by Rhonda Sellers Elkins
You came into my life like a ray of sunshine. Literally, you illuminated happiness, goodness, and sweetness from the day you were born. It exuded from your blonde hair and fair skin, like an angel sent here to this earth just for me, just to make me happy. I knew better than this however. No child is just for the parent. They are themselves and grow up to be shared with the world. But I entertained the thought, knowing it not true, that you were all for me. You were sent to me for some wonderful thing I did in my life that I could never figure out what it was, I was rewarded with this wonderful child. Love and closeness, sweetness and joy that is what you gave me from day one.
Soon, as you started to grow, your intelligence started to show through. I saw that you never had to be told twice how to do something; once was enough and you could do it without being told again how and many times doing it better than what you were taught. All the while being close to me and actually loving to be close to me, talk to me and share things with me melted my heart and glued my heart to yours forever.
Then you started school, and the first years of schooling you did very well. You always made the highest grades possible, but the early grades until grade 3 were not graded as A’s, B’s or C’s, etc. I think they were pass/fail or whatever, but you always did excellent work. Yes, you were a good student.
Then you went on to 3rd grade. This is the time where students are graded with letters. You made A’s in everything, all the time. I started realizing that you were really smart and winning a competition in geography and you didn’t particularly like the subject. Even if you didn’t really like something, you were good at it. Once in 3rd grade, they moved you into the academically and intellectually gifted classes. You stayed there until high school where they didn’t exist, but were replaced due to the availability of advance placement (AP) classes, which is what you always took.
After a while, you started writing poetry that was very good and won awards in some competitions. Then one day when you were in 7th grade one of your teachers or a counselors (I can’t remember) called me on the phone and talked to me about the results of your IQ test. I didn’t even know you were tested. She said you tested high enough to be eligible to take the SAT (the same one high school students take) to see how well you do on it. It was part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). You took it and did so well that you earned a medal and a score that would be the envy of any high school junior or senior.
You continued on into high school, continuing to succeed at everything. You made straight A’s every time. You were an artist and took art classes and won countless art awards for your drawings and paintings.
When you were 16, you got accepted into the North Carolina School of Science and Math. This is a boarding high school for the scientific and mathematically gifted; a difficult achievement for most. If you graduated from there, you were invited to attend any college in the North Carolina university public school system for free. You had wanted to do this for two years and the application process was brutal. We had to go to visit the boarding school twice for interviews and informational programs, etc.
You got accepted and you were so happy. I hated the thought of losing my baby so early and being sent away to a boarding high school. But if that was what you wanted, and it would help you learn the things you wanted to learn, I was willing to make the sacrifice. It was free as it was a state school.
Two weeks after you got there, you called me crying saying you just did not like it and that you wanted to come home. It’s not that it was not a good school you said, but you missed home and you said it was just not for you. However, you were already making excellent grades. It was just not the vision of what you thought it would be. I also think you missed your boyfriend. I gave you a few days to think about it. You didn’t change your mind and I came and got you. I was not about to make you do something like that you did not want to do. That was your choice.
You had wanted to be a doctor all your life since you were a little girl. But there was that year in high school where you were torn between going to college to pursue your artistic abilities, or to pursue a career in medicine. The career in medicine won out and the applications to undergrad colleges were started. Every college you applied (you did not apply to colleges like Harvard or Ivey League colleges), you were accepted. I felt for sure that you would choose Carolina at Chapel Hill, but you did not. Instead, you chose the less party/sport life of a quieter place way out in the country, Campbell University.
You graduated Valedictorian of your high school class. You always had a very close circle of friends who shared the same interests and you never seemed to be lonely at all. You were all so very smart and you all had so much fun over the years.
You graduated this college in two and a half years summa cum laude, because you were always in such a darned rush and wanted to get on with things. You got your degree in biology and while there, landed a part-time job with an oral surgeon as a surgical assistant.
The applications to medical school started. For someone who has no experience with this, it is the most consuming, jump through hoops, costliest, most stressful application process that has been known to man. But you did it. It cost a fortune but you applied to many. You got turned down by some (because you have to walk on water or the like to be accepted). You were put on some wait lists, but then you were accepted to Wake Forest Medical School. No one has ever been happier than you were.
Oh you loved medical school! You came home so happy talking about all that you learned. They started everyone off from the beginning dissecting cadavers (dead people) and this did not horrify you at all. You learned so much. You had your own apartment, your own car, you were in your dream you dreamed for yourself all your life, you were in medical school. You had boyfriends off and on. You seemed so totally happy. And all the while, during all these years, you remained my sweet girl. I knew you were an adult, but you were still my little girl that I cherished and wanted all good things for. I knew I would lose you to a far off city one day, but I was prepared for that (kind of) and would have gladly let go for you to live your life as you wanted.
I still felt you were here just for, though I knew better that you belonged to the world. You took me on a trip all your life to all good things, all good feelings, all love, so very interesting conversations and experiences and we loved each other and we were close. I adored you. You took me to a world through your eyes I had never been able to be a part of. You loved the opera, the symphony, the theater, all kinds of music, art, cooking, decorating, and some of these interests I wonder where you got them from. I had interests in many of them, but I was either not good at them or simply did not take the time to do. I got to see it all through your eyes though. This wonderful world. Where did you come from my bright, brilliant, loving, intelligent child that shined like the sun? You were my gift for doing something good in my life, though I didn’t know what it was. You were mine.
Fast forward less than a week after I last saw you at Easter. You had just started orientation for your third year of medical school as I sat in your apartment and was reading your suicide note. How did you get from all I wrote above to this suicide note telling me you had been sad all your life?
This is just another proof of how very strong you were, to have hidden so very well for so very long, your severe depression all your life to protect us and to protect yourself. But Kaitlyn, this was a strength you should have not held onto. You should have lessened your strength enough to have let us know so we could help. Instead, you battled this war alone and ultimately you lost your battle. You left me without prior notice, without prior knowledge of your torment. You left me dumbfounded and lost and so very, deeply sad.
This is the tragedy of my life. This is the tragedy of your life. You were mine, but you weren’t really all mine. I didn’t even have the chance to fully release you to the world. I had to release you to death. A death you did not deserve.
So then I wonder what I did in my life to deserve your loss. Yes, I know it doesn’t really work that way. But still.
The wonder of you, the beauty you brought to my life was like magic. Your illuminating presence is no longer in my life. The miracle of you is no longer here, only in my memory and pictures. But I know in my heart, Kaitlyn, that the magnificent person you were on this earth is experiencing so much more happiness than what you had here. I was so lucky to have you in my life, to be your mother. But the agony of losing you will never cease until the day I cease breathing.
The people that loved you and you loved are having to learn to let you go so they can live. I wonder if some of them are going into their own depression from losing you. Just today, someone put a video on your Facebook page entitled “Let Her Go.” He has to try to do this to live and I don’t blame him. You would have wanted all your loved ones to be happy and I hope they can go on to be happy.
But, Kaitlyn, I’m your mother. I walk a lonely road. No matter how much people try to help me, it does not help. I will never get over the loss of you. I can never let you go.
I love you forever My Bright Shining Star.
About the Author: Rhonda has been married to a wonderful man, Allyn, for 32 years. She lives in North Carolina and is a registered nurse and has been for twenty years, but she has not worked since April 12, 2013, the day she learned of Kaitlyn’s death. Rhonda and Allyn have two daughters: Stephanie, who is now 27, and Kaitlyn who died at the age of 23. She can think of many things that would identify her before, avid reader, loves to RV, travel, ride our motorcycle, but all she is now is a grieving pile of mess.
Read another article by Rhonda: In Memory of My Daughter, Kaitlyn Nicole Elkins