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. Emma 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.
Oh Chris as Marie!! Piper, Brandon and Jake! There really are no words. May God hold you tight.
Tears in my eyes as I read this. I have dealt with mental illness first hand( with a close relative) and threats of suicide. The constant ups and down with my mom were like I was the parent. Navigating my days and walking on egg shells were constant.You all showed her love and support. When someone is in that dark place where they feel there is no return it can be difficult to rescue them. On one hand, you wish you could have saved her. At the same time she is no longer battling the daily struggle of those deep lows- that can be painfully hard to come out of. They say time heals pain, but it’s never forgotten. You all loved her deeply. She knows that, and you know that. We need to do more than talk about mental illness. So many live with it. So many live with/around people with it, and yet it still seems hush hush. Thank you for sharing this and I will continue to keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.
You and Marie are amazing parents and people!!!! I know you both did all you could to help her!!!!
Prayers for you all!!!!
Blessings and Peace to all of you. Our hearts ache each day as we thing of you.
I went to high school with Emma, and man she was amazing. I remember her getting onto instagram live all the time and watching her struggle with this was hard. I know she is at peace and safe now, she will be missed forever. This whole story that you chose to tell made me tear up. May god bless you and your family.
So sorry for your loss.
Chris my heart breaks for you, Marie and the rest of your family. I hope one day that there is change for people suffering with mental health. I feel like it has been “swept” under the carpet for too long. Your beautifully written story let’s people understand, even if for a brief time, what it’s like to love someone with mental health issues. So I hope you continue to share your story so maybe one day we can truly help our loved ones. Continued prayers.
Thanks for sharing. I have so many thoughts myself…with my own experience with not just Emma but others who struggle. The sadness is deep…i will keep lifting you guys up in my prayers.
Prayers for peace and comfort!!😌
Wow Chris, what amazing parents you both are. At this stage of the game I could barely get out of bed. Keep up the writing as it sheds insight to us all what it is like to live with someone who struggles with mental illness while helping you work through your emotions and grief. Journaling has now become second nature to me and continues to help me process this grief journey of a child lost way too soon.
Chris, your words touch me deeply. I lost a very close friend who succumbed to mental illness as well. I too have asked/told myself I could have …. I should have done more. But I also remember telling myself when he was alive that I knew there was nothing I could do and When i get that Call that he was no longer with us, don’t feel guilty. But sometimes I do.
Your dear, sweet Emma made a difference while she was here.
So now, continue to take comfort in knowing that she truly is happy now, with her Lord Jesus. And yes, you and Marie will hold her again.
I am Alisha’s mother in law, Debbie Hebert. I feel like I knew Emma from all the times Alisha would talk about her. Alisha loved her sister so much that I could feel that love when she spoke about her. I am so sorry for your loss and hope that Emma has found the peace she wanted. Thank You for sharing her story.
May god bless you and comfort you. I knew Emma from camp. I volunteered as a nurse there every summer and loved to see Emma coming down the path. She was always joyful and excited. Everyone loved her and cheered her on as she shared her latest dance moves every year. I had no idea she had these struggles. I can’t imagine your pain. I applaud you for sharing your story and encourage you to continue. I picture her dancing with Jesus right now! I will pray for your family and I thank you for sharing Emma with us. She was a beautiful soul❤️
I’m so thankful that God sees our heart. He saw Emma’s you can be sure.
Mr. Lengquist, I hope to one day meet you and your family, as I am inspired by the words you’re posting. I pray often for you, your wife, and your family. You all are amazing, and I am blessed by your transparency and care. Praying for you ALL. Daily.