On a brutally hot August day in Greece, my husband, Norm, and I slowly climbed the steep, ancient steps toward the temple at the Oracle of Delphi. Our guide Helena walked ahead of us, easily and without effort. She was a beautiful, well-educated wife and mother of a 16-month-old son. Her ever-present smile, lovely hazel eyes and gracious demeanor reminded me of our Rebecca. Helena appeared to have it all as she spoke knowledgeably about the historic ruins we saw before us.
On our way down the same stone steps, she and I found ourselves alone, ahead of the group. The inevitable question was asked: “Do you have children?” “Yes,” I answered. “Brett, our son, and Susan have three children. Our daughter, Rebecca, died at the age of 30.” “What happened?” Helena asked. “Was it an accident? Was she ill? I’m so sorry.”
At that moment, I decided to share my daughter’s story with Helena. I told her about Rebecca’s beauty, wit, intelligence, elegance, humor, outrageous laugh and devotion to her family and friends. I told her Rebecca lost her lifelong struggle with depression and bipolar disorder. Helena asked when Rebecca had been diagnosed and what type of treatment she had. She asked how Rebecca managed to work and live her life while managing the disease. It was clear that Helena had a personal interest in my daughter’s story.
I recounted to her that Rebecca was in her early 20s when first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that she received excellent care and continued to live alone and work as an editor and writer for a prestigious magazine in Chicago. With tears in my eyes, I told Helena how desperately Rebecca wanted to be “normal,” how she tired of always trying to stay one short step ahead of the disease, and how difficult it was to be thought of as “having it all,” while silently suffering. Helena stood still on a narrow stair, turned, looked directly at me with blazing hazel eyes, and said, “Depression steals your life, your heart and your soul. Depression steals the sun. It is hard to fight and still live.”
Helena herself was fighting depression, even as she led her small group of intrepid tourists up and down the stairs of ancient Greece. How could I help this hurting young woman? I told her of Rebecca’s plan to raise funds for DBSA in celebration of her 30th birthday. I told her that Rebecca’s dream was to bring awareness and compassionate understanding to the world about depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases. Forcefully, I spoke about the pain Rebecca felt when she was told to “snap out of it … pull yourself together … you are so spoiled … get a grip on yourself.”
Helena nodded her lovely head in agreement. “No one,” she said, “understands.”
I told Helena about the Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation and the yearly Rebecca‘s Dream benefit, each established by our family, to bring light and hope to millions living with—while beating back the darkness of—these diseases. We arrived at the bottom of the stairs. The beginning of our journey was now the end. Helena and I embraced as we said goodbye. Her final words to me as our group left Delphi were, “Good luck with the Foundation.”
Since our return home from Greece, we haven’t stopped thinking about Helena and her desire to know about Rebecca. Along with words of understanding and support, we have sent her educational materials and a teddy bear from the 2006 Rebecca’s Dream event. I will stay in close touch with Helena. I believe it was my destiny to meet her and that Rebecca sent her to me, knowing I would help her.
Our family will continue to bring compassion, understanding and love to all the Helenas of the world. That is the least we can do to honor the memory of our daughter, Rebecca Lynn Cutler, who—like the gifted Oracle of Delphi—shared her wisdom and vision with all who knew her.
—Gail Cutler, Rebecca’s mother