1. "a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died."
2. The name of a movie Scott found darkly funny.
3. Something no one wants to be the author of...
At the end of April 2019, I was participating in an online retreat. I was still trying to figure out how to find myself again. One of the last journal prompts was a heartbreaking one: write my own obituary. I remember thinking, wtf, that is upsetting. I did it anyway. How did I want to be remembered? What did I want people to write and say about me and how I lived? What story am I leaving behind? It seemed morbid and not something I wanted to think about-ever. Death terrified me. Being a compulsive worrier, dying was my biggest worry of them all. The death of myself or anyone I loved was constantly racing through my mind. I felt that if I knew my loved ones wherabouts 100% of the time, told them to drive safe, forced doctor appointments on them, asked that they check in more than once, followed up with anyone in the vicinity of the sirens I hear, checked the weather, prayed, and tapped my nose 3 times--all would be well. The last one is a joke. Sort of. My controlling tendencies drove people crazy, mostly my Scott.
While my worry was only because I loved him deeply and could not imagine a world that he was not a part of, it was annoying.
In a plot twist I did not see coming, I was in that same journal two weeks later, writing a real life eulogy for my husband, my best friend, and my partner of 17 years. The one I used to drive around the streets of downtown Denver and then Pittsburgh suburbs all hours of the night looking for him when he didn't answer the phone and was hours late. The one I had the police search the entire city for. The one who I cried over begging God to protect him wherever he was during those nights he disappeared. The one I hospitalized against his will over and over because I could not stop it alone. The one who I made show me his medicine daily. I could not figure out the right series of actions that would keep him safe, but I was never giving up. I planned to pull those strings forever. He was my priority. I would keep him safe. I took our marriage vows incredibly seriously and quite literally. In sickness and in health. I fucking had this under control. That is until I was working multiple jobs, had two kids, my own mental health struggles, and financial issues that wouldn't quit. And his brain started to become so fractured that our Scott, the dad and husband who adored us, was hardly around anymore. I knew I couldn't be pulling these strings forever. They were getting stronger and my hands were getting weaker. I was tired and so was he.
What does one write in a sudden turn of events where someone you planned to be on your front porch rocking chairs with at 80 (we liked to envision ourselves yelling at the neighbor kids to "get off of our lawn"), leaves you--permanently-- at 38?
Who the fuck knows? I honestly don't remember writing it and don't know where I was. I want to think it was the airplane ride back to Pittsburgh after viewing his body in Phoenix, but I don't recall for sure. Every aspect of that first week is a complete blur. What I do remember though is that Lily wanted to write her own and by herself. It was epically more brilliant than mine with perfectly timed jokes. I remember thinking, he is so damn proud right now. His daughter is being funny and sincere all at once on one of the hardest days of her life. If only it wasn't so weird to film a memorial speech and if I wasn't completely floating above reality out of it, I would have asked someone video her speech.
For now, I want to share the words I spoke about Scott at his celebration of life.
I recently found my journal with my own obituary and Scott's eulogy. What are the chances that these two pieces of writing would only have a few pages separating them? If I were to write about Scott today, it might be a little different, heavily edited, and perhaps a bit more complete, but I felt strongly at the time, when it was so raw, that these were the words that needed to be spoken in honor of Scott. It is part of our big, messy, unedited story to share them.
"Scott loved people. He loved all people and never met a person he couldn't make laugh. He loved people more than anything in this world. He wanted to listen, help, discuss, and spend time with others. His heart was the biggest I have ever known. No one was unworthy of love. Scott was generous to all with any material possessions, but mostly with dropping everything to listen and help.
His brilliance, inability to deal with injustices, and his mental illness led to a life harder than most. We always talked about how our lives were swimming upstream. We fought for his life both physically and mentally for 17 years together. All of the doctors, medicine, therapists, hospitals, and surgeries that could help were found and it still came up short.
He just wanted to be who he was. And that person didn't fit into the boxes of the world we live in. He fought for me, for Lily Grace, and for Avery Duke because we were his world and he was ours.
The love Scott and I shared was what we liked to call "movie love." Even after all the years that had gone by, we kissed like it was the first time. We had butterflies in our stomach. We didn't follow many rules and didn't do things the way it was supposed to be done. We picked up and moved west and decided to take adventure as our new mission. We traveled the country together, went to Italy, numerous spontaneous trips, and never was there a dull moment with any of them.
He was my fashionista. Scott shopped for me better than I ever could and later did the same for his Lily.
We met each other over our love for Jesus and it evolved over the years. We couldn't get behind hypocrisy or meaningless rules. But down deep, I know we both have a fierce love for the Lord. Scott was a servant with his talents playing music and his capabilities to serve the poor.
When Scott became a dad to Lily, his entire world shifted--his heart bursted with love for his daughter. He taught her how to make a proper joke, how to cook and bake, how to appreciate music and movies, and form a love of amusement parks and arcades. He read to her, answered her questions about history with his vast knowledge, and instilled in her a vocabulary that is beyond her years.
His time with Avery was shorter, but he was his everything too. He loved and cared for him like no one else could. He showed him all of the world's firsts. He appreciated and nurtured Avery's wild side and his curiosity because I know he saw himself in him.
I know he wanted nothing more than to be a husband and a dad that he felt we deserved. He worked so hard and gave up so much to get there.
One of his many texts he wrote to me this spring:
"You three are the best, my favorite people in the world. The most decent, brilliant, hilarious, beautifully, and nearly-completely functionally insane people I know. I'm coming back for you too."
I need you to know that in our experience there are no where near enough options or support. Someone who is mentally ill can be in crisis many times throughout their life and it looks different each time.
Stigma is there because no one talks about it--it is not okay.
Help each other.
Don't be scared.
Be there in real ways.
Bake a damn casserole.
We need to do better---
To be better."