Parents Of Suicide
Writings Library
“The Wendy-Kid”
Sharon Throop
November 16, 1999

Wendy Lynne Sunderlin
6-18-77 to 11-12-96
Forever “19”

Wendy was born on a rainy Saturday morning, June 18, 1977, after our car broke down on the way to the hospital. An ambulance came to our rescue. My anxious family and medical personnel were waiting but I was not worried at all, as I knew that I still had some time before the most gorgeous baby made her entrance into this world.

As Wendy grew and became the wonderful person that she turned into, we all marveled at her attributes. Wendy graduated from elementary school with Presidential Honors. She was very active in her extra-curricular of track and cross-country. She was a good friend to so many it is hard to count all the ones that she touched.

Wendy tried out for the Miss Grapette pageant in 1994, in hopes of winning some further scholarship money. Out of 22 entrants she was in the top 10 and I know she felt pretty that night. That was worth all the smiles in the world to watch her like herself. Wendy managed this feat while helping me take care of her step-dad, Bill, as he was recovering from a horrible accident just 1 week before. Without her help I would not have been able to take care of my husband, her grandmother and great-aunt. Some of her friends at school asked her why she was working so hard to help me as she “had a life too”. She told them, “This is my mom and Bill, who else is going to help?!”. Wendy was nominated two years in a row for Who’s Who of American Students.

Wendy was inducted into the National Honor Society during her junior year. We had to give a speech for her entrance. This is where the term that we affectionately used for her The Wendy Kid came into play. (She wanted to grow up, but so often wanted to be a child too) Wendy was nominated to go to CCI (Creative Children’s Institute) for two years at Kent State University.

Wendy graduated from Geneva High School in 1995, 13th out of 221 students. She received grants and scholarships to attend Ohio Wesleyan University. My heart was broken that she was going so far away, but I was also very proud of her deeds.

The anxious day arrived and she packed to go off to college. We loaded the car (to the hilt); she was excited and nervous about the whole affair. It was the beginning of a new life for her.

College started; Wendy tried very hard to fit in, to roll with all the punches. The classes, studying and of course, all the partying that went along with being a college freshman.

In December of 1995 she attended a party at a frat house. Apparently she was date-raped there and it was truly the beginning of the end. The facts that we do know are that she went to the party and had a couple of drinks. One of the boys (who earlier in the year had shown himself to be a friend) either took her upstairs or to another room. He forced himself upon her. At this point we do not know if she was perfectly conscious or not. We have a strong feeling that she was given the date-rape drug to incapacitate her.

She told no one. But, the young man must have spoken up as some older girls were taunting her and calling her a whore. She was overwhelmed with these taunts and yet kept them to herself, not even telling her roommates. Wendy came home for Christmas break, with so much weighing on her mind.

After the third week of being home, she went to visit her dad, and once again he was piling the emotional guilt that he always had upon her. Their relationship had been strained for some time.

I was angry that Wendy came home late from her visit. I shouted at her and made sarcastic remarks about her less then perfect grades and her partying. I would not listen to her excuses and I stormed off to bed without taking the time to make sure she knew how much I did love her. Bill also just went to bed without really talking to her about my outburst, which he normally did when I was being the PMS lady of the day.

Wendy called a good friend (from her high school years) to unload some of the emotional baggage that had built up that day and the preceding weeks. She even told him about the rape. He listened quietly, not sure what to say to help her. I guess that is when she snapped the first time and decided that all would be better off without her here. After hanging up the phone around three o’clock in the morning, she took Bill’s anxiety pills and went to the bathroom with a knife from our kitchen.

Fortunately, Bill got up and after impatiently waiting to use the bathroom decided that Wendy was NOT taking a shower. He heard the water running in the tub and not the shower. Wendy never took bathes so he knew something was wrong. He knocked on the door, asked if she was all right. Receiving no answer he entered the room. He found that she had been literally sawing on her wrist with a kitchen knife. She was running the water in the tub as she did not want to make a mess. Bill hugged her and asked “Wendy, Why? We all love you?” Ironically the one thing she did to try and save herself some pain was to wrap rubber bands around her arm and instead it helped to stem the blood flow.

Bill called me frantically; when I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, I found him holding Wendy, who was groggy, limp and crying softly. I helped her to the living room, all the while wrapping her injured arm with a cold compress. We both kept telling her that we loved her and why would she do this? Bill called 911 and the rescue squad came very quickly. They immediately gave her syrup of ipecac to expel the contents of her stomach. They were very compassionate and caring throughout the time they were in our home.
Off we went to the ER at our local hospital. By 6:30 in the morning they had stitched Wendy up. They consulted with our doctor and he decided that it was a necessity to admit her to a psychiatric hospital.

I returned home for a brief time to get Wendy some clothes, I made a phone call to her friend that she had talked to the night before. Thanks to him, although he was grief-stricken for what had occurred, he filled me in on the vital missing clues. It was at this time that I found out about the rape. He would not tell directly as he had promised her, but he led me down the path to guess. What a horrible night! I felt like Wendy had been so all alone and life itself had caved in on her.

The following day at the psychiatric hospital, I confronted Wendy with what I knew about the rape. All the while she was sobbing but managed to shake her head in the affirmative. I even went so far as to ask whom, as I also had a deep suspicion of the identity of the person responsible for her rape. Again she nodded in the affirmative. I never forced her to tell me more as I felt she would tell me if and when she felt up to it, if ever. I never revealed the identity of her rapist to anyone, per her wishes.

That evening I shared my knowledge with the doctors. I also urged Wendy that she NEEDED to talk about her problems, that she could say what she wanted we would never know. She said that she would. (After Wendy’s death I found out she really had not, and they certainly did not force her. We had gotten her hospital records through the efforts of our lawyer. The truth was she shared very little, but she was a good patient, quiet, not disruptive and eager to please so she could leave).

After the week, the doctors pronounced her just overwhelmed and said that we had to respect her decisions. (One thing I have learned is doctors do NOT always know best. They rarely talk to the relatives for long periods of time and really do not get to spend much time with their patients.) One thing Wendy did get across to them was that we needed to let her make her own decisions.

Well you know what (?!) her decision still rankles me. She wanted to return to school knowing that was one of our greatest fears. After all why return to the scene of a crime unnecessarily? But, through the doctors trusted words we backed her. She returned with little to no support, but promised to get continued counseling there. The hospital here arranged the counseling sessions at her college. (To our knowledge she went once and did not receive very positive help.) She also would not consider prosecuting the young man that had perpetrated this crime against her. She felt it would be her word against his, and he was older and in a huge fraternity. Feeling very uncomfortable with all that had transpired, we reluctantly left her there against our better judgement.

She made it thru the semester and she seemed to be dealing with her recent past experiences very well. Spring of 1996, she was pledged from every sorority on the campus. Wendy decided that she wanted to go for it and she pledged to Tri Delta Sorority. She seemed like she was becoming more her old self, so I committed myself to the letting her fly on her own syndrome. (Lord was I wrong something that could never be fixed.)

Wendy had the opportunity to go to Daytona Beach for 1996 spring break. We were worried about her going but now are grateful that she had such a wonderful time with her best friends. We also felt it would help her build the confidence that she needed in herself.

Summer of 96 came and she took two jobs. One job was on the weekends and some evenings, doing bussing of tables at a local 200-year old tavern. The other job was at a factory that her bio-dad worked for doing data entry. She had the grand plan to save enough money to have some left over for the next spring to go to the Bahamas to take an extra credits class in marine biology (and one great little vacation too!!).

She did get the opportunity to go to Chicago to visit some of her college classmates for 5 days. This was her first trip all alone. We were very proud that she managed so well. However, after her trip, her car broke down (she had a 93 Blue Ford Mustang and she loved that car). The transmission had to be rebuilt. It was in the dealership for over 5 weeks, as they first fixed one thing, then another. Meantime she had another car to drive; we referred to it as a piece of garbage since it looked so bad and ran worse. She was very short tempered about the whole thing. We finally got the car back one-week before she was to return to school.

We packed up all her gear, in her car and ours, and proceeded to make the trip back down to Delaware, Ohio. She had a new dorm, with no air conditioning and she and her roommates called it the boring dorm. I guess they used to go out in the hall and scream "Quit studying"!

This time for the school year, I was so strong about leaving her there. I saw a bunch of parents with freshman students, just melting with their emotions. I knew Wendy was a different girl now and was going to be one tough cookie. She had her plans and she was gonna darn well stick to them.

By September she was in the full swing of the school year, calling home frequently and even calling me at work to just talk, it was like old times. She met a boy that she really liked and we were so glad that she could commit to someone above just a friendship. We thought that the worst was truly behind her.

She came home the second weekend in October of 1996. It was great fun having her home. We didn't do anything extravagant just family stuff; cook outs, sitting around our outside fire pit, roasting marshmallows. We went to the local fall time fair at one of the local garden centers. We checked out all their wares. I got her a cute little pumpkin with flowers on it and sent some Indian corn back to the dorm with her. On our way home from the fair she got very serious with me. She asked if WE were truly all right (financially, as we had to pay for most of her medical bills for her earlier attempt on her life). I told her all was fine, we had it worked out our finances and we would be in fine shape to finish helping her as planned.

We saw her one last time when we went to her school for Parent’s Weekend. She was extremely tired because she had gone to a concert the night before in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (over 250 miles away). She was upset because all the parades and other activities were cancelled as they had had a tragedy on the campus the night before. At one of the frat houses a fire had broken out and sadly one young man did not make it out. My heart just totally went out to the parents. We assured Wendy, that we understood and just going to her sorority tea, and visiting the campus was just great with us.

Being that she was so tired, we left in the afternoon, and drove home.(Sigh; if I had known that was the last time I would see her alive, I would have stayed for an eternity). The curious thing was she NEVER watched us leave, she said it made her sad, but that day she watched us leave and waved and waved. Was this an omen?

We spoke on the phone a few times after that date, but the last conversation that we had was on Election Day Nov. 5th, 1996. We had a good conversation, but I felt underlying emotions that spoke volumes of her lack of confidence and self-imposed under achievement. I tried to assure her with the old adages; just do the best you can do, It will be fine, and you always have the option of taking a break. I asked her if she could maybe come home for a weekend before the Thanksgiving break, she said probably not as she had so many reports, and sorority obligations. I told her that was ok that we would talk to her again soon. She that said of course we would. She lied!

On Nov. 11th, 1996, the snows started to come down in northeast Ohio. It did not quit for almost a week. I stayed home that day from work due to the weather. I had a grand day (cleaned, cooked a great dinner, sometimes I think it was the last nice dinner I ever cooked), and finished a cross-stitch for our 10th wedding anniversary.

The next day, although the snows had not let up, I decided I should go to work. Bill said it was his turn to stay home. I told him to do that, but he said no, he would go. We both left for work.

My day went slowly because of the weather. I planned to leave work around noon, but ended up staying later to help with some extra work that had come in. I didn't leave until 4:00 p.m., and it was slow going at best. I did not arrive home until 4:30 p.m. It was snowing so hard I opened the garage from the road to get a straight shot at the snowfield in our driveway. Much to my surprise I saw Wendy’s car in the garage. I finally made the slide through the snow into the garage. I got excited and scared all at the same time, and the why's started. It was totally unlike her to just surprise us this way. Why hadn't she called me? Why had she parked in the garage when she never did? Why was she home? Why, why, why?????

I entered the house; all was quiet, too quiet. I didn't even take my jacket off, just kicked my shoes off. My mom lived with us then (She was 86 and suffered from dementia and was extremely hard of hearing); I found her sitting in her rocker, reading a book. I asked her where Wendy was. She said, “Oh, what a nice surprise that Wendy was home, she must be upstairs changing”. I yelled for Wendy over and over and mounted the stairs.

At the top of the stairs I saw something all over her open door. I continued on, deciding I would find her asleep (her favorite past time). I did find her asleep, eternally.

She was lying on the floor between her bed and the dresser. There were parts of Wendy all over the room that I should never have seen. There was not one inch of her room untouched with blood or tissue. I still did not believe it till I saw the rifle lying next to her. I knew in that instant that she was not alive.

I screamed as I fell down the stairs. I called my neighbor; he came running over, as his wife called the emergency. The rescue squad came and solemnly pronounced that there was absolutely nothing to be done. Then we waited, (the houseful of rescue personnel, neighbors, detectives, sheriffs, and my poor dead daughter upstairs in our house) for Bill to come home from work. It took him over 3 hours with the horrible weather. I asked the rescue personnel to please stay, as I knew he would be devastated. I was afraid he would need medical attention upon hearing the horrid news.

When he finally made it home, he thought it was my mom, and couldn’t understand why there were so many rescue vehicles? I ran out in the snow, as Bill had to leave his truck in the road. Through the blizzard I yelled for him to come into the house quickly. Through my tears I finally told him that Wendy was gone. He said “No, She is at school, her car is not even here”. I had to tell him that her car was in the garage and that she was gone. (I could not say those words-she is dead in that early stage of my shock). Bill absolutely fell apart upon realizing through our question and answer session that Wendy had used his rifle to die. It took the rescue squad and the detectives to stop him from going upstairs.

Bill felt responsible for having his gun in our home, but the truth is, his gun was so hidden he did not even remember where he had stored it. Wendy had searched our room to find it; as we found our room ransacked, and she also taught herself to load it in a short time. Bill had had his gun since he was a young man. What horrible nightmares for him to even consider that he was responsible.

Why did she do this?? We will never know the answers! Wendy left no note explaining why she felt compelled to end her life. We learned, however, that she had left school around 8:30 that morning. Instead of going to class as she was scheduled to do, she came home. Her friends had been searching for her all day.

She arrived home somewhere around 1:00 p.m., as my neighbor saw her come in. She made two phone calls back to the school around 1:30 p.m. and according to the coroner’s report she died somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. My beautiful, talented, loving daughter left this world all alone and by her own hand. We have sense learned that she was having nightmares about the rape and was severely depressed, but she always managed to put the Mary Sunshine smile on and go about her life, as nothing was wrong.

There is nothing in this world that is so bad that cannot be dealt with in some way, but one thing, and that is death, there is NO fix for that. Suicide is always a PERMANENT solution to a TEMPORARY situation and cannot be reversed, no matter how much you long for the ending to be changed.

(Written by Sharon Throop, September, 1998)

EPILOGUE: We are now on the cusp of the third anniversary of Wendy’s death. Although we have made great strides in coping with life again, we are different, forever changed, and few know where we reside. Without the help of the people that I have met online thru various support groups, and the few friends that have remained in our corner, I, for one, would not be here.

I was also on medication for over a year early on, and I know coupled with the support that I have gotten from my unseen friends I would have joined my daughter.

Early on after November 1996, I was so angry with the Lord and anyone that I felt had slighted my daughter, including myself. Slowly the layers of that particular onion have been peeling away to reveal the inside of pure emotion and thought. This along with giving ourselves back over to the Lord whom had nothing to do with our daughter’s death. He has given us more resolve to remain till our days are over and to try and help as many survivors and/or possible suicides themselves.

Faith, good friends that understand, and family strength (my husband) have gotten me to this point of resolving to stay and fight this horrible killer disease of depression, and fight I will, till my days are up. There is a particular stigma that goes with the loss of suicide, whether real or imagined, it is there. There is nothing to be ashamed of when losing someone you care deeply for to suicide, for it is surely a disease, just as cancer, AIDS, or diabetes.

This story is for my daughter and all the wonderful people that I have met online and in-person, as none of us should be on this road of grief that could have easily been avoided; if only, if only, if only…………