Monthly Archives: October 2013

Matt Became Kat

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I am having a difficult time starting this post because I want my words to be perfect for my friends Pat and Julie Anderson. I want them to know how much I love them, but mostly I want them to know how much I respect them for accepting and loving their child.

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A few weeks ago my college roommates came to Muskegon for a weekend visit. JacLynn lives in Colorado and Pat and Julie live near Detroit. Like most reunions, it was wonderful, but this one was extra special because we all had a chance to spend some time together and share our stories with each other.

The story you are about to read is about Pat and Julie’s son, Matt. I asked them if I could share their story because it’s a story about two parents that loved and accepted their child no matter what. I asked them to write their version, so they sent me the following letter.

October 2, 2013

Dearest Mark and Rosemary,

Thank you for sharing Corey’s story. Many families face these issues and your experience resonated with us because we too wish our son could have come to us earlier with his struggles.

At 19, instead of going to Kendall College of Art and Design as planned, our son Matthew suddenly enlisted in the Army. He served early in the Iraq War and was never the same after that. The terrible war memories resulted in PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Despite our many efforts to stay connected, Matt chose to keep his distance from us. This was extremely painful and confusing. A few years later he told us he was separating from his wife and was in the process of hormone treatment and surgery to become a woman. It was a surreal journey, beyond any words we could send you and it deeply affected our entire families. But we were adjusting and learning to love in a new way. There were letters, calls, visits and a new hope. Kat, short for Katrina, was finishing a tattoo apprenticeship in Washington state and making plans to return to Michigan in July of 2011 to attend art school in Grand Rapids. But as the personal issues began to settle, the PTSD and war issues rose up even more and a terrible week proved too much for this fragile soul. We lost our Matt/Kat to suicide on March 20th, three days before her 27th birthday. Sometimes we feel we’ve lost the same child twice.

This may be hard for some to understand, but believe us it is true; in being willing to stay connected and have our family love Kat, we got our Matt back, too. Never give up on family love, it is God’s love.

We miss our soldier, our tattoo artist, our photographer, our sweet dyslexic kid. Our son Erik is very angry. That makes things harder. We miss our family the way it used to be. But we receive special signs now from above that comfort us.

As parents we sometimes struggle to understand all the pieces of our childrens’ lives, but God understands all and all He asks from us is to love our children. God understands all the pieces and offers His peace.

Love,

Pat and Julie

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Kat loved photography so Julie shared a copyrighted picture from her collection. Pat and Julie made a photo book of Kat’s beautiful photos to remind them of the beauty their child possessed.

Dear Pat, Julie and Erik,

Words can’t explain what our hearts feel. I wish your story would’ve ended differently because of your love and acceptance for Kat.

Thank you for letting me share your intimate story on my blog. I know it was difficult for you but maybe by sharing Kat’s story, you will help others. If you are able to help another parent or child maybe someday your story will make more sense to you.

We want you to know that we love you and we’re willing to listen to you and cry with you if you ever need us.

Love,

Mark and Rosemary

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Look For The Pink Mustache

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During Corey’s visit home in July he accepted a job as the Office Experience Manager with a San Francisco-based startup company called Lyft. Mark and I had never heard of Lyft before but have since learned that it’s a company that provides rides similar to a taxi service, except that the entire experience is handled by an app on your smartphone, which makes it very convenient.

While we were in San Francisco visiting Corey last week we had the opportunity to try Lyft and it ended up being so easy and convenient that we used it to get everywhere. With my weakened legs and the fact that mass transportation was several blocks away from our Airbnb, the door-to-door service that Lyft provided worked great.

The actual Lyft riding experience was very positive and we learned a lot about the business by engaging with our drivers. Without exception, the drivers were very excited about their jobs. They seemed most happy with the pay and flexibility and the fact that they are basically their own boss. Even though Lyft has some strict requirements as far as the condition and cleanliness of a drivers’ car is concerned, most of the drivers have gone beyond what is required and created their own theme to make their passenger experience unique. Some cars offered candy or snacks for their riders, one of our drivers had a handicap accessible van and several asked about our music preference when we got into their car. Although we didn’t get to ride in them, Corey said there’s a photobooth Lyft, a disco Lyft and even a Lyft car painted with chalkboard paint so passengers can write messages on it after their ride. We did not experience a single rude or negative driver, but instead met some incredible people. Also, I don’t think we waited for more than five minutes for our ride to show up any of the times we requested one.

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Lyft’s trademark is a pink fuzzy mustache, which started as a joke, but has since become a great marketing tool. You can easily spot your Lyft car as it approaches because it will have a huge, pink and fuzzy mustache attached to the grill.

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Corey invited us to tour the new Lyft office where we met his co-workers and had catered lunch. When we got back to our Airbnb after our office tour, a beautiful bouquet of flowers was sitting on our doorstep from Corey’s co-workers with a note welcoming us to San Francisco and thanking us for our son.

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Next time you are in a major city and need a ride, download the app and see if there’s a Lyft driver nearby. Who knows, you may just meet your next best friend.

The Beauty of Utah

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I think Utah is one of my favorite states to drive through. The leaves on the aspen trees were turning a brilliant color yellow when Mark and I drove through yesterday and yellow happens to be my favorite color. It dominated a landscape that included green pine trees and red rocks. The beauty was breathtaking.

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Last year Mark and I visited Utah’s Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon which are amazing places to see. In fact, pictures can’t even capture the beauty.

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I hope you visit Utah sometime. It’s a natural wonder.

The Power of the Mind

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Today I am grateful to be able to live with true happiness.

Last winter after I heard Dr. Ann Little at the University of Michigan tell me that I have ALS, I asked her a simple question: “Now what do I do?”

“Live life the best you can,” she told me.

After a month of mourning and never thinking I could find true happiness again, I cried and I searched and then I listened. I listened to my friends tell me that they found happiness after having major setbacks in their lives. I listened to Bryan and Kelly tell me that I had so many positives in my life that I shouldn’t focus on the one negative. And I listened to Corey tell me that people go through major trials every day with much less support than I have and that because I have the best family and friends in the world, if I can’t walk, they will carry me.

So after my month-long pity party, I decided to live. I decided I needed to train my mind to live in the now. I know I’ve talked about this before, but the power of living in the now is astounding. When I let my mind wander, it’s poison. When I let my mind wander, I still say naughty words and I cry. But for the most part I am living life the best I can now and I am happy in most moments.

Bevan’s HOPE

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Our first full day in San Francisco was wonderful because it was filled with beautiful music and a great message.

Bevan Dufty, the man Corey has been seeing for the past year and a half, invited Mark and I to attend a church service that he says has been spiritually fulfilling for him since his mom introduced him to it in 1971. The church is called Glide and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It’s located in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods and provides three meals a day, 364 days a year to the city’s poor, homeless and hungry. Glide’s services don’t mention God or Jesus, but instead focus on love and community. The service Mark and I attended was full of joyful music and amazing vocalists and people from all walks of life were there.

On the day Mark, Bevan and I attended, the sermon was about neighbors and asked the question “Who are our neighbors?” The answer of course is whoever needs us, something I learned firsthand on the drive to San Francisco. During the service I got the feeling that no one in Glide’s congregation would walk by a neighbor in need without offering help.

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After spending a little time around town with Bevan, it is obvious that he is comfortable in the role of offering help to those in need. When Glide’s service was over we met up with Corey for brunch and while we were waiting on the sidewalk for a table to open up, Bevan saw a homeless veteran asking for money on the street. Bevan walked up to the man to give him some money and his business card and the veteran looked at it and said, “You’re Bevan Dufty? I’ve been hoping to meet you for two years. I heard you can help me get housing.”

Bevan is the Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE) in San Francisco. HOPE is dedicated to addressing homeless services and better outcomes for individuals who are homeless or live in supportive housing. This is an around-the-clock job for Bevan because this kind of need doesn’t have business hours, especially in San Francisco.

I often talk about coincidences, God moments and my heightened awareness of such things. Well, it was a wonderful coincidence that we arrived in San Francisco on the Sunday that the message at Glide was to love thy neighbor and then we end up spending a week with a guy who lives that message. Bevan makes helping others seem so effortless that it inspires me to look for opportunities to do the same. I may not have the guts to go up to a homeless person but I know I can make a difference in someone’s life in other ways whether it’s giving hope to my children or lending an ear to someone who’s lonely.

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Bevan,

Thank you for being a great neighbor. I am in awe of your fairness and love for people and are thankful you are in Corey’s life.

Love,

Rosemary