By Jackie White
The song “For Good” from the musical Wicked is one of those songs that for me elicits automatic tears. It hits me in the soul in a sad, but good way. The song is about meeting someone in your life who by the very virtue of them stepping into your life, you have been changed for the better.
Do you have someone like that in your life? Someone, who found their way to you, and you are no longer the same since you met them. This person helped you to see the world in a different way. Maybe they inspired you to live a better life. Sometimes people walk right into your life and unbeknownst to you, they profoundly affect the way you will look at life or be in life from that time on.
Those people could be anyone. They could be someone who you have become close to over time or it could be a chance encounter. I believe these people cross our paths with a predestined plan from above. God has sent them to touch our world in such a profound way, we are no longer the same after meeting them. I want to focus on how this can play out in a positve manner, but obviously, some people affect our lives in a negative manner too.
When you look across anyone’s life, it is clear we all have people who have changed us for the good. It could be a teacher, a boss, a relative, a friend or maybe even a complete stranger. Whoever it was they somehow made a significant impact on your life. I’ve read stories of how this can play out. It might be the words a teacher said to a child that made them believe in themselves or as in my case, it was a friend, my best friend, who touched my heart in so many ways. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much until she was gone.
Her name was Theresa. I want to tell you about her because she was someone really special, and I think her story can affect you "For Good", too. I met her in high school when we sat next to each other freshman year. We decided we liked each other because we were both weird. She was totally preppy back in High School. Her flipped up collars, multiple turtlenecks and docksider shoes were classic Theresa. We laughed because she always wore too much blush and although she longed for huge 80’s hair she wore a very conservative bob cut. She was outgoing, kind, smart, resourceful and damn funny. She couldn’t dance, but suggested that if I taught her to dance, she’d teach me to cook. I thought that was an excellent plan!
Theresa taught me that sometimes in life you are dealt a hand that requires you to grow up before you should have to. She taught me that even though your circumstances haven’t offered you the world on a platter, you work hard and can pull yourself up. She taught me how to be a friend. She taught me that being a friend could be more than just hanging out;, it was like having a new part to your family. Theresa taught me the art of sarcasm, and we laughed our way through high school or at least I thought we did.
I thought I knew everything about Therese – I always called her Therese. I knew she could sew; I knew she could play the piano, I knew which boys she liked in high school, I knew she was pretty much not afraid to give anyone shit. She liked Taco John potatoe ole's tater tots and Paisans was her favorite restaurant. I knew she loved vanilla frozen custard with pecans on the top. I knew she didn’t know how to say “I have a headache” in French because when she raised her hand to tell our French teacher that, she instead asked to go to the nurse because she had a “head of shit”! That was funny. That was Therese. I knew she liked listening to the album "The Best of Bread" and loved the musical "Wicked". I knew she was uber responsible.
I knew all of these things about Therese, but what I didn’t know was that she had depression. No one would have ever guessed. She was an overachiever. She worked several jobs in high school to pay for her glasses and her own braces. She got good grades and made her way successfully thorough college and eventually became a physician’s assistant. From a distance I saw perfection. I saw she was doing life right along the path she had planned, and it was perfect.
As we became adults, we no longer lived near each other and saw each other infrequently, but she was still that friend that we could just pick up where we left off. We were always laughing and joking. I look back and feel a little deceived and sad that she never really told me what was going on. I know she didn’t mean to be deceitful. It was just something she was struggling with that no one really talked about, but it’s hard not to feel like a false friend because I didn’t notice the pain she was in. Theresa went on to marry and have three beautiful children. She, her husband and kids moved to Colorado and lived in a gorgeous home near the mountains. On the outside, everything looked great. It’s only in retrospect, I can see that life was getting increasingly difficult for her. I am not sure any of us knew just how difficult.
At age 43, Therese took her own life. I was stunned, shocked and wondered how did this happen? She and I were supposed to grow old together and play bingo and crack wise-ass jokes. Instead, she needed to go. She left her family. She left me. She left us all. Those of us she left behind, still are asking “Why”? A fact, I am aware of today is that every 40 seconds, someone is asking ”Why”?
To many of us the thought of suicide is incomprehensible. How do you cut short the potential? How do you not use the gifts God gave you? It’s a dark place to be to in when depression overtakes your soul. I once heard an explanation that illustrates maybe the best how it feels to be in this place. Imagine the house is on fire and the heat is getting so hot that it becomes unbearable. You step to the window and you don’t want to jump because it could kill you, but it’s better than feeling the heat, so you jump. That’s how suicide happens. The pain of existence becomes so unbearable that to die is the only relief. It’s not much solace for those of us who are left to feel the emptiness of the aftermath of suicide, but it does help to explain it.
September is Suicide Awareness Month
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.