Hi, my name is Munchie Morgan. I live in Wilmington, Delaware with my husband Wes, our rescued pitbull Lola and our turtle, Molly.
On April 1st of last year, my younger sister – my only sibling – killed herself. 17 days before my wedding day. While my (then) fiancé and I were finalizing plans with our florist, Sarah walked upstairs in the house where we grew up, grabbed a gun I never knew was there and shot herself in our mother’s bedroom.
She was 29. She was beautiful, smart and hilarious, and she was loved. Her laugh was infectious. She sang like an angel. She was a voracious reader. She loved animals more than she loved most humans, and she was never without a smile on her face. I remember thinking one time that it was like she gave people hope just by smiling at them – that’s just the kind of person she was. She loved without boundaries. My sister had one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.
BUT. She had been struggling with demons for years. They were bigger than her, and obviously bigger than the rest of us and our love for her. My sister wasn’t mentally ill; she was an addict. She started with prescription painkillers after a car accident, was introduced to OxyContin by her boyfriend at the time and moved on to heroin soon after.
When I first heard about her addiction, I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I had never been around drugs like that, much less been tempted to try them. I heard the word “heroin” and immediately thought it was all a lie. I associated that drug with homeless people or the cracked out mug shots you see on the news. The idea that my little sister was using something like that was so far out of the realm of possibility to me that I simply refused to believe it.
And then she admitted it to me. Here was my gorgeous, headstrong, full of love and life little sister, telling me she was hooked on dope. Here was the strongest person in my world telling me she wanted to stop putting a needle to her arm and she didn’t know how. For the first time in my life I questioned her. I questioned her strength and her integrity, and I questioned myself for not seeing the signs before she spiraled out of control.
So I turned my back on her. I told her I didn’t know her anymore, that I didn’t think I ever knew her, that she wasn’t the person I thought she was, and I walked away.
I didn’t forget about her though. I worried constantly. I checked in with her friends regularly. I defended her blindly. She was still my sister, after all, and part of me still refused to believe the truth. It was breaking me every day just knowing that I was questioning Sarah’s heart for the first time in my life. But what else was I supposed to do?
And then I read two books – “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff, which talks about dealing with his son’s addiction, and his son Nic’s book “Tweak,” which was his story of being an addict. And everything made sense. I realized right then that Sarah was as strong as I’d always known she was, that she WAS fighting – she was fighting as hard as she could. I realized that addiction was in fact a disease, and that with our family history she’d pretty much been set up to fail since she was born. I realized that it could have just as easily been me, sitting in front of her, telling her I didn’t know how to fight anymore.
I told her I’d help her fight. Instead of breaking her down, I started trying to build her up. We started talking more, and instead of checking in with her friends, I checked in with her. On Christmas Eve, four months before she died, we had the most candid conversation we’d ever had about her addiction. I thought things were looking up. I thought she’d finally beat it.
She came to my bridal shower on March 23rd and it seemed like she was finally back to her old self. The color was back in her face and the light was back in her eyes. She told me how happy she was to see me so happy, and that she couldn’t wait for the wedding. I felt closer to her than I had in a long time, if not ever.
A week later I had my final dress fitting. I texted her some pictures of me in my dress, and she told me I was the most beautiful bride she’d ever seen, that she couldn’t wait to see me walk down the aisle in a few weeks.
She killed herself the next morning.
When my sister was alive I didn’t speak about her story because it wasn’t mine to tell. We all watched, we all tried to help, we all prayed and we all hoped and wished like hell that she would get through it and come out on the other side. But she didn’t. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t one of the strongest people I’ll ever know. That doesn’t mean she didn’t try. It doesn’t mean she didn’t hate seeing the hurt she inflicted on everyone she cared about or that she didn’t wish like hell she could get through it also.
And it doesn’t mean that that’s what we need to remember about her. But we do need to remember. I’d like to think she loved each one of us a little too much and that’s why she took her own life – because she didn’t want to be our burden anymore. I just wish she’d known that she wasn’t that, she was never that, and she won’t be that now. She will be a sister and a daughter and a granddaughter and a niece and a cousin and a friend and a girlfriend. She will be all of those things, but she will never, ever be our burden.
So now all I can do is share her story and share her battle, and hopefully someone, somewhere will gain some strength from my loss. Someone, somewhere will wear Sarah’s story as a medal of valor. Someone, somewhere will be able to stand up where she fell and hang on to this life a little longer than she did.
And hopefully everyone, everywhere, will remember Sarah Marvel the way I do. With a smile on her face and a heart bigger than the world.
I hope I make her proud.
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