On Sunday, I visited Travis. I didn’t see him in May because our visiting day fell on Mother’s Day which I spent with family. He walked into the visiting area and, at first, I didn’t recognize him. His hair’s been shaved short — for summer — and he’s growing a beard. He looked great. I told him, “I really like your haircut. And your beard.”

We hugged and Travis said, “I finished reading your book.” (His mother, Kathy, sent him a copy.) Then he said the most perfect thing, “I love Pat. I love all his Facebook posts. He’s so funny. And smart. I think he’ll be an influencer for our generation. I copied the list of his favorite books. I’m going to read all of them.”

Travis’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke. My eyes filled with tears as I listened. Travis was clearly moved. “I totally get him,” he said. “I like him so much.” More tears.

I’m getting such heart-felt reactions to Sooner Than Tomorrow. In reviews, in emails, in cards and letters. Many have commented about Pat and his sense of humor. But, hearing about him from Travis, in person, with tears in his eyes, was mind-blowing for me.

I reached for his hand. “Thank you,” I said.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading your book. And then I couldn’t put it down. You’re such a good writer.”

Travis is reading other books, too. He’s taking a college health class during the summer. “It’s really interesting. I’ve read the first three chapters. It’s about physical health, mental health, emotional health — about keeping everything in balance. I’m ready for these college classes. I wasn’t ready for them before I was sent to prison. My self-esteem is much better now. I know I can study and learn.”

Travis was also pumped about a basketball tournament he took part in on Saturday. His team (“We were the ‘crazy’ team. All of us have psych issues.”) beat five other “normal” teams. “We were champions for the day. We never played together before and we just clicked. Sports are important to me. I ran 10 miles (around the prison yard) for the soldiers who died on D-Day. To honor them. I’m in the best shape of my life.”

I asked Travis if there had been any more discussion about transferring him to a prison closer to his family in Southern California. He said, “They’re not going to move me right now. My psychiatrist and my psychologist are going to take me off lithium. It’s affecting my thyroid. Then I won’t be taking any medications. They want to watch me and see how I react. We’re all hoping I can function okay without meds.”

Travis likes his medical team. He thinks they’re competent. He thinks they care about him. “They like me,” he said. “I tell them about my feelings and my emotions. Not every client is open with them and they appreciate that I am.”

“I’m growing,” Travis continued. “I’m making the most out of my time in prison. I’m working out. I’m reading. I’m writing songs for our church service. I’m a better person than I was.”

“Travis, it sounds like you’re focusing on the positive aspects of being here. Do you think other inmates do that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to judge anyone else. Probably not everyone does. There are fights and other bad stuff happens. Being here is forcing me to know how to interact with others. It’s not always easy living with my cellie, but I’m learning about relationships. I was kind of a recluse before I came here. I managed a motel in the mountains and I spent a lot of time by myself.”

It feels like our conversations are evolving. Travis asked me questions, too. “How are you doing, Dede?” (good) “How’s your mom?” (good) “How’s The Jazz?” (good) “What books are you reading?” (Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal, I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, Another Rubber Chicken Dinner by Bev Chinello)

Visiting hours ended. It was time to leave. “Have a good month, Travis. I’ll see you in July.”

I always turn to wave at Travis as I walk away. He’s always waiting. And he waves back.

Travis and me - before his haircut

Travis and me - before his haircut



I often hear discussions about mental health awareness, but don't hear discussions about serious mental illness (SMI). 
With SMI, (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD), some people do not recover and cannot work or live independently. Some are so sick they don't realize they're sick (anosognosia), don't respond to treatment (if they get it), and end up incarcerated, homeless, missing, suicidal or dead.

The SMI population represents roughly 5% (10million) of the mentally ill in the US. And ten times as many people with SMI are incarcerated as are hospitalized. These individuals don't get the attention they deserve and consistently fall to the bottom of the proverbial heap.

If it "takes a village to raise a child," it takes a country to help a "child" with SMI -- parity in mental health care, IMD exclusion repeal (beds), HIPAA reform, housing, hospitalization instead of incarceration, brain disease research, supported education, and on and on. So far, our country is not stepping up. A serious mental illness system does not exist.

The presidential candidate I'll support will have the courage and insight to raise SMI issues and to create a plan to deal with them on a national scale. 

What is your plan for SMI? (Not mental health. Not drug addiction.) I would like to read about it on your website. Thank you for your prioritization of SMI issues.

If you agree, please share widely. Or copy and paste.

#seriousmentalillness #SMI #schizophrenia #schizoaffectivedisorder#bipolardisorder #depression #OCD #parityinmentalhealthcare #IMDrepeal#HIPAAreform #braindiseaseresearch #treatmentnotincarceration#soonerthantomorrow



Sharing Your Stories: Books That Chronicle Mental Illnesses And Those Impacted By Them
By Pete Earley

To go directly to Pete Earley’s blog to read his full post and to see all photos. Click here.

Posted: 26 Mar 2019 05:19 AM PDT


“Pat in 1988 before our world came undone.” Author Dede Ranahan’s first book

(3-26-19) I’ll be speaking April 2nd at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Dane County 2019 Awards Banquet and Gala in Madison, Wisconsin. Please support NAMI by attending if you live in the Madison area. 

The 2019 book season is upon us. Here’s a few that have caught my eye. If you have one that you’d like to recommend, please do so on my Facebook page.

Surviving Schizophrenia, 7th Edition, by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

Long considered the most comprehensive and authoritative book written about schizophrenia, an updated Surviving Schizophrenia is being released today. It was groundbreaking when it was first published in the early 1980s.  Here’s how my former colleague at the Washington Post, Peter Carlson, described the book’s impact in a 2001 article that documents how this important work helped NAMI become a national organization. If you have schizophrenia, know someone who does, or want to educate yourself about this serious mental illness, this is a must read.

When Laurie Flynn walked into the office of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for her first day as executive director in 1984, she found a pile of mailbags, each of them stuffed with letters. It was all because of E. Fuller Torrey. 

Torrey had just published “Surviving Schizophrenia,” a guide for patients and their families. When he appeared on Phil Donahue’s TV show to promote it, he urged people seeking help to contact the alliance, which was then a fledgling organization with fewer than 50,000 members, most of them the parents of mental patients. The result was this avalanche of mail.  

“Nobody had ever said the word schizophrenia on popular television, and people came out of the woodwork seeking help,” Flynn recalls. “For many years, mothers were told they were the cause of the problem, and here comes Fuller Torrey saying, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t the family’s fault. These are brain diseases.’ Here was a psychiatrist saying, ‘I know what you’re going through because my sister has the problem.’ It’s hard to overemphasize what a hero he was back in the early days.” 

Torrey donated the royalties of “Surviving Schizophrenia” to the alliance and he hit the hustings to organize, helping to build the group into a powerful lobbying organization with more than 220,000 members.

“Weekend after weekend,” Flynn says, “he went out to states where members were organizing chapters and he rallied the troops. Nobody did it better.”

Not everyone lands a huge publisher, which is why I want to mention several books about mental illness that don’t have a large promotional budget and often are not by professional writers. They’re simply poignant tales written from the heart.

Sooner Than Tomorrow: A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life by Dede Ranahan

It’s difficult to turn a diary into a book. A writer’s tools, such as pacing, foreshadowing and character development, don’t generally fit in a non-fiction diary form. It’s an especially daunting task for a first time author.  Sooner Than Tomorrow: A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life, by Dede Ranahan pulls off that delicate dance. Interwoven with her diary entries are Facebook posts written by her son, Patrick. When this NAMI advocate first started writing her diary on June 15, 2013, she did not know that she would be  chronicling Patrick’s last year. He died on July 23, 2014 in a psych ward where she thought he would be safe.

Because Ranahan wanted to tell her story in context, she includes other events in her diary beside her son’s mental illness. That was a bold move. Some may find that distracting at first, but Ranahan wanted to blend her son’s struggles with the everyday that all of us live. It ultimately gives readers a much fuller picture. You can read more on her blog/website: Sooner Than Tomorrow. 

Here’s an excerpt:

How do you react when your 25-year-old son, during what is later seen as his first acute bipolar episode, kidnaps his teenage sister, drives her to a hospital, and convinces the emergency room staff to admit her because “she’s sick and my parents aren’t taking care of her”?

How do you compute when you arrive at the hospital to rescue your daughter—who has a cold—and you find her hysterical and sitting in a hospital bed? You ask your son, who is staring straight ahead with empty eyes, “Why did you bring your sister here?” 

With logic that reflects his internal confusion, he answers,

“Because I knew I needed help…

How do you advocate when the world sees a bum, and you see the little boy you carried in your womb, nursed at your breast, laughed and played with, and knew in your heart was the world’s greatest child? And you know somewhere, trapped inside his brain, the world’s greatest child is lost and trying to be found.

–Sooner than Tomorrow by Dede Ranahan.

BIPOLAR ME by Janet Coburn

Another blogger turned first time author is Janet Coburn who uses her blog, Bipolar Me, to shine a spotlight on what it is like to have bipolar two disorder. Full disclosure, I’ve not yet read her book because I’m on a deadline writing a new novel, but I have read her blog and put her book on my summer reading list. I am always curious about how individuals with mental illnesses successfully manage their lives. Check out her blog to discover if her writing appeals to you.

After my last (and, I hope, last) major bipolar breakdown, my therapist pointed out that I had a unique opportunity: I could reclaim those parts of my life that had fallen away, or I could leave them behind.

I could choose. That idea was very powerful.

The Light in His Soul: Lessons From My Brother’s Sczhophrenia by Rebecca Schaper with Gerald Everett Jones

The Light In His Soul came out last summer and is still getting tremendous reviews. The story behind the book was first told in an award winning documentary film entitledA Sister’s Call.   It is an incredibly powerful film.

In reviewing the book, Kirkus Reviews noted: “The power of this memoir lies in the way it demystifies mental health issues by examining them from a deeply personal perspective. Individuals and families facing similar experiences will certainly find solace from it… A moving, passionate, personal narrative of trauma and healing.”   

Here is Amazon’s description:

Call Richmond, Jr. went missing. Twenty years later he showed up on a family member’s doorstep. He was homeless, broken, and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. For the next fourteen years, his sister Rebecca took on the struggle to restore him as they faced the dark traumas and painful memories of their past. The Light in His Soul: Lessons from My Brother’s Schizophrenia is her intimate memoir of helping Call as she learns that his extraordinary gifts are helping heal her and her family. Both Call and Rebecca bring light to the dark shadows of their past.

Sadly, Call Richmond Jr., has passed but his story is forever memorialized.

BREAKDOWN: A Clinician’s Expericne in a Broken System of Emergency Psychiatry by Lynn Nanos

Author Lynn Nanos is a mobile emergency psychiatric clinician in Massachusetts who has written for this blog. See: A Street Social Worker Tells What It’s Really Like.She’s also an active member of the  National Shattering Silence Coalition that advocates for the seriously mentally ill population. Her book uses her personal experiences to tell a much broader story – how our underfunded and broken system is failing those with serious mental illness. Here’s how she explained why she feels so passionately about helping those too often forgotten.

I know there are success stories out there. But as an inpatient social worker, I was alarmed at the extremely high rate of readmission to our units. This is what motivated me to begin writing about what I see daily.

We, or at least, I can’t close my eyes at night knowing that we could, no, we must do better.

I think of a patient on my caseload who was paranoid delusional and was refusing to accept treatment because he did not believe that he was mentally ill. He refused to sign a release of confidentiality for me to communicate with his mother, even though they resided together. She knew he was there, so I just supportively listened to her concerns. I passed these on to the rest of the team, including his psychiatrist.

Shortly after his discharge, he used a knife to stab his mother to death.

When something such as this happens, you have choices. You can pretend these events don’t happen or turn away from them. Or you can roll up your sleeves and begin advocating to improve the lives of the seriously mentally ill population who are the sickest.

I’m in my tenth year as a mobile psychiatric emergency clinician. I’ve rolled up my sleeves.


In addition, here are four extremely important books that you should read. I give them my highest personal rating. Each has impacted my thinking. Please check them out.

Stories From The Shadows: Reflections Of A Street Doctor by Dr. James J. O’Connell

Insane Consequences: How The Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill by D. J. Jaffe 

Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care by Drs. Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson

No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers 

The post Sharing Your Stories: Books That Chronicle Mental Illnesses And Those Impacted By Them appeared first on Pete Earley.



I’m trying to choose the color for the cover of my book. Which color draws you in — blue, white, or gray? Thanks so much for your help. I have no objectivity about this and appreciate your feedback.

Why the carnation? The carnation is the official flower for Mother’s Day. Pat used to give me and his sisters white carnations on Mother’s Day. White carnations represent pure love. Pink carnations represent a mother’s forever love: “I will never forget you.” My book is dedicated to Pat and his sisters, and to the mothers (millions of them) who fight, every single day, for their children who live with serious mental illness.

P.S. If you receive this post twice in your email, it’s because you’re subscribed to my stories blog and to my diary blog. I try to not duplicate posts often. Thanks for subscribing to both blogs.



To read "My Diary" from the beginning, go to "Scenes from the Trenches" June 14, 2017, in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog page. To continue reading, scroll up in the archives from June 14, 2017, and click on each individual diary post. If you have difficulty, message or email me and I'll walk you through it.

I didn't know, as I was writing, that I was capturing the last year of my son's life. His voice comes through loud and clear. For me, in these pages, he'll always be alive.

Pat and me in 1969

Pat and me in 1969

Dear Readers of A Mother's Diary,

I can't believe it's been a year since I began posting excerpts from my book every other week. I can't believe you've hung in there and read each blog entry.  I'm guessing, from your feedback, that the reading has been meaningful for you. I hope so.

First, thank you to my son, Patrick. Thank you for your poetry, your Facebook posts, and your life. You were/are one of the most courageous people I've ever known. 

Thank you to my daughters, Megan Mace, Marisa Farnsworth, and Kerry Joiner, for reading A Mother's Diary and giving me permission to put it out there, sharing our family and their families with the world. Your endorsement means everything to me.

Thank you to everyone I mentioned in the telling of my story. We're all in this thing we call "life" together.

Thank you to early readers whose comments are on the blog Diary Reviews page : Ann Hedrick, Pat West Guinn, Kathy Hayes, Mary Lyn Rusmore-Villaume, Rosemary Sarka, and Irene Underwood. You gave me the cojones to believe in myself.

Thank you to the "cheerleaders," those of you who sent me multiple emails, text messages, Facebook comments, cards, and letters: Joan Andersen, Tama Bell, Chris Biswell, Judy Bracken, Madeleine Cunningham, Bev Chinello, Deborah Fabos, Anne Schmidt Francisco, Heidi Franke, Sheila Ganz, Pat Guinn, Jeanne Gore, Kathy Hayes, Joyce Herrerias, Swannie Hoehn, Rose King, Nancy Krause, Joan Logue, Grace McAndrews, Jan McKim, Mary Murphy, Fran Neves, Liz Noel, Teresa Pasquini, Den Proudly, Karen Riches, Mary Lyn Rusmore-Villaume, Mary Sheldon, Stace Shurson, Sandy Turner, Irene Underwood, Kimberlee West, Annette Williamson, and so many more of you who left "likes" and "loves" on Facebook week after week. You kept me going, especially on the days when I thought, what am I doing?

Thank you to Sharon Lefkov, for proofing my pages for spellings and typos before I hit the "publish" button.

Acknowledgments also to Sue Clark, my first editor, who read every page out loud with me and assured me that "Yes, this is interesting." And to the Lincoln Library Writer's Class who listened, in the beginning, when Pat was still with us.

And finally, thank you to all of you — those I know and don't know — who've read Sooner Than Tomorrow - A Mother's Diary. Readers are the whole point of writing. The why in the what if.

I'm taking a short break from my blogs. About a month. Have to catch up with things like computer maintenance, organizing files, researching publishing options for my book, personal correspondence, spending time with family and friends, and generally giving myself a mental health break.

As we head full-tilt into summer, I wish you relaxing days, mental illness successes, and comfort in knowing you're part of a caring community. Until I return, thank you, again.



To read "My Diary" from the beginning, go to "Scenes from the Trenches" June 14, 2017, in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog page. To continue reading, scroll up in the archives from June 14, 2017, and click on each individual diary post. If you have difficulty, message or email me and I'll walk you through it.

I didn't know, as I was writing, that I was capturing the last year of my son's life. His voice comes through loud and clear. For me, in these pages, he'll always be alive.




After you had taken your leave,
I found God's footprints on my floor.

                         Rabindranath Tagore

Pat in 1988 before our world came undone.

Pat in 1988 before our world came undone.



An intricate hand manipulates the roar
until the spout ceases, providing
only drips, a minuscule rhythm,
and steaming ripples are interrupted
by toes, feet, and then, an entire beast.

Inspiration, expiration: the level
of water shifts with the lungs
and soon sleep overtakes the creature.
Ripples, steam, drips: all continue.
Our man and the window perspire.

Salt-filled beads push through tight tunnels
and emerge from a taut face to soft light.
Released from epidermic passages
they scatter a mandibular stretch to the chin,
dangle, then leap with a microscopic yelp.

They hit the abdominal runway, and sometimes split
before wiggling off to waterline.
It is here that they become something other than alone.
Once submerged, molecular dialogue occurs,
rumors regarding pending demise, lost friends,

and hints of a nexus beyond this container.

Patrick Ranahan
Published in
Latitude on 2nd
Cool Waters Media, Inc



June 17: Have a lunch date today with my 96-year-old maternal grandmother, Evelyn Funk Moon. I treasure these lunches with her.

June 18: Ok, so I caved and did something I swore I was never going to do. I played Candy Crush Saga for like two minutes and now I'm being inundated with Candy Crush requests. Please folks, I doubt if I will every play that stupid game again.

June 21: My schedule doesn't really provide any days off. So six days a week I have to be ready for work. Some days are marked with a B for backup which means that you don't know until morning if you have to work that day until your phone rings. Makes it hard to plan things or get things done. Today is a backup day for me so I am praying that my phone does not ring this morning from dispatch. A day off would be much appreciated.

This is how smart I am: I got up this morning and emptied all of my garbage from the house into the garbage can outside. Then I got in my car and drove to work without putting the garbage can out for collection. So it will sit for another week:
Chris: At least you remembered to get the garbage in the can.
Pat: So I've got that going for me.

June 22: Let the dog in, let the dog out, let the dog in, let the dog out, repeat.

June 23: One of the best lines from the Mother Hips new album, Chronicle Man is, "You can't win, but you can feel good trying."

June 24: Why do I have to leave the toilet seat down, why don't you leave the toilet seat up?
Tanya: What??
Patrick: Girls vs. boys
Brandi: We pee and #2 sitting down, so majority rules.
Patrick: That sounds like a personal problem.
Brandi: So...You #2 standing up? You have the problem
Patrick: Equal rights ma'am.
Erin: Plus you had 3 sisters and no brothers. Majority rules again!!! And I guess it's worse to fall into a toilet than to have to lift. But I've wondered about this before haha!
Shawn: Question I've had for years.
Patrick: Yes, Erin, precisely for the reason that I had to suffer through a childhood full of crazy women and no brothers, I am entitled to the privilege of leaving the toilet seat up.
Shawn: I've never understood how anyone sits down on anything, including a toilet, without looking where they are sitting.

June 28: At pre-High Sierra Music Festival meeting last night, learned that our campsite will be equipped with an air conditioned RV with a full kitchen, a full drum kit, numerous guitars, and other percussion instruments.

July 1: If you're in traffic and you have the right of way at an intersection, you're not doing anybody any favors if you wave other cars to go ahead when you're the one who is supposed to go.

July 3: Going offline for a few days at the High Sierra Music Festival. Time to face the music.
Chris: Have a great time Patrick.
Geoff: The Music Never Stopped.
Patrick: For a while it never started.
Lisa: Have fun Pat!!
Beth: Have fun!
Donna: Have a great time!!!

July 6: Just had one of the most restful, refreshing nights of deep sleep I've had in a long while. Outside in a tent and sleeping bag on the cold hard ground.

July 10: My next band is going to be called "Boobs Make the Package."



I had no idea, of course, when I began writing in June 2013, that not only was I recording my 70th year, I was also recording the last year of my son's life. I had no intention of including a "Before" or "After" section of my book. And then events necessitated a change of plan.

On July 9, Pat called about Lexi. "Hi, Mom. I think I have to take Lexi back."

"Why? What did she do?"

"She's destroying the house. She's torn up the bathroom floor. I think the whole thing will have to be replaced. I've got an appointment at four o'clock to take her back to the SPCA."

Pat was crying. This made me cry. "I feel stupid crying," he said.

"No, no. It's okay. This is hard. This is sad. I'd be more concerned if you weren't crying."

"I phoned Dad to see if he could take her on his ranch. He said, 'no.' I've failed her. I've let her down."

"Pat, you haven't failed her. No one's tried harder with this dog. And it's not fair to her to be cooped up all day while you're at work. She needs to be outside in a big space where she can run around. You're making a really tough decision but it's the right decision. Give yourself credit for doing the right thing."

"I feel like I'm not doing anything right."

"Well, from the outside looking in, you're doing many things right. Do you want me to go with you to take Lexi back?"

"No, I want to do this myself."

"Will you call me when you get home from the SPCA?"


At 5 p.m. Pat called again. "Hi, Mom."

"How did it go?"

"It was awful. I had to fill out lots of paperwork and the lady kept asking me, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' And I found out they're not a no-kill shelter. If they can't place her they'll put her down. The woman asked me if I wanted to be notified if they decide to put her down. At first I said, 'no' but then I said 'yes.' I'd have twenty-four hours to try to find a place for her. The lady wouldn't stop with her questions and I was about to break down, so I left."

"Do you want to come over for dinner?"

"No, I think I want to be alone tonight."

"Don't forget to take good care of you."

"I'm trying, Mom."

I was afraid to go over to Pat's house, my mother's property. I suspected I'd find much more damage than Pat had told me about. Whatever damage there was, it could be handled later. My son's emotional well-being came first.

Pat had enjoyed a wonderful weekend at the High Sierra Music Festival, a festival he'd wanted to go to for a long time. On Friday, July 11, Pat stopped by my house. He'd squeezed his money every which way to make it to the festival. "Mom, I mailed a check for my car's DMV renewal. Can you loan me one hundred twenty-seven dollars to cover it until my next pay day?"

Pat talked about having trouble sleeping. "I went to the hospital emergency room a couple days ago to get sleeping medication and I had a terrible day at work yesterday. I keep forgetting things. I had to go back to the store three times to pick up the parts I was supposed to deliver. I think it's because I'm so upset about Lexi."

I noticed Pat's slacks were hanging off of him. "Are you losing weight?"

"Yeah, well, I didn't realize how much working full time and trying to take care of Lexi were going to take out of me."

I gave Pat a check and invited him to stay for dinner but he said he had to get home because a friend was coming by. Later that evening, Pat called. "I meant to ask you earlier, but I forgot. Do you think I should tell my boss at work about my bipolar disorder?"

"Why are you thinking about this now?"

"I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I'm not being honest."

"Do you remember, Pat, the last time you confided to a supervisor about your illness, you lost your job? Why don't you wait and think about it?"

On Saturday, July 12, Pat collapsed at work. An ambulance took him to the hospital where he received anti-seizure medication. In the evening, Pat called to tell me what happened.

"The hospital didn't want to keep you overnight for observation?"

"No, they told me to go home and rest."

"Pat, do you want me to come over?"

"No, Mom. I'm really tired. I want to go to bed."

On Sunday morning, July 13, I texted Pat and asked, "How are you his morning?"

He texted back, "Do you want me to call you?"

"If you want to. I didn't want to wake you if you were sleeping."

Pat never called. Sometime later that day, he was 5150d to the hospital in an agitated state of manic psychosis. The hospital didn't call to let me know about Pat's admission. I found out he was in the hospital psych ward when he called my brother, Jim. Pat had filled out an Advanced Care Directive listing Jim and me as his preferred contacts. 

I hired a cleaning crew to clean Pat's house and a carpet cleaner. I wanted to see if something would salvage the carpet which reeked of dog urine. I picked up Pat's dirty clothes, towels, and bedding and brought them home to launder them. I bought a new frying pan to replace his old grungy one. I wanted everything to be as nice as it could be when Pat got back to his house. And I went to the SPCA to check on Lexi. She'd been adopted, already, by a couple who lived out in the country.

On Thursday, July 17, Kerry and I went to the hospital to see Pat. We didn't know how he would receive us. When we walked into his room, he was sitting up in a hospital bed with his wrists in restraints. He didn't look like the same person I'd seen the week before. His hair hung stringy and unwashed, and his face, pale and thin, was unshaven. His eyes gleamed wildly but he was glad to see us.

"Mom, the nurses don't believe me. You can tell them. Tell them I have a black half-brother."

My heart sank. After six days in the hospital, Pat was still delusional. I shook my head. "Pat, you don't have a black half-brother."

Pat was also upset because he couldn't find his wallet. Although we'd already been in his house to clean it, Kerry was concerned that he'd be angry when he found out we were there without his permission. "Pat," she said, "Do you want us to look for your wallet in your house?"

"Yes, that's a good idea."

The nurses were getting ready to move Pat onto a different floor. Kerry and I waited in the hallway until they wheeled his bed out of his room. As they pushed him away down the hall, I yelled to the back of his head, "I love you, Pat."

Without turning around, he yelled back, "Love you too, Mom."

Those were the last words we'd ever hear each other say.

Kaiser told us they would be transferring Pat to an outside psychiatric facility when a bed became available. It turned out, without our knowledge, they transferred him out of the county to Woodland Memorial Hospital - over 50 miles away. We found out where Pat was when he called Jim again.

Meanwhile, I was trying to get through to a doctor. Jim told a doctor who'd spoken him that I was also on Pat's advanced directive and it was okay to talk to me. But no one called. I called Kaiser Membership Services. Since Pat was no longer in their care, they said they couldn't help me. I called a number for Woodland Memorial asking to talk to Pat's doctor. I was told, "The doctor spoke with your brother. He doesn't have time to talk to everyone in the family."

On Tuesday, July 22, a woman called me from Woodland Memorial. She asked, "What is your discharge plan for your son?"

I lost it. "I have no discharge plan. No one has updated me on his status. What's happening with him?"

"Well," this woman said, "your son is very ill and needs long-term housing in a psych board and care facility. Does he receive disability to pay for his care? Do you know what medications have worked for him in the past?"

Now I was sobbing. "I don't know what worked for him in the past," I screamed. "I wasn't given that information. Don't you have his psych records from Kaiser?"

The woman wasn't sure. She said she'd check.

I hung up the phone. I could barely put one foot in front of the other. My legs felt like lead. All we'd worked for, all Pat had worked for was gone — his dog, his job, his independent living, his mind. How could he face all this loss when he came home?

Tuesday evening, Pat called Jim again. "Uncle Jim, they're killing people here. You have to help me get out of here. I have a car and a driver waiting behind the hospital. Help me get out of here."

Jim said, "Hang in there, Pat. We're working with your doctors to get you home as soon as possible. Do what your doctors say."

When I went to bed Tuesday night, I despaired. I said out loud to the walls, "I give up. I have no idea what to do."

Wednesday morning, July 23, as I sat at my kitchen table, the phone rang. It was a nurse from Woodland Memorial.  "We're moving your son to the ICU. A doctor will call you shortly."

The ICU? What was happening? At last, a doctor was going to talk to me. Twenty minutes after the first call, my phone rang again. This time a doctor spoke. "I'm sorry, your son, Patrick, died fifteen minutes ago. We believe he had a seizure. We tried for thirty minutes to save him. I'm sorry."

I froze. My son wasn't hoping to die. He'd told me, when he was admitted to the hospital for a possible seizure that recent Saturday, the doctor gave him a prescription and directed him to go "down the hall that dead ends in double doors to the pharmacy." The phrase "dead ends" rattled Pat. "I couldn't wait to get home," he said.

After going round and round with Woodland Memorial for a week after Pat died, trying to get an autopsy and a toxicology report, the county coroner stepped in and took charge of the process. Six months later, the coroner's report would say the cause of death was inconclusive: "Possible seizure or possible cardiac arrest."

I could write more about the last few weeks of Pat's life, my frustration and anger with our mental illness system (there is none), and the drastic need for change — sooner than tomorrow. I'd make a case for effective, compassionate care for our seriously mentally ill. I'd point out tragedies that could have been prevented and the urgent need for beds and housing. I'd challenge outrageous HIPAA laws that prevent moms and dads like me from giving and receiving life-saving information. I'd talk about our missing and homeless children and mothers and fathers. I'd tell stories about our sons and daughters in jails and prisons and solitary confinement without treatment and on and on... My writing would turn into a tirade and that rant is for another time. Not here. Not on sacred ground.

When he died, Pat had one dollar and fifty cents in his checking account. The first day I went to pick up his mail, I found a postcard from a student at Hampshire College, his alma mater. The young man thanked Pat for a ten-dollar donation he'd recently made to the college.

Pat's donor certificate.jpg

On August 26, what would have been Pat's 46th birthday, a certificate arrived in the mail. Per Pat's instructions on his Advanced Care Directive, his eyes had been harvested. The certificate read, "In deepest gratitude we honor and remember Patrick Sean Ranahan. Thank you on behalf of all transplant recipients whose eyes were touched by your generous heroic gifts."

On September 7, over 130 family members and friends attended Pat's Celebration of Life. I put million bells, their one-gallon containers wrapped in burlap and tied with raffia, on each of 20 tables. Twenty million bells for Pat.

Ten months since Pat's passing, I'm still stuck in disbelief. My grief's raw and, at times, overwhelming. We both tried so hard for so long. In spite of all the ups and downs, I liked the world better when Pat was in it. I miss him and want him back. Some days I feel like I'm suspended in jello and moving in slow motion. This morning, however, I'm heartened on my morning walk.

The killdeer is back on her nest in the same brown and gray rocks as before, one block over. No trees shade her. No bushes hide her from predators. She sits on her four new eggs — faithful, vulnerable, determined. "You inspire me little Mama Bird, and I wish you the best. We mothers have to stick together."

As I'm writing, The Jazz is tromping back and forth in front of my computer screen. "It's time for us to go outside," she says.

Guess I gotta go. I have to end, for now. I'll close with an image from the distant past. An image that — for some reason — lingers in my memory:

Pat called. Out of the blue.
He'd been homeless and missing for over a month.
"Mom, can you come get me?"
Pat was waiting for me at the Pleasanton BART station.
I drove there, immediately, around 11 p.m.
In the dark, I spotted him at the far end of the empty parking lot.
He didn't notice my car approaching. 
His attention was on something else.
Standing straight and tall, with his arms at his sides and
his head tilted back, 
Pat, my son, was looking up at the stars. 



JULY 23, 2014

Kerry Ranahan Joiner: Dear Facebook Friends of Patrick Ranahan, Pat passed away this morning. We miss him so much! We will celebrate his life — details later.

Marilyn: Kerry, what happened? Please let me know if I can help.

Emma: Kerry, love to you and the entire Ranahan family. You are all in our prayers.

Anna Lynn: My heart is in my throat. I am shocked. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I send my love to all the family.

Jen: Ron and I are in shock. He just said a few minutes before I read this that he needed to call Pat. So very sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with your entire family.

Steve: I can't believe this. So very sorry, we had just started communicating again. Wow. My thoughts are with you as well.

Mara: We were so shocked and sad to hear this. Much love from the Johnson family.

Barri: I am so sorry.

Veronica: I'm so very sorry to hear. My thoughts and prayers to the family.

Lara: I'm so heart broken. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Steve: So sad. We had just started talking again via Facebook. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Lauren: So sorry for your loss. This is heart breaking.

Chris: So sorry for your loss. I have just announced it to all of our classmates in our Cal High group. He will be missed.

Shannon: We are so very sorry to hear this. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Laura: My heart and thoughts are with you and your family. I have enjoyed seeing Pat on FB, his posts and have great memories. Thank you for letting us know though it is sad, sad news. We will celebrate his life.

Paul: I love you Pat. You will always be with me.

Dana: What a shock! He was working and playing, enjoying life, which I know was a tough journey for him. Thank you for informing everyone. How sad.

Angie: So sorry to hear. I am glad to have had this time reconnecting with him through Facebook.

Pam: I am so sorry about Patrick's passing at a time when it seemed he was enjoying life. His creativity and love for music was very compelling and created so much meaning for him. I will always remember his engaging smile and beautiful bright eyes.

Elissa: I'm so, so sorry to hear about Patrick Ranahan. We met in the early 90s, through Deb Matson's husband Steve. Pat was a sweet, gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor. He will be missed. Sending love to his family and friends.

Trent: Sad news to hear. He will be missed.

Tanya: Oh this is so sad.

Merideth: I keep thinking of the posts I saw in the last week while Pat was at the High Sierra Music festival and the absolute joy he was expressing in being surrounded by music. Just heartbreaking to know he is not here anymore, but I know that music will keep his spirit alive.

Dan: Very sad to hear. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Brad: Heavy heart today. Very sad news. His family will be in our prayers. Rest in peace, Pat.

Brandi: I'm stunned and saddened. I enjoyed talking with him about music and politics. He could always make me laugh, even when we would disagree. He will be missed greatly.

Ryan: It was always great catching up with Pat at the Ranahan Super Bowl parties or reading his Facebook posts. Good guy so sad to read about this.

Donna: I am so very sorry to hear this. He became one of my great Facebook friends. My heart is very sad at the news. Yes, even as a young boy he always loved music! My love for you Patrick RIP.

Leslie: Oh no! He was such a sweet guy! What happened? RIP Pat!

Cheryl: Oh no! My thoughts and prayers are with the family. Rest in peace, Pat.

Angela: I am shocked! So sad. He was such a great guy. 1st one to ever buy me room service...yeah 10 year old kid got room service steak.

Cindy: So shockingly sad. Prayers for comfort and strength for all his loved ones.

Stephanie: I always enjoyed Patrick's company, his unique sense of humor, his love for music and his perseverance in the face of adversity. My heart goes out to the family at this sad time.

Monica: I am very sorry to hear this. God's blessing to Pat and all his family.

Kerry Ranahan Joiner: As bizarre as it is to tell people over Facebook we couldn't think of how else to reach all Pat's friends. I want to thank you for the kind words. We are finding it comforting to read while we grieve.

Megan Ranahan Mace: One of Pat's final Instagram posts was a sign at the High Sierra Music Festival; "You are the music while the music lasts." He was very happy at the festival sharing the joy of music with several friends. He also loved sharing his prized guitar in a jam session with his nieces and nephews on July 1. It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of his unexpected passing. Dear Pat, will miss you and your music. Love, Megan

Darrell: So sorry to hear of Pat's passing. Our hearts of out to the entire Ranahan family — great memories with Pat that will last forever. What a great human being.

Penny: So sorry to hear this. My thoughts to you and his family.

Mark: I was lucky enough to be at High Sierra with him over the 4th of July weekend. He really enjoyed it. We all did. Glad I have that memory. RIP Pat.

Kate: Megan, so sorry to hear of this loss. So many memories of Pat. He was a good friend and always made everyone laugh. A very kind soul.

Shawn: My goodness. That is sad news. Rest easy Pat.

Angela: Megan, so sorry to hear of this. I have many fond memories of Pat throughout our childhood and adult years. He always made me laugh! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Love and hugs to all!!

Lisa: I'm so sad. I just saw Pat and spent time with him before the 4th at the Tesla concert and horse races. He showed John how it was done at the track. RIP my friend.

Karin: I am so saddened to hear this news. We had such a nice time at High Sierra Music Festival and you were telling me how well you were doing and thanked me for my support through hard times. I thought the hard times were behind you. What a great guy, with a HUGE heart and a wonderful spirit. I will keep your memory in my heart forever. You will be greatly missed my friend! Truly this planet lost a very special person. May you keep shining your light from above.

Tony: One of the few guys everyone liked. So sorry to hear it.

Dennis: I was here in California with my dad the day Patrick was born in Chicago and made him a grandfather for the first time. Dad's Irish eyes glistened with joy at the thought of Mike becoming a father. While the shock of losing this young man is still raw with emotion, I am comforted somewhat with the thought that Pat is now with both his grandfathers and all their eyes are smiling bright in heaven. By the way, because Patrick called his mother's dad, Pop, his beloved grandmother Evelyn, he quickly named Mop.

Jen: I miss you Pat. Thank you for making me laugh countless times over the past almost 30 years. I love that every time I saw you, you always picked up like no time had passed at all. I'm so grateful that I got to see you a few summers ago at Marisa's. I'm going to miss all of your funny Facebook posts. Most of all, I'm sad for your family because they loved you with all their hearts. I truly believe that you're an angel now, so please watch over and take care of them. RIP.

Daryl: So many memories of our friendship Pat. Garcia's, our venture to start Mad Dash Video, we spent so much work on that. I still have a copy of our prospective. We did a great job but too young for anyone to invest in us. Our idea became Netflix! The great times we spent hanging at your house. The Garcia's Christmas party. It was so great we reconnected on FB. I will miss you my friend.

Dede Ranahan: Thanks so much to everyone who is posting about Pat. Your comments are very helpful to us. I was retrieving papers from Pat's car and I found this undated, handwritten and signed statement. I'm sharing it with you. Thank you for loving him. Dede (Pat's Mom)

I, Patrick Ranahan, forgive and release and wish blessings upon all
who I have held grudges against, or have perceived to have done
me harm. I forget all past condemnation, and wish nothing but the
best and divine fulfillment and inspiration to all of those I have held
in enmity in my mind and soul. God bless all beings.

Chris: I'd like to go into great detail but can't release the flood gates. Patrick was a fantastic friend while he was up here in Oregon; so funny, thoughtful and caring. He had the most entertaining life I could ever imagine.

Roger: So sad that I never got to reconnect. You were a very important person to me in high school. Thanks for everything Pat.

Steve: 4th grade we started to play the trumpet. By the time we went to Pine Valley, Pat was first chair. I was second. The battle was on between Pat, Ron G, and myself. Through 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades. Cal High had some of the most talented individuals that later became great musicians. Every year at the Reno Jazz festival we won four years in a row. Pat's love for people and music touched everyone he came into contact with. My trumpet that I played with Pat is hanging on my wall in  21, 2018my office. Live to the high potential, treat people with respect, love people and be happy. That was Pat. He never changed. RIP brother. Our condolences to your family.

Anker: I met Pat in 1989 in the first year we both arrived at Hampshire College. He was one of the people I counted on knowing as an old man; tying myself to memories of the beauty and possibility of youth, as only one who has shared the pinnacle of it with you can. The loss of this friendship will leave a hole in me that cannot be filled: Pat's perspective on life and the words he used to describe it cannot be replicated.

Dede Ranahan: I'm reading Maya Angelou quotes. I like to think that Maya and Pat are engaged in a rich discussion about the poetry they both love and are becoming friends.



"So," my five-year-old granddaughter, Ayla,
asks her mom, "we can still talk to Uncle Pat, right?"
"Right," Kerry answers.
Ayla's quiet and then says, as if pointing out the obvious,
"All we have to do is look up."


(Wit, Wisdom, and a Big Hug from the Universe)