“On Aug. 23, 1999, a beautiful bright light was born into this world. We named him Dominic James Curtis. He brought a great deal of joy to everyone around him. He was full of curiosity and adventure and had an immense thirst for knowledge,” said Tim Curtis and his wife Shawn McBroom Curtis.
Shawn’s eyes light up when she talks about Dominic. As parents, she and Tim soaked in all of the wonderful things that made their son so unique. He was a free spirit who loved to feel in touch with the outdoors. He was interested in learning about natural remedies and his family said, “Dominic spoke often about his desire for a world filled with love, acceptance and peace.”
As years passed, Dominic’s parents started noticing some changes in him. The curious boy they loved began to develop depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. The help they wanted to assist him in getting and what Dominic felt was best for himself became a battle.
After a long, tiring and complex four-year-battle with mental illness, Dominic, at the age of 19, ended his life on Nov. 25, 2018. He came from a large family who is now on a mission to prevent other families from going through the pain they are experiencing. They have created a nonprofit organization called “Dominic’s Light.”
Their group said, “Our mission is to be seen and be heard throughout our communities, to help our future generations with mental health and wellness through awareness, advocacy and support. Our desire is to create a space of holistic healing for our youth to keep their minds healthy. It is our honor to carry his beliefs forward in our mission.”
Dominic’s Light funds efforts within communities for increased mental health awareness, promoting mental wellness, advocating to improve access and availability to mental health care, suicide prevention and support for loved ones left behind.
Remembering back on the day that Dominic ended his life, Shawn explained it was like so many other days their family felt frustration trying to navigate their way through Dominic’s mental health journey. It seemed he felt resentment and irritation toward his parents when they would suggest avenues of seeking treatment. He would become hostile with them and because he was legally an adult, their hands were tied.
Dominic was at a park on Nov. 25, when a concerned person called the police over odd behavior they felt he was displaying. The police had found ammunition on Dominic, but it wasn’t enough for them to hold him. They drove him to his parent’s home. Tim expressed to law enforcement his concern over Dominic being dropped off there when his son obviously needed help. Like so many other times, the officer explained there was nothing they could do.
Later in the day, the same officer made a return visit to their home. This time he was at the home after a 911 call was placed when the Curtis’ heard a gunshot and found their son had made the decision to end his struggle.
Dominic left behind a family full of sadness and grief. This family though, wasn’t about to silently go through each day dwelling on the “What ifs.” Dominic was born into a large and close-knit group of go-getters. Now the Curtis and McBroom families feel the boy they so severely miss is with them as they help spread Dominic’s Light through self-care, acts of kindness to those who are struggling and by being a friend to those who need one most.
Dominic’s Light Facebook page provides inspirational messages, mental health information and offers a place for people to share their stories. Dominic’s friends and family have bravely shared their personal stories of what life was like both before and after Dominic’s death.
They have offered information about their experiences and coping mechanisms. Recently Tim shared the following, ”Growing up and all through adulthood, I never had an issue with mental illness. After losing Dominic I was able to put my grief aside by keeping busy by keeping the family going. But that only lasted for so long. In June, I left on our annual fishing trip to Canada and I had an anxiety attack on the way there. It was something I had never experienced before so I had no idea what was happening. It was so intense that I considered going to the ER. While it wasn’t something that I was really even thinking about, this was the first time I had left my family after losing Dominic and I’m sure that subconsciously this was what caused it. Since then, most days I have tightness in my chest, living with subtle anxiety. I do have a prescription now in case of another attack, but I’ve found that the best thing for me is exercise and working on Dominic’s Light.”
Dominic’s loved ones who are working with the organization are advocates for those that are suffering with mental health issues and want to offer support for their loved ones. As their Facebook says, “If any of this resonates with you, then we welcome you and hope you will join us in spreading Dominic’s Light.”
A fundraiser for the organization has been planned in Chippewa Falls, Sept. 8, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. at Loopy’s grill and saloon. There will be live music, food, fun for kids, raffles and silent auction items. His loved ones have been working tirelessly to make this an event Dominic would be proud of.
In fact, many of Dominic’s family have pitched in to offer their talents in different ways to make Dominic’s Light a success. There have been candles made, a website started that can be visited at https://dominicslight.org/ and words of comfort shared such as the following poem written by his cousin, Stacy Otis:
On Agates and Stones, We Walk
We, here on earth, travel various paths.
Some are guided by rivers and streams. Some hike the mountains and valleys.
Others are driven by stars and dreams.
Our family walks on a path of agates and stones. Laid there to bring spiritual protection.
On this path, we are solid, stable and grounded. It is not just one path, of course, it is many
As each one of us have a unique direction.
Sometimes they cross, sometimes they split, sometimes connect at where we were founded.
On agates and stones, we walk
In 1976, the first stone was placed, beginning the path that keeps us interlaced
Losing a father is hard for the children, but this trying time brings them closer
Clearly they see the path laid before them. On agates and stones, they walk together
It is hard for Mom, too, being left alone with all children.
From sixteen to two, there were more than a few
She too sees the path laid there before her
Giving her the strength to raise all eight to be greater than great
On agates and stones, they walk
Now it is forty-two years later, our family is growing, very much greater
Everyone grew up and had many babies. And here we are, on agates and stones we walk
All of us, plus the littles and middles, we need more stones to keep us together
Another loved one is called to guide us forever.
With a heart much too large for this race, Dominic James leaves us for a new place
From there, he sprinkles our path with stones he has gathered
Each one thoughtfully chosen and perfectly planted
Transferring powerful energy from his heart to ours
At exactly the time when we need it the most
Forever a son, brother, grandson, nephew, and cousin
He shows us the way that we are a soul family
Connected in ways we do not understand
But still we believe, and we love, and we gather
On agates and stones, we walk