Dear Henry

This is the only moving picture I have of my father with lil’ ol’ me.

Leonard Cohen quote:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

As a person and professionally, as an artist, I am drawn to those who seek to right a wrong. I am drawn to those who face a challenge with their life force. I have experience with the opposite. Fifty years ago today Henry Pickett walked out to a construction site in Minneapolis and he put a gun to his head. He died at 11:11 am on 3-31-1966, the day after he turned 33. His pain ended when the bullet did its job but the damage continues to this day. Loss never goes away. The pain and sadness of having someone you love kill themselves does diminish with time but it never goes away.

Having a family member choose death taught me that each and everyday we have a choice to live or to die. Having a family member choose to end his personal pain taught me that NOT working through problems can have a ripple effect. The problem with suicide is that the problem is frozen in time with no escape. Then the problem is embedded with loved ones forever. My mother was left with two children to take care of and my sister and I were left with the notion that we didn’t count.

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for Al Mahling, the father who later chose us as daughters. I am grateful for positive changes in our society because in my fathers era there was no tolerance for mental health problems and to seek help meant to end your professional career. Am grateful for herbs, food and pharmaceuticals that can help people uncouple from their depression. I am grateful for those who choose the difficult road over the easy road as life is not easy and choosing the easy path can have a lasting negative impact.

My sister and I are so lucky because our mother stayed strong. We are lucky because she dared to love again. We are lucky because our father left a paper trail for us to follow and we sought out people who knew him and through them we got to know him posthumously.

Solving personal problems by killing yourself, with a gun (or a _______) has a ripple effect past the family and through the universe. One person can make a huge difference in this life both positively and negatively. By giving into depression, personal demons or defining ourselves by our careers instead of our character we limit our potential to grow and we limit helping others grow by our example. So today as I find myself still in pain from a decision made 50 years ago by someone l loved and still miss, I just want to say to everyone that choosing the difficult path is worth the effort. Working through pain, challenges and problems is an essential part of living. I am grateful for family, family of choice and friends and I am sending hope to those lost in their own darkness. Leonard Cohen says that the crack is what let’s the light come in, so today I am seeking to honor our cracks.

Project by my sister Kim Mahling Clark that has been started but not completed.