My current home, Tucson, Arizona, is exactly 2280 miles from this celebration of Betty Miller’s life, but I am very much in this room with you today. Physically I am at the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf, doing what Betty Miller taught me to do.
In honoring Betty, I also celebrate Nancy Creighton, Betty’s great love. What a gift it is to be loved.
Nancy was very kind to ask me to offer some brief thoughts about my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Betty Miller. I MISS Betty. But the only thing worse than losing Betty is the painful thought that this Depression baby had never existed. She enriched all of our lives.
My earliest memory of Dr. Betty puts a smile on my face. This little powerhouse with the gentle smile “kicked my butt” as a relatively new “hearing” Gallaudet faculty member.
You see, I always wanted my deaf and hearing counseling grad students to experience the power of an interpreted open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I wanted our students to always collaborate with AA in the service of recovering deaf people. The location is still easy to remember because of the letter “P.” The Pilgrim Presbyterian Church on P Street. The students were deeply changed by this open, interpreted AA meeting.
When Betty found out about my well-meaning AA initiative with the counseling students, she hunted me down. No gentle smile. No warm hugs. She seemed 6’5”.
Betty warned me that deaf people struggling with sobriety, seeking out an interpreted open AA meeting, concerned about their privacy, could feel VERY reluctant to enter that church basement AA meeting with so many Gallaudet students observing.
She was absolutely right. Her truth “trumped” my truth. We worked out some solutions. So began a relationship that started as tough love, then evolved into so many collaborations. As time passed, Betty made so many highly rated guest presentations in my classes. Along with the late Dr. Fran White [another angel who I miss], and thanks to the leadership of our Chair, Dr. Roger Beach, we taught courses in Addiction Counseling with Deaf people together…the only such course taught in the U.S., in the world. Students enrolled in such numbers we had to move to a larger classroom in HMB. When you think of this, think of the “exponential” impact she had through these classes and her many workshops around the country. She was, in a sense, a rock thrown into a lake, with the ripples of that splash rolling on forever. Her students were her ripples. They would never be the same. Her students would then cause MORE ripples. Imagine the meaningful, caring, informed care these counseling alums then gave to deaf people with addiction all over the world, because of Betty Miller.
Because of Betty’s mentoring, her wisdom, our collaborations, and our deep friendship, my heartbeat seemed to triple when she eventually asked me to write the Introduction to her beautiful book, “Deaf & Sober: Journeys through Recovery.” I have written many professional things, but I have never put my heart into anything as much as I put my heart into the Introduction of her book. I have never been more honored. Never.
Betty is not really gone. She lives in our brains, our memories, and in our hearts. Everyone in this room was touched by her spirit. We all have Betty Miller stories that make us smile. We [and so many recovering deaf people] are different, better people because Betty was devoted to pulling the world in a better direction.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Every artist dips her brush in her own soul.” Think then of how broad Betty’s artistic palate was. Addiction and recovery with deaf people, sexuality, art. Betty’s paintings captured and so clearly communicated the experiences of deaf people. I loved “Tree” and “The Evolution of ASL,” among others. I saw copies of her work all over the country– in the homes of deaf friends, in schools for the deaf, and in human service programs for deaf people.
In closing, we celebrate an amazing life, an amazing angel, an amazing friend. And we celebrate Nancy for making Betty’s life so much brighter. Like the caterpillar that became a butterfly, I would like to think she is now in the arms of her proud parents, Ralph and Gladys, and legions of deaf addicts who recovered with her help…waiting for us, wishing US well. Who bets she has already painted the gates in Heaven in the brightest of colors?
I THANK Nancy for this opportunity to be with you honoring Dr. Betty Gloria Miller. A brief poem captures my final thoughts about Betty Miller today.
Our joys will be greater,
Our loves will be deeper,
Our lives will be fuller,
Because you shared your moment.
Dr. Bill McCrone
Professor Emeritus [Counseling]