Following my sister’s Oct. 31, 2015, suicide, I wrote, and read, the following eulogy at her funeral:
There are going to be times in our lives when nothing makes sense.
When nothing comes together according to plan.
When there’s nothing … we could have done to change anything.
No matter how hard we tried. And no matter how hard we wanted things to be different. No matter what we think we could have done. No matter …
You wake up one day, and everything has changed.
You wake up, realizing how grateful you are for the people in your life. And for every single moment with them you are granted.
You wake up, and realize nothing is guaranteed, that life can be delicate to the fullest, and that you have to take care of what is right in front of you. That you have to nurture it, and grow with it.
And that you have to hold on to opportunity, chances. And with this, love more fervently, seeking opportunities that had been in front of us for so long, finding that through this, we help where we can, we make differences where we can, we give all the love where we can.
And with this – with this – we find we are desperate, desperate, desperate for second chances.
For change. For contact. For the opportunities – for both us, and others.
… if you’re going to tell the story of someone so young, you’re going to detail their extraordinary strength, and wisdom and their powerful heart …
From here, we will tell of (Katie’s) spirit and drive and her determination to be the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter, the most wonderful sister to many, and most amazing friend to even more.
From here, we will share that she went to great lengths to serve others. That she put others first – always – before herself. That she was the first to reach out her hand to those in need.
She was the first to defend her family. The first to defend her friends. The first to provide love and companionship and friendship to those who needed it most.
From here, we will remember that she bounced into a room with a smile that lit up the world. With eyes that danced, and with an energy that either lifted you or scared you … in all the right ways.
Even at her young age, she was both our cheerleader, and our defender.
She was our rock, and our foundation. She might have come to our family from a different bloodline, but she was definitely our lifeline.
She was our keeper. Our soul. She was strong, ambitious, determined, faithful, loyal, stubborn … she was lovely. Funny, loud. Smart. Disciplined.
And here is what I believe she would want us to do from today, forward:
Go ahead and cry. You’re going to, anyway.
And take your time. Grieve. Her loss is heavy on us all. The pain is deep. And it will take time to work through. There will be tears and smiles and laughter from memories.
She will want us to remember it all. The good, the funny, the hard times that helped us all grow. She would want to wrap her arms around us now. Around Demitrius. Around Makayla. Around our father.
All of you. She would cry with you for a while, and tell you she is OK.
Then she might make you a drink.
Dance with you for a while. Stay out too late, and wake up at noon.
And then she will tell us to go on.
To live our lives, to be useful, to give. To serve.
To be good friends to each other. To be the first to reach out our hand, the first to give to others when they need help.
To love on her daughter. To reach out and love on Demitrius, and her father, Liz, Kayleigh, Brittany … the families, each other. And probably … even … to check on her cats.
And she will be watching to make sure we do this. So we are counting on you to continue her life. Your life. To live in a way that exemplifies love for all.
Because … if you’re going to tell the story of someone so young, you’re going to detail their extraordinary strength, and wisdom and their powerful heart …
Katie … you will be missed. You’re free.
It took a long time to get to today.
To talk about depression. To talk about suicide. And to do both without crying at the drop of a hat. Admittedly, there are times I still sigh the deepest sigh in not understanding why my sister couldn’t find one more day of hope, but more because I just miss her that much. Today, as many others have long since asking us how we are doing since she died, we have learned to lean on each other more: family, those in our circle.
Today, life is a little less heavy. A little more carefree.
Hope is found where we work hard in making a difference. I find hope in knowing we’re working hard to reduce stigma that we felt when Katie lived with her depression, that she felt from others, and that we certainly felt after she died. I find hope in knowing that once you’re not afraid to talk about it, you can change minds and attitudes. Change one life, and you’ve changed hundreds.