Today I sit here nine days removed from the darkest day of my life. On the evening of February 16th I called my wife to check in on how her interaction with Emma went. As she answered the phone I knew from her first breath that Emma was gone. I threw my beer in a trash can and started walking immediately back to my hotel in Ahaheim, CA. My girl was gone.
So much raced through my mind; How horrible that Marie had found her. What could we have done differently? Why? God, why?
On that very dark day Emma had finally succumbed to her 2+ year battle with mental illness, specifically the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD began to present in 2016. January 17th if you want to be real clear about it. Marie and I had just arrived in Mexico with our co-workers when my eldest son Jake called and said we needed to get home immediately. Emma was out of control.
Oh, there had been signs earlier. We knew something wasn’t right. Something was brewing. But we didn’t know what. And we really didn’t know quite what to do. At first the incidents were not as common as in her last year and were usually directed outwards to those she loved and, more poignantly, depended on for her sense of self and security.
In her last six months her behavior and lack of control became like a train moving too fast; I could sense the coming disaster and, in fact, whispered to myself “One day I’m going to find her dead.” And yet, I don’t know what else I could have done. Still, there is this huge sense that I could have done more, that I should have done more.
As time moves forward I know that her memory will survive and the pain will fade. I’m told by others that have walked this dark path before me the pain never goes away, but it does dull. As time moves forward I know that her life, and the ripples she started, will continue to affect those she met and quite possibly those she never knew existed.
That would make Emma smile. She cared about people. Emma would get so mad at me for making fun of people or their actions. I mean genuinely mad. She felt everyone should be treated with respect. She felt everyone should feel like someone. Skin color or religion or appearance meant little to her. Emma saw into people. And she longed for people to see her.
I can’t help but feel, to know even, that in her jumbled thinking in those last minutes two things were going through her brain;
- That she really believed she was doing us the favor. That she believed she was protecting us from her behavior when she would rail. Again, that is who she was. Emma never wanted to intentionally hurt anyone and would have so much self-loathing when she realized that she had hurt someone with her words or actions.
- That she was only once again using suicide as a manipulation. That is the BPD at its worst. At some moment I cannot help but believe she realized that she had gone too far and that she needed my help. And I wasn’t there.
I seek peace in the knowledge that two years before BPD took hold that she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. In the end she had so much anger for God, for her cerebral palsy, for her BPD and for her behavior. And I know that God used her, as he uses all, for His mission, not hers or mine. That God trusted Marie and I with her care for fifteen years was truly an honor. I had the great privilege of baptizing her in 2014. For that I shed tears of joy as I long to one day hold her again. To hold her so tight that I may never let go.