Artist: Harmony Pyper

May is Mental Health Awareness Month 

I have been meaning to sit down all week to write my newsletter and I simply had not gotten around to it. Little things and big things continued to get in the way. I knew I wanted to touch on Mental Health Awareness Month. I meditated on how or what I was going to say.

And then it hit me. Today is May 2nd, 2018. It was eight years ago on this day when I leaned against the countertop in my Walnut Creek, CA home and heard the words through the phone that everyone fears, “She committed suicide”.

Heather, my brilliant, bold, red-headed friend from high school, took her life. As I looked at my own children, intense sadness and pain flooded my body.

A ruminating thought kept playing out in my head, “As her friend, could I have done more?”

My contact with Heather was infrequent yet meaningful. I always thought, “Someday I will tell her what she did for me”. But that someday never came. This is my regret. 

I learned through my regret that someday should always be today. Share what others mean to you. Don’t be afraid to love those you care about. You matter and so do they.

So Heather, wherever you are, I am dedicating and writing this newsletter to you.

Dear Heather,

I’m keeping this short and sweet because let’s face it, you hated small talk. Beating around the bush was not like you. Instead, you would go straight in and speak your truth. That used to scare me, but now I realize what a gift that you had within as I speak my own truth today.

You were and still are a woman who I look up to; I think about you often. When I’m faced with hard decisions and the need to stand up against inequality or what I believe in, I tap into your Spirit.

You stood up for me in English class of Senior year-do you remember? Mr. E. gave us instructions to create a book for our final project. I raised my hand and asked if I could create a children’s picture book. Without reason, he became upset with me for asking. Why, I don’t know. He was one of our favorite teachers and I held too much respect to stand up to him. Instead, I was on the brink of crying. In fact, inside, I was already crying.

And then suddenly, you stood up out of your chair and yelled at him on my behalf. You stood up for me because you knew I needed help. I was 7 months pregnant, it was the end of Senior year, and somehow you knew that I was making that book for the child that was coming into my life. I don’t know how you knew. You just did. There was something about you – you had an intuition that is seldom felt or seen by others. You had it. I saw it.

Standing up to Mr. E, you yelled, “Give her a break! Who is she hurting by doing a book differently? And why do you really care? Why does it matter? Let her do it how she wants to do it! It’s a BOOK, Sara is an artist and if she wants to create a picture book, let her!”

Mr. E stood back and said you were right. He let me create my book as I wanted to. I dedicated that book to my son, and I read it to him after he was born. Really, I should have dedicated that book to you, too. It was such a small event in my life, yet it wasn’t. You stood up for me when I felt alone. You made me feel heard and worthy.

Enter college at UW-Madison. You and I were at a party together. Somehow we started talking about life while having a beer together. I can’t remember the exact words, but in our conversation we talked about courage.

I said to you, “Heather, I would love to be more like you. To be able to speak my mind and tell people what I think. I wish I had your courage.”

You looked me in the eye and said, “Sara, are you kidding me? You have more courage than anyone I know. I could never have stood up for myself the way you did and had a child in the process.” I will never forget the look in your eyes during that conversation. They pierced through me with a message that said “don’t ever think twice about yourself.”

Admittedly, you kinda scared me sometimes, Heather. In a very good way. Maybe what I saw in you was a preview of who I am today. That courage and strength to be yourself.

I deeply want you to know how many lives that you impacted by also impacting me. Through watching you, I learned and took notes. Parts of your Spirit became parts of who I am today. We were two very different people, yet not. In this way, you may have passed on in a physical sense, yet you are still here each and every day. You are in my thoughts. You are in my heart. You made one Hell of a difference on this Earth while you were here…and you continue to do so.

I love you. We (speaking on behalf of the Wisconsin Heights Class of ’91) all do.


If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. You are never alone.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255