So I’m sure you are wondering who “Bill” is. First and foremost, Bill was a father, my and my 3 brother’s father. He was a volunteer hockey and soccer coach for many years. Also, an avid golfer and Minnesota Wild fan. He was the comedic relief in any situation and a breath of fresh air for all those who encountered him. Last but certainly not least, Bill was a proud Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. And, deep in the core of his being, my father was a born leader who passed on many of his traits and words of wisdom to all who he encountered.
Bill Kowitz was a man of patience and love. Kids always find their way into trouble but, rather than yell at me or dole out groundings, he took pen to paper. One 3-page, single-spaced letter, in particular, would become one of the most important life compass I have to date. We never sat down and discussed the contents of the letter before his passing but, this letter was all the lessons my father wanted me to hear b
efore I got too far into my life.
The following are excerpts from the letter:
“There are a lot of things you need to understand, and it is very hard for parents to remember that everyone realizes things at their own time and in their own way.”
“I’m not claiming that you can force someone to be good, but with enough forceful guidance you can help them realize the right path for themselves.”
“I told you the hardest thing you will have to do is not react to individuals and lower yourself to their level. It’s just like sports, only those who retaliate will be penalized.”
“I can’t think of anything that is fair. Where the skill comes into play is dealing with your own emotions when life isn’t fair. It’s how you deal with these situations that make up what [you are] made of.”
“God loves you and always will.”
“Everyone is wrong about something in their life. Those that can admit it, then correct it, are the ones that people respect. Those who can’t or won’t admit it are the ones that people despise. Please, please have the humility to admit when you are wrong and learn from it. It will be by far the strongest part of your personality.”
“Take your time and make careful choices right now, you may never have the opportunity to correct them later.”
“Don’t put the blame elsewhere, just deal with your own actions and consequences.”
I think we all can learn from Bill’s wise words. We are all works-in-progress. Ironically, the letter states, “[S]omeday, I may not be here to talk to, so know now what I would tell you then.” This letter and his words traveled with me for the rest of my life and shaped me into the man I am today. His words taught me to live life well, to aim for the best, and accept the faults. Most importantly it taught me to care for, look out for, and lift up those around me; no matter who they are. THAT IS THE MAN BEHIND OUR MISSION.
But, as we know today, the happiest people may often be the saddest. On October 11, 2006, the world lost Bill Kowitz to suicide as a result of severe depression. At that time, a heavy stigma was associated with the topic of suicide. Therefore, family members and I did not have the tools or knowledge to know what to do after witnessing the warning signs. In the following years, I carried guilt, shame, and anger as a result of my inaction. Now, I find solace in serving others. Protecting them and their loved ones from heartbreak and loss. Our goal, through Bill’s Wish, is to reduce the stigma of mental illness, spread awareness, provide support and resources to those in need. Veterans, like Bill Kowitz, deserve a full life after service.
-Travis William Kowitz