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Dedications & Stories

Personal writings from patients

Table of Contents (click the title to read)

Dedicated to all the parents who have experienced the loss of a beloved child

Dedicated to Sophie


I never realized it was possible to hurt so much

Submitted by Phil Horton, retired partner from Arnold & Porter law firm in Washington, DC, and former death penalty lawyer and champion of poverty law.


I never realized it was possible to hurt so much. I had endured other losses, but when my youngest son died from a seizure the day after his eighteenth birthday, I was sure my life was over -- and I wished that it was. Loved by all and with a heart of gold, he and I had a special bond, as if we saw the world through the same pair of eyes. Picture yourself as a father, trying and failing to revive your treasured son -- who had been perfectly healthy only minutes earlier -- by mouth-to-mouth and CPR. At the end of a brutal trip to the emergency room, I stood over his body as a doctor pronounced the time of death.  Wracked by both agonizing pain and the guilt of having failed to save him, all I wanted was to join him in death -- yet with two other sons and a wife recovering from cancer I was denied even that solace. Down deep, I knew I had to go on -- and yet, as I screamed through the nights, I thought I knew equally well that going on was impossible.


I was partly right -- going on without expert help would have been impossible. My oldest son knew this, and he found Dr. Roberts who, although already overwhelmed with other patients, listened to him describe my suffering and concluded that she had to fit me in somehow.  A test showed me well up the PTSD scale. When she first began to describe EMDR therapy, which I had never heard of, she warned me that it would sound very strange -- and it did. Moving my eyes, tapping my hands and feet, all while pushing my brain at a pace it could never hope to keep. But she assured me that there was hard and proven science behind this -- and gave me the cites to confirm that. I was so lost that I had no choice, and I accepted her invitation to put my trust in her and the therapy. I did not expect much, because I did not expect life to hold much for me anymore. But we dove right into the deep end, focusing in our very first session on the single worst image of that horrible day -- the image of my son’s tortured face as he lay dead in the emergency room. That image, above a raft of others, I was sure would haunt me forever, without mercy.


But I was wrong. So wrong. For an hour I sobbed as she pushed me through therapy that required me to focus as hard as I could on the worst thing I had ever seen. At the end of the hour, I got the surprise of my life. No, that terrible image wasn’t gone, for it never will be. But in only one hour it had shrunk and become blurry. The grief, of course, was still there, but the image had receded so much that it had lost its power to terrify me. At first, I thought that this must be just a transient effect, but it wasn’t. From that day to this, the horror of it has receded into something I can deal with. And as our sessions continued, we went through the process for all the other images -- and there were many -- of things that no father should ever have to see. Each of them, in turn, softened. Dr. Roberts explained that EMDR dramatically accelerates the process that would otherwise take years under the adage that “time heals”. I suppose it does. But EMDR literally turns years into minutes. Truly, the age of miracles is not over -- you just have to trust to scientifically proven methods to cause them.


What I have written tells much of my story. But not all. I believe that EMDR can help with any trauma, but how well and how fast must surely depend on the therapist.  Dr. Roberts brought both science and the iron discipline to keep me focused on what I had to do. But she brought so much more, and that more was empathy. Empathy by the bucketful. Not the false empathy that a sad expression can fake, but the real thing. The more I worked with Dr. Roberts, the more I could see that this is someone who has known pain herself and who knew, deeply, how I felt, and who genuinely cared. It is a rare gift, and it is one she has purchased with her own pain.

The bullet that killed my son’s beloved babysitter’s best friend many years prior, took almost a decade and a half to ricochet into the heart of my own son. You see, I have come to understand that it was the accumulated and largely untreated trauma that led to the seizure that brought about my son’s premature death.

We still have work to do. I know I will miss my son and will grieve for him until the day I die.  But until that day comes, I also know that I will be able to live a life that honors him. I could not ask for more.


So do not delay your opportunity to heal. It can happen. Help is there. Reach out, trust, and you can arrive where I am.

On Fear
Dedicated to Sophie

In my lifetime I have come to know fear and I have always run towards it rather than away.

It stalks us all and invites us toward courage.

If we dare.

Fear as I put on my skydiving gear.

Fear as I work in the emergency room.

Fear of public speaking.

Fear of learning to rock-climb

Fear of learning to fly a plane.

Fear of confronting another when they do not want to hear one's words.

I was made for overcoming fear as it looms.


It grips one in the gut

And keeps one's jaw shut.

Dries the mouth

As you feel yourself drawn south.


That thump in the chest

that calls for one's best

I face my fear

as I feel my tears.


I will never relent 

If I may feel spent

Because fear tells me I am alive and present.


I fear for our country.

I fear for the wickedness that has gripped this nation.

I fear for the corruption of campaign financing that warps politicians in their quest for power and money.

I fear for the grip that the NRA has over politicians and their agendas.

I fear for the future of women, gays, trans folks and minorities.

I fear for the Earth and climate change

And the murder of our planet

I fear for the violence in our streets with the insanity of the second amendment.

I fear for the anti-science sentiment in this country.

I fear for the corrosive effects of the religious right.

I fear for the loss of kindness, courtesy and common decency.

I fear for the loss of sound reasoning from those that should be setting good examples for the rest of us.

I fear for the lack of courage and integrity of our leaders.

I fear for their loss of statesmanship.

I fear for the loss of duty to one's country and others around the world.

I fear for the loss of doing for the greater good.

I fear for the protection of those who are vulnerable in our society.

I fear for the loss of care in our so-called Health-care system.

And we all fear the heartless indifference of the coronavirus which metes out her havoc upon populations as an equal opportunity intruder on our wellbeing, lifestyle and health.

She strikes at our very humanity which is connection, forcing us to isolate and disconnect from the ones we love.

While threatening the lives that we hold so dear.


I fear for the loss of quality of our educational system.

I fear for the weakening of our institutions-the office of the Presidency, The Judicial system and the Department of Justice, the CDC and policing practices.

I fear for the lack of checks and balances and the fact that judges can be appointed by misguided politicians instead of by impartial men and women of wisdom. 


I fear the MOST of all for the dumbing down of Americans and how many have forgotten or never learned how to think critically.


I am sad for America and its lack of wisdom as we witness its de-evolution.

What would MLK be saying and doing right now if he were alive?

And God Forbid what would our founding Fathers be saying right now?


Lord help us all. How and what can we do other than vote? And even that is being eroded by the Republican gerrymandering.


The antidote to fear, my friends, is to face our fear head on, no matter how dreadful this feels to the “small sense of me”.

I am learning about fear, she is my teacher.

More powerful than any church preacher

As I reach down into my soul for strength and solace.

If you reach deep enough you will find a well of courage that is enough to meet the moment.

And that courage is given to you by “the one that knows” the collective consciousness that is owned by all.


My answer to fear is to look her in the eye, acknowledge her and then conquer her.

She will weaken and then you can dominate.

As Saint Michael who tamed the dragon.

My spear is laughter and my shield is humor.

My armor is faith and my strategy is wisdom.


Redouble one's efforts to carve out kindness, integrity, hope, compassion and fight for what is right in every action that we take, every day with courage and resolve to do our part to make the world a better place than it would have been without us. We can affect this in our own small communities whether at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods or in our homes.


This will produce a ripple effect and can change the tidal wave of idiocy, so that good old-fashioned kindness and common decency can once more be installed and prevail.


How do we change the tide of fear?

We face it with resolve and determination as warriors have done so entering battle for millennia.

We cry out if we must, but we never relent

With this courage that is heaven sent.


Mother Teresa said “We can do no great things, but only small things with great love.” And with that belief, she changed the world.


And so, we must.


The antidote to fear is courage but without love we can have no courage. Therefore, the answer to fear is love.


My friends we have a job to do.

It is our sacred duty to one another, to our ancestors and for future generations.

Let us begin with a smile and with conviction.

Our brothers and sisters need us as we prepare an altar upon our hearts and stroke the fire of our passion for what is good and what is right for one another and our beloved planet.


Love can conquer all fear.

We must make it so.



Phil Horton
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