Some days, it’s hard to know exactly what to say to a friend who you know is going through sheer hell.
That’s how I feel about my special friend Dawn, a gal who, the second I met her, struck me as larger than life. Smart. Pretty. And so damn cool. I remember watching her at her wedding, dance with her daddy, each smoking cigars and getting down to Only You by The Platters. She was a JAG lawyer, and also a member of the Junior League. Yes, all kinds of cool. And so full of life. So full of happy. But she admits she struggled with depression, both as a teen and now. I share this because she is the last person you’d think would have this issue.
I also dealt with it as a teen. I remember a friend attempted suicide, and when I told my father I had also considered it, he told me he would not attend my funeral if I did it. It was the best response he could have given, because as sad as I was, I also never wanted to disappoint my parents, and I could tell that was a disappointment he wouldn’t tolerate. I’ve thought about suicide at low points in my life since then, but have always been haunted by my father’s words, even though he’s no longer with us. And depression has touched other members of my family, too.
I know depression is a mental illness that doesn’t always allow the person suffering to consider others. They simply want the hurting to stop.
That was the case with sweet Sarah, the daughter of Dawn’s close family friend.
Now, her parents are saying goodbye to her today, after facing the heart wrenching decision of taking her off life support.
I’m sharing their Facebook posts, with Dawn’s permission, hoping that another parent might be able to reach their child in time to save their life, to turn things around with the right kind of help. The truth is, we don’t know what’s happening in our child’s brain, in her heart and soul. But, maybe reading this will convince you to reach out in a way that lets them know you are there and want to help, and to say ‘I love you.’
Written today, 1/20/14, by Sarah’s mom:
At 3:00 today we will remove Sarah’s artificial breath and allow her a peaceful, natural death. Send prayers with Sarah as she soars to Heaven above and God receives her with arms wide open.
Pray for Sarah, her family, her friends, and for the very blessed people who will receive the gift of life from her donated organs. Eric said that last night a lot of people received a very happy phone call in the midst of their sadness. Sarah’s kidneys, lungs, and liver will live on in the bodies of these truly fortunate people. A note to Madison and all her friends. As you receive your drivers license or learners permit, please sign up to be an organ donor.
Written 1/18/14, by Sarah’s dad:
It has been a day of anguish and tears, but also a day of grace and peace. We learned this morning that our sweet Sarah will not be with us much longer. The injury to her brain from a lack of oxygen is too severe for her ever to regain the ability to breathe on her own, and Michelle and I and her brothers and sister want to allow her to pass from this world naturally. Sometime in the next few days, perhaps on Monday or Tuesday, the support system that has been enabling her to breathe will be removed, and she will be allowed to die a natural death. She will pass into God’s care in peace and silence while being embraced by those who loved her, and accompanied by the prayers of so many who asked for God’s aid and mercy in her hours of need.
Some of you may still not know that Sarah suffered from severe depression and took her own life. This is a difficult fact for those who knew her to comprehend, because Sarah was a girl who was always smiling, was kind and generous to every person she met, and cared deeply about other people and their struggles. She was also, however, a girl who was beset by the pain that can only be known by those who battle severe depression. Her mother and I discovered her illness last month, and only by accident when we caught her cutting herself. As it turns out she had been depressed for almost a year, and though we got her started with treatment right away, her depression was so severe that it ultimately consumed her. I wish we could have known earlier so we could have started her treatment before last month, but Sarah did a good job of concealing her illness from those around her, and I will cry about that for a long time. For all of us who knew her and loved her, she knew that we might wonder if there might have been something that we should or could have done to help her, so she left us all a message. On the mirror behind her door she took lipstick and wrote “It’s not your fault,” and then left us one last beautiful kiss on the glass. I imagine it was the last thing that she wrote, just before she took her own life. At that moment she was finally at peace, having settled upon a way to escape her pain, but even so she was still thinking of us and trying her best to ease the pain she knew we would experience because of her leaving.
As I said above, it has also been a day of grace and peace. So, so many prayers have been raised in Sarah’s name, and so many kind words have been sent our way. I added Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, to our list of states where people are praying for Sarah, as well as Haiti, The Netherlands, and Germany. We have seen lots of leggings and plenty of red (her favorite color), and this evening when we took a break from the hospital and drove up to our house we were greeted by red Christmas lights, red ribbons, and a red flag with an angel that reminds us of our own Christmas angel, Sarah Michelle, born on December 28, 1998. This love that you have shown us has been such a blessing in these dark and helpless hours. We ask now that you keep praying for Sarah as she makes her journey back home to God, and also pray for her mother and I and all of her loved ones and friends as we struggle to face a life without her. Sarah will still be kept alive by machines for a few more days while we allow for a few family members to travel to Virginia to say their goodbyes, and also so that we can make arrangements for some of Sarah’s youthful and strong organs to bring healing to others who are beset by illness. Her mother, brothers, sister, and I came to that decision together, knowing that Sarah would want it that way.
Love is a wonderful, powerful, thing, and God’s love is the most powerful of all. We have felt so much love during the past four days, and that love will get us through the coming months and years. Sarah always told us she loved us—almost incessantly. On her way out the door to school, before she went to a friend’s house, on her way to the store, and of course before she turned in for the night. I will miss those “I love you Dad” moments so much—more than I can put into words. I hope each of you reading this will never miss a chance to say “I love you” to those you love. Sarah would want that.
I’m sending peace and strength to Sarah’s family, and at 3pm will stop everything to pray for each of them, especially Sarah. If you are reading this and need help, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com and I’ll do everything I can to find you the best help possible. You are loved.