Three days ago I woke up, and, as so many of us do, pulled up Facebook on my phone.
The very first thing I saw was an announcement that made me say, aloud, “NO. NO. NO.”
It was this:
My friend Katrina had shared it. I did not know this young woman, but I knew immediately who she was. She is the daughter of a writer friend of mine, who I’ve never met in person, but who I’ve emailed and talked with many times and whose work I have published multiple times on this website, Kay Bruner. The knowledge Kay’s beloved daughter was gone sent my heart rocketing toward my toes.
I wanted to reject this truth, but I couldn’t. And here is another truth: I did not know Libby. Her death logistically and practically has zero impact on my life. My loved ones are safe and well, I am not currently mired in a quicksand of incomprehensible grief.
And yet, I am so touched by Libby’s passing, partly because I am an empathetic person, a mother as Libby was, as her own mother is. I feel deeply for my friend Katrina who has lost a friend, for my friend Kay who has lost a daughter, for baby Michelle who has lost her mom.
But mostly, I am touched and grieving the passing of a perfect stranger because her life was worth so much.
The life of Libby Davis was worth so much that, when she went missing, thousands of strangers (not to mention loved ones and acquaintances) prayed and shared the information on Facebook. Her life was worth so much that grief-stricken loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers have raised over $36,000 for her husband and daughter in three days. (The first $10,00 of which was raised in three HOURS.) Her life was worth so much because she was a wife, a friend, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a special education teacher.
She was all of those things but the truth is that her life mattered so much because she was made in the image of God. Fearfully and wonderfully made by Him.
As I said in a recent article on an entirely different topic, the Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. And so I rejoice that Libby lived, and I mourn with her loved ones, that her life here spanned only 28 years.
I wasn’t going to write about Libby, as hers is certainly not my story to tell. But in the end, I was compelled to. Compelled by the fact that I could not get her family out of my head or off of my heart, compelled because although Libby will undoubtedly leave many legacies, through her beautiful daughter, through the students she taught, to the endless list of friends she poured into, there is one legacy I do not believe should be glossed over.
Libby had a mental illness.
Libby’s daughter Michelle is twenty months old, yet Libby still suffered from postpartum depression. Libby is not the way or the why she died, and I don’t want for a minute to focus on that and have you think that mental illness was the sum total of her parts, because by all accounts, nothing could be further from the truth.
But I’ll be damned if I don’t, while talking about Libby, talk about lifting the stigma that surrounds mental illness. If we whisper about it behind our hands or just act like it didn’t happen, the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety will only perpetuate and worsen. Libby didn’t hide her need for help. She had a loving and supportive family and friends, medical support, medication, and even a mother who had herself gone through a deep depression and as a result, was a counselor.
And yet in the throes of a postpartum depression that lasted well over a year, Libby fled in her vehicle, purposely wrecked it, fled from the scene on foot, and was found deceased after being missing for a day.
Libby Davis is gone because mental illness kills like cancer, like ALS, like heart disease, like any number of painful physical conditions.
She is gone, and mental illness is to blame.
So I won’t leave that detail out, because if this story helps one person to reach out, to seek help, to say it out loud, to question the lies that depression is telling them, then that’s another legacy of love and light from Libby.
Her life was worth so much. And so is yours. Even if you struggle with depression and anxiety.
Libby loved Jesus, and I know her family will be with her again one day. Until then I know her mother will keep tell you about the Light that she was. Absent from flesh, I know they will still see her light in her daughter’s eyes, and her legacies played out in front of them even as they grieve.
But pray for the Davises and the Bruners. They need your prayers, and your love. Mourn with them, because now you know a bit of what they’re experiencing. They’re mourning a life that was worth so much, and living a heavy grief that carries every ounce of that worth.
Much love to them all.