In the nine years I've been writing this blog, I've only once turned it over to another writer. Today is another exception to the rule. My friend, Brian Sager, has a message that is as beautiful as it is urgent. It was written on Saturday, May 9, on the eighteenth anniversary of the birth of his daughter, Meghan. I knew this gal. Losing her was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Can you even imagine what it must have been like for her mother and father? I can't even contemplate it - and I've been trying. The forum is yours, Mr. Sager:
Today marks an anniversary of one of the greatest gifts I was ever blessed with. Today would have been my daughter Meghan’s eighteenth birthday.
I had many nicknames for Meghan: Meg, Meggo, Magoo (which morphed into “Goot”, which she hated), Sweet Pea (which she liked), and often, “the Amazing Meghan”. Perhaps it’s a father’s pride, but Meghan was, quite simply, the most amazing person I have ever known. I am very proud of all of my children, but Meghan was unique in her pursuit of excellence in everything she did. She wasn’t always “the best”, but she was pretty darned good at anything and everything she tried, and she tried almost everything. She was good at everything she did because, no matter what was at hand, she gave it her all.
As most of you know by now, Meghan passed away almost a year and a half ago. I “hear from her” now and then, in the song of a bird, or the twinkle of a star, a tune on the radio, or the laughter of a little girl in a pretty dress in springtime. She helped me finish nursing school, she helped me find a job, and she’s helping me be a better man in so many ways. Many have said to me “I don’t know how you do it (deal with the grief)” or “I can’t imagine what you are going through”, and that’s a good thing, because it’s something no parent should ever need to understand or have to go through. We do, because we must. That’s the simple answer. There is no acceptable alternative.
Such a tragic ending cannot be allowed without something of value to be learned, something to help others, something to prevent such loss from happening to someone else. I wanted to share a few things I have learned or maybe re-learned.
1. Time is limited, so make the most of it. We cannot know when “our time is up” or when we will lose those dear to us. Get after that “bucket list” now, not when you are too old or too broke or too tired. Try to enjoy every moment because there are only so many….
2. MAKE the time to let those you love know you love them. Drop the grudges. Be first to apologize. Be first to forgive.
3. Given the choice between “enjoying life” and “making a few extra bucks”, choose “enjoying life”. That doesn’t mean call out sick to binge watch “House of Cards”, but if a unique opportunity presents itself, take it!
4. Love your family (seriously?!?) Sounds like a no brainer, and I know you do, but what I mean is take a moment to just look at them and enjoy the wonderful people they are. Acknowledge their flaws (to yourself and without dwelling on them), but more importantly, appreciate their strengths and help them build on them. If you were building a house, you’d want a good, strong foundation and go up from there, same with a family. Fix and reinforce the foundation and build.
5. Believe. You are not alone in this world. I am convinced more than ever of a higher power in this world. Common themes of love, kindness, forgiveness and giving are universal to all faiths. Focus a little more on the spirit of the message and less on the letters in the message… jmho….
6. Clinical depression is an illness, not a weakness, and is just as serious and can be just as deadly as cancer or heart disease. It is also far more common than we realize. One in twenty teens will suffer major depression at some point. Too often the tendency is to simply medicate. I can tell you personally that strategy can have fatal consequences. Treating depression with Prozac alone is like trying to build a house using only a screwdriver. It can be a useful tool, in conjunction with others, but by itself is often ineffective (or worse)
7. And finally… give… the support we have received from friends and family and the community has been tremendous, and it is amazing how a simple card, a hug, or a plate of pumpkin bars can lift the spirit when the heart hangs low. If you see or know of someone going through a hardship, reach out. It DOES make a difference! Small efforts can be huge helps. Don’t worry that now “might not be a good time”, it might actually be a great time. Just be understanding if the other party can’t receive your intentions as you would have liked. Remember that they are the ones going through the hardship and might not have the clearest of minds at that moment. Find peace in making the effort, it IS the thought that counts!
Through the generosity of friends and family, we have established a memorial fund to honor Meghan. Among the goals of the fund is to advance awareness of depression among teens and advance the spirit of kindness and caring in our community. A key part of this is the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship, which is issued annually to Goshen seniors who demonstrate several of the same traits Meghan had, such as academic achievement with an interest in sports, languages, music, theater, or volunteerism, but above all, have consistently displayed exceptional kindness and caring for their fellow students and community.
Last year we awarded two $1,000 scholarships to two amazing young women and look forward continuing this spirit of giving. This fund is now facilitated by The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan. Please consider including the Meghan Sager Memorial Fund in your charitable contributions. Thank you!