And now she’s dead.
This post contains discussions of untimely death and suicide. Please stay safe and steer clear if these subjects may be triggering for you.
One of the interesting things about having chronic illness(es) is how your friendships change. In many unfortunate cases, people who were once your friends fade into the background. Sometimes it’s because they’re uncomfortable being around someone who is ill. Or maybe they don’t like the new version of this person they knew for so long. Or they could simply just not believe there’s anything wrong with this person because, like it or not, many chronic illnesses are invisible illnesses.
As a result of this, many individuals with chronic illness develop online friendships with others who are ill; people like themselves who understand exactly what they’re going through. Although not all of these friendships are with people who are ill. I have found new friends who are like-minded in faith and love of literature who I care for just as much.
But in the world of cyberspace, these friendships can result in heartache more often than you might think.
Many chronic illnesses are not fatal in and of themselves. But as with any disease state, complications can arise that can be life threatening. Sometimes it may be a physical complication, but other times, chronic illness can result in mental health issues as well, or mental health issues can exist on their own outside of chronic illness.
On March 23, 2017, the mental health community was shocked to learn of the death of 31-year-old Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, a mental health nonprofit founded in 2013 dedicated to “presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury.” Amy founded Project ; in response to her father’s suicide. I don’t follow the organization that closely, but I know it has had a beneficial impact on many individuals with mental health issues. Sadly, it was soon revealed that Amy had taken her own life. Her death was a devastating loss to the mental health community.
Many deaths are unexpected, but even more so when they happen to someone who is not actually ill. I belong to several mailing lists for websites of Christian women who run blogs and provide resources for living for God daily. One of those is Mandy Kelly over at Worshipful Living. I always enjoyed her emails, because they weren’t all always about raising a family or how to be a good Christian parent and how to homeschool, none of which currently apply to me. But on April 10th, there was an email from the site called “A Word from Mandy’s Mom.” I was interested to read it because it had been almost a month since Mandy had posted anything. But as I read the first paragraph, I dissolved into tears. In the early morning hours of March 21st, Mandy, her husband Scott, and two of their children, Lizzie and Judah, had been killed in a house fire. Their other two children, Bekah and Jared, survived. Mandy’s mom, Rhonda, is committed to continuing Mandy’s ministry in the way she thinks Mandy would have wanted. I rejoice that they are home with Jesus, but feel pain at their absence here on earth.
Near the end of January, in response to a photo I had posted of myself on the blog, I received a comment from a fellow blogger, painkills2, aka Johnna Stahl, complimenting my appearance (despite the fact I was crying in the picture.) Aside from my husband, I never receive compliments on my appearance, so this actually meant something to me. The last week of January, she went silent. This isn’t unusual in Blog land. Sometimes people have writer’s block or just need a break or get overwhelmed with work or school. On March 17th, I found out from another blogger through a blog post that she had learned on March 6th from Johnna’s family that Johnna had passed away. I don’t know the cause of her death, but she suffered from chronic pain for many years. There was a little memorial service held for her on Lisa A’s blog on March 19th. Johnna was funny, kind, and thought-provoking, and is dearly missed. But I will never forget when she told me I was beautiful.
Amy, Mandy, Scott, Lizzie, Judah, and Johnna- Rest In Peace.