My whole world came crashing down at ~9:30 am on June 15th, 2017. When I opened the door to the upstairs guest bedroom where my wife had spent the night … the sight I saw was incomprehensible. I saw my beautiful bride … the love of my life for the last 36 years, my high school sweetheart … face down on the floor beside the bed … totally motionless. I just lost my mind … I screamed and yelled like I never had before in my life. First it was disbelief, then anger, then sorrow … first for her; then for me; then for the boys; then for her parents; then for the rest of her enormous extended family; then for all the friends she’s made; and then for all the people whose lives this beautiful lady had touched.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about what it was really like seeing her in that state. Nor will I go into detail of what it was like enduring the 3.5 hour process of having the scene examined, answering questions asked by the police, and to finally having the coroners personnel remove my beautiful wife from the home she loved so much … in a body bag … for the last time. I’ll spare you the details … it was surreal, it was agonizing … it’s actually really hard to put into words what it was really like.
After they took Lynn away … I started the painful and emotional process of notifying family and close friends. It was just brutal having to deliver this message … particularly because no one … I mean no one would’ve expected to get THAT call from me on that day … not in a million years. It tore my heart out to have to break the news to my sons, Lynn’s parents, my Dad, my sister, my best friends, and so many others. But it had to be done.
I had a ton of support from the very beginning. A neighbor of mine who is doctor was heading out to work just as the EMT’s and police arrived … so he came in to see if there was anything he could do. He stayed with me for hours. One my best friend’s wife (she’s one of my best friends too) was one of the first people I called because they are local … she came and didn’t leave my side the entire day and night. And her husband … who at the time was traveling in Mexico on business, booked the first flight he could to get back to be with me. And the support just kept coming … my best buddy came in from upstate NY; my college roommate and one of my best friends growing up from my hometown were with me within a day; my best buddies from Houston within a couple of days of her passing; my sister and her partner came in from Philly; one of my other best friends who I hadn’t seen in years and who lives in Brisbane, AUSTRALIA … once he found out … booked a flight for he and his wife and were with me within 7 days of her passing; the assistant Pastor from our church reached out and came to see me; the list goes on and on.
Arrangements needed to be made and I worked with my Pastor and a local funeral home to put things together. We belong to an incredible church called Lifepoint and we held the service there. Now I use the word service … but this wasn’t a service, this wasn’t a typical “wake and funeral” … this was a real celebration. A celebration of Lynn’s life and a celebration of her being called home to heaven.
So as I launch this blog … I’m going to be sharing with you various things that have happened over the 36 years that I was with Lynn … I’m going to be telling you a “love” story. But I’m also going to try to bring attention to and drive a conversation around two things … 1) the stigma associated with suicide and 2) this deadly, silent killer of a disease called depression. So I hope you follow along and you spread the word … because in the end we want to take this terrible tragedy and use it to do some real good, to make a real impact on the world … to save lives … to spread love!
So the first piece I want to share with you are the remarks I made at Lynn’s Celebration of Life held at Lifepoint Church on June 20th, 2017… so let’s get started on this new journey …
Lynn’s Love Story
Look at this place … look at the love in this church. I could say it’s unbelievable … but it’s not, it’s totally believable … because I know the impact that my wife had on the people here and so many, many others that aren’t here. But just the same … please know how much my family and I appreciate the outpouring of love and support from you all.
Look this an absolute tragedy. I’ve been transparent with those that I’ve talked to about what happened. My sweet wife took her life. And this is hard to reconcile. As you can imagine we’re going through lots of different emotions… anger, sadness, unbelievable sorrow, disbelief. Again what happened is just an unimaginable tragedy … I know it happens … but it was never supposed to happen to us. But I don’t want to focus on the tragedy … I want to focus on telling you about the beautiful person … the wife, mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend that we lost. So that’s what I’m going to focus on … and in a minute I’m going to tell you a love story … a real love story. And it might take me a while … because sometimes it’s hard to talk … and I do have a lot to say … so please bear with me. It’s so important to me … for my kids, for my family … that you hear the true story about the beautiful, loving Lynn that I’ve been around for the last 36 years. And you need to hear about the full body of work … not dwell on the last dark hours of her life. I’m telling this love story for Lynn, for me, and for our two sons. Lynn’s full body of work was all about love. Have no doubt that she lived a wonderful, rich, and fulfilling life.
But before I do … I need to ask you something. Unless you’ve been where me and my family are at … you can only imagine the pain. And even if you have been here … this is not one size fits all. I need to protect my boys. My only priorities, my only obligations going forward are to honor my wife’s legacy; to take care of myself; and most important of all … to take care of my boys. With that said … make no mistake we need the continued support and outpouring of love, we need the prayers, and the encouragement … please keep it coming because we have a long, long road ahead. But what we don’t need is anyone coming to any of us and offering theories or analysis of what happened. Please respect that we have the right, the choice to not talk about it if we don’t want to. Please take the cues from us … if we want to engage in a discussion you’ll know. This is really important … my sons really need some space … please give it to them. So enough of the ground rules … let me try to tell you this love story.
Lynn and I have known each other since we were in junior high school. We started dating when we were 17… the summer before our senior year … so she truly is my high school sweetheart. The connection was incredibly strong right away. It didn’t take long for ME to know she was the one. For various reasons we had our break-ups through our college years … but believe me I always knew she was the one … and I know … she knew I was the one. We got back together for good just before my last semester of college. We got engaged in 1987 and lived together in a small little attic apartment in Schenectady, NY (feels a little weird standing here in Church admitting we lived in sin … but that’s the beauty of committing to Christ … the slate is wiped clean). We got married in October ’88 … so next year would’ve been 30 years. Brendon came in December of 1992 and Ryan in July of 1997. Lynn was a terrific mother … she loved her boys with all her heart … and I’ll come back to that.
There were so many people who were important to her but I need to address a few …
Pop (my father) … I know you loved her like a daughter and I know your heart aches so bad. When we were talking last night you reminded me of where you and Lynn really made your connection. It was when I wrestled in high school … you two were my biggest fans … you’d sit together at every match … it was so cool. But just know Pop, she was crazy about you … and she knew how much you loved her. She often referred to you as the “sweetest man she’s ever known”. I have to be honest … I’d get twinges of jealousy when she’d say that … I’d be like “really honey, you know I’m standing right here”. But she would always stick her guns, saying something like … “honey you are wonderful … but your Dad is the sweetest man I’ve ever known”.
Christa (Brendon’s girlfriend) … Lynn adored you. She loved the fact that you love her son. She was so touched by the thought that you viewed our marriage as what a marriage should be … that our relationship demonstrated what true love is really all about. Just know that this tragedy does not diminish that one bit. What you saw was true love and two people who just loved being together and supporting each other.
Kirk & Mia (Lynn’s brother & sister-in-law) … Kirk I’m blessed to still have all my siblings … 6 of them … so I don’t know exactly what it feels like for you but I know you adored your sister and she loved you … and worried about you. And for both you and Mia all she wanted for you was individual health and happiness … and happiness in your marriage.
Tom & Helen (Lynn’s parents) … she loved you so much. I’ve lost the love of my life, my boys have lost their mom … but you’ve lost a child. I can only imagine what that’s like. I hope it gives you some comfort to know that I absolutely adored your daughter. I wasn’t perfect by any stretch … but I was good to her. She was my queen and I enjoyed treating her like one.
Brendon and Ryan (our sons) … your mother loved you guys so much. Yeah you could you get under her skin sometime … but that’s what kids do … we all did it. Don’t ever think that what happened was because she didn’t love you enough … it’s just not true. She cherished her job as a mom. And you know that. What happened here has absolutely no bearing on her love for you. You experienced it firsthand … you know it was real and deep love … like only a mother could love. Never have any doubt about her love for you.
Some people can point to a day and say that was the worst day or that was greatest day of their life. For me as far as the worst … there’s no doubt … it was Thursday – June 15th. But again I won’t focus on that. As far as the greatest … for me there were thousands tied for first because I was lucky enough to have her in my life for 36 years. Was it the day she attacked me at Sully’s party and kissed me for the first time. Or was it our official first date and we kissed sitting on the rocks at Waterford Beach; was it the day after being apart for about a year that the pay phone rang at our frat house and my roommate John picked it up … he finds me amongst a party room full of kids and says “dude you won’t believe it but Lynn’s on the phone”. Was it the day she said yes, the day we got married; the day our first … Brendon was born; or the day our second, Ryan was born … the list goes on and on.
Lynn struggled with depression over the years … at times she managed it well, at others it got the best of her. But the good times far outweighed the bad … by a long shot. We’ve lived in a number of places over the years … Upstate NY twice, CT, Atlanta, Houston, and Paris … and we enjoyed them all. But this move to Wilmington was special. This place just really clicked for both us. We built our dream home and we were set on living out our life here. She used to kid me … although she wasn’t really kidding … she’d say “hey hon, I’ll understand if you need to do another gig with GE in some other city … that’s fine … I’ll look forward to seeing you on the weekends”. Please know Lynn got a tremendous amount of joy out of life. Most of you here in this room got to interact with her … you saw it, it was impossible not to.
I’ve always been proud of my wife … I thought it was so cool how we truly worked as a team … from day one. Just ask anyone who’s come to our house for a get together. She was beautiful inside and out, compassionate, sexy, smart, and talented in so many ways … as a surgical physician assistant, a cook, with arts and crafts. She often told me how proud she was of me, how proud of the career I had built and how I provided for the family. She told me last week while on vacation in Grand Cayman that I made it look easy … I guess I must have a good poker face because it was far from easy. But I can tell you the single biggest reason why I got to where I am … is the incredible support she gave me over the years … she was amazing.
I was particularly proud of her over the last 7 months since her most recent back surgery last October. We were so nervous that this injury was going to turn out like the first one she incurred in 1999 … where it required multiple surgeries and she still had pain. But this time it was different. Within an hour after having surgery, I had her back home; an hour later per Dr’s orders she walked a block. Every day she walked further and further and got stronger and stronger. She started swimming … my girl was quite the fish … she started out doing 40 laps at the Y. Every week she added laps. She got to the point where she was doing 100 laps 2-3 times a week in the same amount of time it took her to do the original 40 … and she loved it. Over the same period of time she lost 30 lbs. She couldn’t wait to drop me a text every Fri morning after weighing in to let me know her progress. I was so proud of her … but more importantly she was so proud of herself and felt good about herself.
We’ve had lot thrown at us over the years. Lynn dealt with a tremendous amount … both personally with her health and serious family issues we’ve endured. She leaned on me as she should have. In last couple years in certain situations she would affectionately call me “Superman”. She called me “Superman” in part because I’m a hardworking, global traveling, wine/beer/cocktail drinking, fun-loving, outgoing guy who tries to get that maximum out of everything I do and rarely tires. But the other piece of it is with all that going on … I’ve always had the capacity to lovingly support her and pick up some of her load during the times when she was dealing with some of the frustrating health issues she encountered over the last 3 years. I must admit … I loved it when she called me that. I mean come on … what guy wouldn’t find satisfaction in a beautiful woman calling them Superman. But it makes me sad now … because Superman was always able to save the pretty lady in distress. I know it’s not my fault … but it hurts so bad knowing that I wasn’t able to save my pretty lady that was in distress.
I refuse to focus on that last moment … I’m going focus on the complete body of work … the 53 years, 2 months and 14 days prior to that moment … because there were so many good times, so much love packed into that time. And I’ll tell you if at the start of all of this … if God had given me a choice of being with her for 36 years and having it end this way or taking a different path and not have to endure this unbelievable sorrow … there’s no doubt I would’ve picked the 36 years with this incredible lady.
For all of you that were close to Lynn and I … I know you hurt for me and my boys. But I also know in your head and amongst yourselves you’re saying … “how could she do this to them”. Please stop. Do not be mad at her. When I found her I just lost my mind. My first emotion was anger and I just screamed and screamed … “honey what did you do, how could you do this”. But that anger quickly turned to sorrow … sorrow for her. Because I know how much she loved me and her family … and I know if she could have helped it … she would have never done anything to hurt me or her family. Look … I’d go insane trying to make rational sense of what happened. So I’m going to try not to … I’m going to focus on what I know …
- I know … I loved her with all my heart … she was everything to me … and I know she knew it
- I know she loved her boys and her family … with all her heart
- I know she loved me with all her heart
- And I know if she could’ve helped it … she would have
I’m devastated, my boys are devastated, her parents are devastated, our family is devastated … but don’t for a second let this one moment, this one irrational decision in a moment of despair define my beautiful bride. Lynn deserves better, I deserve better and most importantly my boys deserve better. I also just want everyone to know … that I know me and my boys will need help … real professional help. I will get it … because I need to be equipped with all the tools necessary so I’m in shape to help my boys. So you don’t have to tell me, at this time I just want to focus on the beautiful memories of Lynn and celebrate her.
So back to my boys …. I will always be here for you. I know we are changed forever. I know that my job description just changed and I’m adding scope. We’ve always been close but we’ll become even closer. Now look … I know it’s hard to believe that I could become an even cooler, more awesome Dad than I am today … but you just wait and see. You are my priority, you will get even more of me … I will rise to the challenge … count on it. And you boys will too. We will make your mother proud of what we become … she wants that for us.
So now it gets hard, Lynn, I know in this world I’ll never again hear your voice, touch your beautiful skin, I’ll never again kiss your lips … I will never hear you call me Superman again. But please know I will be Superman for your boys. I’m so glad that on April 22, 2012 you made the decision to give your life to Christ … allowing him to be your Lord and Savior. I remember doing the greeting at the beginning of the service at our old church in Houston that Sunday. And I was so proud to be able to tell the congregation that with the choice you made … I was guaranteed to spend eternity with my high school sweetheart … my bride. There will come a day when God will call me home too. And then we will be together once again. (And I’m going make you dance!). I miss you so much honey and I will always love you!