Rule 647

Dear interpreting student who is struggling right now:

I need you to believe in you, because it’s lonely out here believing in you all by myself.

If I thought you were hopeless I would have no compunction about encouraging you to explore exciting careers in the food service industry.

Have we had that discussion?

No?

Then it’s time to get back to work.

Rule 644

When you feel so frustrated with the interpreter you’re mentoring that you just want to scream, instead, close your eyes, take a deep breath (in through your nose out your mouth) and remember these words:

“Oh. So this is what my mentor felt like.”

Rule 639

Dear Interpreter That I Mentor:

Don’t try to be “more like me.” The world already has a “me.”

The world needs a “you.” Be “more like you!”

I will pass along all that is “me” and you will build onto it all that is “you.” If I do my job well “you” will be a better interpreter than I ever was or could ever hope to be.

Because the future needs a “you.”

Dennis Cokely: My Memory of an Honored Friend and Colleague.

There are moments in time, the significance of which we miss because we are too young or naïve or inexperienced to see them for what they are. Years and experience throw a glaring light on those missed moments as if to highlight what could have been, what you could have done, if only you knew then what you know now.

Dennis Cokley’s passing this week takes me back to one of those, “if only I could turn back the clock,” occurrences. It happened at a lunch that I shared with him my first semester of law school.

Dennis loved teaching and learning moments, so to honor him I will share with you a story that I know would make Dennis chuckle… because that is exactly what he did when, a couple of years ago, he and I remembered together what happened at that lunch.

I first “met” Dennis in the mid-1990’s while I was working for the Utah Community Center for the Deaf. We were introduced when he came to teach some workshops in Utah. Over the years he and I talked and faxed (oh children this was back when email was science trying to prove it was not fiction).  He and I really got to know each other when I was accepted to law school at Northeastern University. I sent him a note and he responded that when I had settled in and found the time to come see him and he would take me to lunch.

A few months into my first semester I happened to have some time open and I wandered across campus to Dennis’ office to see if he was free. As I walked into the Deaf Studies Department he was walking out to go to lunch with a colleague, but he kindly invited me to join them. I told him I didn’t want to disrupt his lunch. Dennis gave me that smile (if you’ve ever met him you know the smile I mean) and signed, “we would welcome you to join us, I would love to introduce you.”

So I went.

Dennis introduced me to his colleague as “my friend from Utah.” Dennis went on to give “a proper Deaf introduction” to this hearing colleague and I realized that he knew things about my history and background that only a person who took an interest would know. His introduction was gracious and complementary in a way that can only be described as, “with the manners Dennis was known for.”

Then we ate. We ate and talked about Deaf culture, interpreting, law, policy, the past and the future. They asked my opinion. They listen to my input (I am cringing as I remember how much I thought I understood that day compared to how little I actually knew).

It was a very enjoyable lunch. But I admit, to my embarrassment, I did even begin to grasp the enviable position I was in that afternoon.

With the benefit of years and experience I now realize that I had a singular experience that day. I relive that afternoon and think of all the things I should have asked if only I had understood that for two and half hours I sat between two of the greatest minds in my field. For those brief two hours he gave me a place at the table, seated between Dennis Cokley and Harlan Lane.

Thank you Dennis. Your kindness equaled your intellect.

That is the greatest complement I think I could pay him.

Rule 615

Making ethical decisions in a vacuum is like getting lost and only asking yourself for directions.

This is a combination of the Wit and Wisdom of two people, Xenia Fretter and one other reader who asked not to be named. Thanks to both!

Note from Aunt SuperTam: Real Talk with SuperTam

If you did not know it by now reading this blog, I married an incredible and profound person.

Many people have asked me to share the talk my wife gave at my son Harrison’s funeral.

PLEASE DON’T STOP READING! This is an uncomfortable topic, but we need to accept this discomfit because it is literally about life and death.

I am sharing only part of her longer remarks because it is vitally important. You can find the full transcript on my Facebook timeline.

I am happy that it touched so many people and hopefully opened up some much needed dialog on the topics of both mental illness and suicide.

Please remember that these are the words she spoke over my son’s coffin, in a room with about 600 people watching and listening. I say that not only as a kind of trigger warning, and as a way of letting you know the power and strength possible in the human spirit, but also to highlight the sacred nature of her words.

Please share this. Share her full remarks. Share them with people you love or people you just met, but share this message.

Excerpts of remarks given on July 28, 2018, at the funeral of Harrison T Boam by his mother Tammis R Boam.

“…Harrison asked me to say it like it is today. So, we are going to have what I’m calling Real Talk with SuperTam, (because that’s my nickname).

Harrison killed himself. Very few people want to say that. People don’t want to talk about it. People do want to talk about it but they don’t know how. It’s an unbearably painful topic. People keep telling Dale and myself that we are so brave to talk openly about what Harrison did. We never considered any other option. It didn’t feel brave to either one of us, just truthful. When a person dies of heart disease or cancer or pneumonia, we all grieve, but we don’t fear talking about why they died. Mental illness carries a heavy stigma in our society and I believe we share an obligation to have more productive and proactive conversations about a really scary and difficult topic. Mental illness is physical illness. It happens in the brain. Just like MS or Parkinson’s disease; it can be a chemical imbalance, a failure of synapses to connect properly, or an underdeveloped portion of the brain that limits its proper function. It is not different than any other illness. But it is sooo taboo. When the term ‘Mental Illness’ is mentioned, people think in extremes; severe debilitation, psychosis, the inability to work or leave the house, erratic behavior, frightening delusions – scary, scary words, yet mental illness usually doesn’t look like that. It’s depression – from mild to severe, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Anorexia, Post Partum Depression, Autism Spectrum – it can be an illness or a disorder or a dysfunction. Everyone in this room knows someone who deals with a mental illness every single day. It is often silent and very subversive, and people can feel isolated or hopeless.

Nearly every single person that I talked to, or Dale, or my parents or in-laws or our friends knows someone who has had suicide effect their family. The heartbreaking thing is that suicide is on the rise amongst our youth. Our children are dying and we are afraid to talk about it because it is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for me to stand here today and talk about it.

But I am willing to open the conversation. I am willing to answer questions. I will listen to fears and pains, and I will try to offer comfort. I know I’m not the only one willing to do this, but I think one of the problems we collectively suffer from is fear.

Dale and I always try to teach our kids that the devil dwells in darkness and the gospel spreads light. So they should base their decisions on whether or not they have to hide what they do in darkness or if they can do it openly in the light. This is a good foundation for teaching decision-making. However, people often hide in darkness. Not because they are dark themselves, but because they are afraid. We need to learn how to recognize people who are hiding. We must practice seeing what people in pain look like. We need to commit to ourselves that we will be the person. The one who offers succor, in whatever form that takes. We need to ask questions and develop relationships that allow people to open up and be unafraid… The Lord is asking us to be is hands and help his children. We need to seek the one, and we also need to be the one. Be the one who looks. Be the one who asks. Be the one who sees. We have the power to heal.

Our family has been terribly, irrevocably wounded and changed. We are in agony. But we are being ministered to, every second of every day. Because of that, we are already beginning to heal. We have a long road ahead and we accept that, because we do not walk that road alone. The Savior walks that road with us. And so do every single one of you every time you do something that is motivated by love. The road that we walk, the same road you walk, is the path of the gospel. It guides us towards our Father in Heaven…

He did kill himself, but he also died because he suffered from an illness. We do not need to be ashamed of that or hide that fact. Harrison made a choice I wish he had not. He took an action he can’t take back. I know he would if he could. I know he didn’t mean to do this. But we are the ones who are left with the results of his actions. What do we do with that? Do we live within the atonement of Christ? Do we refuse to let fear keep us from speaking when speaking is necessary? Do we reach out, see a person, offer love and provide acceptance? Do we hide in the darkness, or do we shine in the light? I know what Harrison would have us do, and I know what the Lord would have us do.

Harrison, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”