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Kintsugi of My Soul

Posted by Michelle Rutz on May 11, 2020 at 4:25 PM

I can literally feel myself healing every day.

Like the Kintsugi process of repairing broken potterymixing

the urushi glue,

brushing it on,

fitting the pieces back together,

curing in a special box,

and the whole rest of the long process.

It is time-consuming,

it is messy,

it requires special tools.

It is also not what every pot needs.

Some pots never break,

some only have one piece to be repaired.

My pot, my life, needs a lot of time,

a lot of repair

especially in its isolated curing box.

I know this time is what I need.

I must continue to let go of my fears that this is how I will always be,

but also to be okay IF this IS how I will always be,

…..but I don’t really think so.

I believe a next new phase will come,

but I cannot push it or rush it.

Someday I will have people around me again;

I know I do have something to offer.

No, I will not be the same person I was.

But I will be more confident,

more intentional,

more authentic.

I may not be happy go lucky, all-out funny, or lighthearted,

but I hope I can have fun moments.

I believe that part of my life mission is to

be a space holder for sorrow,

a kind of wise, intuitive oracle for that sorrow;

But I also hope I can balance that with good humor,

belly laughs and

truly enjoying the company of other people.

Do I know what, how or when the next phase will occur?

Soooo...nooo.

But I must believe and hope that it will come.;

that I will be able to build on this healing and soul strengthening time.

I am sooo into this moment

this phase of the journey.

I am slow,

quiet,

free,

introspective,

allowing myself to be “just as I am”

I allow for what I know I need right now

and am so so very grateful that I have this gift of time

of isolation

of learning

that is just for me.

The lack of stress,

of responsibility,

of expectation

is so what I need.

But it is not only the external expectations that have been removed;

I am removing the more weighty,

impactful,

self-imposed expectations from myself.

Giving myself permission to not BE anything…

“No need to hurry.

No need to sparkle.

No need to be anything but oneself.” -Virginia Wolf.

And this is healing me;

building me,

strengthening me.

So many people

are striving to find this peace that I am learning.

So many people

reading the books,

buying the products,

dating the people,

chasing the dream,

all to find that sense of peace and

purpose and

enjoyment of this gift of life.

And it is truly such a different path for each individual soul.

I am finding my path,

my truth,

my purpose,

what sparks my soul.

And I do it all while bearing the weight of grief and sorrow.

I will miss my Kenny until I take my last breath.

I will also treasure the gift I was given to be his mom and

know that he was loved unconditionally.

Why he died;

how he died,

what role God played;

who God really is….

these questions will remain unanswered for the time.

I may always come back to the questions in one form or another,

but they are there as curiosities;

they do not constrain the course of my days.

And so I walk these days,

I find rest for my oh so weary being,

for I AM a human BEING.

That is all for now,

just being…..,

allowing what is,

being so okay with how I am wired and

knowing what I need.

Being love and grace to myself,

being with love in all things as they are,

breathing love and

being right in the center of Love’s Will.

The Gifts of HindSight

Posted by Michelle Rutz on May 11, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Regrets...I've had a few…a few?

Really?...only a few?

I am a four on the Enneagram…

an INFJ on the Myers Briggs…

usually all I can see are my regrets.

 

And yet, paradoxically,

when I look at the old home movies I had digitized online at Costco,

I happy cry at the nostalgia of my then young children, now grown,

and how they had such a happy childhood-

how we did it “right.”

 

Conversely, I may just as easily awake at 2:59 am in a cold sweat

my mind starts racing

how I have completely and utterly ruined my children’s lives

by immature and unwise decisions raising them,

and how I got married too young -

yada, yada, yada...Spin, spin spin my thoughts.

 

You may relate, and know how these thoughts are generally unfounded

and when we awake from a night of head spinning,

we realize in the light of morning that

all really is WELL with the world.

 

The baby is sleeping peacefully in the crib,

the teenager returns at curfew

and the adult child is happily married, employed and visits for Christmas.

And in my own case this is true….

with one major exception….

one of my four grown children is NOT ok.

He is not coming home for Christmas this year

or any year in the future

because he is dead…

died of mental illness at the age of 21 in early 2012.

 

Yeah, I have a few regrets.

A few wrestlings with hindsight over the past almost seven years.

The night we learned of his death,

in complete shock…

all I could mutter was

“this doesn't happen in families like ours”

 

I was an elementary Montessori teacher

instructing love and peace...along with fractions.

Married 27 years, albeit with the usual marital challenges of two people

who married young and had to figure out how to grow up together.

 

Faith filled, my son was,

the always smiling heart of the family,

the easy child,

the peacemaker

with no major childhood issues or trauma.

 

But he was also an adventure seeker,

always thinking outside the box -

so much so that we did not see it-

the irrational thinking,

the impulsive behavior,

the bouts of depression mingled with

short lived episodes of manic impulsivity,

magical thinking.

 

I had just left teaching to begin coursework towards

a doctorate in clinical psychology

to help children who have experienced trauma,

but I hadn't taken the class yet on abnormal psychology.

 

I did not yet know that bipolar

most often appears at about the age of 19

and commonly goes undetected or misdiagnosed.

I did not yet know that bipolar disorder is

considered the cancer of mental illness,

that 20 percent of people with bipolar disorder die by suicide.

 

I did not know anyone who had a child die by suicide…

 

I thought it only happened to spoiled, neglected movie stars’ kids,

kids from messed up homes

Kids who were not given the love and resiliency skill set

that my own children were given.

I did not yet know that suicide as an organic mental illness

is a neurological disorder.

I did not yet know that the experience of having a child die by suicide

is considered by the American Psychological Association to be

the equivalent of having survived the holocaust.

 

Yea, regrets...I have a few.

And in hindsight,

I can see how my beautiful loving son was struggling.

How he may have been helped with therapy or meds

….or not.

I will never know.

 

I will never know

if he had lived,

if he would have been so ill

and in so much pain

that his living would have been miserable-

not just for him,

but for us those who loved him

to watch him struggle with a broken brain which betrayed him.

 

I will never know

if he might have responded

to some of the ever-growing successful treatments

and lived a full enriching life.

 

I now know of other families like mine.

Families whose young adult children

were raised in loving intact families

and also died of mental illness.

Children who did receive therapy and medications,

but still died.

Parents of those who did receive help,

but still wondered

if there was something more they could have done.

 

We know these children.

We know their death was not a rational choice-

these were intelligent,

gifted,

sensitive,

strong children

who stole our hearts.

Yet, they got sick-

ugly sick,

not noble sick,

like with leukemia which attacks the bloodstream,

but with a brain which developed abnormally

and caused their perceptions of the world and themselves to be distorted.

 

 

And if only, there was a “cure”-

if only every time a young person got mentally sick,

we could see it,

put them in a machine to know where the brain was broken

and then write a prescription to fix it-

then maybe no one would ever die by suicide again.

But maybe not.

 

Hindsight offers no guarantees in this case.

The “if onlys” and “woulda, shoulda, couldas”

will drown you and

take your life from you.

 

Hindsight is best covered in grace-

lots and lots and lots of grace.

 

Grace to accept that

if they were meant to still be with us, then they would be.

Grace to know that we did everything

to love them while they were here.

Grace to know they loved us

and they knew they were loved.

Grace to know

we cannot control our world.

Grace to know

if bad things can happen in this world,

then good things can happen too.

 

Looking back on those days of desperate survival -

on just how to make it through the day,

let alone the days weeks years to follow,

It seemed unbearable

that I would have to live with this

forever.

 

It wasn't going to go away.

In fact, the fallout in our family for the next several years

made survival even harder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one piece of hope I clung to

which pulled me through

was, and continues to be,

my quest to make meaning out of tragedy.

To create a healing space

for other families devastated by child loss

to retreat from the world around

which goes on so seamlessly,

so callous to our internal explosion of pain.

 

Giving comfort to others-

one of the grace gifts of hindsight,

redeeming the regret of

my son’s otherwise meaningless death.

 

Hindsight provides all these graces.

But perhaps the greatest grace…

the greatest gift hindsight provides is

the grace

to live every moment to the fullest,

to appreciate those in your lives,

to know the brevity of our days

and to not make undone dishes a giant argument.

 

Hindsight says,

remember to say I love you

every time you say goodbye,

because after you have looked back over

the good, the bad and ugly of life,

love really is all that remains.

My son composed a book two years before his death.

In it he penned these words which reveal

the greatest lesson hindsight has brought me……

“Let them know they are loved.”

 

 

The Other Mary

Posted by Michelle Rutz on August 10, 2017 at 3:45 AM

I wrote this story in November of 2007 and could never decide how to resolve the ending in a realistic way.  I never imagined I would be this mother. Now I live this pain and as I resolve my pain, I hope to finish the story.  How would you end it?

The Other Mary

Christmas- A time of love, joy, peace and goodwill, right? Maybe for some, maybe for many, but not for all. For many individuals, Christmas accentuates loss and bitterness toward life, fate, or God. For those blessed with health, intact families, material possessions, friends and a sense of belonging, Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate all the goodness that life has to offer. It is easy to celebrate the idea of Emmanuel- God with us-coming to live on Earth and arriving, if you so believe, as an innocent babe in a manger. Twinkling lights, melodious carols, ribbon laced gifts and decadent food all remind us of the blessed event of the winter season.


But what if this season brings an acute reminder of what you don’t have? Of what you had, but lost? Or of what you always wanted, but never had? What if it only heightens your already cynical nature, creating an even greater disparity between the haves and have nots?


On a regular basis, amid the practicalities of daily life- one is able to submerge those bitter feelings of what one feels they are missing. Perhaps you are single longing for a mate. Perhaps you are in a relationship, wishing your lover would make a permanent commitment. Perhaps you are married and longing for a child, but after years of trying you have lost all hope. Perhaps you are trapped in a loveless relationship and every happy couple reminds you of what you acutely long for. Perhaps you had all the happiness of a loving family and it was taken from you in one moment by a drunk driver or fatal illness. Whatever your situation, the commercials on TV, the talk of friends about their upcoming happy festivities all heighten that otherwise dulled sensation of all that you do not possess.


In all this you feel so very alone, so alone you are contemplating removing yourself from this planet. Your conscious and unconscious rage at a creator and father who has seemingly abandoned you, surfaces to your emotions and you want to lash out at yourself, others and God.


I know of another story from this season of the year which is rarely discussed because no one wants to remember the reality of the beautiful coming of the Christ child. But the reality is that with one life came much much death. Perhaps you need to be reminded that with the joy of Christ’s birth there came much sorrow.


You see there was another mother in Bethlehem named Mary. You never heard of her? That is because she was not a holy virgin. She was merely a young first time mother who grew up in Bethlehem, married a nice Jewish boy, who happened to be a carpenter, and at the ripe age of 20 years old became a first time mother of a darling curly headed boy named Joshua.


Joshua was the joy of her life. She loved her husband, Zachary, yes, but Joshua she adored. He came into the world with little resistance. The midwife said she had never had such an easy first time delivery. Joshua was so mild mannered, crying only when he required his mother’s milk or when he was overly tired. Mary was a dutiful and attendant mother and carried Joshua with her all places- to market, to bring Zachary his lunch when he was at work, to visit her mother and sisters. Joshua grew and flourished without any separation from his beloved Mother Mary.


But that all changed in one day, in one moment with no warning, no special dream to tell her to escape. In the middle of the day, a few hours before sunset of the Sabbath, Mary was preparing her Shabbott table. She had just laid Joshua to nap as they had had a long day down at the river doing the weekly wash. Joshua was sleeping and Mary stepped outside to shake out the Sabbath table cloth. Suddenly she heard shrieks of women in the distance, the likes of which sent shivers down her back. All her neighbors flew out of their houses and into the street when they too heard the terrifying peals. They were wondering what could have happened to cause such screaming, moaning and crying when the sound of horses’ hooves and running reached their ears.


As their hearts raced, but before they had a chance to breathe another breath, the soldiers were upon them. They began at the other end of the street, entering homes with no warning or permission. What could these filthy Roman centurions be up to now? First they tax them to poverty and now they are ransacking their homes. It took only moments for those gathered in the streets to realize they were more than ransacking their homes. They were killing. Not killing just anyone, but methodically murdering any boys two years of age and under.


Mary was still trying to process all the commotion; it was all so fast, so surreal that she did not have time to react quickly enough. The soldiers were upon them, upon her as the burly man pushed her aside and stormed inside her home. Within seconds there was the petrified cry of a baby, her baby Joshua. Instinctively she ran inside to Joshua and grabbed him from the soldier screaming, cursing him. But his strength overpowered even the strength of a protective mother as the soldier grabbed Joshua from her arms and ended the cries of the toddler with one slash of his Roman sword. Blood, her baby’s blood, flowed from his chest and he breathed no more. The soldier moved on, his task accomplished, leaving Mary holding her lifeless child. Blood curdling screams rose in her throat, but no sound came as the anguish of what had just occurred stifled her voice, her emotions. She could not breathe. Then it came, the gut wrenching “sound of Rachel weeping for her children because they were no more.”


That day there were no miraculous angels singing, “Be not afraid,” no tidings of great joy, no king’s treasures. There was only sorrow, unending sorrow, a holocaust of the worst kind. No holy night, no special stars – only blackness, utter complete and total blackness. Where was God? Were these not his chosen precious little ones? How could he allow such atrocities to his people? He is God. Could he not have stopped such evil? That day when Joshua died, so did Mary’s faith. It was replaced with such bitterness and anger, at the Romans, yes, but more so at God. She never prayed again or celebrated the Sabbath. And her rage was doubled when she learned, after years of trying to conceive another child, that she would be barren the rest of her life. God had allowed her one and only son to be murdered in front of her eyes. For that she could never forgive Him.


Then, to complete her bitter rage, she later learned that there was a young baby boy whom God had spared that day by sending an angel to warn the parents to leave Bethlehem in the middle of the night. That baby boy God spared, and there were rumors that he might be the messiah. But she would never believe in a God or any messiah who would allow her son to die, so that he might live.

"Richly Blessed" by Kenny's Mom, Mother's Day 2013

Posted by Michelle Rutz on March 3, 2014 at 11:30 PM

As I was walking my dog this morning among the tall pines along the creek that flows near our house, I was startled by an elderly gentleman who was hidden below in the trees, picking up trash along the stream banks on his property.

"Hello," his deep voice resonated. I jumped slightly and turned to see him and his dog.

"Sorry, looks like I frightened you."

"Yes, you did. I didn't see you there. Hello. How are you?"

"I am richly blessed."

Richly blessed?! Those were the first words out of his mouth-the first thought to come to his mind and response to speak aloud. As I walked on, I reflected more deeply about the significance of this first immediate response from an older person-most experienced in life. I thought , yes, yes you are blessed, you have two working legs, two seeing eyes, two ears that hear, two arms to pick things up and obviously a well functioning brain and you live in a gorgeous place. As people age these basics of living, become more and more significant.

Then I thought, do I apply these same criteria for myself to feel richly blessed? Yes. Even though I have a son who suffered mental illness and took his life. I miss him to the point of physical pain, but am I not too "richly blessed"? All the criteria I applied to the gentleman, do I not also have? In addition, I have three amazing, healthy intelligent and gifted children still on this earth. I have a husband who loves me. I have a loving caring mother who is still present on this planet. Today is mother's day- a day for any mother who has had a child die to be tempted to sink into self-pity, grief and sadness. But thanks to an angelic stranger on my walk today- I can appreciate that on this day to honor motherhood, I am RICHLY BLESSED.

 

It Could Happen to Anyone by Kenny's Mom 4/13

Posted by Michelle Rutz on March 3, 2014 at 11:25 PM

"It could happen to anyone." That's the phrase a friend, not even a friend, someone I didn't know, but later became a friend, said to me when I met with him. He told me he'd been to my son's memorial service even though he didn't know me and that when it was over he went home and told his wife, "you know, that could happen to anyone." The comfort that statement brought me at the time and since has been immeasurable because it was another human being confirming what I knew in my heart. On the day, I found out that my son had died by suicide I had cried out, "This doesn't happen to families like ours." Yet here we are - people of faith, with a teaching and psychology background and it did happen to our family.

I didn't notice the signs of mental illness in my own son. I didn't get him any help and he took his own life. Faith, mental illness and suicide- a very rare combination, but nevertheless it exists. One can feel so very alone when these three factors combine. I know people of faith and the issues they struggle with, how they handle life's difficulties, pain, illness, divorce- all kinds of things. I know people who deal with mental illness, either in their family or personally; maybe they aren't of faith or maybe they are. And I know people who are acquainted with suicide in their families; maybe they didn't have any real known mental illness, maybe life circumstances just became unbearable and they caved in. But all three - a person of faith dealing with mental illness and suicide; our Bible doesn't have a verse for that per se. There aren't big support groups for that in your local church or synagogue.

So I'm here, as a small, tiny insignificant voice, like the little speck of dust, in Horton Hears a Who, saying, "We are here. We are here. We are here." We must combine our little voices to provide a strength, a support, an ability to grope through the uncertainty, the unknowingness. We must support; we must share. We must hold; we must hug. We must console; we must be there for one another. There are so many pains and sufferings in this world. Yet when we bore our children, when we dedicated them to the Lord - suicide via mental illness was not a future we foresaw.

In the church so much more comfort goes to the other types of bereaved- so many more people are willing to let their stories be told and heard whose children and loved ones died from a painful illness, disease or in an unexpected tragic accident. But suicide? Well, they must not have prayed enough. They must not have read their Bible. Their parents must have raised them wrong. They must have been cowards. They must have been rebels or drug addicts, but my son was none of these. Our family, while horribly imperfect, represents none of those stereotypes and yet God allowed this tragedy in our lives. Forgive me if I say that some days I would rather Kenny had been killed in a head on car accident. At least then, I'd know that he wanted to live; at least then I'd know that the time he was living was not filled with so much darkness and pain.

That is what I grieve so much. I have to grieve his absence, like other mothers who grieve their children's death. I have to grieve missing him day after day. But I have a grief on top of that; I am twice grieved. I have to grieve that he lived in a mind that once was so caring, so kind, so loving, so intelligent, so willing and yet, tortured by mania and depression simply due to certain misfiring chemicals through no fault of his own. My son ate healthy, my son exercised until the day he died. He was in such good physical shape as if to compensate for his poor brain shape. He didn't do a drug a day in his life. He wasn't addicted to sex. He didn't play around. He just loved. Why? Why afflict someone who is so capable of bringing such light and love into the world? But of course, there is no answer. But it happens. It happened.

Now my job is to help- is to be there- is to stand and raise my voice with the others and to hear the cries of a faith person who has lost a loved one to suicide due to mental illness. I will be your Horton. I will hear your tiny "Who" voice. You are somebody and you are not alone. You are heard, even in small numbers and I will be there with you because, just like me, you know, that this could happen to anyone.

Then What? by Kenny's Mom February 2012

Posted by Michelle Rutz on March 3, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Children who stray
Parents who fail
Incurable Illness
Chronic pain
Untimely death
Malicious crime
Deadly forces of nature
Friends who betray
Spouses who hurt

Sometimes life is hard.
Is there a trial in your life?
Something that is unfair,
challenging your strength and your faith?
Life does not come with a warranty.
You can't contact God's website
and ask for a replacement life or even replacements parts.
But you want to call the direct line and ask to speak to someone
and then SCREAM into the phone
with all the pent up rage you have inside-
 
"ITS NOT FAIR!!!!!!!!"
 
So now what?
It just sits there.
No Prince Charming to wake up the sleeping princess.
 
It feels like you're rapidly sinking into a sandpit of despair.
Despair....yes, that's the word
 
The dictionary's definition of despair is
loss of hope.
Another definition comes from Victor Frankel- a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the holocaust.
He maintains that despair is
suffering without meaning.
 
When we do not find purpose or meaning in our existence
-especially in the suffering-
we fall into despair.
 
The thesaurus gives the following synonyms:
anguish,
dashed hopes,
despondency,
sorrow,
trial,
disheartenment.
 
Solomon despaired in abundance;
St. Francis prayed to bring hope where there was despair.
 
Is it a feeling
or a thought?
What is the origin?
Imbalanced brain chemistry?
Genes?
Environment?
A choice to be sad?
 
Is it to be integrated?
reduced?
ignored?
removed?
overcome?
Is there a "formula" to restore hope?
 
We hear so much about the power of positive thinking.
I have practiced it myself and can attest to its validity.
But sometimes, in my personal research on the metaphysical power of thought,
I have found that its proponents down play
the reality of tragedy and despair in life.
Like we can just "think" away our problems.
Sometimes the church purports this principle,
claiming we can just pray our problems away.
 
What do we really want?
We want control over our lives and, if possible our loved ones.
But some things are out of our control.
 
Those things we must accept and integrate;
Those things we can turn over to the Spirit of love
and if the miraculous occurs,
we can rejoice!
 
But what if it does not?
 
If the child dies,
the spouse does not return,
the bipolar remains,
the Down's Syndrome is your reality?
Then what?
 
So many sermons and motivational talks focus on overcoming adversity.
The miraculous can happen
and this inspires hope,
lifts our spirits to believe in the impossible
or at least the improbable.
And many times it occurs.
 
But when the mundane unfairness in life remains,
when it hangs like a gray overcast day,
then what?

Alternative Education written 12/08 by Kenny's Mom

Posted by Michelle Rutz on March 3, 2014 at 11:15 PM

Alternative Education

Would you like to spend the night alone in the woods in a tent in a cold foreign country? Would you consider this “education?” For a young man, just turned eighteen, this is his education - his “college,” if you will. His declared major is independence with a minor in adventure.


Kenny Rutz walked away from his childhood home in Northern California on a journey by foot to reach Mt. Baker Washington where he hoped to find a job and snowboard the mountain. He left with forty- five pounds of backpacking gear and a guitar on his back. His great adventure took him to the local bus stop where he managed to navigate, not the back roads as he had planned, but rather the Sacramento Valley transit system which led him on an eighteen-hour bus ride to his brother’s house in Bellevue, Washington.


He stayed with his brother for several days, but was restless and bored as he waited at home while his brother attended his video game programming classes at a private conventional college. They had a great night out celebrating Thanksgiving dinner at a five star restaurant (on their mother’s credit card), then Kenny was gone the next morning leaving a simple note, “Josh, I left. Peace.” This boy was born about four decades too late.


Kenny now began his dream adventure as he hitchhiked his way to Mt. Baker. His spirits lifted on the open road only to find no snow and no jobs at Mt. Baker. It would be a minimum of two weeks before the resort might open. Undaunted he devised a new plan and found someone who would take him to the idealic destination of the North American snowboarding capital – Mt. Whistler Canada.


Kenny is now sleeping in his tent out in the woods. It is colder than he imagined and he is still seeking employment to get a work Visa (yes he did remember to bring his passport). However, the lack of snow has kept the tourist industry in a slump and so far, no jobs are to be found. For Kenny, this is all just part of the adventure.


Where this adventure takes him is uncertain. Who knows - he might change his “major” several times, as most college students do, before he finds the right fit. Like most college students, his future is an open book or, in Kenny’s case, an open road.

 

Kenny Rutz Memorial Scholarships at California Montessori Project, Shingle Springs

Posted by Michelle Rutz on January 29, 2014 at 8:20 PM

2013 Recipient Rachel Young




2012 Recipient Emma Cook


Running for Kenny

Posted by Michelle Rutz on October 22, 2012 at 10:20 PM

Kenny's mom, Michelle, will be jog/walking a marathon in Sacramento the first Sunday in December to raise money for the Endless Joy Foundation and to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.  We are asking people to donate $26.20 - One dollar for each mile she runs. 26.2 miles.  The slogan for her run is "Living with Mental Illness is harder than running a marathon with arthritis."  


Monies raised will go to the following organizations:

  • National Alliance of Mental Illness- Sacramento Chapter
  • Green Valley Community Church
  • Treehouse Ministries of El Dorado County
Your donations are tax deductable.

Kenny's Memorial Service

Posted by Michelle Rutz on January 16, 2012 at 5:45 AM

Please join us in a celebration of my brother, Kenny's life. Reception to follow at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kenny Rutz Endless Joy Memorial Foundation. It will be at Green Valley Community Church on Friday, January 20, 2012 from 3:30 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. Thank you. 

 


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