author: "One More Day: A powerful true story of suicide, loss, and a woman's newfound faith"

pieces of us

I've been asked a lot recently if writing my book was healing.

If writing about my sister's suicide helped. And it's a hard question to answer. On one hand, yes. It was healing because it allowed me to navigate my way through a tumultuous time in our lives. It allowed me to express myself in ways I hadn't allowed myself to before.

But it wasn't healing in a way that made things better. I'm not the same person I was three years ago when my sister died. I'm not even the same person as I was a year ago. So in what has become a stock answer to the healing question, I say yes, but it doesn't take away the questions.

It doesn't take away the "why" she did this. It doesn't take away the depression I suffered through, and continue to, as a result. It doesn't take all that away. But it did allow me to share a story that I pray will help others.

I left nothing out. I was told once when working on a newspaper column that, "If you're going to tell this story, you need to tell the whole thing." And I never forgot that. If I'm going to tell you about my sister's suicide, then you need to know about all the puzzle pieces that came with it.

The family dynamics, the depression, the drugs and alcohol. Not every story has a happy ending, but at the end of every story, you can find hope.

Here, some excerpts from the book - due out this month. Here, some hope:

It is hard to stand on a shoreline and not stare out into a vastness of opportunity. And not see the magnitude that life offers. The second chances, or even the chances at all. To stare, to breathe, to wonder, and finally, to fully hope. It is difficult sometimes to not understand how some do not see that. But isn’t that what I just went through? Isn’t that what just consumed me for the past three years? Isn’t that what I just fought back from?

*** ***

Don’t allow “life” to tear you apart permanently. I almost did. Or at least it felt that way. As the depression worsened, I became more and more numb, and I saw no way out ... and a few times, didn’t want to work on it. I was too tired, cared too little.
But as I looked out at the ocean during this trip with my daughter, I could feel the power of the ocean and the power it had to pull me in. To show me that life was worth living. That tomorrow was a new day, that possibility is possible.
That life is worth living. The endlessness of the ocean showed me that – that life continues.

*** ***

My newspaper editor messaged me to check up on me when I was in Texas for Katie’s funeral. I told him, “If one more person tells me this is part of God’s plan, my head is going to spin” because I was certain God’s plan was not for my sister to hang herself.
He said, “We’re tight. I wouldn’t say that.” And for the first time, I felt validated. Because when you’re struggling with God, and telling Him you’ll get to Him when you’re ready, the last thing you want to hear is that this was part of His plan. Or, for that matter, that she’s in a better place. Or, to not cry because she wouldn’t want to see you like that.
But God’s plan. As a Christian, I believe in his plan for me, and I do believe everything happens according to it. I also believe God gives us freedom to make choices. And she made the wrong choice. That’s hard to say because she’s my sister. What would the right choice have been for her? I don’t know. More therapy? For her to stay on her medications? For her to stop drinking?

*** ***

The first time I envisioned myself dying was almost two years after my sister’s death – and in the height of my depression – as I drove through town, and a truck pulled out in front of me from a parking space along a curb.
And within seconds in my mind, I imagined a confrontation with the driver, resulting in both of us getting out of our cars, and him beating me to death.
The what? Who thinks like this?! I can say that now, but at the time, it was simple: let me die.

*** ***

The text message came from one of my sister’s best friends around 10 p.m., asking me if I could talk. It was April 5, 2017, about 17 months after we lost my sister, and emotions tended to remain high, so I took her call.
And she cried over my sister, and struggled, and I listened and cried with her.
And together, we missed Katie.
That next morning, I cried again. And then for two weeks, I couldn’t stop.
My now-husband suggested very, very calmly and quietly during that two-week period, “I think you might be depressed.”
And I shot back just as quietly – but quickly, “I’m not depressed. I’m just really, really sad.”
And then cried more.      
“I’m just so sad. And tired. I’m so tired.”

*** ***

After Katie died, it was a couple of months before we began talking about the “how” in a public way. Suicide wasn’t mentioned in her obituary or at her standing-room-only memorial service, where hundreds gathered in a sea of purple to honor my sister.
The word never left our lips unless you were within our tight and trusted circle. Don’t say anything, we’d say. People don’t talk about suicide or mental illness near as much as is needed. And if 123 people are dying by suicide daily, why is this? If this is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., why is this?
If we are losing our family members and friends, why is this?
We are met with the most gut-wrenching pain imaginable, and at the same time, feel we have to hide the cause of it; hide the reason our loved one died. Can you imagine feeling you can’t talk to anyone about this because you don’t want your sister judged? Because you know nobody will understand? Because you are afraid of their reaction?

*** ***

Tomorrow, I’ll call everyone back and tell them there was a mistake. That she’s alive. That was my deepest wish. That I was wrong. That my father was wrong, too. That it was one huge misunderstanding.
I’ll call Katie and tell her how upset I was that she scared us like this. I’ll call my father and tell him, “I told you.” I’ll call the police department and shame them for giving me incorrect information.
I’ll call Barb and apologize for making her go through what she did with me. We’ll drink the bottle of wine.
It was midnight before I finally walked back to my bedroom. Before I succumbed to the day that brought forth every emotion imaginable. From anger, to relief, to relaxation, joy, shock, anger, exhaustion.
And I crawled into bed, and clung on to a pillow and cried out in a level of pain my sister must have been feeling about 22 hours earlier.