Stories from our partners

Bittersweet Goodbye

The day I got married in 1992 was huge for me. When I gave birth to my son in 1999 I experienced the

most ultimate joy. The year leading up to August 30, 2012 was the most changing year of my life. The

events that led up to that day gave me purpose like I’ve never had. The days since then have brought

me full circle to my walk with God.

My sister, Linda, was diagnosed with major depression during her teenage years. She also had an eating

disorder which oddly enough went undiagnosed. She took her first drug overdose when she was 16 and

eventually was admitted to the state psychiatric hospital where she remained about a year and then

was released. She lived her life alone, never married and no children. She was the baby of the family.

Her two older siblings grew up, started their lives and left her behind. She maintained the best she

could. She had friends and always made new friends yet found herself always alone. She was sexually

abused at a very young age. I witnessed that abuse once. It became a faded memory locked away in a

faraway place not to be revealed for many years to come. Our parents argued a lot when we were

young and there was some physical abuse. Our family was dysfunctional but then many families are.

We rarely talked about it, but always knew it.

I moved away from our hometown when I was in my late 20’s, had my first child at age 32 and life was

good for me. My sister only managed day by day. I didn’t talk to her much and saw her even less. I

loved her but never knew how to deal with her. I never truly took the time that was necessary to find a

way to understand what went on inside her head. It wasn’t a place I wanted to explore. Just from the

outside looking in who would want to be there? She took her second drug overdose in January 2012.

Her lifelong struggle just became too overwhelming. It was then that I dove into being a strong support

system for her. I talked with her almost daily. I was in constant communication with her doctors and

social worker. I talked to her with love, encouragement, praise and compassion at every opportunity.

I encouraged her to volunteer somewhere to help her stay distracted. She often talked about how she’d

love to work with horses and I even tried to find somewhere she could go and spend a couple of hours a

day. She cried so much and I never knew how hard things were for her. I remember back in March she

was in the hospital and she was displaying psychotic behavior we had never seen before and refusing

food, drink or medications. I was reading my Bible one morning and God sent a message to me through

2 Corinthians Chapter 4 that impressed upon me how I didn’t need to worry about how she appeared to

be on the outside because that is temporary. I needed to focus on how she was internally as she was

being renewed in spirit for eternity. I felt so relieved that day, that feeling I will never forget it. My life

became more spiritual than ever before. I felt closer to Jesus than I ever had in my life. I put her on

every prayer list known to me including The Ultimate Decision online ministry that reaches over 10,000

prayer warriors daily. Brad Henry, evangelist and founder of The Ultimate Decision out of Huntersville,

NC was a huge spiritual support to me during this time. I began receiving his daily devotionals back in

October. When he heard about my sister’s attempted suicide, he called me personally. We talked and

he prayed with me. He visited a local church later that month and I went so that I could meet him. I

was able to address him and the congregation to tell my story and thank him for his incredible support.

That was something I could never imagine myself doing! But yet another example of the Lord’s power,

He gave me that courage and that strength. I prayed for Linda constantly.

On August 30, 2012, she took a fatal prescription drug overdose. The timing of it was so unexpected

and by the time she was found, she was already in very poor condition. She passed away just before

midnight that day. I wasn’t there when she died. My not being there was not an accident, but rather a

much needed blessing from God and a part of His plan. I had just visited with her the weekend before.

We moved her into a new apartment. I stayed with her, helped her unpack and spent some quality time

with her. The last night I was there, as we got ready to go bed, I kissed her on her forehead, hugged her

tight and told her how much I loved her and how much she was loved by so many. That’s the last time I

saw her. As incredibly painful as it is for me to talk about that moment, it was the most special moment

I’d ever spent with her. God showed such mercy to allow me that incredible moment with her.

I brought all of her many daily journals home with me. Two weeks ago I was finally able to open and

read them, page by page. I’m almost speechless, as it is so very difficult to grasp the immense depth of

the agony and torture she experienced every single day of her life. We, her family and friends had

absolutely no idea of the intensity of her pain. Never before have I been able to understand how she

could feel so worthless in everything. Satan overcame her mind and made her his puppet. He toyed

with her emotions, her thoughts, and her very being every single day. She eventually became lifeless

and all she had left was her love for her family and her love and faith in her God. Saved she was! I know

now that we couldn’t help her. I couldn’t save her. Her God was the only one to save her and He did.

The disease of mental depression is so complex and it is extremely difficult to treat. It’s not like a

cancerous tumor that you can see on a scan. The disease itself is invisible to the naked eye; it’s only the

reactions to it that we see. Somehow, because of that, it doesn’t seem to be real to us. So we pass it off

as a phase or something that will eventually go away on its own, but it doesn’t. It never goes away.

Compound this complex disease with a serious eating disorder and a relentless cycle begins. A cycle of

uncontrollable compulsive eating that leads to purging the food or going for weeks and weeks with no

food or drink. This cycle only leads to other health complications. For people like my sister, there is no

end to the torture, except the end they create for themselves.

I’ve never experienced a loss of a loved one that was so near and dear to my heart. Though I miss her

unbelievably, she taught me so much through her death. I’ve learned more about her in death than I

would have ever learned about her in life. This life is truly so very short and God always has a plan for

us. We spend so much time worrying about status, appearance, material possessions, and what we can

get for ourselves in this life that we totally miss the real purpose for us even being here. We become

too busy for our own good. My life will never be the same and I will never again find the person that I

once was. I don’t want to be that person anymore, because she missed out on so much. It’s been 42

days since Linda passed away. My goodbye to my precious sister has been so bittersweet. The hurt I

feel from not being able to talk her, hear her laugh or say I love you is still so very raw. Deep in my

heart, beneath the pain from my loss is the most abundant joy I’ve ever felt. Some days it’s very hard to

get to, but when I do, the first thing I see is her smile and I know she is finally free of her demons. I

know I will see her again and her pain of this life she will not know and for that I am most grateful. Her

journals were her only relief to get those horrible feelings and thoughts out of her mind. Those journals

have been my only relief in understanding why her life ended the way it did. Losing her in this way has

brought me to an unknown path of life that I push forward to travel. I’m certain that God has some

purpose for me in all of this. I’m confident that while following His lead with great hope and faith, He

will guide me to bring me and others even closer to Him. How many times I’ve cried out to Him in the

last several months to end my guilt, my shame and ease my pain so that I can find peace in all of this.

And now, I live day by day, just as Linda did for so long. I understand now when my life was good I

thought that I didn’t need God so much. How wrong I was! How did I think that grace and goodness

entered my life? What a lesson I have learned and every day I learn even more. Linda is my hero, an

incredible gift that God shared with me and I didn’t realize it until she was gone. I see people and their

behavior differently now. I practice more compassion and patience because you never know what

might be going on in a person’s life. I have such an admiration for those suffering with depression and

other mental illnesses. They deserve so much more advocacy than they receive. The mentally ill have to

work so much harder just to have some kind of stability in their lives. I now look more for what I can do

for others than for myself. It’s not all about me and I’m good with that. After her memorial service, I

found a beautiful horse farm through a friend of a friend. I wanted to spread her ashes somewhere that

would have meaning for her. It was beautiful and we released balloons symbolizing her freedom. I also

brought her cat, Daphne, home with me. I never liked cats, but Daphne and I have a bond together. She

reminds me of Linda and some days, when she’s really quiet, I think she grieves Linda too. She lies

beside me where ever I am and we give each other comfort. Linda gave me the true gift of abundant

love and it will remain in my heart forever.

A loving Sister
Tammy Blankenship