Lake Placid resident Barb Rand gave permission for an excerpt and poem from her upcoming book of poetry to be read at the North Country Out of the Darkness Walk in Lake Placid on Sunday, October 1, 2017. The following is the reading shared with the audience:
A Remembrance and Poem from Prayers Along the Trail
By Barbara Rand
North Country Out of the Darkness Walk – Lake Placid
Sunday, October 1, 2017
My husband Dennis Ryan was bigger than life. Very much a people person, he always empathized with people who were going through hard times. He was kind, had lots of energy, and was known for being intense. With these qualities, he helped to move the world around him in positive ways and led the many projects he worked on to speedy completion. Whether driving miles to the funeral of a good friend’s parent or involving himself in community affairs, Dennis was always present for others.
Dennis was the love of my life. He was a gentle soul with a huge heart. Perhaps his heart was bigger than the average one, and that is why he gave so much of it to others. He loved his family and me more than himself. He loved his friends, as they were his family too. His passions were many and one of his primary ones was being involved with the lives of others. He was a good listener. When he would talk with you, you felt like you were very special, as if you were the only one in the room. He was a small town guy, but he drew in a city of friends as well.
His famous quote was, “Failure was not an option.” He was a Norwich University graduate and a very disciplined individual who had great respect for the Military life in general. His father was a Pearl Harbor survivor and my father was an 82nd Airborne soldier, surviving all the major campaigns during World War II. As a result, Dennis was deeply involved with the Veterans’ causes throughout his life and right up until his death.
He was a man who was always full of surprises and especially loved the simple things in life. A major passion was his love of music. As a result, he spent the majority of his professional life in the radio business. He started out as a disc jockey in college and finally his experiences grew into management and ownership.
He loved movies and holding hands, chocolate and red wine, and especially our Christmas Eve’s together. He was a big fan of the holidays in general and participated in the Fourth of July, even becoming a licensed pyrotechnic and he set off many fireworks over the years. He enjoyed flying and was a licensed pilot who flew whenever he could. He worked with NASCAR for a time, and Help Wanted.com, and finally as the financial business consultant.
A funny story about my guy to end on….One time at Thanksgiving, the restaurant was out of pumpkin pie, which is my favorite kind. So the next year, he actually brought a pumpkin pie to the very restaurant we had been going to for years, just so I could have my favorite pie for dessert, should they be momentarily out, and never be disappointed. He became the “pumpkin pie guy” at the restaurant forevermore!
He loved his 1976 Eldorado Cadillac so much and called it Big Red and took such wonderful care of it, just like he did with me. Our Sundays were mostly spent on taking road trips in Big Red with the top down as we just cruised the back country roads. This made my guy smile a lot.
He used to walk in our door bellowing, “Honey, I’m Home,” after Jackie Gleason of the Honeymooners, one of his favorite shows growing up. He loved bells and even hung a big bell at work and each time he’d come in the door, he would ring it and say the same thing: “Honey, I’m Home.” The girls at the office all loved him too.
My guy is still inside my heart, where he will forever remain.
After the shock of his death by suicide on May 21, 2012 — a suicide no one saw coming — I fell into deep sadness, then depression. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have survived without the love and support of my family and friends. Mine was a very slow recovery amidst the chaos of financial matters, moving from the cozy house we had shared and the city we had both loved, and dealing with endless details alone.
My long-time love of writing poetry helped me to find a new way of living my life. It provided me with a means for dealing with my extreme loss when I was alone and distraught. The poems started to come to me soon after the suicide and continue to do so often. I don’t think this will ever cease. Eventually, I began to think that perhaps I too could find a way to help others, with my poetry.
The aftermath of a suicide is a long dark tunnel to walk through for those left behind. Extreme effort is required to get through each day, especially at the beginning. I have learned that the stages of grief that psychology and self-help books outline are unpredictable and ever-present in my life. There is no exact science of the grieving and healing processes. It is easy to slip back into the sadness of loss, especially at anniversaries and holidays. Each person grieves in their own special way.
I have been so fortunate to have the ongoing support of my family and friends. My wish is that, in some small way, my poetry will touch others in situations similar to mine. I want others to realize that it is possible to make it from the darkness of despair back into the light of hope.
My book of poems is also a call to those dealing with suicidal thoughts in their daily lives. Death by suicide is not the answer. Reading the thoughts of someone left behind may make it possible you to grasp that there can be another way. Talk to someone. If that doesn’t work, talk to someone else. Because your life matters and there is help for you out here.
Since you left,
I have changed.
I have lived and let go of a lot of pain.
My tracks have been left on many mountain tops,
Firmly embedded in the deep white snow.
My heart is feeling more at peace.
I had to let you go with time,
But all the memories
Are still mine.
Since you left,
I have grown.
And my new home
Is surrounded by mountains
Whose colors and beauty have
Beckoned me back to life.
This is where
I now choose to roam,
And spend my days enjoying life
Knowing with every fiber of my being,
That each day is a true blessing
To be honored and revered,
With not a second to waste.
If you or someone you know may be having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 800-273-TALK (8255.) To reach someone in Essex County, call the Essex County Mental Health Clinic Crisis line 24/7 at 888-854-3773 or the Mental Health Association’s 24-hour Hopeline at 800-440-8074. Free and confidential emotional support is available, and with help, comes hope.