For Deri and Kaarin, who live the power of love and friendship. Shared with their and Colby’s permission. And for my other friends who have made the difference.

I recently wrote about my son coming out publicly. If you haven’t read that post, you can find it here: I found as I wrote there was more I wanted to say around it, so here is another segment. Know that this is first and foremost Colby’s story and there are parts and aspects that are his to share if, and how, he chooses to do so. But this is also my story, our family’s story, so I will try to do my best to share aspects from my perspective I think may have value for others. Story is a powerful tool. It can help us feel not alone, it can help us understand what we do not, it can challenge and prod us, comfort and console us, or even confound and undo us. It can get us thinking, sometimes in ways we haven’t before. It can cause us to move, to act, to do things in new ways, with fresh understanding. The power of a good story can change our lives.

Central to this story are my friends. There are those who have carried, sustained and kept me going these last years. As my children say, “You have GREAT friends.” That I do. That I do. There are two in particular that waded into the muck of this piece of the story and walked with Colby, me and my family in truly remarkable ways. I credit these two women with helping save my son’s life. At some point, I have no doubt he will say what they mean to him. I need to tell you what they mean to me. Maybe, just maybe, we will all be inspired to invest more deeply in our friendships and relationships, and to believe the profound impact we can have in the lives of others. Believe me, after experiencing these two women in action, I want to pay this forward and back. In this space, I want to bear witness to their power, beauty and impact.

I first really met Deri 20+ years ago. We had gone to college together but didn’t know each other. She was on the college volleyball team and is one of those people you notice–she is all charisma and enthusiasm. She is extroverted love on legs. Fast forward to when we were both young moms. I was on staff as a pastor at a church in Shoreline, WA where Deri, and her husband Craig, had started attending. Deri has told the story of our first real connection to hundreds of students over the years (she has taught high school for many years). It is too complicated to share here, but suffice it to say, I maintain God knew we needed each other and arranged us to connect deeply and meaningfully early on. I particularly love that God used flowers to do so–something we both love.

In Uganda with Deri at Beacon of Hope School–one of the many experiences I’ve gotten to share with Deri.

Kaarin is one of my more recent friends (in the last few years) but in my mind, it is another God story, where God knew we could be really important to each other. Kaarin is a widow, with no children of her own, and when she became my friend, she embraced all that came with me, namely my kids. She is Aunt Kaarin to us. We have never really lived in the same vicinity as family and my kids have never really had any family around (besides CC and I) to show up for their things to watch and cheer them on. Since coming into our lives, Kaarin has shown up, again and again. There are people that do that, you know. For those of you in our Edmonds/Shoreline community, Steve and Betsy Bain are two others who come to mind who regularly champion the children of others.

Kaarin and I in Key West after getting to go on a cruise with a group of friends.

The real signs of things cracking with Colby began his freshman year of high school, but it wasn’t until the summer between freshman and sophomore year that I became deeply alarmed and we started to navigate the morass of finding the right help for our son. Things seemed a bit better in the fall after he had begun therapy in the summer, but by November, the real descent into darkness began. By his second semester, it was clear he was not making it as is. Helping him make it became a full time job for me (emotional department/time spent with him/coordinating with teachers/school/administrators) and for CC (coordinating mental health/medical/alternative medicine help). Now, while Deri has known Colby since he was born (she and her husband are his godparents–we call her his Deri-godmother), Deri happened to be one of his teachers that semester. He was at a Christian high school, Kings, and I want to acknowledge the teachers, administrators and counselors did everything they could to help us in this season. Colby needed a modified schedule and the school allowed the class Deri taught in Bible to become an independent study. Through the course of winter/spring semester, Deri met frequently with Colby, adjusting assignments to where he was at, while still nonetheless pushing him. She had always been invested in him, but I believe it was in this season she truly fell in love with this kid and his remarkable, inquisitive, take-no-BS mind. But she watched his diminishment. She was a frontline witness to the spark that was dying out despite all of our best efforts.

A few days after Colby’s 16th birthday, he was going to drive himself to his therapy appointment 30+ minutes away for the first time since getting his driver’s license. But that morning was not a good one and I said I was coming and going to sit in on at least the first bit of his session to make sure he was accurately representing how bad things were (he could still pull rabbits out of hats at this point and most people that encountered him had no idea he wasn’t making it). As I sat in that session that day, one thing became increasingly clear to me: he wasn’t going to get well at home. By the way, this is an awful realization as a parent. I sat in the therapist’s office willing myself to keep my mouth shut and not acknowledge this thought. But it was so clear. I spoke up and out. The way my son clutched at this straw was painful to experience.  I can still feel the pain of that moment now.

But where could he go and be safe? Enter Kaarin. She offered to take him. She offered to take a highly depressed and anxious teen into her home. She, who hadn’t thought for a time that she wanted kids partially because of what she had witnessed and experienced her teen years. And she knew by offering, she wasn’t just offering a room and a bed. He jumped at the idea. So a week before Mother’s Day, he went to stay with her. I was completely terrified to have him out of my immediate reach. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic here, but I had a significant role in keeping that kid alive to this point. I had kept him going for over a year (he would add that it was a fear of hurting me that helped keep him around). Of course, when he went to stay with Kaarin, we had agreements (he knew what he needed to do if he was not making it–that one of us would come, etc.). But any of you who know anything about suicide among teens/young adults know it is often an impulse thing. The moment gets unbearable and they haven’t lived enough life to know you can survive unbearable moments and that it does get better. They don’t always have to have a thought-out plan to succeed. Please, please, please–never judge the families or friends of those who have died of suicide. It is so complicated. So often there is NOTHING that could have been done to prevent it other than what was being done. As I said, terrifying.

I am going to skip a whole lot of things here because they are under Colby’s purview to tell. But suffice it to say, it got a lot worse before it got better.

Fast forward to when he came out. He came out first to our family. Then the two others he trusted with this sacred, holy story of himself were, you guessed it–Deri and Kaarin. You see, they had so invested in this kid to this point, shown him such love and nonjudgmental presence, he felt safe with them. And he wanted to be fully seen by them. He trusted them to put their relationship/love for him over anything else they might think/feel. They rose to the occasion. But then, he knew they would. He’s always been a keen judge of character.

Over the course of this past year, these two have continued to pour time and energy into Colby and make themselves available to him. I think all of them would agree, at some point, their own beautiful friendships blossomed. Colby is not a charity case for them. They truly love and enjoy him and he them. There were moments I confess I have been jealous that he preferred them over me. It is not an exaggeration to say Deri spent truly countless hours with my kid. They would go get açaí bowls or make cinnamon rolls or gnocchi together. There were a multitude of doggie playdates with Stu the bulldog, and Sage the Aussie. Colby wanted Deri to watch Boy Erased with him. I wasn’t allowed. She did ask if watching it would break her heart. He sort of fudged and said he thought she’d be okay. So she said she would IF she could process her thoughts with him after. He asked if he’d have to write anything out (she was a teacher remember!) or if they could just talk. Since she agreed they could just process verbally, he agreed. In the summer of 2018, Deri and Colby both read/listened/interacted around BT Harman’s story, Blue Babies Pink (worth your time–you can read or listen here: Furthermore, Deri did the deep dive into studying the LGBTQ+ issue from a theological standpoint. She had to see if she could reconcile her love and her theology. As Deri does, she went in, all in. And, to be honest, as it turns out, not without significant cost. Please know, when we open ourselves up to walking with marginalized people and groups, we will be changed. And as we change, it has impact. Don’t say I didn’t give you the heads-up….

Kaarin also kept showing up, going to dinner with him, sending him timely texts, listening to him talk, process. She asked questions, She listened to the answers. I think the two of them have eaten at every restaurant in Kirkland, WA. If you need a review from my foodie son, ask Colby.

Barbara Brown Taylor, a writer/pastor I love (if you are going though a hard time, I highly recommend her book. Learning to Walk in the Dark) asks the question somewhere:

What is saving your life right now?


I have a lot of answers to this question–the things that helped me make it through. But mostly, my things are tied to the people who did. As I said, Deri and Kaarin not only helped save Colby’s life by their time, investment and interest in him, they also gave me hope, respite, and strength to lean on and draw from. They cared for me in this, too. I am not sure how they kept all the lines straight and didn’t cross boundaries, but they did. And there were a few other significant friends who understood their primary role was to take care of me. They took me out for happy hour or on long walks or hikes. We did yoga together, sketched and painted, or they brought me flowers or things like damnit dolls. They helped me figure out and navigate schooling options. They checked in frequently with me by text. They knew I needed doggie love, particularly after we lost Manny, my faithful companion. When the hits kept coming, they listened, again. They made time, lots of time. They asked me what I was doing to take care of myself. They cried with me. They told me to get some sleep. They took me away, tried to help me play.

When I told my daughter the theme of this post, she sent me Jen Hatmaker’s very first For the Love podcast with Shauna Niequist where they talked about friendship ( Both of them agreed that friendship is one of those things that the returns on, at some point, far outweigh what you have invested. It doesn’t always start out that way, but at some point, it is exponential in its returns. I have experienced this. But they also acknowledged that this kind of friendship, the deep friendships, take time. Lots of time. Lots of connecting points. And I see this as well. I read a study once (I have no idea where to find it again) that said that our friendships in college are so intimate and close because we do so many spontaneous things with those people. Think about it. If you went to college or lived with friends, remember all those ice cream runs, or the spur-of-the-moment study/life breaks? Those road trips or spring break get-aways? The more we do, the more available we are, the more time we spend with friends, the connection and intimacy build and it pays off. In the longer run, it truly is exponential in its payoffs. Which is not to say that is why we do it, but, after these last two years, I am even more motivated to put my friendships in a top-tier level of importance with time given and spent. Now, when anyone invites me to do anything, I am in, if there is any way I can be. Time spent, things experienced together, the slow work of accumulated conversations and the bits and pieces of life lived alongside of each other—PRICELESS.

I know one thing for certain (that list is ever shorter). I wouldn’t have made it through this last season as intact and good as I am without my friends. Neither would my son be where he is without them. Unfortunately, his friends fell away for one reason or another during his descent. It was a lonely, lonely road for him. But my friends stepped in where they could. They saved his life. They saved mine.

Who are the people that matter most to you? Who are the ones you want to matter the most? Reach out. Make doing things with them a priority. Be intentional. Do the small thing to show you care. Insert yourself. Show up. Do it now. And then again. And again. Play. Be spontaneous with these people. Go away together if you can on trips. If you can’t, walk on the beach. Make gnocchi or cook up something else fun together. Show up for their people or the events that matter in their lives or their people’s lives. It takes time. Some of the time you will be tired. Some of the time you will want to put your jammies on and stay home. Realistically? Sometimes you will stay home so be kind to yourself as well. Sometimes you won’t be able to come through for them. But, I am guessing here, based on lots of experience, those are the times they will come through for you. In big ways. Small ways. All the in-between ways. 

My friends? They have made the difference. They tipped the scales for Colby. They tipped the scales for me. I am crying. I cry easily these days. Thank you, thank you, thank you, beautiful friends of mine.

If there is any way I can come alongside of you, please reach out. We need each other. A lot.

Kaarin at State for cross country to see Colby
Road trip to Oregon to meet one special puppy for Colby
You’d never know it by the pic but this was a hard day–a day Kaarin helped make better.
A sweet moment at a Gonzaga game at my daughter’s alma mater after Colby had turned a corner for the good. GO ZAGS!!