As I reflect on the last five years, I cannot ignore the impact of some very special people that came into our lives immediately following Ashley’s death- each one was an unsung hero. They entered a very traumatic and unfamiliar situation without hesitation. Not because they were called or expected, but because they loved Ashley, and they loved our family. They sustained us when we were at a loss of what to do. I want to share some of the roles they took on during the most intense part of that time in hopes that if you know someone who is faced with a similar situation, you may be inspired to step in and become an unsung hero.
It was very early in the morning when the police asked us who to contact locally. We thoughtfully asked them to reach out to our best friends, and my cousin. We needed family around, and they were the closest to us geographically. Little did I know they were where they were supposed to be at that very moment. My cousin took on the role of coordinator extraordinaire. She managed EVERYTHING outside of what we as parents had to do ourselves. She took my phone and answered texts. She met people at the door and let them in and out of our home. She relayed messages to people organizing meals. She communicated with my work. She did this all while having a family of her own.
Our best friends were perhaps they only ones who really knew the details of Ashley’s previous struggles. They were jarred awake by the police with painful news and did not hesitate to come and be with us. I needed their physical presence. Hugs in a situation like this are a lifeline. From providing us with their home as a refuge while the investigation continued that morning to driving to Ashley’s worried friend’s home to tell them in person the news to saving the last item Ashley wore from being washed so I could have the scent of her to all the walks and talks that would come in the following months. They quietly sustained us.
Another unsung hero was a coworker and friend who did not know Ashley as well but was close to me. She immediately jumped into action and worked with my school to ensure that my students’ needs were met and that everyone had the most updated information. When I couldn’t get my plans together, she worked with two of the most amazing and caring administrators to do it for me. By removing the stress of work, I was able to focus on my family and not worry about my normal day-to-day. In addition to her service, one of those caring administrators filled in last minute as a chaperone for a student trip to Europe that I was supposed to take just three days after Ashley died.
There are a million other examples- big and small. Each of these acts of service will forever impact my outlook on life.