The Past, the Future, the Joy, the Sorrow

“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
― Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

Life’s complexities are sometimes revealed to us during moments of our greatest weakness when we are most vulnerable. And then sometimes, the awful complexities of life are cruelly revealed to us at a time when we believe we are the strongest, when we are rejoicing.

It would be difficult for me to imagine greater examples showing the incredible dichotomy of life which have been disclosed or forced upon me in the past seventy-two  (72) hours.

Last Thursday night, November 5, 2020, I witnessed the possibilities of a greater tomorrow when driven, compassionate people come together. Despite the Covd-19 apocalypse, and idiocy of a national election hanging in the balance, the Something for Kelly Foundation (“SFK”) hosted a live and virtual event rolling out the EDGI initiative. EDGI is spearheaded by Dr. Cynthia Bulik. During this event, Patti Geolat, Founder of SFK and Dr. Stephanie Setliff, Regional Director of ERC Texas disclosed to Dr. Bulik for the first time, that a number of treatment centers nationally are embracing this initiative and will encourage their patients to participate. And for the first time, we get to see a collaboration between research doctors and clinicians on a large, national scale. The event was filled with live music, laughter, love, joy and hope for a greater future.

Upon arriving at home that night, my son advised me that he and his wife were on the way to the hospital. The same hospital in which both my beloved daughter and loving father breathed their last. But, this time it would be different. This time, we will bask in the joy that comes from the birth of a new soul. And so, laying my head on the pillow that night, I envisioned the endless possibilities of a far better world.

At 7:42 a.m. the next morning, I received a live Facetime message.  I immediately see the smiling face of my son, Hanford, the exhausted but glowing face of his incredible bride, Rebeca, and … the hope and promise of a better world in Riley Emily Dunn. Born just six (6) minutes before. Tears fill my eyes as I watch the parents so filled with love that they can barely communicate holding the miracle they brought into the world. And for a moment in time, that huge hole that exists within my heart and soul, feels a little smaller.

Later that same afternoon, I had a positive, upbeat talk with D. Brian Hufford. Mr. Hufford is one of the lead attorneys in the Wit v. United Behavioral Healthcare case. Three (3) days before, on election day, the federal district court in California published its ruling on the remedies and ramifications imposed against UBH for its bad faith conduct. The ninety-nine (99) page ruling again eviscerated UBH and will provide new hope for the thousands of people insured through UBH.  Brian agreed to appear on the Mental Health Moment the following Monday at 8:30 to talk about the significance of the case and how it will positively impact so many people. In addition, we would address the upcoming oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case involving the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the 2020 Zombie Apocalypse, the idiocy of the many people who have chosen to define their very existence on who they voted for, and the hardships encountered by many, a beacon of hope, of a greater future is shining brighter.

On Sunday morning, I was honored to be able to participate with a men’s group. This group consisted of fathers and husbands whose loved ones were undergoing treatment at ERC Dallas. When the Zoom session started, I noted there were THIRTY-NINE (39) DADS in attendance! During the years that saw Morgan in treatment, there was never a men’s group like this. It was so well attended and the questions, so many intelligent questions came pouring from these men. And, I felt humbled. I felt grateful. They looked upon me as some kind of expert. I am not. I do not embrace the term, “Expert by Experience.” But, these men stood up to be counted. I felt inspired by them.

Later that day, one of the dads emailed me. His email brought tears to my eyes when he said:

“Hello Steve,

My name is K*** and I was at the meeting with Dr. **** this morning. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. It is very powerful and moving. I am very sorry for your loss. Your daughter sounds like she was an amazing person. I wish I was able to have met her.

Your incredible attitude and dedication toward bringing awareness to eating disorders is admirable and inspiring. The insight that you shared with us was very helpful. I was able to look up some of the work that you have done and it is very impressive. Your labor of love is very special and I want to thank you for what you are doing. The strength you have found from your grief is truly amazing. Thank you again.

Your daughter would be very proud of you, sir.”

Love, hope, joy, inspiration is flowing. Despite setbacks, despite all odds, despite the fact that my mother passed away in mid-September … I have a strong sense that the tomorrows will be better.

And then … And then …

Sunday evening about 8:00 p.m., I find myself talking on a cell phone with Gayle, my sister in law who married my older brother, Chuck. Now, Chuck is one of those stereotypical Type A personalities.

He is a pilot with American Airlines (although he says he is still an America West pilot) and has flown internationally for many years. (He says Venice is his second home.) He is an avid sailor and has sailed in conditions that would frighten most. An adventurer. Incredibly poorly dressed. Chuck’s idea of dress shoes is black boat shoes. And what a love of music!

And now, he is on the way to the hospital with the paramedics. He was drinking wine at home with Gayle. And then, he became non-responsive. Gayle called 911 who told her to perform CPR. Imagine … the fear, the terror, as you administer CPR to your loved one, hoping beyond hope that the paramedics arrive quickly. At last she feels a pulse.

Because of Covid-19, Gayle is not allowed to do much when she arrives at the hospital. Chuck is rushed into ICU where a breathing tube is inserted. Is it a heart attack or stroke? (both of which are prevalent on our mom’s side of the family) Is it a brain aneurism? Calls to his twin boys are made. And we wait.

It is now the next day, Monday afternoon. By all accounts, that morning the Mental Health Moment segment with Brian Hufford exceeded expectations. I don’t remember any of it.

It is 4:00 p.m. East Coast time and I have no update. I know he is alive. But, I have not heard any reports or findings. The ticking of the clock counting off the seconds echoes through my head. Chuck and I have talked about how we wanted to face the end (as if most of us have a choice). We agreed that at the end, before whatever fatal disease or condition claimed us, each of us would get a small sailboat, about 2 pounds of cocaine and two cases of champagne. That should just about do it. We would boldly sail away going on one last, great adventure! By God, we will go out on our own terms!

And the seconds tick away. Endlessly. Droning. The sands of time pouring through the hourglass. You may wonder how many grains of sand are left. Maybe you smile thinking of that sailboat.

And you remember little Riley. The future Riley could have. The future you so desperately want her to have. You look at her picture. The picture at the top of this article.

You still have hope. And you remember. You remember what still inspires you each and every day. What pushes you forward. What demands that you remain focused on helping others who so desperately need help. You remember.

And even in your pain and despair, you smile. For you do remember. You look at the pictures at the top of this article. You smile.

The picture on the right is the future, Riley.

The picture on the left? Your beloved Morgan.

The past connected to the future. The future tied to the past. And all of us mere bridges between the two.

And so, I await. I remember. And, I hope.

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