone and can do nothing but cry for hours on end thinking about my brother. Different memories come to me. The phone call I got from my mom, hugging Eli for the first time, waking up the next morning, and most of all the funeral. Driving as a family to my brother’s funeral was something I never thought I would experience. As we stood in line and greeted people as they walked in I encountered several people who I recognized from my childhood. Seeing Adam’s roommate Tim and embracing him was the first time I got emotional that day. We hugged each other and immediately both started sobbing. Seeing some of my close friends there meant the world to me. My cousin Ethan playing the piano and singing was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard and I know Adam was looking down on him and smiling. The day went on and the support was amazing. We had so much food we joked that it was the first time in history I could find something to eat in the house.
            Let’s flash forward to present day. Six months have gone by without my brother and it doesn’t get any easier. Little things will trigger emotions such as someone saying, “I just want to kill myself,” or someone pretending to shoot themselves in the head. It is the little things like that that keep my emotions ultra-sensitive. One of the best things I have been told was that I am going to live a life that honors my brother. I try to do the right things in every situation in life and sometimes I imagine my brother standing right next to me and he gives me the motivation to accomplish anything. Anytime I need a little help I picture my brother pushing me and I always get whatever needs to be done, done. As the days pass, I still think about Adam walking through the door and greeting me with a handshake. The harsh reality of it all is that it will never happen and my family and I will have to move on with our lives. Adam was a great young man that I looked up to and always wanted to be like. His untimely death shook those of us close to him very hard. With that being said, we must learn from it and make the world a better place because of it. If you need help, ask for it. If you have questions, ask them. This life is too short not to speak up and out for yourself which is why I encourage anyone reading this to not be afraid to get help if you need it. My brother Adam affected a lot of lives during his time on Earth and I want to make it my mission to help as many people as I possibly can. Please, tell the people close to you that you love them because you might not know if it will be the last time you’ll get to tell them.

-Cal Denecke

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Grief

I am reading a book on grief I got from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Now almost six months later it is making sense to me, total sense. I can see myself in the different descriptions of grief reactions.

A month or so after Adam died, a friend gave me a book about loss of a child but it wasn't specific to suicide. I couldn't read much at the time. In fact, I'm not sure what I did with it, and I should return it if I am not going to read it.

The early part of the grief was trying desperately to find the answer to "why." We pieced together what we could from his Ipad, email, phone, and were lucky in a way there some kind of note. The note and the phone came later, but as the book explained and I didn't understand at the time, were part of the process of investigation the police had to go through. It was excruciatingly long and difficult, to my mind.

The book mentioned continual images of what he looked like at the time of death, even though I didn't see it or view his body ever. I still picture it anyway, even things like the blanket I believe he wrapped himself in, which side he must have laid on, and the prayer he may have said before pulling the trigger, though less frequently. They addressed that, whether or not to view the body. It's all put very gently, so that the survivor can be compassionate with themself for the decisions they made at a time of crisis. Some people have the ungodly tragedy of watching their loved one end their life.

It kind of made me mad when people would say, "It gets better." I am still at that stage as a matter of fact. It doesn't get better, but it does change.

It's good to know I'm 'normal' in some small way.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Peace out


I like this happy picture with Tim in the background. Can anyone identify the guy in front with the goatee?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diamonds


I don't think Adam would have approved this song, but I find it beautiful and how I feel about him (minus the romantic overtones, of course).  I heard it as "You're beautiful, like diamonds in the sky..."










My diamond in the sky...


Sometimes it hurts so bad.


Random-ness

This was a week of convergence of Adam-ness. Adam's dad came to Macomb last week to carry some of his ashes ("5 scoops of Adam")back to Nebraska for their entire family to memorialize Adam at his favorite place, Riverside Lakes:
This is the island where part of Adam was laid to rest on Wednesday. Everyone from the Tuttle side was together in what I can only imagine was an emotional tribute. Some of his ashes will also be placed at the Elgin and Laurel, NE cemeteries, for a more traditional (Catholic and Methodist) resting ground. Thursday evening I received and started posting pictures from Adam's life between 2008-2011. What a joy it was to see those happier, often goofy times he kept tucked away from us. It reminds me of when he was a teenager and I used to clean his room (rarely) and would examine receipts I found on the floor to track down clues to who my son, who became somewhat of an enigma to me, was. Yesterday as I was pulling onto Dudley Street a young man on a Mo-ped rode by: Adam's facial structure, coloring, body type, and a knit cap on his head in the middle of summer. I did a double take.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Did the heat get shut off? Why is everyone hanging around in a parka?
Selfie, before selfies were a thing?
Thank God I'm a Country Boy??!! I like this one because Adam is wearing a shirt I got him when I went to Mackinac Island in 2008.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Secret Life of Adam

Okay, it wasn't really secret, to those friends in Springfield. But to me, I just got a treasure trove of a glimpse into Adam's life at UIS from Kelsey today. Here is just a smattering. I am still savoring just looking into Adam's beautiful eyes in these photos. This is really special, so get ready...
Typical
Silly
Chillaxin
Check out the Bombers sweatshirt
So, just a taste. There are MANY more to disclose.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Peeps

I had lunch with these good people today. They lifted me up and made me feel Adam had a good life in Springfield, even if he kept this life separate. I needed to bridge this divide. These young people will be affected for the rest of their lives, but hopefully in time, good will come. I know they are strong, kind, loving young adults, just what I hope for their generation.
The message that keeps going through my mind since Adam died is, "You are not alone." Even if it's a call to a national hotline, you are not alone. Adam was not alone.

Trans

I read the book "Raising Ryland: Our Story of Parenting a Transgender Child with No Strings Attached" in two days, bawling my eyes out the last few chapters. What a loving, accepting, flexible, amazing family they are. This family is changing the world by sharing their story.



So why the tears? Besides the fact almost anything can elicit tears from me these days, their identification and alignment with the LGBTQ community is nothing short of inspiring. A typical conservative, Christian family has embraced this community as they love and accept their child for who he is. The mom, Hillary, writes:

      When you first come to the support group, the fact that there are other families and children dealing with        the same pain cements your new reality-this is actually real, because look around: other families are            experiencing it, too. But thank goodness there's also a relief to it: I am not alone. 

That quote is so relatable to my feelings after attending my first support group for survivors of suicide loss. It was horrible and relieving to be among other parents who are linked by this new fact of our lives. I didn't realize there would be so many recent losses of young life. There were other family members, too, but my attention focused on the other parents.

One of the most moving parts of the book is learning that the parent's motivation to support Ryland's transition at such a young age is to avoid their child becoming an alarming statitstic: 41% of trans children attempt suicide as compared 4.9% of the general population, because of bullying, non-acceptance by their own families, and a host of other issues.

It is not the story they envisioned when they had their first child, and neither is mine. It's the story I've been given, and the one I strive to share. I cry because my heart is full of love for people who do the right thing.


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

A-1

I was in tears on the way home from work tonight thinking about re-heating some leftover steak and dipping it in steak sauce. The only reason I have A-1 in the house is for Adam. I liked to feed him steak when he came home, as he never weighed quite as much as I would like and steak was a reliable way to fatten him up, but only if there was A-1 (not generic either) steak sauce. Somehow this bottle standing in my refrigerator seemed to be standing in for Adam, and when it's gone  I don't know what I will do. So, I felt relief when I shook the bottle and it was reasonably full. I heated up my steak and poured a small amount on my plate and ate alone (Pat is at a game). I've also been thinking about fresh corn, and how Adam didn't really like to eat if off the cob, but when I cut it off and froze the extra last year and served it to him in October, he LOVED it. I am, but I'm not looking forward to this year's corn bounty. There are reminders everywhere and the last few days, week, have been kicking me.

Monday, June 27, 2016

2016

2016 was my 35th high school reunion. It would have been Adam's 10th from the same school. As I was thinking of this this evening and getting ready to snap a picture of Adam in 2006, I got the most wonderful news:



As I sat down to talk with a couple of friends last night after the reunion, the song Africa came on. As I have mentioned before this song was special to Adam because it reminded him of his parents. Just the opening I needed to talk about Adam to these friends who probably didn't know how to bring it up. You know, the elephant in the room syndrome. It was cathartic for me and hopefully enlightening for them to learn more about him and how someone deals with a grief so unimaginable.

Adam with grandparents in 2006- Graduation Day


* if you click on the images, they will get bigger.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ash and Sand

Betsy, Ethan, Mom and I went out to the labyrinth around 4:00 Saturday evening. This was their first time, and we used the Wisdom cards that were designed for meditation with the labyrinth. After giving the cards intention, tracing the labyrinth on the card with our finger, and shuffling the cards, Mom selected Flower of Life, Betsy chose Environment, Ethan extracted Moon Goddess, and I pulled the Divinity card. Mom had to exit the labyrinth after finding the terrain too rough, but she puttered around the grounds exploring the displays and garden in her straw hat; she is a farm girl at heart. Did I mention it was quite hot in the sun?

When we got to the center, we remembered Adam and mixed some of his ashes with Tibetan sand from the World Peace mandala that Betsy saw in New Albany, IN in March. The monks painstakingly create the art and then it is swept away and its blessing sent out into the world. The sand reminds us of the impermanence of everything. How fitting, and comforting, too. I then suggested we throw it into the air in a Lebron-esque gesture and a good bit of it ended up on Betsy's face, stuck to her sweat.




As usually happens with Betsy, the serious moments are always cut with humor, something I dearly love about her. We laid down under a tree afterwards and enjoyed the refreshing breeze. This made us both break into song, "Let's Go Fly A Kite" which we had heard the night before at a showing of Mary Poppins. This was a song we used to sing as kids, but neither of us can remember why. 

As we threw the sand I told Adam I release him, and I do feel like another step has been taken in my healing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

Feeling sad today and sharing it here rather than a personal journal. I'm not sure why. I spend so much time disconnected from emotion in order to function, even this morning rising early, and when a wave of grief comes, telling myself, "I can't go there, I have to go to work today." But still, it's here.

June has always seemed like a month of promise. Adam and Cal's birthdays, various anniversaries and weddings, the beginning of summer and warm weather.

Eli and Hannah are off on their honeymoon, and on to camp for the summer. The wedding was spectacular, not in a Kardashian way, but in everything going smoothly, in everyone having a good time, in a natural and organic way. Cal is back to Normal and working at Hy-Vee. And of course, Adam is not here.

I am still trying to make sense of this decision he made, and how he didn't let anyone in to help. How could his pain be so great, or was his judgment clouded by alcohol and narcotics? Little and big reminders are everywhere. I opened his urn Sunday so we could spread some ashes at the Labyrinth.

What I hold onto is the support of so many people, especially those who have also lost someone to suicide. I hold onto trying to make a difference and honor Adam's life with the Out of the Darkness Walk. Doing what I can to be thoughtful and kind to others. Working on healing myself by being true to myself, seeking out support groups to see if they fit, taking care of my health, mental and physical.

So this June will be different. I can't change what happened in February. And I can't push away the feelings anymore.




Sunday, June 12, 2016

Walking a Labyrinth

During the busy wedding weekend, a special moment for me was taking the Deneckes (12 of us in all) to the Labyrinth on Saturday evening. The labyrinth was created to bring openness and awareness to suicide, serve as spiritual gathering place, and support families dealing with suicide loss. As we drove out in the country to the prairie park, without warning the road was closed with no detour or easy way to get to our destination. With my niece Dawn’s enthusiasm and encouragement, I led our three car entourage around several "Road Closed" barriers, drove over the graded earth (the highway was literally removed); off-roading it to the labyrinth. We all felt Adam was having another laugh and egging us on our adventure. Our walk and time in the center of the labyrinth remembering Adam was very important and meaningful to all of us. I was so touched by everyone who was there, and all of you who have supported us through this time with prayers, memorials, cards, etc.





Here is a story that ran on our local NPR station 6/3/16, the day before Eli’s wedding (it’s funny how the timing is): 



You can read it or press the Listen button (I actually did a radio interview). It explains the meaning behind the labyrinth (less than 5 minute story). If you are interested in supporting the Out of the Darkness walk, the link is:
www.macombwalk.org                                Go TEAM TUT


On Monday afternoon, I took my brother Chris, sister-in-law Donnamarie, and niece Megan to the labyrinth. Again, it was a spiritual experience especially at the center, where I feel Adam's presence. 




Just two days ago, I walked the labyrinth with its creator, Kelley, and saw a monarch butterfly, for the first time here. I felt it was a sign of Adam's new life and that he had wanted to stick around for the wedding; perhaps now he has been released, but not forgotten, never forgotten.