An Open Letter to my Big Brother.

Dear brother,

So much has happened since you left me.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could tell you about all of things that have happened in these past 3 years.

I wish I could tell you about the hardships, struggles, achievement and the goals that I have accomplished and that you have missed.

I wish you were here so we could joke about everything and so you could make fun of everything I’ve done.

Dear brother, I really wish you were here to see where my life has taken me. I wish you could see the life I have made for myself. But mostly, I wish you were around to see the life you could have made for yourself too.

I wish you were around so badly these days… And everyday.

In a few short weeks I get to marry my best friend and your best friend too!

The only thing missing is you.

My man of honor!

I know you are going to be with me on our day though.. not only in my heart… but in other ways too. Mom told me how you actually were able to buy my wedding dress even though you are gone. I hope you saw me the day I found the dress and mom told me it is from you.

You would have seen your baby sis cry like a big ol’ baby, which would have just made you laugh at me and you would have told me to shut up!

You’re always here.


Mom knew how much it has hurt me that you wouldn’t be there for me but she found a way to make you part of my day even when you aren’t here.

You really are always so close to my heart.

Dear brother, thanks again for being there for Russ and I since day one. You have always been our biggest supporter and Thank you for watching out for us and all that we do. We love you so fucking much.

Dear brother, I know you feel no pain now. I know you did what you thought you had to do.. I just wish you were here to see YOUR life through.

You would have seen how amazing life can be and seen how there is light beyond the darkness if you just let it be.

You would have seen that things get better with time if you let it.

And seen how many people love and miss you. You would have seen your baby sister turn 21, and you’d been able to actually legally drink with me, even though we had been drinking for 5+ years together already!

You would have seen your baby sister graduate college.
Your baby sister getting engaged and soon get married.

You would have seen that life is worth living and that so many of us needed you and still need you.

Dear brother, I know that life was not easy on you and you did what you thought you had to do but we are all missing you every single day.

I love you with all my heart and I’ve been missing my best friend nonstop for the past three years.

Derek, one thing I miss most is your humor. Oh my, your humor was the best. But, I still can’t believe that mom and dad thought you were so funny all these years and that you came up with your sayings all on your own! They’re slowly realizing that you were always just quoting movies to them!

We all do really miss you though. We miss your smile, humor, your sarcasm and your asshole ways.

There’s no one that could both piss off everyone in a room and make them laugh at the same time like you could.

Dear brother, thank you for giving me 20 years of love and humor with you. But 20 years just really was not enough for me.

I couldn’t have asked for better brothers to show me the ropes of life, drinking, humor, sarcasm, racing, riding horse, hunting and true friendship.

You were someone that I looked up to even though you always told me that you looked up to me. I really miss you, big brother.

I miss making you grilled cheese when you told me that you didn’t know how. I let that one slide so many times because I always just loved that you asked me for help with things.

I miss sneaking downstairs to the basement fridge and cracking a couple cold Bud Lights with you, hoping that Mom and Dad wouldn’t notice that the case downstairs was missing nearly all of the beers out of it.

I miss replacing the liquor and the wine bottles with water….. again hoping that Mom and Dad would never find out.

or taking cigarettes out of moms old cartons and taping them back up because we knew she’d never look.

I miss taking the moonshine and you trying to convince me that eating the cherries was the best part of the moonshine. Drunk Amber figured that one out for herself.

I miss the late night cruises just to clear our minds.

I miss always having someone that was down to have a good time and that was always there for me when I needed it and always willing to tell me the truth no matter how hard the truth hurt.

I miss having my brother that would take me to parties, and tell me that you’d be the DD and then get more fucked up than anyone else but still agree to drive your baby sister home because you didn’t want me to get in trouble and not be able to go out partying with you anymore.

I miss the scary movie nights or watching Step Brothers for the 500th time and quoting the whole movie before the lines even happen. Or watching Talladega nights with you and trying to live life like Ricky Bobby!

I miss watching you race. You had such good dreams and goals with your racing and that’s what you wanted to do and I know if you were here you’d be pursuing those dreams in every way possible, and you would have had my support through it all.

Dear brother, some days it’s really hard for me to come to terms that you’re actually gone.

You’re no longer with us and I realize it’s been 3 years that it has been this way. 3 years since you left the world, you left your friends, your family and your life.

The hurt doesn’t really get any easier. There’s some days where it feels like I’ve gone a million years without you and other days where it feels like you just left me yesterday. It really is just a weird concept of time. But there is not a day that goes by that I don’t have you on my mind.

There are so many people that miss you. I know since you’ve been gone, I have had so many people talk to me and tell me about the memories and moments that you have imprinted onto them. Most of the memories include you making people laugh and smile.

I miss just knowing that you would bring a smile to my face and could make me laugh on cue.

You really could bring a smile to everyone around. And yes, sometimes you were hard and nearly impossible to put up with.

And also true that people either loved you or hated you when they first met you but I’m so glad that I got to grow up with you and that we became best friends through out our lives.

Dear brother, this life seems so weird without you. I wish things were different, I really do.

But I know that I can’t be mad anymore. I can’t keep dwelling on your choice.

I’m sure after 3 years you have heard enough about how pissed off you had made me, as I cry and yell when I’m alone and talking to you. How lost, confused and mostly heartbroken you have made me…

I’m sure you have heard me cuss your name about how upset I have been over these years about how the one day you decide not to turn to your sister, you made a forever choice.

One that impacted a hell of a lot more people than just you.

But I also know that you knew I’d be ok.

You knew that I knew what was going on more than anyone, so you didn’t want to turn to me.

You knew your baby sister would be the one person to talk you down but would also be someone who couldn’t hate you for what you did.

You took advantage of my love for you. Took advantage of the fact that I could never hate you forever for this.

You always said you were going to die young and people would remember your name, and damn brother, where you right.

Dear brother, I wish you were here so much.. but I hope you’re okay.

I know you’re okay.

You have to be okay.

Wherever you are has to be better than what life put you through down here.

Life blows without you.

But I’m learning each day more and more what life is like without you and how to manage this forever pain you left upon so many of us.

Dear brother, this still sucks, and my heart is always hurting and broken because of you.

But I will always remember to live for you.

To celebrate the accomplishments and continue living life as a party and celebration because that’s what you would have wanted for me.

You never would have wanted me, or any one else to be sad. You just didn’t want to hurt anymore yourself and you didn’t realize how much that would hurt the rest of us.

I think I can speak for more than just myself when I say, We forgive you Derek. We just love you so much it hurts.

Dear brother….

I am always thinking of you. and I love you endlessly, for always…

love, your baby sista

Derek Lowell Hopkins
8/27/1993 – 8/31/2017

Not Just Another Statistic

Hey everyone,

My name was Derek Lowell Hopkins, I was a 24-year-old male from Pukwana, South Dakota. I loved racing, riding horse and hunting, and I was damn good at all of those things. I lived by the mottos “I wanna go fast” and “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

I was so caring, I would have done anything for anyone. I was funny and could make anyone laugh with my sarcastic remarks. I loved kids, I loved racing and I loved those who loved me. I was a good soul and a truly great man.

but… I won’t be remembered by those qualities…as they no longer matter….. because I will now be known as just another statistic. . .

I was a male which means I was 4 times more likely than a female to die by suicide. Male deaths represent approximately 79% of all United States suicides.

I was between the age of 18-29, which means that suicidal thoughts, suicidal planning and suicidal attempts were more common for me, suicide is also the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24.

An estimated 129 Americans die each day by suicide, and I ended up being one of the 129 individuals on 8/31/2017. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and those who receive treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts/attempts/ideations is extremely low.


Now those are only vague statistics pulled off the internet about suicide. AND these are statistics that are increasing each day, statistics that are breaking people’s hearts each day as their loved ones become another one of the numbers listed above.

These numbers are not actually how I remember my brother, and not how I will ever solely categorize him either, he is not JUST another statistic… but these statistics are still there! They are still facts and they cannot continue to be ignored.

Suicide is still a growing number within each and every community, and what exactly are we all doing to help our friends, our siblings, parents, cousins, neighbors?

We are attending their funerals, posting their obituaries, posting pictures that were taken together…We are saying how much we miss them, how we wish we could see them again, and saying how we wish we could have helped……but are we ever doing the hard work of addressing those who we see are sad, those who we see are struggling with addictions, struggling with everyday life and the people who are going through hard times.

I know for a fact that I worked for over 2 years trying to convince my brother to seek help. 2 years trying to convince my brother he had worth in his life, that he had something to live for, even if it didn’t seem like a lot. But all in all, no help was taken. —

……Because the stigma behind mental health is crushing. People think they are alone, think the world has turned, that everyone has turned, no one is there for you, no one understands the pain, and the pain will never end. These are things that need to be addressed. People are so ashamed of their mental health needs. Ashamed, scared and embarrassed to ask for help, to confide in others because no one will ever understand… BUT want to know another statistic? – about 80-90% of those people who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully with help of therapy and/or medications. This is a hopeful statistic, and I know for sure that I would rather attend and celebrate someone’s completion of treatment/counseling than someone’s funeral.

It is okay to not be okay, it is okay to have bad days, to have bad weeks, months or even years, but understanding that there are good days ahead and good days beyond the hardships is important. Your life can get better if you are willing to work at it- and work on yourself…

If you are struggling with your mental health or an addiction– Understand that as someone with mental health or addictions issues, it is okay to struggle, and it is okay to feel low.. BUT it is important to know that even though you feel like it, you are not truly alone, and that no one truly wants to see you fail AND NO ONE wants to have to attend your funeral…

For those of you who are on the outside of mental health/addiction problems, it is important to be there for others as much as possible. It is important to check on your friends if you know they are going through hard times. It is hard to help those who do not want help, but please do not EVER give up on our loved ones.

It’s a bad day, not a bad life.

**Each year, on or around this day, I try and bring remembrance to my brother. Additional to that, this year I would like to also try and bring awareness to Mental Health and Addiction and help to break the stigma we have created around mental health and addictions. It is okay to seek help. Listed below are a few hotline numbers that I know most people will never utilize, but KNOW that they are available 24/7 for all of our convenience. Talk to someone if you are sad, if you feel low, or even if you feel that no one understands what you are going through. And remember, even if you do not feel like it…this world is a better place with you in it.

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1800-273-8255(TALK)


GRIEF/LOSS HOTLINE – 1-800-395-5755


AMBER HOPKINS 605-680-3430



8/27/1993 – 8/31/2017

Since the Day You Left.

It was a bit after 4 a.m on September 1st when I got a call from my dad with the news that you were gone..Dad had been trying to call me for a little over an hour, but I was passed out from a night of partying. I woke up to Russell saying, “Amber, your dad is calling you.” I rolled over and answered my phone, still not in the right state of mind yet. He told me that you were gone.. I did not believe him. I remember the first part of this phone conversation because that is when my heart broke, everything from then on was a blur.

I wanted to come straight home, but I still was not sober enough to drive, none of us were. So I waited until about 9 a.m to get up and start my trek home. from 4 a.m to 9 a.m I sat bawling off and on in the arms of Russell. Dad told me to go back to sleep after we got off the phone, but how could anyone sleep after hearing that their brother was no longer with us. I didn’t sleep for over 36 hours. I did not eat either. I was not tired, I was not hungry. I was just numb.

When I finally got back home, there was already so much family at my parents house. I am not sure if I liked this or not.. my feelings were so..weird.. for the first few days. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to be alone, or wanted everyone around me to hug me and help heal my shattered heart.

Like I said, I was so numb. Things were so blury for me. But yet, I remember certain parts of the week so vividly. I remember mostly how empty I felt inside like I was missing something, missing you.

There are still days when I cannot believe you are gone, I can’t get it through my mind HOW you could be gone. But you are. And we all miss you so very much. I cannot imagine the pain you were in, and I am so sorry that this world put you through so much. But I want to thank you for being in my life for as long as you were. It was not enough time together, but I cannot be selfish because I got to spend 20 years with you as my brother and as my best friend, and I am blessed to be able to say that much.

Thank you for teaching me to be stubborn, teaching me to be sarcastic, and teaching me how to be strong. Growing up with you and Chris as my older brothers, I had to learn how to be strong quick if I wanted to run with you guys.

Thank you for always listening to me, you were the one person I could always open up to about anything, no matter the situation. Good or bad. There’s been a few times
this past year when I have really needed you, and I hope you were listening to me.

Thank you for being my protector. Having you and Christopher in my life growing up is the greatest blessing of all, because you both were always there for me and looking out for me, even when I did not think I needed it at times. Chris is still protecting me from down here, and I know that you are probably still looking out for me, shaking your head a little and watching me go through life.

Thank you for being you. I hope that everyone got to see the side of you that I will always remember. Not just the sarcastic ass-like side that most of us loved. But also the caring side of you that would do anything for anyone! You loved hanging with mom’s daycare kids, you would play games with them, fight with them, read to them and pick on them. You were such an awesome man. And it saddens me that you will never be able to play the role as an uncle for my future children.

I miss you like crazy, and wish more than anything for another minute with you. I know your pain is gone, and I am still working on the pain that you left for me. But I will get there, my heart will never be the same. But if I like it or not, I am learning how to live this life without you physically here with us.

One last thing—this has in every way been the hardest year of my life. But I need you to know, and I am sure you do already, that I forgive you big brother.

I forgive you for thinking that your pain was not fixable here on Earth, I forgive you for not coming to me more, I forgive you for leaving me.

and I forgive myself for everything I could not do for you.

Thank you for watching over me. loving me. and being my heavenly brother.

I love you always and have missed you every second since the day you left.

Your baby sista.

Derek Lowell Hopkins
8/27/1993 – 8/31/2017


I can’t leave here.

I hate that I’m hurting

I hate that you’re not here.

It doesn’t seem right,

It doesn’t seem real.

My heart is broke,

But it will heal.

I miss you so,

But I can’t leave here.

You’re doing better now,

But we’re doing worse.

My tears still fall every now and then,

But I know that you will never hurt again.

As there ain’t much worse than August 31st,

Your pain was there, but you took it away.

Oh, how I wish that you could have stayed.

But the world is cold and you needed warmth.

I needed my brother, but you needed another.

You needed healing,

and a way to rid the pain,

You’re better now, but we still hurt.

My heart is broke,

But it will heal.

I miss you so,

But I can’t leave here.





Oh, Brother…

Trying to stay focused and get back on track to school, but my mind and heart keeps wandering back to you, It hasn’t hit me yet that I miss you, but it hits me when I think of all that you are going to miss in days, weeks, months and years to come.

Your baby sister is turning 21 soon, and you won’t be there to celebrate and have our first completely legal beer together… I always thought about what kind of party my 21st would be like, and I always expected to be celebrating that day with both my brothers… You taught me a lot growing up, and you would even tell everyone that you are the one who taught me how to drink. I got in trouble drinking for the first time with you when I was a 7th grader…but you never once told on me. You stuck up for me and said it was all you, and I wasn’t involved…of course I still got in trouble, because our parents always found out. But I will not forget what you did for me there. Or the time we were up in Brookings, and you saved a bunch of our asses from getting minors and you took one for the team and got yourself an open container. You were always someone that looked out for others, even if it meant you would get in trouble for us… A lot of my favorite memories with you include you and I having blue cans in our hands and not a care in the world… One of the dumbest things you ever taught me was to “Puke and Rally” – I did that in way too many occasions with you it seemed. But we made a pretty damn good drinking team…or a crew I should say. As we thought we were badasses and decided to call a bunch of us Pukwanians, the Pukwana Brew Crew. We had sweatshirts made and everything. Playing 7’s with you was probably one of my favorite things, people got so mad at you during that game because you always thought it was funny just to screw everyone else over in the game so they had to drink a shit ton. That game definitely will not be the same without you.  In everything you did, you were kind of a big deal.


Brother, I am graduating early from SDSU, December of 2018. We talked about this a month ago, and you were proud of me, your actual response was “hell ya sista.” And you told me to be sure that I finish school, but it sucks that you won’t be there to see me walk across the stage at my graduation, or celebrate that achievement with me and tell me in person that you are proud of all I have done… Brother, You are the reason I am here right now…

You’re going to miss our Christmas picture, you’ll miss arguing with me during our Christmas celebrations, and you won’t be there to see mom and dad getting frustrated with us. You won’t be there to call me a smart ass, or tell me you love me.

-You’re going to miss my wedding day. You were always supposed to stand by me on that day! I told you I never had enough friends to make a wedding party, so we talked about how you would be by my side so I don’t look like a fool. I believe you will still be by my side when that day comes, but just not in the way I wish you were. – But still I want to thank you… thank you for getting Russ and I together, I will give you credit for us being together (even if you told everyone that you sold me for a penny to him…). Thank you allowing me to date one of your best friends. I am saddened and heartbroken that you won’t be there for us on our day in the future…

You are going to miss the birth of my children someday. You’re going to miss being the best uncle to those kids. You’re going to miss teaching those little shits so many things, like how to hunt, how to race, fix things and of course how to drink underage… My future kids are going to miss out on your humor… they are never going to meet their funny, sarcastic uncle, but you know damn well that I am going to tell them about you every chance I get.

What I miss right now, is the way things once were. The times you and I would just go out and have a good time together, laugh, fight and just be together the way a brotha and sista should.  You won’t be around to convince me to make you a grilled cheese because you “didn’t know how.” You were a pain in my ass, but I would do anything to be able to hear you yell at me, for you to punch me in the arm once more (you still have 36 punches left). I’d give anything to hear your laugh and see your smile. I would do anything to be able to hear one of your jokes again. You always knew how to make me laugh with your smart ass, sarcastic remarks. You could make anyone laugh, you always knew what to say.


You helped me so much in the short lifetime we got together. You were always someone I could talk to about anything, you might have had a response I did not like, but you were ALWAYS there for me, and I am so so sorry I couldn’t be there for you the way you needed. You told me I was the one real person in your life, and I am sorry that you did not know how many people loved you, cared for you and wanted you here with us all…

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and indoor

I don’t miss you yet, that hasn’t hit me yet… but when I think about you I catch myself tearing up every time, because I think about all we will miss together. The days seem to be getting harder, but I hope you are watching over me and still proud of your baby sista, and I hope you are looking out for me each day. I love you, and wish you were here.


Your baby sistaa

Calls From Home.

Heading on to my second year of college, I found it harder to leave  home this time. I am not quite sure why. Could be that I worked all summer and did not get to have much of an actual “summer” so maybe I thought it was not time for me to go back yet, or could be that I was not ready to get my head into the books yet. There are so many possibilities as to why I might not have been ready to go back to school. What I know for sure, is that this year I am going to be missing home a little more that I previously had the year before.

Last year, I was excited, I was out on my own for the first time, doing my own thing, enjoying life and just doing ME and whatever the hell I wanted. I rarely ever came home. I am actually able to count on one hand the number of times I came home in the 9 months that I was in Brookings last year. I never called home, I always just waited for the call from my mother I would get every few days because she had not heard from me. I never thought anything of it, I never thought that me not calling home was impacting anyone. I now realize how selfish I was. I realize this because I am much older and wiser now. (HA! kidding.) I can only image how my parents felt last year when they would at times struggle to get in contact with me.

I honestly hated when my phone would ring and I saw it was from Home or Daddyo or Moo-Ma. I guess not so much hated it, but at times dreaded it. The fact that I did not stay in contact with them was the reason I disliked when I would see that I had missed calls from Home. I would think the worst, thinking “oh no, I have two missed called from mom, what if something bad happened, what if she needed something.” So many possibilities would scramble through my mind. But the reality was that for the most part my family just wanted to know how I was, what I was doing and just wanted to hear from me. I realize now that if I would have stayed in touch a little more, I probably would not have felt that way each time someone from home called me.

I realize the bad habits I got into last school year, and for just that reason I do call home more. I bother my mom when she is busy, just to say hi, in between my classes. She might not appreciate the times that I call her, but hey it is better than nothing, right? Impressively, I actually see that I have grown a little in the past year, (no, not just my beer belly!) I could not image going days without speaking to my mom, or messaging her every now and then. I realize how vital it is for me to actually stay in touch back home. There is a lot that I miss out on being away from home, but calling every now and then makes up a little for it. So my advice to many and all, is call home once in awhile, do not wait for them to call you. Yes, they will call you eventually,  but it is just so much easier when you call them on your own time and just check in every now and again. Calls from home are no longer something I dread, Calls from home are a great thing.

This is Home.

Growing up in a small town is a blessing.

This may not be apparent to all though. People see the boring days when nothing is going on and no one to hang out with. Emphasis on the negative aspects are brought about when some think of a small town. – Living in the same town my entire life, I have been able to realize just how spectacular it truly is to grow up in a place of this sort. I have always loved where I come from. It is somewhere I am able to call home. A place I can see myself coming back too, the genuine small town, Pukwana South Dakota. This town is filled with such charm and character; from the people, to the places and the immense over-looked beauty. Pukwana has it all, even if at times it may be hard to see.

I had an amazing childhood. I grew up playing with all the guys. I followed them all around and annoyed my older brothers while doing so. I was ALWAYS right along with my brothers and their friends. There was always something for us kids to do. We took advantage of each opportunity we could. We all loved being outside and doing everything and anything in Puk. We had so many fun games we were able to partake in when we were younger: Town Tag, (Hide ‘n’ seek around Pukwana) Wrestled on Trampoline, Sledding, Rode Horse, Ramped on our Bikes, (sometimes got dangerous) football, kickball, raced bikes, made snow forts, tree forts, caught snakes, swam in water tanks, tag on the hay stacks and so much more. My childhood in Pukwana was filled with fun, laughter and great memories. I loved growing up here, every second of it. Growing up somewhere else, there is no way I would have been able to experience as much exciting and sometimes dangerous things when I was a child. I will always be a girl with small town roots, there is no denying that what so ever. Pukwana is a major part of who I am. Telling someone where I come from is one of my favorite things; Continuously I get the blank stare from people when I say I am from Pukwana. They look at me like what in the world did you just say! Half of the people I tell do not believe that it is an actual town. Little to their knowledge though, it is one of the bests towns.

Pukwana has many great qualities, from the small town charm, to the businesses we have in this town, every aspect is something worth loving. When I was 13 I got a job being a waitress at Jackie’s Cafe here in Pukwana. Jackie was my aunt. Working for family, especially my aunt Jackie was such a blessing. I loved my job, and the cafe was the best place to hear all the recent gossip! The food was incredible, with burgers to drool over. I can without a doubt say, hands down that is was the best job I will ever have. I was paid to socialize with the great people who walked through the door. I met some of the most selfless people ever in my years working there.  I also had the best boss I could have ever asked for. Jackie taught me a lot in the near 5 years I worked at the cafe. There was rarely a day at the cafe that someone did not brighten my day and leave me smiling, if it was not the customers, it was my aunt Jackie. The Cafe is now closed, but is very much a missed quality of Pukwana.


Another great aspect of good ol’ Pukwana South Dakota are the Saturday nights. If you are from around this area, I am sure you know why I say this.- Pukwana has always been known for its racing.Starting off many years ago with Turkey Races and now progressing to Lawn Mower Races. In the summer time, on selected Saturday nights about 30 drives and their mowers gather here in Pukwana to race around our oval track. The excitement is uncontainable while watching these mowers compete at speeds up to 50mph. Not only is it a fun event to watch, it also brings many people to our small town. On a Saturday night in the summer time, Pukwana can at times double in size. Taking the population from 280 to nearly  500 people!


Pukwana has so many small, simple aspects that make it such a great place to grow up in. I have realized this even more now that I have left and went off to college. I know just how truly blessed I was to have grown up where I did and to be able to call this place Home.

Pukwana is comfort. Pukwana is where my family is, my friends are, and where I will always be able to come back too. If you have the pleasure to say this too, you know just what I am talking about. Pukwana is where I come from. Pukwana is Home.


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