Goodbye Noah


This is the hardest post I’ve ever had to write. Many of you already know what I am going to say—you saw it on the news or social media—but I feel like I owe it to the rest of you to explain where I’ve disappeared to and why.

The truth is, I’ve fallen into a box of tissue and my nose is raw from crying and I can’t climb out. Our family has experienced a tragedy beyond our wildest nightmares—and I don’t know how to make sense of the world or God or life anymore.

Please forgive the brevity and lack of details as I tell this story. Until the final autopsy, toxicology, and police report get released, I can’t speak to specifics.

As some of you know, my oldest son Noah was an alcoholic. But you may not know he also suffered from bi-polar/ manic-depression. A couple years ago, he stopped taking his medication. I believe this decision contributed to the psychotic break he experienced on October 31st, 2015. 

As reported in the papers, that morning Noah tried to light his apartment on fire. And then he walked out onto the street with several guns and randomly killed the first three people he saw. Not long after, he died in a shootout with the police.

There are no words to describe our utter shock, grief, and horror. And I can’t fathom the heartache and pain of those families whose lives were torn apart that day. All three of Noah’s victims were parents.

As some of you know, once upon a time I had a showdown with God about Noah. I knew I couldn’t trust God to keep Noah safe or alive. I couldn’t surrender him to God’s care until I was willing to do so “no matter what,” willing to accept that the only way Noah could ever truly be safe was in some eternal realm of Big Love that reaches way beyond what happens on earth.

I believe that’s where Noah is now.

Sometimes, I sense Noah’s presence. In the early days after he died, I heard him say, “Mom, don’t you get it? I’m way closer to you now than I ever was when I was alive.”

I won’t try to eulogize Noah here. But I will tell you that the Noah I raised and remember was a kind and caring man. He was our gentle giant in the family, and so tenderhearted. Once, when we still lived back in Oregon, Noah accidentally drove over a trail of baby quail crossing the road. When he looked in his rearview mirror and saw clouds of baby feathers he was so devastated he cried. 

This is the Noah I will always remember. And it’s why I know if he had survived and been returned to his right mind, he never could have lived with what he had done. It might sound strange, but I’m grateful Noah died that day, even as I’m sorry for the police who had to shoot him. 

Honestly, I don’t believe the Noah I know was even there. 

I don’t know if I will blog about this or anything else again anytime soon. I want so much to be sensitive to the victims of this tragedy. I can only hope they have received half the outpouring of love and care that we have.

Here are links where you can contribute to the victims’ families. It would mean so much if you would.

Love always, Heather

Christy Galella

Jennifer Vasquez

Andrew Myers


P.S. I don’t know if I can answer comments, but feel free to leave them.

P.S.S. I had turned all my posts private and am only halfway through turning them back on. Not sure if it’s even what I should do. Thanks for your patience. I apologize to all my faithful readers who may have felt cut off when I quit blogging, dumped RAW, and got very quiet.

Prayer is An Egg

Art by Jessica Shirley, click image to visit her on Etsy
Art by Jessica Shirley, click image to visit her on Etsy

Hi you guys,

It’s been a while. A long while. I’ve gone from blogging sporadically to hardly blogging at all.

As many of you know, these past six months have been super stressful, what with the house renovations, the surprise move to New York City, and just days before we left Colorado, the untimely death of a certain little black dog…

So I’ve given myself a lot of space, grace, and patience. I figured when my soul finally caught up with me here in Brooklyn, I’d get back to blogging.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened. Instead, I sense this new season is taking my writing in new directions. This is exciting for me, but sad, too. It means I can’t promise if or when I’ll post here again.

It means I already miss you.

I guess I just wanted to tell you that. And let you know, too, that I started writing in Raw again, in case you want to catch up with me there.

Since I don’t have anything of my own to share today, here’s one of my favorite poems from Rumi. I don’t know why I love it so much, except it always reminds me of my powerlessness in the best way possible.

I think it’s the perfect advice for addicts, alcoholics—anyone, really—who is reaching for the gift of desperation:

Pray the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual. God, I have no hope.
I am torn to shreds. You are my first,
my last and only refuge.

Do not do daily prayers like a bird
pecking its head up and down.

Prayer is an egg.

Hatch out
the total helplessness inside.


 P.S. I’m still sort of updating the site—forgive if things are missing or not complete.

Click to Order
Click to Order

Good-bye, Edmund the Great

Edmund on a hike with our daughter Jana. He loved to hike.
Edmund on a hike with our daughter Jana. He loved to hike.

As many of you know, I like to joke about my dog Edmund. I’ve written here about how in early sobriety I hoped for his early demise because I thought it would be a good excuse to drink.

Of course, I didn’t really want that to happen. And these days I no longer think of drinking as something I wish I could do, thank God.

But still, over the years, I’ve had some fun pretending I don’t adore Edmund. Since most dog owners are so over-the-top devoted, it cracked me up to act the opposite way. In a sick attempt at humor, I’d say things like, “Edmund went missing the other day and I really had my hopes up.”

None of that seems funny anymore.

In recent months, Edmund hasn’t seemed himself. I thought he was getting old (he turned ten this summer), or that he might be upset about the chaos caused by this impending move. Last week, I took him to the vet and he got on pain meds for a possible dental issue or pulled muscle.

Then, over the weekend, he took a sharp turn for the worse. He was totally lethargic, wouldn’t eat even human food, and his spark was entirely gone. I rushed him to the vet yesterday morning for more tests, and within a half hour was shocked to learn he had advanced cancer and internal bleeding.

I called Dave, who rushed to join me at the vet. After talking over his prognosis with the doctor, we realized he was suffering—and we had to let him go.

The staff left us alone to say good-bye. Naturally, my tears turned to sobs. The hardest moment was when Dave gently removed Edmund’s leash. What I did next might seem kind of weird. I got on my knees and held Edmund’s face close and begged his forgiveness. For not always loving him well, for making fun of him, for taking him for granted.

I used to tell Edmund to keep his “garbage mouth” away from me. Now, for the first time in ten years, I let him lick my lips as much as he wanted. And when he began to lick all the tears on my face, it felt like forgiveness. It reminded me of the simple truth that when we make amends to people (or animals), we do it as much for ourselves as for them.

Today, it seems surreal that Edmund is gone. No squeals of delight when I emerged from the bedroom this morning. No little black dog at my heels begging for a walk.

Before Dave left for work, he reminded me of those rare occasions in the past when Edmund was gone for some reason and we marveled at how big the house seemed without him in it. How could such a small dog  take up so much space?

“But what felt like spaciousness then,” Dave said, “feels like emptiness now.”

He was right, of course. And yet, as the day has worn on, I’ve realized how often the opposite is also true. When I choose to feel my emptiness instead of run from it, it becomes something closer to spaciousness. A place where grace and hope can flow.

So this is what I’m trying to do today. Let myself feel the sadness. And be grateful I don’t have to drink my painful feelings away.

I’m also remembering all the lessons I learned from Edmund. About living in the present moment. About being content with small gifts and pleasures. About not holding grudges.

I called him Edmund the Arrogant once, but from now on I’ll think of him as Edmund the Great.

And he was.

P.S. We’re moving to New York on the 15th. I hope to write more about things in Raw soon. Maybe in January. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!

P.S.S. Here’s more on Edmund. And here.

And the Cherry on Top is the Big Apple

shutterstock_129949166Finally I get to tell you a bit of what’s really been going on in my life.

For many months now I’ve been in a state of limbo. That feeling you get when you sense one season is ending and another is coming—but you have no idea what it means.

Dave has felt the same way. And yet over the years, we’ve learned to trust that inner knowing. So this summer, we began to make long-needed upgrades to our house. New exterior paint. Adding a bathroom upstairs. Shoveling out eight years worth of accumulated junk.

This fall, we learned what we were really up to. We got news that Penguin Random House was moving one of its imprints—Convergent Books—to the New York City offices, and was inviting Dave to move with it. As many of you know, Dave helped to launch Convergent a couple years ago while working as an editor for WaterBrook Multnomah.

On Tuesday, Crown Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House, announced the move, along with some other changes at the company. An article in Christianity Today noted, “Convergent, which focuses on books for ‘progressive and mainline Christians who demand an open, inclusive, and culturally engaged exploration of faith,’ will be led by David Kopp.”

Since I write out of my life so much (a nice way of saying I’m good at spiritualizing my self-absorption), it’s been tough to blog when I couldn’t give you the scoop. Even once I knew what was coming down the pike, it had to stay a secret until it was officially announced. Now that it has been, I’m not quite sure how to explain what I feel.

Honestly, I vacillate wildly between sadness and excitement. I’m devastated about leaving my community here in the Springs—those precious, amazing friends I’ve made both inside and outside of recovery. And moving away from my oldest son will be very hard.

But I’m also anticipating good things. In recent years, I’ve found so much help and encouragement among the tribe of Christians Convergent Books was conceived for. So in many ways, this move represents a kind of spiritual convergence for me personally. I can’t explain it all now, but I think it’s going to free me up to write my next book.

In the meantime, it comforts me to remember that I can carry all of you with me to New York.  And after seven years of learning how to form true connections in recovery, I get to take my friends here in Colorado Springs with me, too. Used to be, when I moved away, I moved away. Out of sight, pretty much out of mind.

Recently Dave and I had one of those long conversations about the trajectory of our life, marriage, and careers. We came to the conclusion that God is a genius for bringing us together, that life has always proved right in the end, and that moving to the Big Apple just might be the cherry on top of our dreams.

This morning, my eyes fell on a book title by Anne Lamott that pretty much sums up my feelings and my new prayer mantra as well: Help. Thanks. Wow! 

P.S. Check out the amazing  Convergent Books blog when you get a chance. Right now there’s a great video by Kathy Escobar on her new book, Faith Shift. 

P.S. S.  I’d love to hear from you today. Please forgive my being so behind in answering emails.  I’ll get there!


“They Come in Droves”

Eight years ago, when Dave and I first moved into our circa 1890s house in Colorado Springs, the neighbors warned us about Halloween.

Apparently, our Victorian-era neighborhood was a big trick-or-treating destination. And we could see why. With its spook-ready architecture, enormous trees (lots of fall leaves to kick through), old-fashioned lamp posts, and light traffic on wide streets, our part of town is pretty much goblin heaven.

“They come in droves,” one neighbor told us.

We should have asked her to define “droves.” We figured it probably meant dozens, and prepared accordingly. But before that first Halloween night was over, Dave had made three emergency runs to Safeway for more candy. Apparently, droves means h-u-n-d-r-e-d-s.

I had never seen so many trick-or-treaters in my life, and such original costumes! The Energizer Bunny with his drum, the ghost of Raggedy Ann, a jumbo box of Crayola crayons, bee babies, angels, pirates…they all charged our door that night, buckets and bags in hand, in a line that stretched out to the sidewalk.

At moments, it felt like mayhem. And yet, when things finally settled down at around 9—it was a school night, after all—I was sad to see it end.

The next morning, out for a walk with Edmund, we saw signs of Halloween-past everywhere. A pirate’s scarf stuck on our fence post. A Kit Kat on the walkway. “When I went to the gym earlier,” Dave said, “I saw glittering angel wings blowing down the street.”

I imagined an angel from the night before—now waking up, just a little girl again. I wondered how she lost her wings, and if her parents promised to make her new ones for next year.

Later that day, I came upon the familiar verse in Hebrews that invites us to, “Come boldly to the throne of grace so we can find help in our time of need.” I had always loved that passage, but now the word “boldly” struck me as a stretch. Did God really want me to approach him with that kind of audacity? Like I expect something good—even now?

You see, this was also my first year in recovery. And just two weeks before Halloween, I had suffered a relapse —gotten angry at Dave and drank at him. Lately, I was more inclined to approach God like Edmund approaches me after he’s gotten into the garbage again—skulking, ears back with guilt.

Then I remembered all those kids from the night before. How confidently they had come tromping up to our door. None of them came because they thought they deserved our candy. They came because they knew we wanted them to come, hoped they’d come.

Surely, that’s how it is with God, too, I decided. God doesn’t care how spectacularly we’ve failed, or how recently we’ve lost our wings.

I don’t know what Halloween looks like where you live. But I hope it involves lots of excited kids. And I hope they remind you to storm God’s door, breathless with a good kind of greed for a grace more generous than you could possibly deserve.

P.S. If you’re in the neighborhood tonight, stop by for a bowl of soup, to sit by the fire, or—if you dare—take your turn on the porch with the candy. Last year, we counted a thousand kids…and every single one got a treat!

P.S.S. This post was oringaly published two years ago.

What Can I Not Say?

Amazing art by Lisa Graham. Click image to visit her on Etsy.
Amazing art by Lisa Graham. Click image to visit her on Etsy.

Good morning, friends. Maybe you’ve noticed it’s been pretty quiet around here lately. Trust me, it’s not because it’s quiet in my brain or boring in my life. Quite the opposite. Hopefully, I can update you soon.

In the meantime, something I read today from Parker Palmer really resonated with me. The book is called, Let Your Life Speak. Which is kind of the opposite of how I tend to communicate truths that resonate with me. My approach is more, Let Your Mouth Spout.

I did that the other day when a depressed friend came by for a visit. She was in that place of internal exhaustion, where you wake up and realize you have nothing to give and you want the world to go away.

I gave her some great advice and shared spiritual tidbits that seemed inspiring to me. I was gratified when she told me, “I wish I had a tape recorder.”

It wasn’t until hours later that I realized I missed the real opportunity—to listen with kindness and care. To give her space and time to arrive at her own wisdom. To help her soften around her pain instead of suggesting it’s wrong to feel this way.

In Let Your Life Speak, Palmer writes about his own struggle with depression. “Twice in my forties I spent endless months in the snake pit of the soul,” he explains. “Hour by hour, day by day, I wrestled with the desire to die . . . I could feel nothing except the burden of my own life and the exhaustion, the apparent futility, of trying to sustain it.

“I understand why some depressed people kill themselves: they need the rest.”

Naturally, lots of people tried to help Palmer. To cheer him up. To remind him how valuable his life was. To suggest ways to break out of his funk. And not surprisingly, none of it helped much.

He writes:

One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to “fix” it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which is exactly how a depressed person feels—and our unconscious need is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us.

In an effort to avoid those feelings, I give advice, which sets me, not you, free. If you take my advice, you may get well—and if you don’t get well, I did the best I could. If you fail to take my advice, there is nothing more I can do. Either way, I get relief by distancing myself from you, guilt free.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve done that, how easily I forget that sometimes the only thing more powerful than just the right words is just the right silence. The kind that bears with, not bears advice. The kind that inspires small, powerful acts of love.

“Blessedly,” Palmer writes, “there were several people, family and friends, who had the courage to stand with me in a simple and healing way. One of them was a friend named Bill who, having asked my permission to do so, stopped by my home every afternoon, sat me down in a chair, knelt in front of me, removed my shoes and socks, and for half an hour simply massaged my feet. He found the one place in my body where I could still experience feeling—and feel somewhat reconnected with the human race.

Bill rarely spoke a word.”

This seems like a good challenge for me next time I’m with a friend who aches: How can I honor the sacredness of her struggle? What can I do to show that I care? What can I not say?

Let’s hope it’s a lot.



Hearing Voices

shutterstock_158676188Two nights ago, Dave and I watched the season premier of Homeland, a show about a brilliant but terribly flawed CIA agent played by Claire Danes. At one point in the episode, her sister, who happens to be a doctor, says to her something like: “What’s wrong with you is so wrong there’s not even a diagnosis.”

Ha! I thought this was such a funny line. Then I realized it was kind of familiar, too. It sounded exactly like the kind of thing the mean voice I hear in my head on a regular basis would say: You’re such a fraud and a failure! You’re bad and broken in ways that go way beyond what it means to be a regular human.  

My sister has a lot of experience with this mean voice, too. Lately, she’s been going to Alanon, which has been a great help to her—and me, too. Last week, she called to tell me something she heard a woman say after a meeting that was so powerful to her she thought it might change her life.

Really? I thought. A single idea could change your life?  And then she told me what the woman said: “I’m single and I live alone, but I’m in an abusive relationship.”

Meaning, with herself.

Wow. My sister was right. This idea could change my life, too. Of course, the notion that we’re hard on ourselves is nothing new, but putting it in terms of being in a potentially abusive relationship is a fresh, helpful way to look at the importance of how we talk to and treat ourselves.

Especially when you consider that, apart from God, the relationship we have with ourselves is the most constant, lasting, and influential one we’ll ever have.

No wonder in recovery we emphasize self-care so much. Being in an abusive relationship with yourself is pretty much the definition of addiction, don’t you think?  So it goes to reason that healing this relationship would be a big part of what it takes to achieve long term recovery.

This was brought home to me in a real way yesterday when I got a  call from a friend who’s in the same treatment center I went to seven years ago. She, too, was asked to write a letter to herself about her alcoholism and how she intends to stay sober.

I’ll never forget how much I cried and how surprisingly healing it was for me to write that letter. And it was the same for my friend. Something about intentionally talking  to yourself in an encouraging, compassionate way makes you realize how much of the time you unintentionally talk to yourself in ways that bring you down.

So maybe it’s worth asking questions like these more often: If that voice in my head were incarnated into a person—what would our relationship look like? What do I put up with that I shouldn’t? How might I set better boundaries about how I let myself think and behave toward myself?

And since that voice in my head isn’t about to reform or leave any time soon, how can I respond to her in a way that doesn’t just antagonize her further? How can I show that hurt, fear-driven part of myself the kind of compassion I’d show a sick friend?

I need to think a lot more about this, and maybe you do, too.

In the meantime, as we watch out for the mean voice in our head, we can also listen—with all our heart—for the voice of love that comes from our soul, created in God’s image.

I hope you hear that voice often.

Hugs and love, Heather