Walter, our dear friend

Printed on the back of the memorial card for my dad, who died Sept. 20.

A child of God, he was one of his men,
Was given to us to be one of our friends.
His life on Earth was a blessing to many
He loved every person, especially his family.

In every person he met, he saw the good,
Anything to help another, he always would.
“See God in every person,” he would often say.
Love and help, and remember them when you pray.

He was always active, even sick he wouldn’t be still,
But he prayed and tried to live according to God’s will.
“Leave it up to God,” he said when life was getting tough.
Words he lived by until the end, when his body had enough.

He is now with God in Heaven, looking down at us from the sky,
Reminding us of our purpose here, and telling us not to cry.
For we are all God’s children, this life here is not our end.
Hopefully one day we will join God, and Walter, our dear friend.

–Joseph Dennis

IMG_5248.JPG

You can go now dad, it’s OK

Memories from childhood fill my head,
Of things you taught me and stories you read.
Like shooting a basketball and swinging a bat,
And the adventures of a monkey and man with a yellow hat.

My interests changed, but one thing remained the same,
You were always there for me at every play, recital and game.
You saw every minute, and complimented me as I tried.
You calmed me when I was angry, and comforted me when I cried.

We didn’t always agree, I went through a rebellious phase,
But even then you stuck with me, whatever my latest craze.
As I grew older and married, you blessed my new life.
You welcomed into the family my beautiful wife.

Your grandkids really miss you, they wish they could say goodbye.
I came to Chicago to move you,
I didn’t think I’d watch you die.
As the cancer spreads, and you slowly fade away
Please know I’ll take care of mom, You can go now dad, it’s OK.

IMG_6466.JPG

Battling Depression

Robin Williams’ suicide personally affected me. Not because I knew him, or even because I’m a big fan of his work. Rather, we have a mutual enemy: depression.

Like Williams, I’ve been battling depression for much of my life. It’s a difficult condition, not only for those afflicted but also for the afflicted’s loved ones. In addition to severe sadness, it can cause extreme anger. It can be a constant feeling, or in my case get triggered by seemingly unrelated events or an innocuous statement someone says.

A friend who knew about my depression innocently asked me, “Why can’t you just be happy? When I’m sad I just stop focusing on the negative and focus on the positive.”

I wish it were that easy. However depression can consume its victims in an inescapable way. And it’s impossible for someone who hasn’t suffered from depression to truly understand — much like it’s impossible for males to truly understand the pain of birthing a baby. Yet it would be considered socially unacceptable to tell a woman in labor to just “get over it” and “focus on the happiness of a new baby!”

Another misnomer is that one can tell when someone is suffering depression. Robin Williams — considered one of the funniest men in the world — is a perfect example to counter that claim. People are often surprised when they hear about my battle with depression. I’m generally considered outgoing and relatable, have a successful track record at work, have no addictions,  am financially stable, very involved with my church and community, and have a beautiful wife and three sons. By most definitions, I am living the American dream. But I still struggle with depression.

Hopefully Robin Williams’ suicide will be a wakeup call to those with depression. Several weapons are needed in one’s battle with the disease. My arsenal is filled with a very supportive family, helpful medications and consistent therapist and psychiatrist visits. I know it’s a battle that will likely be with me until my death. But I am determined to not be like Robin Williams, and let depression be the death of me.