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. 

Love,
Bryce


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.

and

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.


and

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, www.NAMI.org 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 (www.casa-ananda.org) 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.


4 comments:

  1. Amanda's honesty captures and elucidates what our hearts are struggling to understand, the loss of Bryce. She has the ability to articulate our sorrow in a way that comforts and helps. I am so grateful to her for that.
    Bryce lived the fullest life possible in 36 years. He had a profound impact on each person who knew him. I am personally rocked and buffeted by his leaving us. No event in my life has brought me such a sense of larger meaning through loss. My suffering in losing him has produced in me a new desire to love others along with a keen resolve to feel and share and enter into the stories of others who also are grieving.
    Bryce did not live in vain. His life will continue to affect many and help us to open our hearts to see the larger plans of the Creator.
    I am sure he is well now.
    I rely on the hope of God's goodness to turn everything sad untrue. For us all.
    My admiration goes to Bryce for picking such a sterling woman as Amanda and to Amanda for seeing and championing the beauties of Bryce and subsequently revealing to us a rich picture of who Bryce is and will continue to be for us all.
    In love,
    Ellie Ellsworth " Auntie Ellie"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for this tribute. I went to South Kent School with Bryce, and was saddened and dismayed to hear of this news. Bryce was ever a good guy--someone that all of us are proud to have known, and someone whose gentle open way impacted everyone around him. His classmates know know about this loss, and we are trying to figure it out. I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to direct them here.
    I'm deeply sorry for your loss, and for the loss of the family. We'll keep you in our thoughts.
    Yrs.
    Sean Nighbert
    Texas

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jolyon "Jo" ReeseAugust 29, 2007 at 10:00 AM

    I was a year ahead of Bryce at South Kent, and flipping through the school news letter today, found out he was gone. I have not laid eyes on Bryce for almost 20 years now, but I can still remember his face, and more importantly, his character. Bryce was one of those rare guys who "got it" early in life, and I was always a little envious of him for that. I can remember a time when we used one of his drawings for the school's creative writing annual, it showed an American army soldier crouched in a fox hole. The detail still comes back to me today. I was lax in getting it back to Bryce, but he kept on me, until finally he confronted me and simply told me the drawing was "important" to him. I will always remember how that simple statement struck me. Few people in this life, much less 16 year old boys, have a clear idea what is and is not important to them.
    As I sit here writing this, I can feel the sadness for the boy I knew so long ago, and know I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for you and his family. Bryce was one of the good guys.

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  4. Dear Amanda,
    My heart is overflowing with sadness and grief. Bryce was my good friend from high school and we spent a summer travelling and working together on Nantucket. I loved him and I'm sorry to have heard this news so late. I was living in Italy at the time escaping my own demons and searching for some greater meaning in life through adventure. I heard the news today and I'm broken.
    We were also competitors and team mates at SKS. Bryce made hard work look easy and extreme effort seemed natural- a gift that I envied and admired. His natural understanding and depth enriched me. Somehow I think I bothered him with my incessant silliness and frustrated him with my laziness. He could do anything!!! I was jealous of his extreme competence and at the same time reveled in witnessing him act so quickly and decisively.
    I loved Bryce. He was a hero of mine- Connecticut farm kid with a wonderful brain and surprising talent.
    Fishy Fishy Fishy Ohhh! My brother. Jabs to the stomach. Mountain biking. Rowing. Building. Growing. I will miss knowing your light in in the world.
    Love
    Peter

    ReplyDelete