Since it was Wednesday yesterday, I was planning on writing my usual hilarious and mind-bending summary of the last episode of The Bachelorette. I was looking forward to sharing with you the latest adventures of Emily Maynard, her veneers, and her bevy of beautiful bachelors.
But then I got a call from my husband and mother, telling me some horrible news. News I feel compelled to share with you.
One of our close family friends was found dead in her apartment yesterday. Her name is Marsha and she has been involved in our lives for at least seventeen years. I want to talk about her passing for several reasons.
Marsha has struggled with crippling depression and anxiety for many years now. I know this because we’ve had conversations about it – she knows I’ve been there and I understand. I’ve been in bad scary places before, but perhaps not as bad and scary as Marsha. Some days her depression was so horrific she couldn’t get out of bed. She endured bouts that lasted many weeks or months, tried many types of medication.
Pure sadness. Pure suffering
Marsha began her last retreat a little over a month ago. She called me to tell me she had to take a break from helping me on Mondays, that her depression was really bad and she didn’t have the energy to come over. Marsha lived on very little income and we had started up a loose arrangement with her helping me clean my house. Sloan and I would drop off Beatty as school and drive over to her apartment, pick her up, and then putter all morning – cleaning what was necessary while listening to music. We took her home around lunchtime and Sloan would conk out in the back of the car, peaceful and spent.
Many people would look at Marsha’s life and think she didn’t amount to much. She didn’t finish college, she never owned a home, couldn’t work full-time and lived off disability checks, didn’t own a car, wasn’t married and never had children. But I am here right now to tell whoever reads this post that Marsha did many amazing things.
She was a recovering alcoholic who had not touched liquor in over twenty-five years. What strength.
In the past two years, she quit smoking cigarettes completely. She had smoked almost all her life. I was so proud of her. Shortly after cigarettes, she gave up soda. SODA. She loved Mountain Dew too much and decided the sugar wasn’t good for her so she quit. Awesome.
She helped my mother care for my grandfather in the last few years of his life. He had Parkinson’s disease and we had moved him out to Utah to live in my mom’s house. Marsha fed him, cut his hair, bathed him, helped him to the bathroom, took him on drives in his beloved Cadillac, and most of all, showed him love, humor, and respect. I will never, never forget this. What strength.
Every time Marsha came to my home, she made me feel like a rock star. She always told me what a great mother I was, even though on some days I feel less than great. She would mention how she could barely take care of herself let alone a family, and make me feel the simple things I did for them were fantastic. She always told me I was creative and smart and that I made my house look so nice. She always told me how great it was that I still tried to maintain my individuality, stay busy with my own projects, and make travel a priority even though I had a family. Marsha was the best cheerleader.
Above all, Marsha was a loving, kind, and loyal friend to people. She loved her friends and took pleasure in the small things in life. A movie. A lunch date. A new haircut. Digging through a thrift store. Some sugar-free Kool Aid I bought for her.
Just recently, Marsha told many of us she was leaving town for a month to visit a friend in Arizona. She explained that she was trying to pull herself out of the black hole that had been her existence for many weeks. We believed her. Now I realize she was probably planning her end. She mentioned nothing about her darkest thoughts to anyone; instead she called most of her friends and family and had lengthy conversations as her way of saying goodbye. She even offhandedly told her father that when she died she did not want any kind of memorial or service; she just wanted to be cremated.
He said, “Oh Marsha, you’re still so young.”
She just turned fifty a year ago.
I find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call her, to ask her what she’s thinking and if there is something I can do. I wish I had done more for her while she was alive, small tokens of love and care. It’s so easy to do. I wish I could at least have had a chance to say goodbye and thank you.
If you know anyone who suffers from depression, please reach out to them. Please communicate to them there are ways to make life okay again. Please help them get help, because sometimes when you are down that just feels too hard to do. As a friend, you can’t fix everything, but you can let someone know it’s okay to talk about their struggles. There is nothing to be ashamed about. Depression is a sickness just like any other and there are people who can help make it better.
I want to tell the Universe and anyone who reads this post that Marsha’s life mattered. Thank you, Universe, for bringing her into my family’s life. We learned from her, and she was special to us.
I will miss you, Marsha. I hope, after all the pain, you feel peace and happiness.