Talk Back: My Daughter’s Last Words, ‘I Love You’
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My name is Elizabeth Gerald. I am the mother of Marcie Gerald. Marcie was a happy, outgoing teen girl. She was an honor roll student and had dreams of attending Harvard School of Law. She was a member of the Rainbow Girls and a Sweetheart for the Demolays.
Marcie’s life took a major turn in 2014 after she was sexually assaulted. She became depressed, began to have panic attacks, and would often scrub herself until she was raw, and she suffered two suicide attempts. As a mother, it was beyond difficult to see my daughter in so much pain. I was determined to do everything I could to get her the help she needed. She began counseling with Dr. Summer Matheson at the Laynie Foundation, and despite her ups and downs, she began to show progress.
Around midnight on July 20th, just two days after Marcie’s friend died as a result of suicide, she came into the living room and said, “I love you, Mommy.” I had no idea these would be my baby’s last words. She asked to lay on the couch with me, which wasn’t unusual as we had a very close mother/daughter bond. I held her in my arms, and we went to sleep together.
At 6:00 am, I woke up unaware of how my life was about to forever change. I tapped Marcie, and told her it was time to get up. My taps grew to a light shake until I just sat her up, but she still didn’t respond. I called for my son to come help me wake her up, and he told me that I should call 911. I told the operator I couldn’t wake my daughter up, and they arrived within minutes. The paramedics began to work on her before telling me that they needed to get her to the hospital. I threw my slippers on and got into the ambulance where they continued to work on her.
Upon our arrival to the hospital, the staff was already waiting for us outside. They rushed her to the back, and a nurse took me to sit down. She made sure I was ok, and told me she was going to check in with the doctor. When she returned she said to me, “The doctor wants you to start calling your family.” I thought, “My baby must really be sick.” I was in my nightgown and slippers, so I didn’t have my cell phone. I gave the nurse a couple of numbers to call for me.
As I sat waiting for answers, I saw three people walking toward me. Once close, they invited me to join them in a room. The doctor gave a slight smile and said, “This is the hardest part of my job.” Not realizing that the third party was the chaplain, I asked was Marcie OK. Nothing could have prepared me for his response. “I’m sorry, but there was nothing we could do.”
I knew this translated to Marcie being gone, but my mind couldn’t yet grasp it. I asked to see her, but I couldn’t touch my baby because the autopsy hadn’t been performed. None of it felt real until the coroner had to take her. “Don’t take her” were the only words I could utter. The coroner didn’t just take Marcie that day, but he took a part of me.
Since Marcie’s death, I’ve experienced an array of emotions from angry to sad. It’s something I will never get over. My baby was only 15, but my reality is that she will never graduate from high school, she will never go to college, and she will never get married. I think about it every day. I have even gone through the stage of self-blame, but my family, friends, and neighbors have been a great source of support. After experiencing a pain that no parent should ever have to feel and accepting that I did all I could as a mother, I decided that I needed to turn my tragedy into something positive; I have to do something so that her name is not forgotten nor her death in vain.
I decided to start the Marcie & Stacey Foundation. Too often, I hear that suicide doesn’t happen to African-American youth. The truth is, it’s happening and in record numbers. If we are to save our children, it’s time that we step beyond the religious stigma, embarrassment, and judgment in order to educate ourselves and seek help. The Marcie & Stacey Foundation aims to do just that. In addition to helping families cope with mental illness and suicide, we want to help them find counseling, assist with homeless and displaced teens, provide educational services, job training, and other services to help our youth become productive members of society.
Elizabeth Gerald is a mother dedicated to bringing mental illness within the young, Black community to light. For more on her non-profit, visit the group’s Facebook page at The Marcie & Stacey Foundation.