Tell Me Where It Hurts

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Time flies between suicides.

Or at least that’s how it feels these days.

When I heard today that Chester Bennington had ended his life, I immediately thought of Chris Cornell.  And it feels like Chris Cornell took his life last week.

But it was May.

Chris Cornell has been gone since May.

And then in June, Chester Bennington dedicated Linkin Park’s ‘One More Light’ to Chris Cornell during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

And now it’s July and Chester Bennington has joined Chris Cornell in what I imagine is a great band of pain-free rockers in heaven.

I can tell I’m feeling well because I’m not obsessing over the details of Bennington’s death.  I’m not researching story after story, only to reread the same few quotes from close friends or a family spokesperson.

I can tell I’m feeling well because I don’t wish it had been me instead of Chester Bennington. And I don’t think there’s a message in his death that’s meant for me.  I don’t think I’ve been dared to do something similar or to do something that will add impact and meaning to another artist’s death.

But this is the year that I decided to start sharing more about my own journey living with suicidal thinking.  I decided to start sharing in order to start giving back.

For years, I’ve relied on the experiences of others, finding inspiration and hope in their stories and their words. Maybe now, if I give some of that back, someone else can benefit from my experiences.

So let me tell you about what it’s like when I’m not doing well.

Like when Robin Williams ended his life in August of 2014.

I wasn’t doing well that summer. I was struggling with a particularly rough period of suicidal thinking and major depression at that time and Robin Williams’ death really struck a chord.

If you know me in real life, you might be thinking back to that summer and wondering what was going on then to make me miserable.

Nothing.

The answer is nothing.

The answer is always nothing.

I live my life as a high functioning professional and my brain lives it’s life as a chemically and stress-challenged nut.

That would have been a ‘regular’ summer – nothing out of the ordinary except a worse-than-usual brain.

And Robin Williams’ death hurt deeply.

I related to Robin Williams as an artist. I related to the many dark characters he had played. I related to his contrast of humor and high emotion. And I felt like I could understand what it was like to have a life that appeared to be in full swing and yet be suffering with a condition that others could not see or appreciate.

I remember reading so many tweets and Facebook posts that asked how someone with so much to live for could end his life.

#ihatethat #ihatethat #ihatethat

I hate that.

I hate when people connect the quality of one’s life or success with their propensity for suicide. I get particularly upset at the lack of understanding about suicide when I’m feeling suicidal.

At that time, I went to the few people I trusted on the topic and ranted about suicide having very little, if anything, to do with what a person has.

It’s the inability to continue living with constant pain,” I explained to the few people who had witnessed me living with constant pain.

I yelled at television’s morning personalities who went on and on about all that Robin Williams had and questioned why nobody was able to stop him.

And I got frustrated.

Because it’s really hard to help people who don’t live with suicidal thinking to understand suicidal thinking.

When Robin Williams ended his life, I thought it was a message to me. I thought it was a sign that the time had come for me to do it too.  I thought, as I tend to think, that maybe if I left a really good note, people would understand the pain behind suicide better.

That’s something that happens to me that doesn’t happen to normal people.

Normal people don’t feel dared to die.

Sometimes, I get an overwhelming feeling that it should have been me and not the person who died.

In the summer of 2008, we lost a number of household names whose time was not meant to be – and I then spent the summer trying to figure out how I could take the place of someone who didn’t want to die. First Tim Russert, then George Carlin and then Tony Snow. It was a hard summer for my brain. I was certain I was supposed to be a part of the puzzle unfolding before me.

It’s that type of thinking I’m used to because my brain engages in it so freely.

It’s kind of like my brain has a life of its own – a life that has little to do with the normal functioning life people see me living.

I can feel my brain engaging in all of this nonsense and sometimes it is more intrusive than other times.  Like in that summer of 2008 when I could not get a break from the noise in my head.

But now, in times like these, when I’m doing well, I just watch the show going on in my brain and I do a million little things to make sure that my brain doesn’t get too loud or too inappropriate.

When I first began writing about the suicide stuff, it made some people nervous. I think it made them wonder if writing about suicide was actually *the sign* that things were bad.

But no.

Talking about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.

Writing about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.

And no, talking and writing about suicide aren’t triggers.

But silence is a trigger. And hiding is a trigger. And keeping secrets is a trigger.

So if you know someone who lives with pain – any pain – get to know their pain. Get to know what they look like, talk like, act like when they’re in pain.

And make their pain part of your routine.

What?!?

Yes, I said ‘make their pain part of your routine.’

Make it part of your routine to ask them how they are doing so you can tell when they’re not doing well.

Make it part of your routine to ask them the questions that lead to information about their condition.

What music are they listening to? What shows are they watching? What foods are they eating?

Are they sleeping at night? Waking up when they should?

Getting out? Exercising? Seeing friends?

My inner circle folks know what my dangerous behavior looks like. So they know to always ask specifics regarding what I’m up to.

Because one day I can look like I’m doing great, but that can quickly turn.

And one last thing.

If you know someone who lives with pain, don’t pretend they’re not in pain when they are  pain.  Ignoring the pain won’t make it go away, but acknowledging the pain can often help.

Well, this essay doesn’t flow all that well, but neither do my thoughts about how to talk to others about suicidal thinking.

Maybe the flow will get better as I get more comfortable uttering some of these hard-to-say thoughts out loud.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

 

 

 

 

Flash Cards for a Functional Year

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I’m sorry the title of today’s offering isn’t better.

I should have written something about a happy or joyous year, right?

But seriously, happy and joyous aren’t my goals.

I wouldn’t mind being happy and joyous, mind you.  It’s just that I don’t generally set out to be happy and joyous. Generally, I set out to be functioning and, hopefully, very high functioning.

So far, it looks like this could be a good year for high functioning.

The basics appears to be in place in that respect, so I’m pleased.

Wow.

How’s THAT for some jumping-up-and-down, crazy, out-of-control positivity, eh?

So here are my basic rules for achieving my goal of having a high functioning year.

And yes, I keep them on note cards.

(1) Ignore my brain

Well, I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can try to step away from messages my brain sends to me.  I can try to avoid getting hooked by bad brain messages.  And I can try to avoid getting caught in the swirl of my brain activity…when my brain activity is swirling.

(2) Question my brain

I can ask whether my brain is being helpful or unhelpful at any given time. If it’s being helpful, I can work with it.  If it’s being unhelpful, I can choose not to engage with my brain…or at least try.  Some days are better than others, but it’s a good exercise to disagree with my brain and practice rejecting it when it is not helping me.

(3)  Ignore others

I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can definitely ignore other people.  I don’t need to be rude or disrespectful toward them.  I don’t even need to let them know I’m ignoring them. I can just discount their input, their perspective, or their words (or their texts and emails).

I should probably mention that I don’t mean all others. I just mean those few others who tend to be unhelpful. Let’s ignore them.

(4) Don’t Feel Bad

Number Four pertains to Number Three.  I can ignore those few others I ignored in Number Three without feeling bad about the fact that I’m ignoring them or wondering if I’m hurting their feelings. And if I worry about them at any point, I can remember that there are plenty of people out there who are ignoring me.

(5) Move

I need to move everyday.  Whether its a few miles of running or 10,000 steps of walking or something more structured, I need to move.  I’ll assume you’ve experienced the difference between moving and not moving.  Moving just feels better. Period. It feels better, it looks better, it works better.  So I gotta move. Every day. In some way.

(6) Be My Own Police

I need to be vigilant about my environment. No moody music. No sad movies. No time spent alone around known triggers.

Policing myself is easy in some respects since I’m quite rigid and generally hyper-disciplined.  It’s a bit harder when others are around and I have to bow out of an activity or conversation topic that triggers me.  It’s especially hard when I’m in a place – physically or mentally – where everything’s a trigger.

When everything’s a trigger – or when it just seems like everything’s a trigger – it’s important not to take on big thoughts or big decisions.  During those times, I try to call a personal time out and I declare privately that everything’s on hold. I take more hot baths than usual and eat some comfort food (i.e. oatmeal for dinner) and I just allow time to pass.

(7) Regroup, Reorganize, Reimagine

This is the story of my life. I do this all the time. I do it every weekend. I do it every month. I do it anytime I need a do over or a new start.  I make lists and charts and graphs and spreadsheets and then more lists.

I always know the most current priorities. And I always feel like I can be on top of things.

It might not be that I’m actually on top of things, but hey, at least I feel like I am.  And I have to think that feeling there is part of the way to being there, right?

(8) Fantasize

I imagine fantasies that are partly based in reality so that they can serve as positive visualization.

These days I imagine that Leonardo DiCaprio likes my style of painting and commissions me to paint for him. In the advanced fantasy, he provides me a studio in which to paint.

I always wanted an actual studio.

Then I imagine that my art becomes wearable as yoga clothes and I pass people wearing them in airports.

You know you’ve made it when you see your products in airports.

(9) Initiate More Conversations

This one is tough for me but I’m going to do it. I am going to initiate more conversations. I tend to not do so and I know all of the neurotic reasons I don’t initiate conversations. Mostly I don’t because I’m an uptight workaholic Type A personality.

But not initiating is hurtful to people I love so I am going to really really really try to initiate more conversations with a few people I love and a few people I like.

(10) Number Ten

I feel like there should be a number ten.  Nine seems so wrong to end on.

Ooooooh! I know! I know!

I’ll reinforce a rule I made last year and didn’t do so well with.

I want to throw things out and/or give things away EACH WEEK.

Okay. I’ll journal that so I keep on track. Dump stuff each week. I really really really want to get rid of stuff.

Well, back now to working on the art business, which I never have to remember to do.  Same with painting…no reminders ever necessary.

And then out to walk the dog and knock out some steps.

I hope your 2017 is filled with meaning, passion, purpose, love, giving, hope and inspiration….and laughs, hugs, cuddles, and all that mushy stuff too, of course.

xoxo, d

The Mother.

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I can never speak for anyone else’s experience.

I don’t know how the deaths of celebrities affect others.

I can see that others are affected by the outpouring of emotions and thoughts on Facebook, obviously. But I’m not sure what experience, if any, is common among any particular groups.

I’m always hesitant to share my experience because I view the world through the eyes of someone who lives with chronic major depression (i.e., it lurks around every corner) and obsessive suicidal thoughts (i.e., my brain only owns one record and loves to play it). I worry my experience is too weird, too worrisome, too depressing or too something that will make others scared of me.

I especially question whether anyone would share my thoughts about death since death is a real trigger issue for me.  But then I remember how helpful it is to me when someone shares their  own thoughts and I relate to those thoughts and I am comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone.

When I’m doing well, which is, thankfully, a lot of the time if not most of the time, I respond almost “normally” to deaths like those of George Michael and Carrie Fisher.  I feel very reasonably sad while I remember how much I love George Michael’s music and Carrie Fisher’s books and movies.  I get appropriately sentimental about the times in my life that their respective works were most important to me.

George Michael is a bit of a potential trigger because I listened to Listen Without Prejudice on a loop during a period in the 1990’s when I was feeling particularly down.  I can easily get a bit weepy thinking about that album and a summer when my brother gave me that CD and it provided the soundtrack for an entire summer of sorrow.

But mostly I’m able to feel sad and blue in a normal way…the way normal people feel sad and blue.  I don’t have to allow the feelings of sadness and blue-ness to go to an extreme. I don’t have to view the deaths of others as a sign or a message or anything more than an awful thing that happens in life …. because awful things happen in this life.

So, anyway, I was mourning fine.

But then Debbie Reynolds went and got sick.

And I thought Debbie Reynolds would be fine. Exactly the way I had thought Carrie Fisher would be fine.

And then, of course, she died.

And well, it got a little harder to keep being the normal kind of sad.

But I still maintained a ‘normal’ reaction.

I remained sad and blue in a normal way.

Even though now I had to think a lot about my own mother who has, throughout the years, told me a million times that she could never go on without me.

My mother is not on social media, but she does read my writing. Even though it’s not easy writing to read, obviously.

But, really, as difficult as my writing is to read, it’s far more difficult to live through. And my mother has had a front row seat.

Actually, she’s been backstage.

So not to worry. I can’t write anything that surprises, shocks or upsets my mother.  We’ve come too far for that.

And luckily, when I’m writing about what we’ve been through, it’s generally a good sign that I’m doing well. So there’s that… as they say.

At times in the distant past, when I had not been doing so well, my mother would say things like “I could never go on if something happened to you.”

It’s odd to talk about this now. It seems like many lifetimes ago.

But back in the past, I never asked my mother whether she could go on without me. I never even wondered.

But she told me.

And I always responded the same way.

I always told my mother that if I ever took my life I would know that she, of all people, would be okay and would understand why I had done so – since she had seen the most of how much pain I lived with when I was in pain.

I sincerely hope we never have to test either my mother’s theory or mine.  In my healthy mind, I hope that’s not a reality ever. I don’t even want to come close, which is a very healthy thing to be able to say, by the way.

But honestly, I can’t imagine how Debbie Reynolds could have gone on without her daughter.  I can’t imagine how much pain Debbie Reynolds would have been in.

And honestly, I can’t imagine that kind of pain ever subsiding.

I hope Carrie and Debbie are lunching somewhere wonderful in Heaven.  I hope they see my Grandma Freda, who LOVED Tammy and the Bachelor. I never would have wanted Debbie Reynolds to die, but it’s oddly soothing that she went on to be with Carrie.  I’m glad about that.

Damn. That mother-daughter thing is really really real.

Damn.

xoxo, d

 

Don’t you want something different?

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The puppy who’s no longer a puppy has been fed, walked, watered and thrown balls to.

Well, they weren’t actually balls. They were actually pieces of penne pasta, if you must know.

This puppy who’s no longer a puppy likes the half-crunchy-half-chewy pieces from the top of the casserole. So she gets them thrown across the room and she chases them down.

Nah.

She’s not too spoiled.

So let’s see. We’d covered two points so far in previous essays:

(1) Don’t be upset if the Person With Depression (PWD) can’t always keep your schedule; and

(2) Don’t take it personally if the PWD drops off of the face of the earth.

So, that brings us to the third helpful lesson we learn from Rob Kardashian‘s life and his family’s responses to his depression (as witnessed by me from my obsessive viewing of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Rob and Chyna)

(3) The Person With Depression (PWD) most likely isn’t choosing for his or her life to be this way. 

Omigod.

I cringe every time I hear any person who doesn’t suffer from depression asking WHY the PWD is being this way, as if the PWD is choosing to stay in bed, choosing to stay at home, choosing to be completely lifeless and choosing to be completely hopeless.

Think about it folks, especially you folks who don’t experience major depression.

Who in the world would want to volunteer for depression?

It’s so hard to explain to people that depression takes over your body and mind. It consumes you to the point that you can’t control it because it’s controlling you.

Depression takes over, making choice an irrelevant factor after a certain point.

I know, I know.

You’re saying “But you DO have a choice.”

And yes.  Yes, there are points where the PWD has choices.

But those points are NOT during the time of crisis.

During the time of crisis is NOT the time to ask why the PWD is choosing to be this way.

Choices are a topic of conversation better left for when the PWD is feeling better.

Choices are a topic of conversation for when the PWD has more control over the depression than the depression has over the PWD.

When the PWD is in the throes of depression, your job as a family member or friend is simple: help them to get through it and then help them to get out of it.

And if you’ve never been in the throes of serious depression, chronic depression or major depression, just know that it’s awful.  It is painful and upsetting and full of constant reminders that life won’t get better.

It’s worse than you can imagine.

So, for the PWD, hearing a family member or friend question why one would choose that way of life isn’t helpful.

It’s just more hurt on top of the already hurtful hurting.

Okay, that’s enough about depression for one day.

Hope you’re more down than up this fine day. And more yes than no.

Time for me to paint some pretty paintings.

Enjoy your version of painting, whatever it is.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

Why didn’t you call me?

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Okay. Phone rang. Answered phone. Call over.

Back to Rob Kardashian and Part II of how his experiences with depression can help others.

(2) Sometimes it’s hard for the Person With Depression (PWD) to pick up the phone. 

So there are a bunch of episodes where Rob disappears.

As the official disappearing member of my family, these episodes are especially special to me.

The thing is that making contact with family and friends is a lot of work for someone who is lost in the darkness of despair.

I know that sounds melodramatic, but depression is melodramatic.  The whole depression thing is a big dramatic drama.

But whirling away at the inside center of all the drama is the basic inability to do anything. The inability to do anything and the total lack of desire to do anything.

So actually, a lot of the emotional drama comes from that tug of war between the PWD and family or friends who wish the PWD would just get over it.

Yeah, I said just get over it.

Your favorite phrase and mine too.

Here’s the thing.

Getting mad at the disappearing PWD isn’t really logical.

The disappearing PWD really just needs to be given time or a safe environment to be coaxed back into.

So getting mad at the PWD has the opposite effect; it pushes the PWD further away.

For some PWDs, it might trigger worse things like suicidal behavior. For some PWDs, your anger might be interpreted by them as a dare.

So don’t get angry.

It doesn’t help.

And it doesn’t make sense, if you think about it.

The PWD isn’t trying to upset you. The PWD is just upset.

Either step back and give the PWD some space or work on making the environment safer for the PWD so that he or she will reengage more quickly.

And remember…it might feel like it’s about you, but it’s not. It’s not about you.

More in a bit.

The puppy (who really isn’t a puppy anymore) is giving me the look.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

I’m sorry I can’t love you at the time you had love scheduled.

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For months I’ve been wanting to write about my (completely one-sided) love affair with Rob Kardashian.

Yes, I love the guy.

I love him for unwittingly bringing to light what it’s really like to live with a condition you just can’t manage so gracefully.

Even with money.

Even with all that money, he just can’t manage his depression too gracefully. And it’s a great opportunity to help others understand just how difficult it is to live with depression.

So for months I’ve been wanting to write about Rob.

And then this morning I saw that Kanye is still in treatment for whatever he’s in treatment for.

It might be a breakdown. It might be exhaustion, which I think is just another word for  breakdown these days, right?

Whatever it is, I hope Kanye’s need for a time out and some professional help actually helps others the way that Rob’s depression helps me.

Here’s a starter list of what I hope Rob’s depression – and his family’s (often shocking) responses – will teach others:

(1) Sometimes it’s hard for the Person With Depression (PWD) to stick to your schedule.

We see this in almost every episode with Rob. His sisters or his mother schedule a dinner or a party or travel and Rob bails.

Then they talk smack about him. Then they talk more smack about him. Then he doesn’t show up. Then he apologizes. Then he makes it up to them with another dinner or another party or balloons or gifts.  Then they ask him why he couldn’t make it the other time and they tell him how hurt they were when he didn’t show up. Then he gives some lame response.  Then he apologizes more. Then they tell him how much they love him and how they want to be supportive.  Then it happens all over again in the next episode.

Well, folks, this is the story of my life.

I miss things.

Not because I don’t want to go to things, but because I am often not feeling well on the day that something is scheduled.

And I’ve found that some family members STILL don’t get that “not feeling well” is a nice way of saying “I absolutely cannot leave the house today.”

If you love someone who is living with depression or one of its related conditions, believe them when they say they can’t leave the house.  And don’t think it’s about you.

And don’t give them a ton of grief.  They’ve already got a ton of grief without you adding yours.

When they’re feeling good again, ask them how to be helpful during those difficult times.

Do they like to be encouraged to get out?  Do they like to be left alone?  Do they like for you to drop by?

Just ask them.

They’ll tell you.

Okay…that’s one down. Phone ringing. Back soon with number two!!

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

Learning to Live with Life.

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Glenn Fleishman sharing the New York Times on Tom Brokaw just popped up on my Twitter feed. 

Now I’ll get the info in sets of three since I follow all three sources.

I like Tom Brokaw. I like him in all of the basic ways – as a professional, as a journalist, as a man, as a human. He’s a good egg.

I’ve followed Mr. Brokaw’s journey through his diagnosis of multiple myeloma at the age of 73.

I like people with issues, especially medical issues and major life crises.

I like watching people confront struggle and triumph over life’s bad badnesses.

I like witnessing the humility of life’s constant reminders that we’re SO not in control when it all comes down to it.

I like when good, reputable, professional, accomplished, successful eggs like Tom Brokaw share their experiences of real life’s ongoing struggles.  It helps me to know that I am not alone in feeling alone.  And it helps to give me words to define my own struggle…and ways to understand my own struggle.

Specifically, I’ve been working lately to come up with my own “take” on my message. For the first time in my life, I’m sharing the stories behind my art, none of which are lovely, upbeat or positive. My art is dark and morbid and depressing.  My art is the art of depression, which is dark, morbid and depressing, at least for me.

So basically it goes like this:

I’ve spent a lifetime living with depression. I’ve created a ton of art inspired by my dark experience. The art is dark. And now I’m sharing.

The thing is that darkness scares people. They assume you’re in the dark place at the very time when they themselves experience the darkness you’re sharing, even though the darkness you’re sharing could have been inspired by experiences from ages (or hours) ago.

So I like the idea of “Learning to Live With“….because it reinforces the reality that when you experience anything difficult, you experience it on a continuum.  You experience the discovery of the difficulty as you define it and identify its scope.  You experience the difficulty as you have it, hate it, fight it, embrace it, and own it. You experience the difficulty as you fix it and then move on to recovering from the fixing phase.

And then you clean up.  You experience the cleaning up of the odds and ends that invariably result from any life disruption.

And then, just when you thought you’ve cleaned everything up and put everything back into its proper place, you experience the fact that your normal is no longer the normal that other people experience.

And, if you have a chronic condition, the cycle repeats.

And repeats. And repeats. And repeats.

I suspect my next essay will be about the stages of living with depression…. or whatever difficulty, struggle, condition or other life reality you’re living with. Because yes, we are all living with something. And yes, we are all somewhere in the journey or process….somewhere in the stages.

And it’s life.

It’s just life.

So go live it.

And help others live it if you’re lucky enough to be in one of the easier stages today.

xoxo, d

“Are you ready?” “Noooo!”

 

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Thank you to the lovely Dr. Anita Auerbach for allowing me to share her eulogy for Richard Thompson.  Her words met me where I was at.  And for that I am grateful.                                

EULOGY for RICHARD THOMPSON

For some reason the brightest stars always seem to burn too briefly. Life in the end, as portrayed in a popular Jimi Hendrix song “is the blink of an eye.”

Richard Thompson came into my life very late in his. There began between us a series of meetings in which no topic was off-limits, no emotion, no thought was unspeakable. We smiled, we cried and we told stories to each other. But so often we laughed, particularly Richard laughed, guffawed really, when we reviewed some of his own comic strips and caricatures!! It was as if he was there at their inception again when he knew finally he had gotten it right. For sure, we spoke of the frustrations giving birth to these portraits: the many drawings crumbled, and comic strip concepts torn up, the garbage cans kicked to the other side of the room, the all-nighters, the half-nighters and the no-nighters!

But all of this faded away in his laughter. And this is what I want to impart to you: the extraordinary capacity of this man to retain a sense of humor, a sense of the wry and absurd, even for his own situation: the juxtaposition of his enormous talent trapped in a body that had become so frail and incapacitated, and yet the still huge capacity for laughter and delight. It was a nobility of spirit I have rarely seen, and it was ennobling just to be in the presence of it.

How did he do it? Well he didn’t do it alone and he knew it: “My girls” he would say, “my girls”. His darling wife Amy with whom he found both physical and emotional support, his daughter Emma whose antics on the elevated manhole cover in their neighborhood served as his inspiration for Cul de Sac, and his daughter Charlotte with whose quiet, gentleness of spirit he most closely identified. And Rudy, his trusted aide, whose warmth and strength combined to keep things moving and safe. Visits from his father and brother. And his remarkable colleagues, some of whom you have heard from today, were so sustaining: Nick Galifianakis, Bono Mitchell, Pete Doctor to name just a few whose frequent visits created such anticipation and delight. And when Pete dropped off the director’s cut of his brilliant movie animation Inside Out (in which Richard is mentioned in the credits) and a baseball cap of the same name, Richard proudly bestowed on me the video to view, but he never took off the cap!

I asked Richard once when I was meeting with him now at home, as it was clear we were very near the end, “Are you ready?” “Noooo!” was his response. “What more do you want to do?” I asked. He pointed to his favorite caricature of Beethoven behind him and said simply “Art”.  Later that same day, as I stood with Nick outside the Thompson home, he said to me ”You know who that is in there [referring to Richard]? That’s Beethoven.”

We lost Richard shortly after that. But in the end, his was a death with dignity. Why? Because he died in character. Amy made sure of that. He died the way he lived: at home, surrounded by loved ones, all of the enormously prolific art of his career, and even by the characters of Cul de Sac – scenery designed and built by Amy for the play she wrote, directed and produced in bringing the comic strip to the stage.

Astronomy teaches us that there are stars we now see whose light reaches the earth even after they themselves have disintegrated. And so too for us can Richard’s bright, funny, shining memory, the extraordinary reservoir of art and talent that flowed from his hands and his heart,  light our world even after he has long passed from it.

Amy, Emma and Charlotte, know for yourselves that the difficulties of his last days, from which this was his only exit, will someday begin to fade so that time heals much of the pain and all that remains is the beauty of the memories, and the love, always the love.

Eleanor Roosevelt in eulogy of her husband Franklin (FDR) said:

“They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind. In those whom they have blessed,they live a life again.”

‘So let us not cry because it is over; let’s smile because it happened.’

Surely a spirit so strong as Richard’s can endure in the hearts of those he leaves behind, so that in the words of a favorite poem:

The tide recedes but leaves behind
bright seashells on the sand

The sun goes down but gentle warmth
still lingers on the land

The music stops and yet it lingers on
in sweet refrain:

For every joy that passes
something beautiful remains.

(author unknown)

Godspeed, Richard Thompson. Peace be with you. You did all that you could do. Your family who were like friends and friends who were like family, your colleagues and many supporters did all that they could do. Thank you for all you did for all of us. We will miss you but we will celebrate your life for the gift it was in ours.

 Dr. Anita Auerbach
26 August 2016
National Press Club
Washington, D.C.