Friday, November 19, 2010

Legacy VIII: A Legacy Shared

This week's Legacy post was written by Sande Chase.  When I think of Sande, several adjectives come to mind: gracious, elegant, creative, funny, thoughtful, and clever (seriously, you must visit her website for truly gorgeous boxed gifts and gift-wrapping collections, and then her blog, A Gift Wrapped Life, for brilliant methods and techniques for  wrapping gifts).  After reading this post, I have two more words to add: strong and brave.  I am profoundly grateful to her for sharing these words.  Please read them, share them, pass them on.  I can't think of a more important post to pass along to friends and family.  Thank you, Sande, and thank you, Aeleen, for lending your beautiful photo to this post.

late blooming love, originally uploaded by prairiegirl studio

When I think of a legacy and I have thought about it a great deal since Gigi asked me to contribute a guest post, I found myself thinking what most of us think about when asked such an important question.  A thoughtful question and one I wanted to answer for Gigi as I admire her honesty and talent so immensely. But the question almost seemed bigger than me, legacy is a word for important people, people who invent things, find a cure, save the world, perform great feats that will benefit mankind.  The more I read the guest posts the more I realized I did have an answer but I just didn’t really want to talk about it, certainly not say it out loud.  Though I have whispered, I have never shouted, but I am ready to say it loud and clear and I hope you will understand why. 

As I was thinking of a nicer, easier answer, a shadow of deep pain kept circling my thoughts and in order to tell you what I hope my legacy will be, I have to share the most painful part of my life and I have to say it quickly before I turn away, find a way to not say these most difficult and painful words out loud. In 1999, my 36 year old sister, my vivacious, outgoing, a woman who I thought was as strong as they come, the youngest in our family of six children, took her own life, and life as I knew it changed forever, changed my family…….. altered me forever.  

Since that devastating day, it is very rare that anyone outside of our family mentions my sister’s name. Suicide is a shameful departure, the saddest act we can think of, too awful to even contemplate. The very subject of mental illness in any degree makes many us look away, become silent. I understand this too well as even the memory of that day, that call, still stops my own heart………how could this have happened? How could we have missed this? We had many questions but no answers and it took years to relize there wasn’t one. There would never be an answer. 

Mental illness is scary.  It is messy, painful, and we don’t even like thinking about it, let alone talk out loud about it.  The trouble is that we give mental illness all the privacy it needs to survive.  We think of it as a private illness, a coping flaw, we ignore, it, look away, talk in hushed tones,  hope it is temporary, we sometimes even think it will just go away if we offer enough love and support.  And sometimes it does. But often it does not. 

My legacy is perhaps a personal one, first and foremost a way to protect my immediate family and its future generations.  To ensure we talk about depression and mental illness as easily and openly as we talk about sexual protection, illness, politics, family history, all the small and large topics we discuss with our children to prepare them in the years ahead. Sit them down and tell them the history of any mental illness in our family, have them be aware of the signs of depression so that they can come to us, talk to us, and ask for help. Make sure the shame stops here.

As women, we need to be vigilant about our own mental health. Place it at the top of our list and do what it takes to treat our emotional health. We are meant to be happy and if we are not, we need to find out why. Do the dirty work, dig deep, get messy, ask for help, treat it without shame. Be open and talk about it out loud, shout if necessary. When we do this it sends a clear message to our children, mental health is just another function of our bodies, it can go awry for many reasons just as easily as any other body part. Remove the shame.

I share this legacy with my sister and her name was Lynne.


  1. Sande,

    Your words are so brave and herald perhaps a truth in someone elses's life who bears witness to them.

    The physical act of placing our pain onto a page can be healing. I hope this will be the case for you. I want to thank you for sharing such a personal story and Gigi, thank you for providing the forum.


  2. Wow. What an amazing post. So sorry for the pain, so in love with the honesty and outreach. Blessings.

  3. Sande, what a tremendous post. It always heartens me to see the depth and thought that underlies our fluffier, lifestyling selves - a rich and human counterpoint.

  4. Oh Sande,
    What a terrible time you and your family must have been through and something that will never leave you. I don't think that there is any shame to it..,..for someone to resort to that, they must be in a very dark place.
    It really brings home how lucky we are to be in a good and happy place.
    Lots of love to you Sande. XXXX

  5. So beautiful, so sad, so brave, so horrible. I can only imagine what you and your family have gone through. Thank you for sharing and for your incredible words of wisdom.

  6. Bravo have expressed yourself so beautifully, so eloquently and with such compassion yet with so much positivity and hope for the future. always another wonderful post, thank you....xv

  7. Sande, for you and your family I feel such sadness. Some of us are stronger than others, although I think in the act of taking ones life that cannot be easy. Mental illness is like what a horrible sexual disease is. Untold, intolerable, unjust and we feel if we have it in our family we have to be very quiet about it. Lest people assume it is contagious. We are all just human beings trying our best to get a long in this world with all of our scars and garbage. Trying to make the best out of our lives... not an easy thing to do, and for some, down right impossible. My blessings to you.

  8. Sande,
    Thank you for sharing this story. I know that it is a difficult situation for you to talk about, but it is such an important subject. We have all dealt with it in our own families most likely, and it is such a tragedy. It IS time to talk about it.

  9. Sande as always you have expressed the feeling in your heart so eloquently. You are so right on so many levels. You have honored your sister, Lynne by writing this. She was in pain as so many are and you want to stay open to the ones you love so that the dialog can open up and possibly prevent an untimely death. You are a wonderful lady,friend,wife,daughter and now I know that you are also a wonderful sister!!

  10. Dearest Sande,

    This was in my opinion the most 'Gift Wrapped Life' you ever described. The special life of your baby-sister 'Lynne'...
    You all have tortured yourselves for eleven years in trying to unravel her final act, like unpacking; repacking and thinking we overlooked something, misplaced something. It is not there and we cannot grasp it. Once, we all will have a better understanding if we finally meet again. No shame; no blame but LOVE. This is great that you could lay down your soul's heavy burden on 'virtual' paper... sharing it with all others who might need a nudge, some courage to start whispering too.
    Thanks for your courage and let's hope it relieved you just a little bit by sharing your burden. No one lives life alone...

    Have a great weekend!


  11. Sande,

    I believe that this post must have been quite a struggle for you to write and share with the infinite web universe, but I thank you for sharing such a sensitive part of your life with us. We all have deep pains that we try to personally learn from, but to share those with others in hopes of helping someone else along her way, it so much more commendable and brave.
    I agree with you about dealing with issues honestly and not ignoring the imperfect parts of our lives. Thank you for this post; it is so sincere and so real.
    Your friend,

  12. Dear Sande ~ I felt your struggle as you wrote this difficult story but I also felt the lightening of your spirit after sharing it with us. you are courageous in not turning away because in that, you may have helped many others to come to grips with similar situations.
    xx Dianne

  13. Sande ~
    You are brave, and your words are so powerful, raw, and honest. I admire you even more {if this is possible) for being such a strong soul filled with positive hopes for your family and friends. We all must realize that life is not always perfect, and it is okay to have struggles and really, really bad days/months/years...but most importantly, we must communicate and reach out to help or for help without feeling shame.

  14. sande

    how do i follow such eloquent comments to your story?
    words are difficult to convey in response to your sharing a life transforming tragedy in your family. but the fact that you did choose to share with us is very brave. hopefully soothing to you when completed.
    having recently experienced a tragedy of a different sort, i have found opening oneself to others and receiving their hugs and words of support is soul warming.
    the sad aspect of suicide is shame and self blame. thank you for shedding light on this human trauma.
    big hugs to you

  15. Sande, so unexpected and so sad. So heartfelt. Good for you, sharing it here. We take our lives as they come and it's up to us to make the legacy meaningful. As you have. Thank you on a Friday night.

  16. Sande, as I felt my
    eyes pricking I also
    felt enormous pride
    for the courage that
    it took for you to share
    this innermost layer of
    yourself. Your Lynne would
    be proud of her big sister.
    Yes, we do tend to do a
    dance with mental illness,
    even in its more benign
    forms, such as anxiety.
    I have friends who also
    fight depression and with
    some it's openly discussed
    and with others, not so much.
    One of the former also has
    a 16 year old coping with
    the mental toll of anorexia.
    In this case, it's held close
    to the vest. Bravo to you
    for exposing your story to
    the sunshine.
    xx Suzanne

  17. Sande: Your story was so heartfelt. I could feel your pain as I am reading. Thank you for sharing this with us. Blessings, Martha

  18. The words you share touch my heart. Thanks for sharing them.

  19. Eloquent and brave post, Sande. I applaud you for offering these words of wisdom. Depression is a dangerous disease that can rip a life to shreds. Thank you for sharing. ~ Sarah

  20. Sande-
    I applaud you for the courage that you have shown all of us in talking about this most painful part of your life. I cannot even imagine the loss - the pain - the empty part of your life - and the brokenheart that never will mend.

    You are so right - suicide is so often "not to be discussed" - a shameful thing that we try to hide away. Bless you for putting this right out in black and white - you have shared a legacy that I know for sure will probably change someone's life in the reading of this post.

    I am proud of you - I am proud to now you through your blogging ventures - I am proud that you are not ashamed to say how this has affected your life.

    Bless you~


  21. Gigi- I applaud you for this fabulous legacy series - I have gone back in your blog and read some of the others - I plan to read more and make comments later.

    Your blog is amazing - I think you are a gifted and talented blogger. Thank you for such a original idea as to have women talk about heir legacy in such a manner~~


  22. Much love and many blessings Sande for your lovely Sister Lynne and all your family.
    My love and prayers will continue.

    Those who live forever in our hearts are never far away.

    The soul can split the sky in to
    to let the face of God shine through♥

  23. Sande you have said all this with such honesty, dealing with the pain of suicide and depression and your dear dear sister, yet you still have a positivity that is truly encouraging. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life my darling friend.

    Thank you Gigi for this series,
    xoxo DJ

  24. Oh my heart.

    What a brave and thought provoking post. There are no words really that can suffice in response to this most heart-breaking of subjects that is suicide. But can I say, I do believe that each time someone like you, Sande, takes this brave step and talks about it, it can only become easier for others to talk about it.

    Your post has made me realise we don't talk enough about it to our children, and it is actually is very pertinent in our lives here as they have a grandmother they rarely see because of depression.

    Thank you, dear heart. Thank you for being so brave.

  25. Thank you, everyone, for your amazing comments, and thank you again to Sande. This legacy series is turning into quite a journey, and I am so grateful to the folks who are writing posts, joining in with comments, or simply reading along. I am learning exactly how powerful blogging can be.

    xo Gigi

  26. Dear Sande, Thank you for sharing such a difficult part of your life. My brother took his own life when he was 29...and I have a nephew with a diagnosis of bi-polar disease...Our family is finally talking and discussing what these mental health issues imply. My life has never been the same since my brother died in 1988... Being open about mental illness is important...but oh so difficult.

  27. Sande,
    You can't know how much your words have touched me tonight. Thank you. My family and I have been struggling, fighting, and trying to make it through this issue for over a year with somebody very close to me. There is no shame, this is a disease that if untreated is devastating. Thank you for being so brave, so eloquent, and so open. You are an amazing woman and from this post and the loss of your sister, perhaps m ore people will be more open, more people will have those difficult discussions, and more people will reach out for help.
    I will say a prayer for you, your family, and your sister tonight.
    Much love to you my dear friend.

  28. Dear Sande,

    Indeed you have a profound legacy. Thank you for your deep sharing, and introducing us all to your beloved sister, Lynne.

    Wishing you peace of heart and peace of mind as you continue your legacy journey.


  29. It was such an honour to be asked to participate in your Legacy series Gigi and to read all the previous contributions. My hearfelt thanks to each reader who shared a comment of understanding and compassion. It was with surprise today that I recieved an early call from my brother (whom I didn't know read my blog) who said the post meant a great deal to him and then he said "good for you sis". Thank you again Gigi. Much love XO

  30. Thank you for sharing this story, Sande...It touched me very deeply! Much love to you! xxoo :)

  31. dear sande, as others say above...your words and so strong and so courageous and yet, i can imagine it has been the most difficult journey. you carry it like an overcoat don't you, it's always with you, something you put on every morning. i have a sister too, a twin, and she is very dear to me. the thought of losing her pretty hard to think about. depression runs in my family in varying degrees, has touched most of us in some way or another. i welcome the day when it's no longer something taboo, when you'll no longer be told 'oh get over yourself, there's nothing wrong with you'; it's that perhaps 'well-meaning' advice that just pushes the lid down further. thanks again for your words, eliza

  32. Bonjour Sande. Thank you so much for sharing this, it really cannot have been easy. It is, however, through people like you sharing their experience that we can make others listen and show that there is no shame in mental illness. I have seen people who have struggled but actually refused to seek help because they were afraid of being labled "mad"...unbelievable in this day and age. Thanks for your courage and words, I hope your sister is at peace now. Love from London xo

  33. brave... beautiful... heartfelt... heart received ♥

  34. My oldest brother took his life many years ago - lots of depression due to complications of diabetes, heart problems, and side effects of a certain medication, etc. - life just wasn't worth living to him. I was shocked when I received the call but somehow I knew one day he would end it all. My husband's family didn't even call me expressing their thoughts, condolences...I thought their weakness was sad and I was very disappointed in them. Those who are left behind feel the blunt of the pain/loss and we work outselves through it...maybe taking many years. I am not judgemental of my brother - nor did I ever have shame...he did what he felt was right for him - ending his tremendous pain. I love you Bro...his name is Larry.

  35. These are such moving words.
    The world can feel so heavy at times, for those who are trying to leave it behind, and those who are left behind.
    Thank you for sharing. xo


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