"There's a lot of things I understand. And there's a lot of things I don't want to know."-from "I Think God Can Explain" by Splender.
As I write this latest edition of my blog entry, I have to say that my mind has been experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that come with the month of November. I find myself alternating between the excitement of the fall, the anticipation of the raw, piercing winds, the energies that surround me and allow me to feel so alive with the snow coming down, and yet the sadness that the holidays can bring. But sometimes we have to feel tragedy impact our lives and the actions of how we deal with these. They can bring us closer together, or envelop us in its self-destruction.
Those who have read my blog know how aggressively I am involved with the National Stuttering Association. It is the greatest love of my life, and I give all praise and glory to them for allowing me to do what I do to help enrich the world of people who stutter. We are a family, and we look out for one another. I take my responsibilities seriously and hold myself accountable to everyone who stutters around the world. However, that family has been decreased by the loss of one of our members.
I first met Chris Norman at the National Stuttering Association in Long Beach, Calif., in 2006, which was my inaugural conference. Chris was pursuing his speech language pathology degree and was a person who stutters. We have many members of our organization who stutter, yet are fiercely determined to be SLPs and help to give back to those who have to face this complex communicative disorder every day. At the time, he lived in Seattle and was a chapter leader for the Pacific Northwest region. We got along very well, and one of the many things that I treasure is that no matter where you live, there's a firm bond between people who stutter, and age doesn't matter at all. The NSA is one organization where age and gender mean absolutely nothing. We stayed in touch periodically through Facebook, and he eventually went on to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for his doctorate. It seemed that he had decided his own path, and was doing very well in all his endeavors.
Chris passed away early this month. I went on Facebook one day early this month and saw messages with "Rest In Peace" written on his page, which had been memorialized in his honor. Confused, I went on and began to read further. And it was like time had stood still. I just felt hypnotized by all these messages and didn't know what to do, or what to say. I went to work like I usually do, but yet that was all I could keep thinking about.
When someone dies at an early age, it's normal to experience a multitude of emotions-shock, for one. Sadness. Anger. I spent many nights crying, feeling helpless and when you hear "Well, things happen for a reason," or "It was God's will," it doesn't make you feel any better and sounds truly condescending.
When I was on America Online a while ago and each member had the option to set up a profile (man, I am that old to remember those days LOL), each user could include a personal quote. Now of course, some people decided to take liberties and make theirs perverted with double meanings. I chose to make mine simple, and I used a quote from the movie "Tomb Raider 2: Cradle of Life," which states "Everything that is lost is meant to be found."
Yet the more I thought about that quote and how it related to Chris's death, I began to wonder if that is true. There will be many people looking for answers, myself included. His parents, his friends, his colleagues. In this case, we may never know what happened. I am a very easy person to read, and I am very outspoken-I wear my heart on my sleeve, and always will. Some are more reserved, maybe he was one of them. Perhaps the answers will be revealed in time, or not. Regardless, I was very lucky to know him. He was one of the very first people who stuttered I met at the NSA conference.
There are times when I wonder what prevented me from taking my own life. The only thing I can think of is that someone up there believes in me very much. I am not religious at all, never have been. The only thing I believe in is the NSA. I have met so many remarkable people who stutter who have achieved tremendous success. As I am 32 now, maybe I am starting to see that I do have a very special gift-I can help others change their life. It won't happen overnight. But I can start to show others there is hope out there. I will be someone they can rely on and if someone hates stuttering, I will be the first one to talk with them and offer help in any way I can.
Thank you for the memories, Chris. The pleasure of meeting you was all mine.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.