October 27, 1999
WE LEARN OF CHERIE'S DEATH
Our oldest son, Bill, was just getting in from his midnight shift job at 5:10 a.m. when the telephone rang. It was an investigator with the King County (Wa. state) Coroner's office. Bill got my husband up to talk to the woman. Then he came and woke me up.
"Mom, get up. You need to get onto the phone.", he told me. "Why? What's happened?", I desperately asked. "Cherie's dead." he told me in total disbelief. "She can't be. I just talked to her last night." I cried. I got to the phone while the investigator was talking to my husband on another phone. I quickly interrupted and asked what happened - thinking Cherie had died in a car accident. When I heard she had shot herself and was dead, my entire body went into shock. We were told that this was the second attempt - the first having been on April 28 (an over-the-counter drug overdose). She also told us that Cherie had been fired from her job on Tuesday. Cherie had left a suicide letter that stated that she had been in a major depression for many years and that she had gone to a psychologist while in college, but it only made matters worse. We were asked if we would like to hear Cherie's suicide letter, but we weren't ready for that, so we were told that Cherie did request to be cremated. I asked if Cherie was presentable for viewing and was told, "I have seen a picture of Cherie, and she was a very beautiful young woman, but she looks nothing like that now." We then made arrangements for a friend in Seattle to take care of things with the coroner's office.
After we talked to the investigator we called to our son in Norfolk, where he was stationed with the Navy. Jamie was on duty, so we told our daughter-in-law what happened. She said she would call the ship and get Jamie home. Then my husband called his brother Larry and his mother. They took care of calling the rest of the family. I called my sister in Minnesota, and she took care of calling the rest of my family. My sister Cathy went to my parents house and told them that Cherie had died and how it happened. When the phone calls had been made, Max, Bill and I just held each other in a three-way hug. We couldn't talk, we couldn't move, and we couldn't believe this was happening. The back door opened, and family started arriving. As the day progressed my family started on their way from Minnesota to Ohio, my husband had to make arrangements for cremation of Cherie's body in Seattle, and I was in total shock. My body felt so cold, my heart so heavy, and my mind a mass of confusion. The people around us were our support system, and we hung on to them with whatever strength we had left.
Cherie's cremains arrived Friday morning through the postal system. My husband had to go pick up our daughter at the post office. This is the hardest thing he has ever had to do in his entire life. When he got home with the small box of what we had left of our beautiful daughter, we held each other and the box and cried until there were no more tears left to shed.
Saturday morning a beautiful memorial service was held in Cherie's memory. So many people had loved her as we had. All the beautiful flowers, the beautiful angel throw (from my co-workers), the beautiful music, the kind words of the pastor, and the loving family and friends present made the service so very special for our dear Cherie. She was gone, but not forgotten.
WHAT LEAD TO THIS TRAGEDY
When you lose a loved one to suicide, you can't help but want to know what happened. You become an investigator of sorts. So here my investigation began. Cherie had been date raped in high school the summer between her sophomore and junior years. We were not told about this until much later, so we were not able to get her the counseling she should have had. She went into a depression that would last until her death. She hid her depression very well, so we never knew.
In her junior year of high school, Cherie met Troy, whom she grew to love and then married the summer between her Freshman and Sophomore year of college. During her sophomore year she began to see a psychologist for her depression, but something went wrong - in her suicide letter she said that it only made matters worse. Her depression also took its toll on the marriage, and sadly the marriage ended just before she graduated from Wright State University in Dayton (June, 1994). Cherie and Troy remained good friends until her death.
That summer brought another incident to add to her already escalating depression. She was date raped again by the son of a lady she worked with. We found out about this second rape only last year.
Cherie passed her nursing exam on her first try. Cherie never had a hard time making good grades, nor did she have a hard time adjusting to anything - with the exception of her depression. She obtained a job at a nursing home in Dayton, and worked there for a year. She and a nurse's aide friend decided to move from Ohio to Seattle - both just wanted to get out of Ohio. They both got hired at a nursing home with hopes of eventually getting into hospital jobs. In February, 1996, Cherie got hired by a hospital and was working in the onocology ward. She was on probation at the hospital, so she kept her employment at the nursing home on a parttime basis (she worked on weekends that she was off at the hospital). Cherie and her roommate had a disagreement in April, and the friend left, leaving Cherie with a $755.00 a month rent payment besides all of her other bills. During this time Cherie purchased a 9mm gun for protection and had arranged to take safety lessons (which would have taken place on the day of her memorial service had she not died the previous Wednesday).
On Sunday, April 28, 1996, Cherie attempted her first suicide. She overdosed on over-the-counter drugs. When she felt dizzy, she drove herself to the hospital where she worked. She was treated and released. We were told this information by a friend here in Ohio whom Cherie had confided in. We were not told of this first attempt. We find it ironic that less than a week and a half after her first attempt that she was fired, and we still believe that the news of her suicide attempt was sent to the Director of Nursing office. Later I talked to the Director of Nursing to find out why Cherie was fired. I was told that Cherie had a hard time adjusting from the nursing home setting to the hospital setting. Cherie never had a hard time adjusting to anything she set out to do. It was easy for them to fire her because she still was in her probationary period. Her pink slip (which was laying by Cherie's side when her body was discovered) said "Reason for Termination: Unsatisfactory probationary period".
MY OBJECTIVE FOR TELLING CHERIE'S STORY
As much as we love our children, we cannot always protect them from the world we live in. We cannot be with them every second of the day. The time comes when we have to allow them independence to go to school by themselves, to play away from home, to date, to just be themselves. Before we let our children fly by themselves, we need to let them know that we are always here for them.
If something bad happens to them, they need to tell us. If we see signs that something is wrong with our child, we need to find out what it is. In Cherie's case, as well as many other young women, she was raped. Rape is a violation, and it is a crime. Victims of rape need to tell somebody - they need to be believed. They also need counseling to help them realize that it was not their fault. With proper treatment, depression as a result of rape can be attacked early, and maybe prevent another potential suicide. Please call a Rape Crisis Center if you have been raped, and please seek help for depression before it is too late.