Nick Heilig is a member of The Unsealed community and reached out to me with a desire to share his story. He was born with Spina bifida, a congenital disability where the spine doesn't form properly. Since he was a child, he has been confined to a wheelchair. However, he writes to children with disabilities about how he has been able to remain positive and chase all of his dreams.
I have been saying for years that I wish my first boyfriend could see himself the way I see him. So, after 20 years, I wrote this letter to remind him of the person I think he truly is and the person I believe he can become.
I love bold people who defy stereotypes to pursue their passions and, if necessary, break barriers. Coach Alex Hanna is the cornerbacks coach at Oberlin College. As a female football coach, she has faced many challenges. In an open letter to her players, she shares the lessons she hopes they learn from her.
After stumbling across Hope's music on Instagram, I reached out to her. Her music evokes emotion and is incredibly beautiful. I knew whoever could create such art, had a powerful and insightful story to share. Sure enough, I was right. Hope writes a letter to her father, who has been a huge influence in her life.
If you have a big dream, get ready to be inspired. Aisha has defied stereotypes and fought through tremendous adversity, proving to the world that we each have power over our own lives. She is a rocket scientist and entrepreneur. In her letter to those who feel stuck in a box, she shares how she rose above other people's limitations for her life.
Sarah reached out to me asking if she could share her experiences as a person of color growing up with a white mother. In a letter to her mom, she shares an important lesson she learned about race and love.
This story will warm your heart! Michael, a college student in Texas, has a form of autism called Aspergers. Through the years, he has struggled to connect with his peers. However, he writes a letter to Sammie, a friend he met in first grade, who has made him feel understood and appreciated.
Lauren Cunningham is a mother of three. Three years ago her daughter, Kiki, had a brain bleed/aneurysm because of a condition called AVM (arteriovenous malformation), which is a malformation of a vein in your brain. Despite some professionals forewarning Lauren that her daughter might not be able to do basic activities, Kiki is defying expectations. Lauren addresses her letter to all the people that believed in her daughter's recovery.
Amara Newsom is about to embark on her collegiate basketball career at the University of West Florida. She writes a powerful letter to WNBA players about how they've impacted her life, her career and possibly her future.
My brother is probably the only person in the world I listen to without question. I call him my secret weapon because he tends to be right about everything. So, when he told me to enter a contest to win a car, I was all about it. The contest was to show how your small business is making a big impact during the pandemic. The only problem is I didn't read the fine print. I wrote 600 words, but it was supposed to be 600 characters, which is about three sentences. In the spirit of not wasting an afternoon of writing, I thought I'd share with you how together we've made an impact during the pandemic.
Chelsea is a professional dancer. In a sport that heavily emphasizes presentation, Chelsea opens up about how having a different texture hair than her peers growing up impacted her through the years. She has a powerful message for young dancers.
Garrett is like many people in this world, as he is looking for true love. And while dating is hard for most people, he has the added challenge of being in a wheelchair. However, in open letter to the woman who will love him forever, he shares what he has learned about love and why he is hopeful he can find it.
Kenyata is a friend I met while living in Cleveland. He is smart, ambitious and quite simply a good person. I knew about the relationship he had with his son, who is on the autism spectrum, so I asked him to write a letter. He decided to write to parents at a crossroads, as he has had to make some tough but worthwhile decisions achieve all of his goals.
It's our first birthday! To celebrate one year of The Unsealed I wrote a letter to all the subscribers who have made sure this first year of The Unsealed is not the last year. Also, I opened up about how coming close to getting what I thought was my dream job helped lead me to the creation of The Unsealed.
Vincent Taylor is a defensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills. When he was 11 years old, his family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. I thought he would be a perfect person to share his journey with kids who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stacey Roth Tirro is one of the many teachers across the country concerned about her students. She explains how writing a play has become an avenue for her to find an innovative way to support her students.
Former NBA player and Duke star, Roshown McLeod, opens up about his battle with depression. In a letter to his late mother, he shares how the lessons his mom taught him helped him to overcome a difficult time in his life.
To combat the negativity of the COVID-19 pandemic, I told myself that I would focus on my body and business. The idea is that when the pandemic is over I will come out sexy and successful. However, in this letter, I make it very clear what exactly I mean by sexy and successful.
Jason Greene is a lifelong Indians fan. He has attended 43 straight Opening Day games. This year baseball will be different because of COVID19, a virus spreading across the country. However, Jason writes to Cleveland sports fans about how baseball coming back is important, especially during tough times.
Five years ago, I wrote a book, which was a collection of letters about my life and the lessons I learned thus far. I wrote the book before I realized I wanted my own company let alone what that company would be. The other day, I came across the final chapter of the book and I couldn't believe how it aligned with The Unsealed. It made me realize, sometimes we can feel our dreams before we can visualize them. This week marks one year since I moved to Miami. I decided to share with you the final letter of my book which I called, How My Truth Became My Power.
While pride month just wrapped up, I want to continue the conversation into July. I reached out to Gabrielle on social media. She is a trans woman of color. In a letter addressed to whoever is willing to read, she shares the struggles she endures and what she hopes you get out of reading her story.
Franchon Crews-Dezurn is a world boxing champion. However, she believes strength is much more than the power behind her punch. She writes an open letter to her husband, Glenn, about what true strength looks like.
I met New York Giants great, Leonard Marshall, through my father. When Leonard heard about The Unsealed he immediately wanted to get involved. In an open letter to young people, he talks up about his childhood in the south, racism, challenges during his football career and his struggles with CTE. Through his journey he believes there are many valuable lessons young people can learn.
Reggie Jagers III is training to try and become the first African-American to medal in the Olympic Games as a discus thrower. As he works toward his goal, he writes a letter to his father who won't be able to cheer him on along the way.
These last few weeks have been revealing and emotional. In the wake of George Floyd's murder, the nation has been discussing and protesting racism in this country. As someone who is white, I have tried to listen and learn as much as possible. Now, on Juneteenth, I am sharing my thoughts on what I have realized and what I think is next.
A subscriber of The Unsealed asked me to do a letter on the pandemic's impact on addiction. I met Daniel through a mutual connection. He shares what is helping him through this tough time in an open letter to drugs.
Daniel Artest told me after years of many racist experiences he does not have many white friends, but he wants to change that. He writes an open letter to allies people about how they can gain his trust.
I reached out to Brandyn, a 17-year-old black teen, because I thought his perspective was and is important. We are fighting, in part, for his future. As Brandyn writes an open letter to his community, he gives us hope for what could be but also reminds us of that heartbreak that still is...
This week I have felt sad and hurt about the racism we've once again witnessed in this country. Feeling helpless and discouraged, I asked friends how I can make an impact. They told me to talk to more white Americans. So, here is my letter and my advice to white Americans.
If you are in or around the NBA or high-level basketball, you know the name Phil Handy. He is one of the most well-respected coach/trainers in the game. I met Phil when he was coach for the Cavaliers in Cleveland, where I witnessed him win an NBA title. It was a defining moment in his life. Now, he is writing to his parents about what was missing in that special moment in his life.
Former pro boxer, Boyd Melson, graduated from West Point in 2003. During his time at West Point he says he built a unique and strong bond with all of his classmates. However, his class has lost nine of its members. Now, Melson writes open letter to the children of his fallen classmates.
When I first started watching Tré Melvin's videos, I was impressed by how he used creativity and comedy to delve into real issues in our society. He is smart. He is creative and he is brave. But according to Melvin, being the person he is today took some time and some work. In an open letter to black, queer young boys, he opens up about the path he has traveled.
Like me, NFL free agent, Josh Martin is a Columbia graduate. When I saw his profile pop up on my LinkedIn, I reached out to the fellow lion and told him about The Unsealed. He was immediately willing to learn more. Soon after, I approached him about a story, he suggested writing to the country about the power of teamwork.
One of our subscribers introduced me to Amanda. He felt she had a compelling story to share. Amanda, who runs Compassion Delivered, a non-profit delivering free meals to people who are facing life-threatening illnesses, found her purpose through her family. She writes an open letter to a future meal recipient explaining how adding love to their life nourishes her being.
I met Angela Dennis several years ago. Immediately, we hit it off. She is a wise woman with a toughness in her bones that perfectly meshes with the warmth in her heart. As the country reacts to yet another senseless act of violence on an unarmed black man, Angela, a mother to five children, including three black men, writes an honest and heartfelt letter to white mothers. From one parent to another, she is asking moms to help combat racism.
Gab Kreuz and I have been friends for years. We were talking on the phone about the benefits of helping others during tough times. So, Gab decided to write a letter to Cleveland, hoping the city will join her in supporting sick children at the Ronald McDonald House. Many of these children are battling life-threatening illnesses and are impacted by social distancing rules.
I met Mikey about 20 years ago. Our parents were friends and I used to babysit Mikey. Coincidentally, we both grew up to become advocates for women's equality. In a clever and creative letter to the owner of her local pizza shop, Mikey, a 20-something professional, explains what pizza has to do with making sure women get their share of the pie.
There are so many people who have had to close their businesses to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. Tonia Marra, who owns D'Agostino Hair Artistry, is not just a business owner but she is also my best friend. She writes an open letter to her customers as she navigates through this difficult time.
I met Michael's parents years ago waiting for a plane at an airport. His parents invited me to a fundraiser and Michael and I have been friends ever since. Michael is a talented songwriter that is always jet-setting across the world. Now, his work is on hold as he cares for his elderly parents. Michael shares his thoughts on quarantining as he writes to those at home with their family.
I connected with A. Cole through Instagram and she immediately agreed to share her story with The Unsealed. A. Cole is strong and informed, as she writes an open letter to her unborn son about what it's like to be pregnant during a pandemic.
Jared and I reconnected on Facebook. We had met years ago while I was working at MSG Varsity in New York. When Jared told me he was interested in writing a letter to his dad, who was among the founders of Sirius radio, I loved the idea. The perseverance he and his father have displayed on their respective journeys is more than worth sharing.
I met Daniel Kantrowitz, a senior in high school, when he was two years old. I probably haven't seen or spoken to him since. It was refreshing to see the man he has become as he shares his thoughts about his classmates' reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic in an open letter to his peers.
A lot of families are struggling right now, as they worry about their health and their livelihood. David, who is a single dad, is no different. However, he writes an inspiring open letter to single parents about how he is making the most of the situation.
As schools close to slow down the spread of COVID-19, Ashley Saavedra is among many parents who have gained a greater appreciation for educators. She writes an open letter to her son's first-grade teacher.
Devereaux Peters is a two-time WNBA Champion, but her interests extend far beyond the basketball court. She is a great example of a woman not afraid to explore who she is and what she wants. In an open letter, Devereaux tells young black women not to allow anyone to stop them from becoming whoever it is they want to be.
Our safety is threatened. Lives have been lost. And our routines have been put on hold. We are in a crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what to do. So, I decided to share with all of you a lesson I learned from my grandfather.
Billie Jean King is someone I have always admired. I met her twice, once at a book signing and a second time on a red carpet. However, I never got the chance to explain to her the influence she's had on my life. So, I figured Equal Pay Day would be the perfect day to do so.
I have been self-isolating for almost two weeks now. While I am more worried about my parents than anything else, during this time I have tried to find a lesson and a message. Here it is in an open letter to those in quarantine.
Psychotherapist Aly Cohen and I have been friends since science class in ninth grade. As one of my friends, I have the luxury of consistently getting great advice. But as I reached out to her about my fears and reactions regarding COVID-19, I realized she had a lot of tips that could be of value to many people. She writes an open letter to those feeling scared about the pandemic.
I interviewed Kierre shortly after he was offered a scholarship to Ohio State. He had drive and a relentless work ethic. When I asked him how he stayed focus, he began quoting hip-hop preacher, Eric Thomas. Now, years later, Kierre writes an open letter to Eric about how he influenced his life.
I was introduced to Matthias McKinnon, a former NFL player and fitness guru, through an Instagram follower. His determination and passion for growing his fitness business immediately became clear. Matthias chose to write a letter to his mom, who showed him what it means to work hard and to hustle.
I randomly reconnected with Dave, who was my former co-worker at MSG. He mentioned he enjoyed The Unsealed and then told me he was supposed to get married on Friday. I asked him if he would write a letter to his fiance about the fact that their big day might be canceled because of the coronavirus.
I have known former NFL player and current broadcaster Brandon London for years. How we met is a funny story, but I'll save that for another day. I have watched Brandon evolve from an athlete to a talented television personality. I saw him when he was hustling and then when opportunities started to come his way. I didn't know the back story of his success until he told me he wanted to write an open letter to his former teammate and mentor Michael Strahan.
Latoya Moppins, an entrepreneur from Dallas, reached out to me after reading Brian Cuban's letter on The Unsealed. I immediately was interested in her story. She is inspiring and strong, as she writes an open letter to her children. She explains how pickles helped her transform her life from being a homeless woman to a happy person.
I follow former New York Jets great Victor Green on social media and couldn't help but notice the adoration he has for his son. After seeing that his son accepted a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina, I asked Victor if he would like to write a letter to his son about taking this next step in his life and his football career.
I reached out to Brian Cuban, who is the brother of billionaire Mark Cuban when I started this journey as an entrepreneur. He gave me some great tips, particularly for public speaking. A few months later, I circled back with him and asked him if he would do a story. He so kindly agreed. Brian is open and honest as he writes to people who feel as though they live in their sibling's shadow.
At 11 years old, Indians Manager Terry Francona went on a 10-day road trip with the Milwaukee Brewers. He writes an open letter to Dave Bristol, who, at the time, was the manager for the Brewers. When Terry talks about that road trip, you can tell that the excited little boy who loves baseball is still very much a part of him.
This letter is a reflection of society's attempt to often stereotype and pass judgment on women. On a personal level, for a long time, it bothered me that the thoughts of others impacted my mother's ability to see her greatness. I wrote an open letter to my mom about what I see when I look at her.
I loved working with Bobby to write an open letter to the love of his life, Sabrina, who he first met when he was 11 years old. I went to middle school with both of them. The way he describes Sabrina is exactly how I remember her - happy and kind. It warms my heart to see two nice people experiencing true love.
I'll never forget sitting in the passenger seat of my dad's car when I got a message on Facebook that read, "Hey Lauren. I don't know how to tell you this but feel like as such a big part of his life you should know. Roche passed away last night." Roche was the last name of my ex-boyfriend, Brian. Unfortunately, it took losing Brian to learn what I know now about love. I share that knowledge in an open letter to my future love.
Harassment in the workplace is a pervasive problem. Former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, exhibited courage and strength when she sued former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Now, she is continuing her fight against harassment in the workplace to help all women. I reached out to Gretchen because I thought she would have incredible insight. Gretchen kindly agreed to write an open letter to ambitious young women, sharing what she's learned on her journey thus far.
After Kobe Bryant passed away I saw a post on WNBA champion Shay Murphy's Facebook page about Kobe's influence on her life. She was emotional and raw, so I reached out to her and she immediately agreed to share her story and her message about the Mamba Mentality.
My dad has been a major source of wisdom, strength and motivation through the years. As I take on this huge challenge of starting a business (The Unsealed), the traits he has instilled in me are critical. I wrote an open letter to my dad to recognize his role in my life and on this journey.
Pat Michalik, a former firefighter, reached out to me on Instagram and I could immediately feel the sincerity in his message, as he has a strong desire to help first responders. In an open letter to all the people he could not save, Pat opens up about his struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Since the moment I got off the phone with Ruth Gasten, I have not stopped talking about her wisdom, intelligence, humor and upbeat personality. Ruth is an 86-year-old holocaust survivor with an incredible perspective.. She wrote an open letter to young people about what lesson she wants them to learn from the holocaust.
I came across a post Lindsay wrote about clothes for larger women. To be honest, I never really thought about the challenges larger women have when shopping for fashionable clothes. I reached out to Lindsay because I felt her perspective was necessary and often ignored. Lindsay wrote a powerful letter on why fashion designers should be created clothes in all sizes.
I met Devonte while doing an radio interview with DJ Kris Styles on 95.9FM in Cleveland. Immediately, I was impressed with Devonte's devotion to his community and to young people, especially since Devonte is only 21 years old. In his letter he writes to his older sister about her impact on his success and his motivation to give to others.
As far back as I can remember, which is first grade, I was a problematic student. By age 13, I stopped going to school altogether and was selling drugs, which led to getting arrested. The courts adjudicated me to Glen Mills, which was a school for juvenile delinquents.
Today I turn 34 years old. We both know what the world is going to ask me.
“Are you married?”
“Do you want to get married?”
“Do you want me to set you up with my cousin’s niece’s friend's nephew?”
“Do you have any kids?”
“Are you sure you want a career that requires so many hours?”
It seems like each birthday since age 27 the number of times I get these questions doubles.
Do you know that before I pull down my shirt and latch my baby to my breast my entire body tenses up? I brace for what you are about to say. I’ve checked out of the conversation. I’ve stopped eating my meal. I’m silently calming my panic because I know your eyes and mouth are about to come for me with insensitivity and sometimes cruelty.
A World Cup Junior champion, a Stanley Cup champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist, by most people’s standards, despite challenges, I achieved success in life through my hockey career. But I don’t believe I found true success until I encountered you.
You are only five years old but I keep having this recurring nightmare about your teenage years. In this nightmare, you are in New York City where we live with a bunch of other kids your age. The cops are questioning your friends, but they skip you. You tell everyone you have to get home. So, you dip out and head back as if nothing happened.
“Please, let out your emotions. Don’t hold them in.”
Those are words from a letter my friend and former Notre Dame football star George Atkinson III wrote just over a month ago to children who are struggling.
I had a choice to test for certain conditions when I was pregnant with my daughter, Amy, but I turned them down. My reasoning was that the results wouldn't matter to me one way or the other. I, of course, would love my child regardless. So, on June 27, 1994, the day I first touched my beautiful daughter, was the same day I found out that my baby had Down syndrome.
You are only three years old but I already know exactly what I want for each and every day of your life. Happiness. To be happy you need to love yourself. Despite the fact that the name Creed means a guiding principle, as a child, you follow by example, which is why I know for you to be happy, it is important that I am happy too.
There is a lot about you I do not know. You were secretive about many aspects of your life. We never talked about your hopes or your dreams. I am not sure what your life entailed before you had a family. And for a long time, Dad, I truly didn’t know if you loved me.
There are eight billion people in this world with all different politics, perspectives and opinions, leading to conflict, debate and at times, even violence.
But if all eight billion people woke up and said, “You know what, once a month I will do one act of kindness,” - that would change the status of the world.
At 14 years old, Clawdeena9 was what I called my YouTube channel as opposed to what I called myself. During that time, I was someone who felt angry and unheard. So, I grabbed a bottle of pills and took a handful. When I realized I regretted taking the pills, I told my sister and I was rushed to the hospital. I didn't attempt suicide because I wanted to die. I attempted suicide because I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted someone to hear me even though, like you, I was living in silence.
On my first day of kindergarten, we stood in a circle and said the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher asked everyone to hold hands. When I reached out to my classmates, no one would touch me. No one would hold my hand. At five years old, I looked around the classroom and I immediately knew the reason. I was black and everyone else was white.
My phone started ringing. Text messages from friends across the country began to pile in. Then, I saw for myself. My f-bomb became a national story. While you may have read in the paper or on the internet about my gaff on air, what reporters didn’t write is that the f-Bomb wasn’t just a headline in the news, it was a breaking story in my life.
I was in so much pain and on so many pain killers, drugs and IVs that I just knew that I could not live that way any longer. While I didn't know what life was going to be like the agony of the situation far outweighed the fear of the unknown.
Please stay strong - stay strong and trust the process. Like you, I know what it is like to be in a low-income community, where there are not a lot of opportunities and there are a ton of broken homes. I know what it’s like to be taken from your parents to live with a family that’s not yours. It’s strange. As a kid, it’s hard to even understand what’s happening.
You, your husband (Dwyane Wade) along with Ciara and Russ Wilson are producing a movie about my life. It’s important to share my story because of the lessons I learned and the adversity I have overcome. However, most importantly, I want to bring justice, purpose, and understanding to my mother’s life and story, as well as peace and love to our ever-so-complex mother-son relationship.
Nearly four years ago, I was just a fan and one of your half-a-million Instagram followers. Nonetheless, I decided to sit down and write you a very long message. When I pressed send, I didn’t expect you to respond at all. My parents warned me not to get my hopes up. They explained to me that as an NBA player you probably receive hundreds of messages a day and my note would most likely get lost in the mix.
This is my first year as your head varsity basketball coach. During the summer I got the job to not only coach you, but to return to the conference that I competed in growing up. We will be going against my old coach, my alma mater and my nephew. The competitor in me can’t wait, as I have an innate drive to compete and to be the best at whatever it is I am pursuing. But as the season approaches and we come together as a team, I want you to know that as badly as I want to win, being a coach means so much more to me than accolades and titles.
You may have never met my son Mikey, but he too knew how it felt to be stuck in the hospital for days on end. He knew how it felt to be pricked with needles and pumped with medicine while other kids are at baseball or soccer practice.
Before I met you, I was 12-0, an undefeated professional boxer. I was featured in national Super Bowl commercials. My fights were in some of the world’s most famous arenas, including Madison Square Garden, Cowboys Stadium and MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I had fans and I had fame, which made me feel invincible.
You told young girls like me to make sure we wear makeup, do our hair and wear the perfect dress, while we wait for a guy to change our whole story. The women you told us about include Cinderella and Snow White. No offense to Snow White, but she just laid there until some guy kissed her and woke her up.
Early in my rowing career, I was focused solely on improving myself and my abilities in order to excel. Now, my focus has somewhat shifted. With the 2020 Olympic Games less than eight months away and as I near the sunset of my elite rowing career, I’ve also begun to think about how I can help to improve the sport.
I remember the last thing I felt from you. It was your heels hitting the ground and then you went completely numb. I remember laying there and the trainers asking me if it was my head or my neck and could I feel this or could I feel that.
I have tried to thank you but you won’t let me. You don’t like the recognition. You are such an important part of my development, as it’s been your words and your wisdom that has shown me the way throughout my young life.
Family matters. Ever since I was little, my grandfather has talked to me about the important role education plays in our family. He went to college on the GI Bill, which helped veterans pay for tuition. Education brought so many amazing blessings to his life, including my grandmother, who probably wouldn’t have married him if he hadn’t gone to college
“Don’t get beat by a girl.”
That was the mentality you passed down to your sons simply by the way you treated me. You were the parents of players on the opposing teams. I heard the comments you made and the gossip that went around every time I stepped on the mound.
My brain protected me when you failed to do so. Nearly 60 years ago, when I was 13 years old, I saw Dr. Reginald Archibald. He was a Pediatric Endocrinologist recommended to parents who worried about their children not growing.
Before high school, my parents sat me down in the living room and told me I had autism. I didn’t even know what autism was at the time. But that’s when I learned about some of you, my earliest doubters.
When you were a baby Dad would wake up in the middle of the night and run down the street to the church and pray and pray and pray. All we wanted was hope but we could not find another child with similar circumstances to give us that hope.
Mama would always say, “You are never going to go up until you hit rock bottom because when you hit rock bottom there is nowhere else to go but up.”
Well, thanks partly to you, I hit rock bottom. But I didn’t stay there.
In my worst moments, I would ask myself, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?”
I was trying to be a good person. My faith was strong and I felt like I was on top of the world in every aspect. Why did my whole world just come crashing down?
Former University at Buffalo football star, Alex Neutz, writes an open letter to his one-year-old son about his past with addiction. He shares with his son the struggles he went through, the lessons he learned and how being a father has impacted him.
I am a comedian making a living uploading videos of funny sketches with me and a puppet.
When I look at it from the outside, sometimes I am like, “Hold up, this sh*t really worked?”
But the truth is I always believed. I just felt it.
I know exactly how you feel. When I was eight years old I didn’t feel good enough. I did not think I was cute. My best friend was skinnier than me and it was no secret. “Bigger boned” is what my parents would say about me when they jokingly compared me to my friend.
I used to have this recurring dream of a little girl sitting on the steps. I wondered why no one would rescue her.
Angela as a teenager with her oldest child
I would pray, telling God, “She needs help. She needs someone to come get her.”
You are the men who silenced me. You made me feel like I did something wrong. You made me think I was the little dirty whore in the community. I really thought I did this to myself. But in reality, it was all of you who did this to me.
I still remember the last words you ever spoke to me just before you passed away more than 20 years ago.
“Be happy,” you said.
As simple as those two words sound, they held so much weight at a time when I was just alive but not living life authentically.
Throughout the last four years I have seen someone get shot in the head. I have answered the call for stabbings and rapes. I recently responded to a call about an 11-year-old boy who was beaten up and killed. I have walked into a scene where a lady slashed her boyfriend’s stomach from the top all the way down to the bottom. It is hard to witness such crimes; but I still want to be here. In fact, when I graduated from the police academy in 2015 I chose to be here. I believe my purpose in life is to help the hopeless find hope.
To my sister with Down syndrome - thanks for showing me the way
I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. Your dad, my step dad, pulled me and our brother to the side and told us you and your twin sister finally arrived. He then told us that you Ariel had a condition called Down syndrome. I was seven at the time so I questioned what Down syndrome actually meant. My step dad told me you were different. He told me people might make fun of you or laugh at you. As your big brothers, he asked us to watch out for you and take care of you. I have tried to guide you as best I can but as I look back it's actually you who has shown me the way.
I was completely out of my mind. One morning I had this psychotic break where I took a GoPro and violently threw it at my door and broke it. I felt high. I felt angry. I had flashes of feeling like a total monster. Concerned and frightened, my wife called my friend. He came to the house and they both took me to the emergency room because they thought I must be doing cocaine among other drugs.
You told me you’d never leave me. But you did. I know you were just looking for peace. Yet sometimes I’m so sick with grief and sadness that I’m mad. I am mad that you’re not here. I am mad that I’m alone. I am mad at every person, moment and unknown that contributed to you developing that horrifying disease that ultimately took you from me and from the world.
When I was young, like you, I was considered an at-risk youth. My family struggled to the point where there were nights that I went to bed hungry. But even though we didn’t have a lot of money or even a lot of food, I didn’t worry and I don’t want you to worry either.
I know if you were here right now you would pop me upside the head and say, “Boy, chin up, head up and keep going.”
But Mom, it hasn’t been easy.
You are the one who taught me about wins and losses in life, especially early on. We lived in gang neighborhoods in Los Angeles: first 52nd and Hoover and then we moved to 5th Avenue and 60th Street. We lacked money. We were a lower-class family in a tough environment.
I often interchange the words community and family. Communities should watch out for each other. Families should watch out for each other. Communities should help each other out. Families should help each other out.
I am now seven years removed from the last time you put your hands on me. Seven years ago my words to you would have been a lot different than they are now because I was really broken. A lot of your lies, a lot of your behavior, a lot of the things you said to me absolutely broke me. I trusted you. I really cared about you. I didn’t realize at the time how much the way you treated me negatively impacted me and my self-image.
It has been almost exactly four years since you died and there is not a day, not a second, that I don’t miss you. More than anything I just want to tell you that I love you. I vividly remember the day I lost you. Mom and I were holding your hands when you passed.
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