This post is in memory of
Born Oct 15, 1992
Died Mar 16, 2009
Monday morning – fairly early on the east coast – I got a call from my friend who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was even earlier there, in the central time zone, so this call was most unexpected.
I could tell she was crying before she spoke. I asked her what was wrong. She managed, “Bee, can you help me? Emily’s dead.” I was speechless. It made no sense.
Emily is my friend’s 16 year old daughter. She was beautiful and smart. She was finally getting her “act” together – realizing that education was the ticket out of poverty. She finally had goals and a dream.
Emily did not have an easy life for the 16 years that she was here with her family. She had some health problems when she was young. The family moved often, with no real place of their own. She had recently been having seizures and her family took her to all the doctors and had all the tests done. But the health system told them there was nothing there. They could not explain the problem.
Sunday night, Emily stayed over a friend’s house. She died during the night. They are doing an autopsy because no one can do anything but guess that it might have been a seizure. She did not harm herself (e.g., with drugs, alcohol or suicidal actions) and she was not harmed by another (e.g., assault, murder). She is the asterisk to the mortality statistics of the teen population on the reservation. She had made it past all the traps and pitfalls. Only her own health can be questioned.
My friend is overwhelmed with the arrangements. I tried to find a way to fly out to be with her – but air fare is exorbitant when it is for last minute travel. The best prices I could find were well over $1000! I couldn’t afford that! So I am 2000 miles away from my friend, trying to give comfort and support. It’s painful for both of us.
I have tried to do what I can financially. My friends, as you recall, live in a home with no running water and questionably safe electricity. They have no stove or full sized fridge. Their only heat this winter was an electric heater we sent. They don’t have the money to pay for many of their regular needs, let alone unexpected tragedies. So I’ll pay for a cake and flowers and some funeral expenses. It doesn’t make up for not being able to give the hugs that are needed, but it’s something.
If you are inclined to pray, please say a prayer for Emily. I have already. I believe that she is in a far better place than this world and that she is happy. She will never feel hunger or cold or pain again. Say a prayer for her family, too – especially her mother. She may know those things as well, but that won’t quell a mother’s grief.