"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shooting Star

We arrived an hour early and discovered the parking lot to the high school was already full. By the time we parked at a church a block away and walked into the gym the chairs on the floor were full and the bleachers nearly packed. By the time the minister began speaking there wasn't an empty seat in the house.

I sat in the midst of those hundreds of people and wondered how it was possible for that much love and caring to miss the mark so completely when it might still have made a difference.

The 18 year old daughter of one of Walt's colleagues took her life on May 23. She was athletic, beautiful, and known to be a person who sought out ways to help others. Her radiant smile in the pictures of the slide show was its own form of sunshine beaming out into the darkened space. In many of the pictures she was surrounded by girls of equal grace and gorgeousness. She belonged and was treasured. She had a loving boyfriend whose speech at the service was heartbreaking. She was headed to college in the fall on a soccer scholarship. She was a hero, a role model and a young woman with everything to live for.

She also had an eating disorder, and deep wounds referred to but not identified as the minister worked to both celebrate her life and to help those sitting before him begin to mourn.

I thought I could see pain in her eyes in the most recent pictures, but wondered if I was projecting.

The minister called her a shooting star. Her time here so short, but every minute of it burning bright and leaving a trail of light that changed the lives of everyone she came into contact with.

Hers is the fifth suicide of a young person in our county in the last few months. It's the third in my life in the same amount of time. While I didn't know this young woman, I feel this loss as though it were my own. And maybe each death like this does belong to all of us just a little bit.

I find myself asking the same questions I asked when Kathleen's death was so fresh: How can a much loved person not feel that love? How is it possible for a person surrounded by people who love her, knowing everything about her, to still believe she's that alone? What makes one person able to walk through despair and another not? And where is God in all of this?

Still no answers. Only sadness.

At the end of the service, the minister asked the family to stay seated and just absorb the round of applause that was about to be offered to their daughter/sister/niece/cousin/granddaughter. In seconds every other person in the gym was standing, clapping, and focusing their love toward the front rows. It sounded like a heavy summer rain on a tin roof—cleansing, intense, enveloping.

The very last thing we saw as the service ended was the parents hugging. In itself not unusual except they've been divorced for years, and not amicably. Dad sat on one side of the aisle. Mom on the other. So even in her death, this shooting star managed to be a healing force.

And perhaps that's all we can do: Allow the pain of loss to soften our hearts. Enlarge our capacity to love in the soft soil of that new vulnerability. Seek ways to share the healing light born from that tender love.


Charlene N. K. said...

It's a heartbreaking story, and yet illuminating. Once again, you have written this young woman's story beautifully.
To answer your question, "Where is God in all of these?", I believe that God is always up there watching over us. He cares so much about us that he gave us instructions on how to live a meaningful life by means of principles written in the Bible.(1 Peter 5:6) If we follow those instructions, our sufferings will be minimized and we can live a happy and satisfying life. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
For a better understanding about this subject, you may want to visit these URLs: http://www.watchtower.org/e/20040215/article_01.htm
or http://www.watchtower.org/e/20030101/article_01.htm

Kelly H-Y said...

Heartbreaking. Beautifully written.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Wow, so sad. Such a loss.

I've been (near) there, where everything seems lost and even though you have life and love pushing you forward, your focus is on a personal demon standing in the middle of the road blocking your happiness.

Sometimes the demon wins, but sometimes he doesn't.


Anonymous said...

Depression is a deadly disease that needs to be talked about openly. She couldn't feel the love because depression impairs your ability to think rationally. I saw a bumper sticker when I was at my most depressed, it said, "Don't believe everything you think." This is especially true for depressed people.

Stacy said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I sat at a training at work one year and they showed us picture after picture of these lovely students and their accomplishments. We thought that they were going to tell us that is why we teach, instead they told us all of these students committed sucide for some kind of bullying. It is very sad.

Wanda..... said...

Your post has brought tears to my eyes, Deb. I can feel their loss too and what a loss to endure. I have a granddaughter that graduates next week from high school and one that graduated college last week. Can't imagine the heartbreak of the parents and grandparents of this 18 year old child. It would be devastating.

DJan said...

My heart breaks for those parents, and for all who loved her. I hope your post, as well as the service, can make a difference in the lives of others. It's the only thing we can do: reach out to those left behind.

Sandi said...

Oh Deb, I'm sitting here will overflowing eyes, remembering, wondering, asking the same questions. How can those we love not know the love, not find it enough, not lean into it, not accept it. I don't know, I don't know.
It hurts to read this, even though you told it eloquently, it still hurts. I've been so torn up by the recent suicides here, it's hard to fathom how their thinking gets so twisted away from the solid love core that must have been there at some point in time.
Take care of you. Love, Sandi

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Your passionate paragraph of questions breaks my heart. If only we could know the answers. I suppose we never truly do know what goes on with another's soul. What brings them joy - what does not. What goes on in their minds. Or why.

Seems I only have more questions to add to yours.

yaya said...

Hopefully the tragedy of this will touch another young person in a way that will make them stop and seek help or realize how much suicide hurts families, friends, and the world when it loses a young bright star as this girl was. I guess all we can do is pray for our youth in all areas and try to be a listening ear, a good friend, a loving parent..and let God heal what they and we can't.

#1Nana said...

I think you can get so far down in the pit that you can't see the light to find your way out. It is such a sad story that this happens way too frequently.

Beautifully written.

colbymarshall said...

That's so sad, But all we can do it the best we can. It's a hard truth that sometimes, people give up. But thankfully, for the rest of us, we can remember and hold onto those memories, and we can choose to live our lives to the fullest.

Linda Hoye said...

Oh this breaks my heart. I pray this young woman's life will continue to impact others for a long time to come. Beautifully written, Deb.

Wanda said...

Oh, no. Not another one. How sad and difficult. May all who knew her find peace. May her passing bring healing to her and any around her who need it.

Kathryn Magendie said...

heartbreaking, lovely -

you know I lost my half-brother in WV recently by suicide ... it's just ... hard to bear.

hugging the world

Desiree said...

Once again, your words are absolutely perfectly measured. You have an incredible gift with being able to convey every tiny nuance of feeling and every shade of emotion through your writing, Deb. I imagine that for her family the hardest part will be not ever knowing WHY?

Janna Leadbetter said...

Heartbreaking. So much pain, and it affects so many others, too.

Sally Wessely said...

I can barely see to write a comment because of the burning tears in my eyes. My heart is breaking for this beautiful girl who suffered so deeply while bringing so much joy to others. My heart is breaking for her parents and her family.

As you know, I am way too familiar with this devastating loss when a child takes his or her own life. We must do something about the insidious loss of life of some our most bright, shining, shooting stars who are leaving us by suicide.

God bless you Deb. I'm sure this service was hard on you, but it may have been somewhat healing also.

tricia said...

Wow, Deb. This is the second time in less than a year that our lives have intersected through the loss of a person we didn't know we both knew. Ellie, her older sister was one of my students at Skyview. So sad... I would have gone to the memorial, but I had another commitment. Your writing is beautiful and reflective.

Katie Gates said...

So sad.

Terri Tiffany said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I can understand how someone can feel all alone even surrounded by love--sometimes we miss it, so absorbed in ourselves. We even turn away from God's love, thinking He has forgotten us. I love the ending you wrote about her parents.

Amber said...

Lord. I wish I had these answers.
This must be hard on you, Deb. Please take care with yourself.



Unknown said...

Well done! You captured the essence of that moment. kt

Laura said...

Oh Deb, I'm so saddened by this. Depression is so mysterious...it is not logical, there is no sense to be made of it...none. All we can do is love with our whole hearts and pray that that is enough...sometimes it is...sometimes it isn't.

sending you a gentle hug my friend...I'm sorry it has been so long since I've been by. I miss you.

Unknown said...

prayers and love to you and her family and all who knew her.

I cannot even imagine.