Kate and I rushed to the hospital. We were ushered into tiny waiting room where we were introduced to family members who would become our friends over the next three hours. I noted that a hospital chaplain was in attendance; not a good sign. Down the hall, Drew's mom, our dear friend Terry, sat vigil at her daughter's bedside. Terry, a nurse at Mercy herself, watched as her friends and colleagues tried valiantly to revive Kirsten who swallowed a combination of OTC drugs in an effort to take her own life. At about 9PM, the ER team lost their battle. Terry lost her daughter; Drew and his younger brother Alex, their older sister.
We've known the Smithsons for more than 15 years. We were neighbors in the Anderson Township suburb outside of Cincinnati. Jay and Drew, a year apart in age, became fast friends and the three of us spent countless hours in our pool, playing whiffle ball and watching movies in my man cave. Drew still refers to Kate and I as his second parents.
Last year, the family endured a painful divorce. As it turned out, Kate and I were looking to sell our condo and move to the city. And Terry was looking for a new home and a fresh start. I found it beautiful symmetry that this family, who we considered to be part of our own family, would move into the home we had come to love.
We didn't know Kirsten very well. She was quiet, very shy, a bookworm some might say. She preferred reading or playing on her computer to just about anything else. But she loved our swimming pool-loved to bring her friends and hang out with her extended family. She blossomed into a beautiful young woman and attended Northern Kentucky University. The last time I saw Kirsten was on the day last summer when her family moved into our condo. She was excited and seemed happy to be starting a new life.
There is nothing one can say to a mother who has lost a child in this manner. Nothing makes sense of a tragedy this immense. And words cannot possibly assuage her unbearable suffering. So, you simply hold her, absorb some of her grief, provide some level of comfort, if only for a moment.
I"m glad my final image of Kirsten, of this beautiful, engaging young woman, is a happy one-from a moment when her world seemed alive with possibility and hope. With that, I would like to share something from one of my favorite writers, Annie Lammot, who wrote so poetically about love and loss:
“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott