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Gone Too Soon

Cancer, prayer requests, pediatric cancer, GoFundMe pages, accidents, untimely death. Facebook is often filled with such heartache. I’ve almost become immuned to seeing tragedy between the political rants and the latest Rodan + Fields product.

originalWhat I will NEVER adjust to seeing is another life lost to an eating disorder, a TREATABLE illness that does not receive the coverage or research dollars it warrants.

My heart always sinks at these posts – “Gone to soon” “You were so beautiful” “Love you forever”. I hurt with every tribute, but most times I did not know the person.

That all changed today.

Last February I had the honor of speaking at the Alliance for Eating Disorder‘s 5th Annual Celebrate EveryBODY walk in Boca Raton, Florida. I met so many individuals who were in recovery or hopeful of recovery.

Of everyone I met, there were two young girls that left a big imprint on my heart. They were best friends and Veritas Collaborative alum. We spoke at length about recovery and how much we love Veritas. We laughed together and I could see the lively spirit in each of them.

As the girls smashed the scales I brought, I chatted with their mothers. They shared with me the girls’ struggles and triumphs, as well as plans for recovery. I told them how much I  admired their dedication to their daughters’ recovery.

Being a parent of a child with an eating disorder takes so much energy: appointments, meal time support, emotional support, medical support and every appointment in between. Everything in their life is altered to help their child receive the treatment they deserve. Houses are mortgaged and things are sold to pay for the  massive gaps in insurance coverage.

I have thought about those two girls and their mothers from time to time and even connected with one of the moms well after the walk. This is not unusual. Part of the reason I love what I do is because I get to not just meet people, but connect with them. I mean it when I say people stay with me. These two girls were not an exception.

As I sat down at my desk today, Facebook came up on my screen. Then I saw her picture. That precious young girl with the future ahead of her. Gone. The young girl I met in February with her best friend.  Gone. Just 14-years old. My stomach knotted. My heart sank. I know her. I knew her.

I secretly hoped my memory was wrong. This couldn’t be. I sent a few texts and soon realized I was not wrong. This was that smiling, beautiful soul I met on that gorgeous day in February.

My body is numb and my heart is shattered. Tears fall on my hands as I type. I cry for her friends – her countless friends she met in treatment. I cry for her family. I cry for her mother. I cry for a full life that has been lost to this illness. I cry for myself and so many others who have suffered and know that hopeless pain where you feel like you’ll never see light again.

I cry because I want to scoop everyone up and say “THERE IS LIGHT!” I promise! Don’t give up. There is light in this world. You are your own light even if you can’t see it. There is help that can guide you to your light, but you have to accept it. You have to reach for it. Reach for help. And know that you are never alone.

To the precious “VTas” gang who loved her so – my heart is broken for you all. Please take care of yourselves. In this time of grief and heartache, honor your friend by honoring YOUR recovery. Take care of yourself. Allow the feelings of grief, sadness and anger to surface. Process with your team. Walk strong knowing you carry your friend’s memory and spirit with you. Let her voice speak through yours.

And to you, sweet Zoe, fly high and free. May you feel the freedom in the heavens and may you know how very loved you were and will always be.

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Zoe Rae McGowans
July 29, 2002 – October 24, 2016


If you or someone you know if suffering. Please, please reach out.

National Eating Disorder Association Helpline // (800) 931-2237

National Suicide Prevention Line // (800) 273-8255

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Candy
    October 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

    My condolences to Zoe’s friends and family. McCall, you are an amazing soul who reaches so many bringing awareness and also touching those such as Zoe that don’t always make it. Sadly, this is a reality that has become all to familiar. Many don’t get how hard the struggle is. Keep doing what your doing! Keep smashing those scales! My hope is that one day we can all see the light and know truly how beautiful we are and dying from this disease will be no more. Love you sweet lady💕 ~Candy

  • Reply
    Margaret Caccioppoli-Bruce
    October 31, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    My deepest condolences to Zoe’s family. Sadly, I am all too familiar of how easily a precious life who suffers from an eating disorder could lose their fight. I shared this story with an amazing person that I know that is trying to get us to talk about this more openly, honestly and frequently before we lose another soul.
    Here is his reply. ( He didn’t want to share it all – but I thought it needed to be heard.)

    As I read this I thought about that day in the park. She was sitting there and on the surface she looked as if she was staring out at the universe blindly. At moments I didn’t know what to think. I was at a loss for words and all I hoped for was that my unconditional love for the soul sitting next to me would allow her to tell me what was going on. That day in the park led to many days in the park, many walks, and many moments of seeing her reach for something. Reach for conversation. Reach for words. Reach for something deeper. What I soon learned is that she was not staring blindly into a void, but fighting a voice in her head. Fighting words that brought her self-esteem down. Fighting the feeling that she wasn’t lovable, didn’t matter, and that she was broken. None of which I ever believed from day one when I met her. There was so much going on inside of her. A lifetime of struggles, heartaches, and pain. Years of being misunderstood and not comprehended… A merry go round of emotions that people who didn’t get what her soul was going through would just slap the label of eating disorder on her. A label that took me years of walks in the park to comprehend that there was much more going on than anything to do with food. Layers upon layers of stories, family members and friends who interacted and didn’t comprehend the thoughts going on in this beautiful soul. I quickly learned that many people are struggling with an ED. 8 million in our country. 1 million males. All races. All genders. So many souls feeling like they don’t matter. Something had to be done about this. People are dying and losing their loved ones because so many aren’t educated about what eating disorders really are. So many people struggling don’t feel love and don’t have the right support. Our own medical field focuses on food and insurance companies barely cover treatment, but then again what are they treating if they aren’t trained in the complexities of an ED? What is the real story behind this story?

    Lately we have been ravaged in the world of racism with phrases like all lives matter. It’s a key hashtag that is associated with the struggles in this country of what appears on the surface in terms of our skin color. It scares me to think that we are still fighting about what’s on the outside to the human eye, when all lives do matter and it truly begins with what’s on the inside. We should not be losing lives and mourning the people we care about because we didn’t comprehend what was going on inside of them, because we didn’t know how to truly provide unconditional love, because our own voices and misconceptions and stresses in life often do not allow us to connect with another soul that is struggling.

    I struggle personally with why we live in a society that does not nurture or embrace developing our souls and inner love. I contemplate life, the importance of life, why we are here, how to renew ourselves from the struggles we possess, and how we transition from chapter to chapter in the unfurling of our years. We all have a light inside of us, but how do we keep the candle lit? How do we know we matter? How do we overcome the voice that says we aren’t good enough? And when we do want to fight, how do we when we have a system that doesn’t warrant the proper research dollars or emotional support?

    Our inner beings, soul, or whatever you want to call it desires an identity, a sense of self, personality and self-expression. We want to feel that we matter and we all do. We want to interact with others and the bottom line is we want to feel loved and provide love. Not necessarily physical sexual love which most people jump to, but a love for one another, for ourselves, and a love that is formulated in a life that we each created and is expressed in a way that is unique to who we are. That is what we need to nurture in one another. This is why we are here. This is what we are living daily. We all matter. All lives matter.

    In general and in a perfect world we are here for a short time and we do not know when our last breath will be. Until that moment we all have great gifts to provide to this world and yet I wonder if we each know that. We inherit gifts just by being born into this world – such as the gift of free will, desire, emotions, and the ultimate… the possibility of LOVE. Love as in the connection with others. Love as in the all knowing that you matter. Love as in every moment you live is the ignition of your soul. Love as in faith that each moment will get better. No. It’s not about the food. Maybe we should change it from Eating Disorder to Loving Disorder. Or even better yet Society Disorder. Let’s stop the stigma. Let’s create systems and conversations that make sense. Let’s light one another’s candles and let’s listen to each other with unconditional love and no judgment. Why is this such a hard concept?

    Tears are falling from my eyes as I think about this article, the lives lost, and the ones who struggle every moment of every day. I’m in awe of their strength to push on and I pray they find the love inside of them to keep fighting. For the souls we have lost I look to their memory and their stories to be an example for what we must continue to drive for in the realm of acceptance and love. I thank them for fighting as long as they did and for teaching us we must do better. I don’t know who they all are but I love them and I love all who fight daily and are still here. You all matter. Maybe it’s cliché but we are all on a journey here, and our time is brief. I wish you the best on your path as it truly is not about the destination but the moment to moments we get to live in possibility and love. I pray and hope that everyone discovers their reason for being here, their identity, and the path in life that helps them to move forward. We should all contribute to each other as we cross one another’s circles. Your expressions, your view of the world, your passion, your love, and who you are truly matters. You each make a difference whether you see it or not. You are a breathing functioning member that drives society, its norms and culture. Shifting your thoughts and actions to come from a place of love will actually shift how lives are saved, whether you see it or experience it first hand or not.

    I wake up every day scared I’m going to get the call that my dear friend that I love unconditionally has transitioned to heaven because she lost her battle with her ED. I cry at the thought of her death certificate reading cause of death Eating Disorder, though the coroner will probably credit it to heart attack or unknown causes, and not credit the years or walks and talks connecting to a soul as a symptom to one of the reasons she is still here. Love is the only answer. Learning how to love one another, learning that we all matter, and nurturing our life experience while here on earth. My heart goes out to all those misunderstood and all those we have lost. Thanks to my friends love and eventually finding the words to educate me what she is going through, and the love of the many souls I have encountered who are struggling with an Eating Disorder or any self-esteem issue, I personally seek to explore the depths of my soul in order to express as much true love as I possibly can in this world, for to do so is a great gift not only to myself, but to all those around me. It’s important to express yourselves as truly and completely as you can in loving ways, in beautiful ways, with compassion, strength, perception, truth, and beauty. I hope and pray these words ignite your candle within.

    From my friend Hal.
    PS. Thank you for sharing this story and opening up other stories to share. Hugs! Margaret

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