Emily Elizabeth Marks. That was my youngest child's name. You can read it silently or say it out loud, but please do not forget her name.
Emily was born on August 23rd, 1991. She had her father’s brown eyes and his bright, optimistic smile. From me she got her quirky sense of humor and a total inability to understand cruelty of any kind.
I, like most mothers, believed that all three of my children were special. They were gifted and bright - never average. In each of their own ways they were just that, special.
We made the move out to the suburbs when Emily was two. I found a house on a nice, quiet street. It had a big yard, separate bedrooms for each child, and good schools. Most of all though, it was safe. An idyllic home set far away from the dangers of the big city, or so I thought.
For many years that house was a happy place. My children seemed to thrive there. During Christmas the entire street glowed and Halloween was always an event. Countless costumed kids crossed our door step each year.
Emily, bright and beautiful, danced and laughed through her childhood. She was my happy, silly little sprite.
Like most, her teenage years were a roller coaster. She made friends and lost them. She was disorganized, messy, silly, kind and always smiling. She gained weight and she lost it. Her hair went from blond, to black, to pink, to green and back to blond again. She was a nonconformist - listening to different music and wearing different clothes than everyone else.
I was proud of her. But slowly the darkness began to creep in. She spent more time in her room with her computer, reading. When Emily emerged she was sometimes solemn one minute, then giggling the next. I chalked it up to adolescence. This too would pass.
She went to college, made friends, got a new boyfriend, told us how great life was, and flunked all of her classes.
Emily soon moved to Philadelphia with her beloved boyfriend, Ben. It was there that she tried to take her life for the first time. When we arrived at the hospital she was a mess - unkempt, quiet, and distant. She told the doctors that she didn’t mean it, that she was embarrassed and would never do it again. She was released and came home.
Back in Pittsburgh she saw a psychiatrist and a therapist whilst on medication. It seemed to work. The darkness rolled back and turned to twilight. Emily was safe at home.
I never knew where my husband kept his guns. We never talked about them. He is a kind and gentle man who would sometimes go target shooting with his buddies. It was a guy thing.
The morning of April 27th, 2012 was like any other; I awoke for work early and got ready for the day. Emily came downstairs to see me off. She was finishing her first semester at a local college and cramming for finals. We were in the midst of planning a trip to Philadelphia to visit my older daughter and, of course, Ben. Emily scooped up our new puppy and, with a crooked, introspective smile, wished me goodbye.
When I returned home from work I found her in that big backyard. She looked like a pile of rags. She was wearing one shoe, her favorite jeans, and an old sweater. I remember the stillness and the smell of the blood. I called 911, knowing it was too late.
The police found the gun beside her. When they told me Emily had shot herself I could not believe it; there had to be a mistake.
She didn’t even know how to use a gun - her father’s was always locked away. This was a nice house in the suburbs. We did not use guns here.
In her room we found her books laid out on her bed, along with her neat class notes and laptop.
The search history on Emily’s computer revealed that at three in the morning she had been researching how to use a gun for suicide. There on the web she found step by step instructions. The sites told her how to fire the gun and where to place it to ensure a fatal shot. They even showed her what someone looks like after they have shot themselves in the head.
She had left no suicide note. There was no message of how horrible her life had been or that the world would be better off with out her.
Instead I found, on the last page of a notebook and in Emily’s neat handwriting, these words:
“A star is born, it grows and when it dies it becomes energy pure white light”.
This was my bright Emily, who could find beauty in the depths of darkness. Please do not forget her name.
Denise Matis-Marks, RNTL
Nurse Team Leader
Chapter Leader of Brady Greater Pittsburgh Area
Volunteer for No Veteran Dies Alone