Monday, February 19, 2007

The Man Moves On

My boyfriend, Bryce Broughton, took his own life on Thursday, January 25, 2007.

I know that I will need to write about this, about us, about him, in the future. In the meantime, I have decided to share what I wrote for his family as we gathered to honor Bryce's 36 years underneath one of his beautiful timberframes in his parents' home in Tetonia, Idaho. After that is what I wrote for the service for friends and the Teton Valley community that night at Bryce's timberframe shop, Teton Timberframe, in Driggs, Idaho.

I've never lost someone close to me like this. The only analogy that I have been able to come up with is that navigating this death is like surfing. I thought many times that Bryce and I had caught a good wave, but then a tsunami came and knocked me over. Now it's up to me to get back up and surf life again.

10:00 AM, Saturday, February 10th at The Broughton's
Tetonia, Idaho

Who was there
Friends and loved ones: Chris, Kate, Mitt, Walt and Amanda
Family: Ann-Toy, Porter, Grandma Grace, David, Abby, Ros, Uncle Tim, Aunt Janet, Aunt Ellie, Mysta, Brook, Grace, Aunt Starr, Uncle Phil, Cousin Susan, Cousin Chris

I first met Bryce while he was in a cast recovering from surgery in Brook, David and Ros' house where I was their roommate. Bryce was staying in the attic above my bedroom. Years and months before I met him, Bryce had to crawl to the bathroom because his achilles were in so much pain. Over time he began to heal.

I called my mom and whispered into my cellphone, "Mom, I have a crush on the brother who's visiting." I told her some things about him, how he was adventurous and masculine. She replied, "You should go downstairs and walk through the house with a snowboard on one shoulder and a kayak on the other." We laughed. Instead, I took him on a personal tour of San Francisco and then he took me to lunch at a Vietnamese dive. He asked me what my sign was and I said, "Libra." He laughed and said back, "My married friends just told me that I needed to find a Libra to match my Scorpio."

The next three and a half years were filled with learning, growth, love and hard healing. Here are some of the wonderful things that I learned about my best friend and love, Bryce.

I loved the way he stopped to talk to homeless people in San Francisco. How he looked them in the eye when he spoke to them, and by doing so, he shared his humanity.

I admired his adventurous spirit and how he'd try just about anything.

He loved the passion and heart of Latin cultures.

He asked permission the first time he wanted to cuddle me that week I met him. He loved to cuddle for lengths at a time in order to reconnect.

He told me that he loved the sound of the child-like laugh from his little niece Grace and he became fascinated when she started to speak.

Some of his last emails to me were important and I wanted you to hear them.

I was just sitting remembering the day we spent on the beach in October.
Nice day. I think those are some of my fondest memories.
Just laying on the beach with you.

and some others...

Thanks for your supportive words in this extremely challenging time.
Know that I have a lot of love and care for you and everyone in this as well. 
I guess I have been so fortunate to have had such a good life and that this fall has really been the hardest it has ever gotten. It is still hard to understand though. I think about how happy we were in Mexico and our trips to Canada and the nice walks we had this summer in the canyon and I just am baffled by the turn life has now taken. But it is so important to keep faith in the bigger scheme playing out as it should. I am so thankful for your presence in my life right now. I have faith that this will play out for the best. I am thinking of you all the time. 


My responses were love back. Though with time and more knowledge, I now know that the above letters to me were Bryce saying goodbye.

I found some poems by Rumi in The Book of Love. This was one of the books that Bryce and I would trade back and forth to read to each other and share our favorite bits of wisdom.

A first favorite of ours was:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.


Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.

6:00 PM, Saturday, February 10th at Teton Timberframe
Driggs, Idaho

Who was there
About 100 friends, loved ones and members of the community

Lately, whenever I have gotten sad or have had that moment where I remember the tragic reality, a miraculous thing has happened. I smile because I've recalled a moment with Bryce. I imagine we all have done this and will continue to do so for some time.

When I walked to baggage claim in the Salt Lake airport the other night, I looked for Bryce. Years ago, Bryce was living in Driggs and I was living in San Francisco. We had made a rendezvous plan at the Salt Lake airport to spend Halloween weekend together. We had made a deal to come dressed in costume and to keep our costumes secret until we saw each other.

I went as the tooth fairy since I worked at a school. I flew as the only one in costume in both airports on Southwest Airlines. In a pink gown, a white wig and a tooth wand, I wowed little girls in airports and made passengers and airline employees laugh. After landing, I walked to the Salt Lake baggage claim and looked for Bryce. I couldn't find him. He called out my name and I turned around. When I finally searched long enough and focused, Bryce stood with slicked-back hair, a dark suit, a tie and a name tag that read "Elder Broughton". I had finally spotted him in a sea of suit-wearing Mormons. He said he had tried to find a backpack to complete his outfit. He had stopped at every Deseret Industries (the Mormon thrift stores) from Driggs to Salt Lake, and even at a Kinko's in order to make the nametag. I laughed because Bryce never half-assed anything. I knew in that moment how much I loved both him and his clever mind.

Here are some other things that I learned, loved and appreciated about Bryce.

He was happiest when he was creating a new design, whether it be a structure without ninety degrees or a line of pants for men.

He was also happiest when he was on a river, a road trip, flying his plane, sailing his boat, or traveling on his own terms to discover a foreign land.

He could speak for hours in Spanish to locals and found pleasure in learning about their lives.

He was interested in and fascinated by worm holes, string theory, and other universes.

He considered being a researcher for NASA and once told me that if he was ever given the opportunity to leave Earth to go live on another planet, he would do so in a heartbeat.

He wanted to climb Everest.

He could make one hell of a campsite and string up a tarp and create stellar shelter within minutes.

He loved the ruggedness of Idaho, all of its natural beauty and hidden secrets. He fondly recalled the days when he would drive from Driggs to Victor in Teton Valley and only pass one car. He cherished how everyone did "the steering wheel wave" when passing each other on the road.

His favorite beer? Bud in a can.

He knew the lyrics to most songs by The Police.

He had a blast rebuilding a Japanese motor from the ground up for his 1986 Toyota Van that he bought for $100 on Craigslist. We drove the van from San Francisco, through mainland Mexico and on through the Southeast and Eastern United States back to Idaho. The trip equated halfway around the world. We only broke down once and it wasn't because of the engine.

He liked to mentor others on his timberframe craftsmenship, but only when they had the drive to learn it right.

He would stay on site or on AutoCAD until the design or the cut of the timber was just right.

He wanted to fly a plane with Mitt and me above Africa. We talked about the idea for transporting mail or refugees who had been displaced by war.

One his recent emails reflected this dream, he wrote:

I just had a dream about Africa. I don't know why or where it came from but you
were part of it and you had this idea to build a community for travelers that
was on a bluff overlooking the African Serengeti. You/we were planning to
open up a section of the bush that was up on a plateau overlooking the plains.
A really beautiful location but very remote. You would drive in thru this willow-like
thicket that was cleared; (sort of like Katherine and Duncan's Driggs land) with a mix
of grass and bushes but opened up to a view looking down on the plains where all the
wild animals lived. There would be all sorts of little cabins and a main building where
everyone could gather and look out on the animals. Dreams are fun.

I loved the above image. I feel fortunate to have loved Bryce.

I found more Rumi poems that were perfect to share with both Bryce, wherever he is, and with you, his friends.

You may be planning departure,
as a human soul leaves the world
taking almost all of its sweetness with it.
You saddle your horse. You must be going.
Remember, you have friends here as faithful as grass and sky.


My work is to carry this love as comfort for those who long for you.

The information below is part of the obituary that Bryce's mom, Ann-Toy, wrote (with some additional details by me). It also gives donation information in memoriam for Bryce.

Reflecting his many interests and his deep concern for others, donations in Bryce's name can be made to Idaho Rivers United, P.O. Box 633, Boise, ID 83701-0633, The Coalition on Homelessness, 468 Turk St., San Francisco, CA 94102, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, Donor Services, P.O. Box 630577, Baltimore, MD 21263-0577. Their website, contains much information on the signs of severe depression, helping educate all of us to recognize this in loved ones and assist them in getting the help they need. Donations can also be made to Ananda Marga, Inc., 97-38 42nd Ave 1-F, Corona, NY 11368. Ananda Marga is the parent organization for Casa Ananda, where Bryce and Amanda spent their time in Mexico City using his woodworking skills and her scrubbing skills to help to prepare the first group home. Bryce talked about how rewarding that time was and how happy it made him. Those who want to donate to Casa Ananda please write the check in the name of Ananda Marga, Inc. with a note that the amount is a donation for Casa Ananda. Ananda Marga will send receipts which can be used for tax or other purposes. Ananda Marga will then forward the amount to Mexico City.

"The principal mission of Casa Ananda ( is to help street children and homeless young adults leave the streets, drugs, alcohol, crime and prostitution and give them the opportunity to finish their elementary, high school, preparatory and college studies so they can transform themselves into productive and exemplary citizens."

Dada, the man who founded Casa Ananda, wrote me the following when I told him the news of Bryce.

Dear Amanda,

I'm really sorry to hear about Bryce. I still remember very well the time
both of you worked here at Casa Ananda when we were just starting and
there was nothing in the house. Right now Casa Ananda is moving quite well
and we have decided to open three more places this year: one for girls,
one for boys and one for the children of the girls (most of the girls
living on the street have children!).

Best regards,
Dada Kalatiitananda

You can read about our time at Casa Ananda in my article written for DivineCaroline (where I was formerly staff writer) entitled, Travel and the Art of Giving Back.