Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Big Chill

(Please see update in comments.)

It all started with an email from a high school friend titled, "Bad, bad news". I opened it up and read a very cryptic note that gave me the chills: "Just heard....GraceAnn passed away last night, something about a train in Bellmore last night.She has 2 boys.... not sure what happened...holy...."

My first thought was to blame this damn Long Island Railroad, with it's infamous gap problems. Although I hadn't seen Grace Ann since right after high school (somehow, she never made it to any of the reunions), I always remembered how tiny and petite she was (she even won "class body"). I was saddened to think that a beautiful woman was lost to the claws of the LIRR because of her miniscule stature. But what really gave me the creeps was that I had woken up that morning at 4:30am, and couldn't go back to sleep. Since I'm within walking distance of the train, I kept hearing it's slow and steady chug-a-chug as it came in from the towns just east and west of us. It would be picking up the early birds in my own town who either wanted to get to Manhattan early enough to deal with the lines at Starbucks, or to drop off the night owls who spent a weekend in the city. Twice, I heard the honking of the express train, warning all passengers still waiting on the platform to stand back and keep clear of the tracks. But for some reason, a vision of someone nameless and faceless kept creeping into my head. My daughter had shared a horror story with me a few months ago about a passenger who met an untimely demise after being hit by a train at another station, and I couldn't stop thinking about this person and how scared they must have been when they realized that they weren't going to make it. I actually had to say a prayer to get this vision out of my head so I could go back to sleep. When I read the devastating email, I couldn't help but think how ironic my thoughts were.

I decided to look up the local newspaper online and see if anything was in the obituaries. While I didn't find any information there, what I did find after doing a quick search was disheartening: "Woman Killed by LIRR Train in Apparent Suicide."

...Suicide?? No, it couldn't be. People like Grace Ann don't commit suicide. She was one of the most popular girls in high school: a beautiful girl who was captain of the cheerleading team, a bright student, a smile always on her face. She married her high school sweetheart, and they had two teenage boys. There was just no way it could be a suicide. She wouldn't do that to her family; not to her husband, her kids, even her parents, who I heard are still alive. I don't understand. Dear God, I just don't understand.

When someone is crying out for help and feels like dying, sometimes they go a gentler route and take a handful of pills with some strong alcohol. Or they'll slit their wrists and lay in a warm bath tub. Or they might sit in their running car inside the garage so they'll go peacefully and easily (and unknowingly). In all these instances, there is always the thought that someone might find them and actually have the time to save them, and quite possibly, that was the outcome they were hoping for in the first place. But when one throws themselves in front of a speeding train, they are absolutely sure and certain of what they want their outcome to be...and it's the final ending of death.

Although I search for answers, there are none. I can not begin to imagine the pain that she must have been in to take her life in such a violent, disfiguring, permanent way. The "what if's" swim around in my head, only to be sucked into the whirlpool of helplessness. If I feel this badly after not having seen her in so many years, what must her family be going through? And those children...being a teenager is so hard emotionally as it is. Are they feeling guilt? Are they accepting all of this? Or are they just as shocked as the rest of us? Could someone have helped her? Was her depression obvious? And the most disturbing thought of all...Dear Lord...where is she now? The questions are unending, and none of them have definitive answers. But the one that haunts me unendingly is only short and sad: Why?

Annie introduced me to this wonderful video several weeks ago on her blog. I only wish Grace Ann had seen it before she took her own life. It's just a reminder that no matter what, all is not hopeless. You always need to keep the faith...and you always need to know you're not alone. God bless her family. And God, in your mercy...please bless Grace Ann.

Lifehouse Video


Loving Annie said...

Many blessings to her and her Soul, Lisa...

I have been at a point where I felt like she did, and the depth of heartbroken pain is immense.

It is a horribly difficult thing to do, to walk away from all you love, and give up so totally on life.

It is usually a series of crushing let-downs, and self-esteem eroding hurts that occur over such an extended period of time that truly all of your hope is just gone...

It feels like you are inquicksand, and try though you might, finally the despair simply drags you down, too much, too deep, and you have no energy to fight it.

Strong though other people think you may be, in times like that, your strength is non-existent, and your normal ability to bounce back just isn't there.

My enormous empathy to her, and to her family and friends, who in their own way will also be grieving her loss deeply.

Do not blame her for her pain or her actions.
Try to understand them.
Truly see through her eyes. In that place, there is forgiveness and love.

Rest in peace, Grace Ann, and may the angels keep you company, and you know no more pain...

Loving Annie

Shimmerrings said...

Say hello to my Tim, Grace Ann... may you know the Peace that I know he now enjoys. I pray strength for your family, for while you are no longer suffering, it is their turn now. There are many lessons they will learn, from this... I pray their strength will be enduring, so that your death was not in vain.

Someone once told me that death and dying are for those around them, who remain. It only makes sense, to me, for once the last breath leaves the body, the soul is set free.

Lisa said...

Dear Loving Annie,

I'm glad that you found your way out of your despair. You are a blessing to others, and it's wonderful that you are in a good place now!

I think everyone has experienced hopelessness at some point in their life. But to go through a period of weeks or months feeling that desperate must be debilitating. I often wonder why some people seek help and some people don't. Why some people can identify that they have a problem, and others can't seem to do that.

I'm still looking for answers regarding this whole incident; the local newspapers haven't mentioned a thing, and we can't even find an obituary. I guess that means the family is still looking for answers as well. It's all so sad.

Take good care,

Lisa said...

Dear Shimmerings,

It's amazing how painful this thing called "life" can be. I'm so sorry for your loss.

I think you are absolutely right as far as death goes. I try to explain to my kids that death is part of life, and it doesn't escape anyone. When my mom died, I knew she was in peace and I knew she was happy; however, we were left to carry on without her, and it hurt the ones who were left behind. I always have faith that I will see her again. That faith has gotten me through so much.

I hope that Grace Ann's family will find their way to healing sooner than later. They are going to feel a wide range of emotions, and I'm sure not all of them will be good. They truly need blessings and prayers at this time.

Take good care,

Kacey said...

We really never know about suicides. They could be depressed, but then again ---her husband could have a pregnant girlfriend and her teenage sons could be runaways, on drugs or in jail. Sometimes, people have such a painful life that they can't bear to go on --- and we on the outside cannot see behind the facade they show to the outer world. Life is very hard for some people --- the rest of us are so fortunate.

Lisa said...

Dear Kacey,

Her obituary finally came out today, and stated that she "lost her battle with depression." Apparently, she had been suffering from it for quite some time.

I do know that, from the outside, according to the people who lived around her, her life was perfectly normal. They said that she and her husband were a good-looking couple with a nice house, and they were both "very, very nice." Apparently, the kids were stellar; one person even said that they were two boys that any parent would be proud of. Both parents were involved in the school community and their sons' baseball teams. The person said you would never know there was any dysfunction there at all, and they were totally shocked.

I guess it really does go to show that you can look like you have it all on the outside, but on the inside, your life can be totally empty. I still can't believe what happened. And no one will probably ever know the truth. It's so heartbreaking.

In the meantime, how are you recuperating? I hope you're feeling better every day!! Congrats on the 9/11 contest...you wrote a very poignant post! It was a winner!

Take good care,

Mark said...

My blessings to you, Grace Ann and all those who were touched by her.
The only one who knows why is Grace Ann. We will never truly know why. Let this be a reminder, a wake up call to all of us to be aware of ourselves and those around us. Let us be reminded to not be afraid to reach out or reach out to someone who is having trouble, wrestling with inner demons. May you find peace, for I am certain that Grace Ann has.

Summer said...

This is sad beyond words! I am so sorry for her and her family. just sad!

Big Dave T said...

I just saw an article in the Sunday paper on how more young women are committing suicide. I never did read it to find out why.
Now I wish I had. Maybe I could at least try to understand what happened with your friend.

Good inspirational video, even if the actor playing God slightly resembled Curly of the Three Stooges.

Lisa said...

Dear Mark, Summer, Dave, and fellow bloggers:

I just got back from the wake, and the sadness was just overwhelming. We found out that about three years ago, she began suffering from depression. Apparently, she was very stubborn and didn't want to get treatment. I also heard that she was taking meds recently, felt better, and decided to go off of them. This is probably what led her to do what she did. She had an imbalance, an illness; left untreated, like most illnesses, it eventually killed her.

My best friend and I kneeled to pray by the casket, both of us holding back tears. As we got up, we were each drawn to different things in front of us. I noticed a framed essay written by one of her kids touting her super-human capabilities to work and still come home and cook and clean, and always find time to love them, even when they didn't always respect her. I pretty much lost it with that. But my friend picked up a prayer card and tearfully sighed. She showed it to me and said, "That's exactly what I just prayed for!" On the card was a picture of Jesus embracing what clearly looked like an exhausted, desperate soul. Jesus's face looked as though it felt every ounce of pain that the person he was hugging was in. When we walked outside, she told me her whole prayer: she asked if Jesus would just hold Graceann in his arms and give her the comfort that she couldn't find on this earth. When she found the card right after that, she knew God answered her prayer. She was left with the feeling that our friend was finally at peace.

Depression needs to be taken seriously. People can not just "snap out of it". If they could, they would. Although my friend and I both went over the "what ifs" again in the car on the way home, we concluded that if she was too despondent to live for her own kids, then there was probably nothing anyone could have done, aside from physically picking her up and putting her in a mental facility. I guess it's natural for everyone to feel helpless at a time like this. We also have to accept that there may never be a real explanation...that's the hardest thing of all...just trying to understand why this had to happen, and accepting that she took the truth with her.

May God bless her soul, and the ones she left behind--especially those dear children.

simply me said...

Li - I know that you went to the wake today and it must have been powerfully difficult.
Depression has no boundaries, it does not care about race, beauty or wealth. It is one of those dark clouds that doesn't go away no matter how well life may be going on the outside. Its manifestation takes hold of everything, it overpowers love.
Her world must have been a very bleak and dark place where she got no rest.
May God in all his mercy Bless her now with eternal peace.

Lisa said...

Dear Maria,

I don't think I ever really took depression as seriously as I do at this moment, even though I've gone through "dark" moments in my life. I will never look at it the same way again after this. I think I finally learned that it is, indeed, an illness, and not so easily controlled or cured. Lucky are we who can pull ourselves up when we're feeling down; someone like Graceann started to feel down, and just kept spiraling lower and lower.

There are all sorts of theories about why she ended up in that horribly dark place, and it's so sad. All I know is that what is presented on the outside is not always what's going on on the inside. It's just heartbreaking that she saw no way out except this.


CuriousC said...

I have no words to add, yet want to say ... something, anything. Depression sucks from every angle and every perspective.

annie said...

I remember being at a point in my life where I considered ending my life an option. Right after we got home from over three months in the hospital with Izzy. It was such a hard time, we were given no hope from the medical community, and I felt like she and I should vanish. Thank God for God. If that makes sense. I found new hope and growing faith in His words and came out of that mentality that ending my life was an option. I am so sad for this stranger, so sad that she was so unhappy. I pray for her sons, and for her husband.

Lisa said...

Oh, Annie, I can so imagine where you must've been at that point, there can not be anything more horrifying in life than to see your child suffer. It's very generous of you to share these deepest of feelings here. I'm so glad that you found your way out through God.

Growing up catholic, I didn't have a kind and loving God to go to, only someone who was going to punish me for every little thing I did. I started falling away from the church after the priest told me in confession that I would go to hell if I ever remarried without an annulment. I didn't feel that I had to pay money for God's forgiveness, especially when I didn't even have any. It was only when something devastating happened to me two years ago that I left the church permanently and started on a new path towards the kind and loving God I know today. So I do understand when you say, "Thank God for God!" Without Him, I would've stayed in that hopeless pit.

Graceann was catholic, and her family was very involved with the church. I feel that the problems she was having made her feel very guilty, and the last place to go when you feel guilty is confession. For something that's supposed to make you feel better, somehow you end up coming out feeling worse than you did before you went in. I honestly feel that she was not comfortable enough to go seek God in a different way, and for that I am so very, very sad. I believe with all of my heart that He could've saved her.

Take good care,

Lisa said...


I am willing to bet that at least 90% of us bloggers have experienced some sort of depression in our lives. I feel that I have to delve deeper into knowing more about depression, because I was very narrow-minded about it. I now see that severe depression knows no boundaries. Graceann was just about the last person I would ever imagine who would do something like this. I still can't get over it, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Take good care,

Lisa said...

TO MY FELLOW BLOGGING FRIENDS: I DON'T KNOW IF ANY OF YOU WILL SEE THIS COMMENT, BUT IT'S WORTH A TRY...I'm also not sure about printing an address online, but I figured the people who read my blog are the best of the best, and would never want anything but good wishes for their fellow human beings.


2847 Riverside Drive
Wantagh, NY 11793

Thank you for your kindness.

Love to you all,

Ray said...

This comment may seem as late as it is out of left field. Bear with me for a sec.

I found your blog, and ultimately this piece, by googling an odd word: "Heraea." It popped into my head the other night and, while I remembered exactly what it was, I wondered what had become of it in the consciousness of writers, however many years after that sort of Sports Night thing was no longer necessary for women anymore.

I'm guessing you're from East Meadow. I was Class of '77 and gone from the Island by the end of that year. I haven't been able to guess your class year yet, other than to think it's not too far off from mine (our daughter is 16, not that we all went forth and multiplied on a set schedule or anything). Still, I've found myself trying to remember if I ever knew a Graceann from the school, or Modell's, or church, or any of the other connections of my life back then.

Even if I didn't know her, I've seen more than my share of that kind of despair. My sympathies, however belated, for your loss, and thank you for the expressions of kindness and perspective on her passing.

(I only use blogger to reply to people on it; the link on my profile goes to a specialty blog about the Mets, but if you want to say hello to the rest of my odd life, that's here.)

Nice to have "met" you, even under these circumstances,