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The Boy – Concluded

The Boy – Concluded 1484 770 Jason Stadtlander

WARNING: The following story deals with strong topics such as depression, suicide, and bullying. Reader discretion is advised.

NOTE: This is a conclusion of the story published last week: https://jasonstadtlander.com/the-boy/

George ran hard, tears streaming from his face. The cool fall day chilled his skin as he ran, over wet branches, through fallen leaves, over two logs that lay on the ground. He was eager to escape the pain and internal torture he was feeling. He wasn’t afraid of getting caught, he had already been caught. All four of the other children had seen him attack Tommy. Is he dead? Does it matter? Of course, it matters! “I want to be dead!” he screamed out loud.

He came to an embankment and stumbled down the bank to the dried-out stream at the bottom. Climbing back up the other side, he came to a large patch of moss on the ground below a tree, he fell to his knees and thrust his fists down into the moss, wetness splattering up, he screamed at the top of his lungs and he collapsed. He could feel the damp forest floor soaking through his clothes, but he didn’t care. George turned onto his back and looked up, the pale blue sky showed through the almost naked trees above him. Puffy white clouds floated past a few branches and George’s heart raced. He had brutally hurt Tommy. He knew what he did was wrong, he had never hurt anyone before. George was always the good kid, the kid that helped anyone that was in need. He tried to help the underdogs because they underdogs were… well because they were like him. “I’m sorry Tommy,” he whispered under his breath. “I’m so sorry.”

Tears rolled down the boy’s face. He sat up when he heard something. In the distance, he couldn’t see them, but he could hear his Mom calling out and Officer Swartz. “George! Where are you? Please come back!” his mother called.

“George, you’re not in trouble. Come here, son! We just want to talk to you!” the police officer said. George had known Officer Swartz his whole life, his kids went to school with him in Canal Fulton.

George got up and ran the other direction. He knew in his heart his life was over. There were more kids like Tommy. He would hurt more people. He wasn’t the same. Not like he was two hours ago. Now, he was different. Now things would never be the same. So George ran and kept on running.

Eventually, he came to the edge of the woods and saw the two-lane road of State Route 93 that stretched out over Route 21. He ran to the concrete bridge and looked out over the four-lane road below. A semi blasted his horn for the boy, believing that perhaps that’s what he wanted. No doubt a father behind the wheel, wanting to make a boy smile. George did not smile. There was nothing to smile about. He had killed that boy. Killed him with his own hands.

George looked down at his hands, as they rested on the concrete divider. There was no blood on them now, at least none that he could see. He climbed up onto the concrete divider in the now bright sunlit day and stood on the narrow edge. He trembled, feeling cold and scared. Too scared. Staring at the cars below, his heart pounded, he could hear his heartbeat in his ears. He wasn’t sure if he was nervous, afraid or just exhausted. He moved two inches toward the edge, his feet now hanging over the edge a few inches. A car horn honked below. The cars were speeding by, traveling at least sixty miles per hour. George wasn’t thinking about how fast the cars were going. He was thinking about Tommy. How he had made George so angry. How he had caused George to lose control. “I don’t ever want to hurt anyone again. I don’t want to hurt,” he said under his breath.

The twelve-year-old boy could hear sirens in the distance as he closed his eyes and took one last step.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, you can get help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Farewell Robin Williams

Farewell Robin Williams 150 150 Jason Stadtlander

I wasn’t going to write a tribute, an article or an essay about Robin Williams. I never knew the man and I am no one of importance or notoriety. I am not an obsessed fan who showed up to see Robin shooting films and I did not hang on his every word.

Robin WilliamsI am simply one of millions of other people that were touched by Robin, which perhaps gives me as much a right to say something about him as much as anyone else.

Two weeks ago, I was walking casually through my father’s house on the tree farm where I grew up, passing through the living room on my way to the kitchen to grab a pretzel when Jody, a friend of my father and step-mother, casually called out “Robin Williams died today”. My two boys were siting on the leather couch in the living room petting my father’s golden retriever; Chester. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the television, transfixed by the news with the words “Robin Williams apparent suicide” emblazoned on the screen.

My youngest son looked at me and being the more empathic could tell instantly that I was affected by something. “Daddy? Who’s Robin Williams?”, having never seen Williams on film. I looked down at his innocent face gazing up at me and I said, “Just someone that I looked up to.” and I left the room.  I went out on the deck in the warm sunshine and sat down, saying nothing. The bright sunshine suddenly felt cold, devoid of it’s usual warmth.

Robin is one of those people in entertainment that is an anchor, someone that you always know is there and appears from time to time to warm your heart and make you laugh. His ability to instantly alter his personae and utterly change before your eyes (and I’m sure the eyes of everyone on set) gave him the ability to reach through the camera (or speaker in animated films) and touch you in ways that most people require physical hands and arms to. The ability to reach into your heart and massage it, whether it be through laughter or through a poignant performance such as that in Awakenings or What Dreams May Come is what set him apart beyond all others.

The fact that this beautiful man, father and husband died under the circumstances of depression or suicide is what hit me hardest, having struggled with it myself in the past. I instantly thought of What Dreams May Come and pictured Robin playing Chris Nielsen, a man that died in an accident and in turn found that his wife was in Hell because she had killed herself. Robin’s character Chris, literally fought through Hell and accepted her nightmare as his own, in turn, bringing back her memories just in time for him to be taken into her Hell. She, now remembering who he is, wanted to bring him back to heaven, thus saving herself and him from Hell.

I immediately thought of Robin there, now in her place. I’m not saying that people go to Hell when they commit suicide, I’m saying that under the interpretation of the movie, Chris did and I couldn’t help but instantly picture Robin there.

I first saw Robin Williams as many of us did, playing Mork and Mindy (Nanoo Nanoo). Gary Marshall who cast Robin once said that “Williams was the only alien who auditioned for the role”. Robin later went on to touch the lives of so many people in films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam and so many others. These roles he played, these parts he thrust himself into, they didn’t just touch those of us who had the pleasure of watch him as an entertainer, they touched people who worked with him. People like Gary Marshall, Maura WilsonLisa Jakup and David Letterman. He had three beautiful children, Zelda, Zachary and Cody and he was married not long ago to Susan Schneider.

I have no doubt that he will be missed by those closest to him as well as those of us that weren’t close to him. If Robin is in a dark place such as that portrayed in What Dreams May Come, I have no doubt that all of us will help him out of it, lift him and carry him to where he belongs.

But why, you ask… “Why did you decide to write an article about Mr. Robin Williams today?” For one reason, the emphasis on how short and precious the human life is. Robin made an impact like a meteor, striking down from the heavens and left a lasting impression that will forever remain with all of us. People will tell stories, remember him, perhaps even make up stories about him, but what will remain true is that this life, this soul, will be remembered for what it did for humanity. For making us cry, for making us love and most importantly… that which what he would want to be remembered for most, for making us laugh.

I do wish I had the honor of meeting you, but you have touched my heart regardless. Love you Robin. Rest in peace.

Life and the Volcano of Stress

Life and the Volcano of Stress 150 150 Jason Stadtlander

All of us handle stress differently, some try to unwind by running or exercising, others try to relax by reading a book. What happens though, when the stress is so unbearable that you feel it will crack? What happens when you literally don’t have time to use your normal methods to cool down?

The big question: What is the breaking point of the human mind and its ability to handle stress?

Eventually, you can reach a point in time when daily life feels so hard that you are certain you will break like a branch in the wind. There is that single moment that we can reach that is the trigger point for nervous breakdowns or even suicide.

What is stress exactly?

Let’s first look at what stress is. Stress is your body’s physical response to events or problems that upset your natural balance. When you feel in danger (real or imagined) your body reacts to guard you. When your ability to handle stress is operating normally, it can help you, aiding in your ability to focus and stay alert. When it malfunctions due to stress overload it can have adverse affects on your mind, body and your emotions and how you perceive the world around you.

Unbearable StressSevere stress can lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Emotional Shutdown (numbness)

Coping mechanisms

How can you cope with extreme stress without taking drastic actions? It’s not easy. I, myself have recently been trying to handle that and it can be very, very unnerving. I have personally found that sleep can be an extraordinary method of stress reduction. Even if it takes something to help you sleep, forcing yourself to sleep can help the mind rest and help you find a way to deal with problems that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to.

Some people choose to deal with stress by:

  • Working out
  • Praying
  • Reckless actions (sex, drugs, alcohol)
  • Vacationing
  • Meditating
  • Singing or playing music

Taking time to get up and step away, even if it’s only to go get coffee or meander somewhere (regardless of whether you have time or not) can help. If you have a choice of blowing up at someone about something that is not related to them or getting out of the room to depressurize, it’s always better to do the latter. Nothing is so important (except maybe saving someone’s life) that you can’t step out of the moment. It can mean the difference between snapping or simply bending the branch that is your psyche. Because you won’t be any good to yourself or the people around you if you really do have a nervous breakdown or worse.


Please, let me and others know below, how do you cope with extreme stress? I value your input and advice.


Inconsolable Loss – A Mother’s Story on the Death of a Child

Inconsolable Loss – A Mother’s Story on the Death of a Child 150 150 Jason Stadtlander

This post was co-authored with Lisa-Marie Black.

Being a parent, it is perhaps one of my greatest fears that I should ever out-live my children. Children are a gift and a blessing, and some of us fight extraordinary battles just to bring them into the world. When a child is lost, it leaves a hole that can never be filled.

I have invited a blogger who has experienced such a loss, Lisa-Marie Black, to share how she is struggling to cope with and attempting to understand what happened recently with the loss of her teenage son Michael.

Both Lisa-Marie and I hope that her story below will help readers understand what goes through a parent’s mind and heart in such an unimaginable situation:


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Michael Black

Michael Black

There are many theories as to what led to the violent self-inflicted death of our 19-year-old son on April 17, 2013.  And honestly, I don’t know what to believe. Right now, all I know is a deeply-rooted pain; it hurts to breathe. All I know is that the last tormenting hours of my son’s life now torment me every minute I am awake and most of the hours that fill my days until I finally fall sleep late into the night. I think of a million things I would go back to if I could and do differently, and then I think of the ways I loved that boy—so far beyond any expression of words on a page.

Michael Ryan Black was born with blond hair and sparkling light blue eyes. He looked like an angel, but he was wild like all little boys should be. A few years after his parents divorced, I became step-mom to Tyler (8), Michael (6) and Caleb, just two years old. I brought to this new marriage great enthusiasm, naiveté—and two little angels of my own, Alexis (8) and Emily (6), from my first marriage that had ended five years prior with the sudden tragic death of my first husband.

About the time Gary Black and I got pregnant with Noah, we were also awarded full custody of Gary’s boys.  In the drawn-out custody process, we all lost something. Our family members were also wounded, some more deeply than others, but we had so much love…and so much hope. I wonder—was the trauma of divorce and abandonment what started Michael’s decline as an innocent little boy and ripped his soul apart during his final hours? That is part of it. The mental illness that many say is inherited—like sparkling blue eyes or bad eyesight—is this what overtook him in the end? It’s difficult to say.

Admittedly, our his-hers-and-ours blended family was far from perfect—but we were devoted—to God and to each other. My husband Gary was up with the kids every morning early, praying with them before school and talking to them about life over his coffee and their Honey Nut Cheerios.  I was home cleaning, cooking, listening and driving my little ones everywhere. We were present, we were attentive, and we were available to our kids…weren’t we?

We camped, we water skied, we told stories around the campfire. We laughed. We loved. We also got overwhelmed, tired, sick—sick and tired—and we got angry. We stayed up late fighting and trying to figure it all out, but always woke up determined to never give up, to keep fighting—for our marriage and for our family. More wounding? Probably. Could we have done better? Perhaps. I don’t know.

We watched as our older children started turning into young adults, striving to take on the world in their own terms. Teenage years are a normal but often tumultuous part of life. No parent can’t stop the process, and no matter how you try, you can’t control it either. Quite suddenly, everything invested in them—time, wisdom, heart—is all tested. The parts of life you try to shield them from are spinning at them like an out-of-control battering ram from every direction. They are bombarded with images, voices and noises constantly from the minute they wake up until their weary heads drop in their pillows at night.

It begins with music on their headphones, the television blaring in the background. Then their fingers begin texting meaningless messages to people they may never have had a live conversation with. Add to this that they live their lives out loud on the internet—the proverbial open book to the world—constantly posting their unstable emotions and thoughts of the moment. And somehow they seem to struggle with the concept that ONE unfortunate picture taken at a party could affect them in residual ways the rest of their lives.

This generation holds some of the most brilliant and creative minds the world has ever seen. However, these baby geniuses are also more often than not self-involved and narcissistic. With misguided good intentions, we parents have taught them inadvertently that the world revolves around them, and now our children believe us.

We stop having dinner as a family and stop talking to each other. Instead, we keep a calendar booked with constant busyness…and we are proud of this. Many of us even talk about our busy lives to each other as if it were a competition that determines our parental value in the world. Our children don’t know how to be still, to be quiet, and to just be.  They are adrenalin junkies, addicted to constant stimulation. Our media is filled with violence flashing before the eyes of little brains that can’t always understand the difference between real and make-believe. Our children are so overstimulated that they are numb—numb to blood, to bizarre behavior, to music that encourages promiscuity and rebellion masked and packaged as “individuality.” Our children, like never before, are being told what to think and shown how to act by watching reality television instead of walking through the realities of life with an older, wiser generation—mentoring them, teaching them, being present with them.

How does a beautiful all-American boy go from getting great grades, becoming king of the school, having every girl want to be with him and every guy want to be like him to such a tragic end?  How does an all-round talented guy—an “All State” football player who went on to represent the USA in Rugby Sevens and get a full-ride scholarship—implode emotionally to the point where he chooses to leave this world? How?

My blue-eyed boy who kissed his mother on the forehead every night and thanked her for dinner, this boy who loved his country, his God and his family—how did he end up alone in his dorm room, contemplating his death for hours, before inflicting the worst type of physical pain on himself and then dying terrified, gasping for air?

Let me tell you. It’s a slow seduction. It comes piece by excruciating piece—the voices and images are a perpetual hum, not a fearful crash. Nothing is shocking any more. Marijuana is harmless, they say. Maybe it is at the outset, but does it eventually spur on the quest for craving something a little bit more potent and better feeling? More adrenaline, higher and higher they cllimb, more and more numb to the still, small voice that says, “Hey—slow down. Stop and think about this for a minute. This could be bad.” Those voices are instead drowned out by the louder ones constantly whispering in their ears, in their heads and flashing before their eyes. This is what has the power to seduce our children and ourselves by seemingly insignificant pieces at first, then by larger consuming chunks in the end.

Today we are connected to everyone all the time. We know what Kathy (whom we have not seen since second grade) had for lunch today, when she is going to the mall, and what her cat is doing. Yet I wonder­—do we know that much about the people who live under our own roof? We are always connected, and yet this generation feels isolated and alone.

And so I wonder—with all the wounding, the parenting mistakes, all the things we did wrong and all the things we did right—I wonder if my beautiful son heard a dark whisper before he took his own life. I wonder if the whisper said, “It’s not worth the fight. They are better off without you any way. There is no one who really needs you. Just end the pain.”

And what I really wonder is this. Was he shocked by that voice or simply seduced by it, just like all the other little seductions infiltrating and overriding his heart since he was a little boy?

I miss my son. I will never recover from this loss, this void. Our once family of eight, now family of seven, will never be the same—ever.

But we can’t afford to dwell on things we had no control over. We can’t change the choices Michael made that exchanged a beautiful life for a painful death. We can, however, look deep within ourselves, our marriage and our children. We can ask questions about our lives and try at least to determine if our lifestyle is really bringing us any life at all?

The potential cost for not asking these important questions is so high—too high. How many more brilliant, creative geniuses do we parents have to bury before we wake up?

There are so many theories still surrounding Michael’s death. All I know for sure really is that I have five beautiful lives left, and even if I have to shout, I will look into their eyes, tell them the truth, and never stop fighting for what is far too precious to ever lose again to such needless tragedy.



I believe Lisa’s ability to cope with the pain from the loss of Michael is giving hope to her and also to her remaining children. A parent experiencing the death of an “only” child might have a more difficult time handling the dynamics of such a loss. The importance of listening to and understanding your children, ensuring that you do everything in your power to teach them the good things in life and how to try to reach out for the good is critical. You may not be able to control what choices they make once they leave the house, but perhaps it can give you some strength and solace as a parent knowing you did everything you possibly could to help them be the best people they can be. Don’t ever think too highly of your parenting abilities—no one is invincible here, and it’s easy to pass the blame to others. But if you try your hardest and you know you tried your hardest, don’t discount that either. We are all merely human and all in this together—whether we want to admit it or not.

About Lisa-Marie Black:

Lisa-Marie Black became a single parent in her twenties following the sudden loss of her first husband. This tragedy was followed later with a second marriage leading to the joys and trials of a blended family of six children. For the last 20 years she has worked with young mothers teaching them parenting and life skills. The Black family has traveled the world teaching, mentoring and training the next generation, culminating in co-founding “The World Race.” They also lived In Africa for a year building a village for orphans with AIDS. Lisa currently lives with her family in Colorado Springs, Colorado.



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