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Saying Goodbye to Molli
By Jill Mattison-Ririe

Relating this time is very painful. It's not my intention to relate something very private, nor to make anyone uncomfortable. If I could avoid this next part or skim over it, believe me, I would, but if sharing this will stop even one family from going through this, God will get me through it and be glorified. My purpose is to only bring the starkness and the reality of the senseless act of suicide out in the open for two reasons:

1. To reach those contemplating this and open their eyes to the finality of death as well as the realization that it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem - which causes a permanent problem for those left behind.

2. To touch parents, guardians and friends and make them also aware that, as with Molli, signs aren't always there. Grasp each moment of love, hugs, "I love you"s every chance you can, and please - make the topic of suicide an open discussion so that the person feeling the pain knows there are many alternatives and that you are there to help them.

The song, "If I Had Only Known" available on the player above, sung by Reba McEntire, was one we chose to play at Molli's memorial service. The words are so true and touch everyone who has lost someone they love. The World needs to hear these words and change their lives to include God's Plan for us to never have to say them because of suicide. We should and need to do everything we can each and everyday to let those we love know how much they're loved.

The days and weeks before Molli's decision to end her life were, what can I say? - normal as far as our "normal" goes. Molli didn't seem to be stressed except for the occasional misunderstanding between friends. She didn't seem depressed, and was very excited about being in Driver's Education and getting her license.

We went through the same, "Mom, can you take me driving tonight?" that I'd gone through with my other 3 children at her age. The difference is that she had more sisters to volunteer to take her driving than they did. The times she and I did go driving, she was so great. We'd laugh at her silly mistakes. She could always laugh at herself - gosh I miss that.

A week or so before, we were sitting in the living room together and while laying on the couch she said, "Mom, the world would be so perfect if only I had a special boyfriend for the summer." I answered, "I remember feeling like that, Sweetie, but I look forward to the time that you don't need to have a boyfriend to realize how wonderful and perfect you already are." She said, "Thanks, Mom." with a smile.

The night before she died, I knocked on her door and opened after hearing her cheerful, "Come in!" I was greeted with a loving, "Hi, Mom!" and noticed she was in her usual position on the floor, writing something, which I discovered later to be her goodbye letter to her friends by the time on the letter. I said, "Whatcha doin'?" with a smile. "Just writing a letter!" she said so happily. How can someone feel so happy while planning to end their life? Experts tell us that once someone's mind is made up, they're actually at peace with their decision. I asked her if she'd like to watch a movie with me while eating dinner and she said, "Sure! I'll be out in a little bit, K?"

When she came out we talked about renting a movie. She seemed terribly concerned about getting batteries for the old tape recorder she always used when recording her songs that she wrote. I asked if I could just pick them up on my way home from work the next day and she pleaded with me and said she'd ride a long so I gave in. One thing that startled me was when she refused my offer to let her drive to the store. I said, "Really? You sure? You ok, Sweetie?" She said, "Yeah, just not this time, K?" I remember that bothered me because none of my girls ever refused the chance to drive while in Driver's Ed. I wish now I would've followed through with it more, but I guess I just thought she was having a tough night.

When we parked she said, "Mom, would you mind terribly if I didn't go in with you? I'm kinda embarrassed at how bad my acne is today." I said, "Of course not, Sweetie, but I happen to think you're beautiful just the way you are." She said, "Thanks for understanding, Mom. I love you." "I love you, more." I replied, feeling badly at how sad she looked. When I came out not only with her batteries but a scary movie she'd been requesting for a long time, she perked up and was excited so I dismissed what had happened. Another one of those "If only I..." again.

While making dinner, I listened to her new song, It's Up To You, that she was recording while playing it on the piano. It sounded beautiful - her best ever and I told her so. She said she promised Pam she'd have it done. It's very painful to be remembering and relating this. Last conversations and visions are all we have at times so to cut it short. We watched part of a movie while we ate and then started her scary one to which shortly thereafter I told her I needed to go to bed for work the next morning and asked if she'd mind if I didn't watch her scary movie with her. She of course said, "Sure, that's ok. Good night, Mom. I love you." How it makes my heart ache now that I didn't make the time to snuggle with her for as long as she needed and wanted me to. I can never get that back again.

The next morning was the usual hurried morning where we'd pass each other getting ready for work and Driver's Ed. I stuck my head in the bathroom while she was getting ready and told her how pretty she was and she said the usual, "Thanks! So are you!" Everything seemed very normal. She called out to me from her bedroom to not forget to sign her form and when I told her I already had and that it was laying on the table, she said, "Thanks, Mom! I love you!"

When I was ready to leave, I called to her and said, "I'm leaving now, Molli. Have a good day and I'll see you when I get home. I love you!" She called back, "Ok! I love you more!" Those words still ring in my ears. They were the last she ever spoke to me.

When I arrived home, around 1:45, the house was very quiet - almost unnervingly so, as I think back. I called out and there was no answer. I noticed there was no note left from Allie or Molli explaining where they were, which was unlike them, but passed it off. On my way back down the hall from changing clothes in my room, I noticed the bathroom door was closed and the light was on. My first thought was, "Oh good! Molli's here!" I always looked forward to seeing her.

I knocked and called out but there was no answer. I opened the door slowly, becoming increasingly aware that something was very wrong. Molli was laying, fully clothed in the bath tub. I ran to her, panicking - thinking she somehow had fallen and hit her head. Every thought but suicide ran through my mind. However, when I saw the gun - MY gun - in my heart it was my fault, even though I'd left the gun locked and the bullets hidden, I was so shocked, terrified, and horrified.

There are many more wretched emotions that race through your mind and heart when suicide happens to your child. There are so many "If only I would have...", "Why didn't I just...", and the most devastating is the visions you carry in your mind if you're the one to find your child - no matter what method they've chosen - it's still a lifeless body that you gave life to and carried inside of you and now that child made the decision to end her life and change yours and your family's forever. I ran and called 911, hoping against hope that she was still alive. She had to be! This couldn't happen to my baby!

The words "potential suicide... my little girl" strangled my throat as I tried to maintain control for the dispatcher. I tried CPR... nothing - and by the time, probably only minutes later, the first paramedics arrived, I knew she was really gone. What I felt that day was terror, horror, shock, panic, hopelessness, emptiness, guilt, and immense grief, all rolled into one. I screamed, cried, couldn't breathe because my heart literally was suffocating - and I still had to tell my other children.

Someone from either the police or the fire department made the call to my daughter's apartment - not revealing anything except that something had happened and I needed them, so that they wouldn't drive in a panic. I had to break their hearts and tell them that their baby sister was gone and what she'd done. I had to tell Kelly that his promise to teach this little girl, that he'd grown to love over the last 4 years, how to change a tire just the night before - was gone from us forever. I had to get word to her dad, Paul, that his youngest child took her life.

Police and paramedics were everywhere. I was totally alone in the world during that time. I was being asked questions over and over - having to relate my steps before finding Molli. I knew that it was standard procedure, but I was supposed to be sitting with Molli and sharing our day not doing this! They told me she had left two notes - one for Family and one for Friends - in her room. I vaguely remember thinking, "How could I not know she would do this???" The detective's assumption was that Molli had been planning this as she had obviously hidden the gunlock and only 1 bullet missing from where I'd hidden them. "How could I not know???" kept racing through my mind.

The street was filled with emergency vehicles, police cars and worried neighbors and friends, including Molli's best friends - not knowing what had happened to whom. Allie was the first to arrive home and then Heidi and Melissa & Kelly shortly afterward. We weren't allowed near her. I didn't even get to hold her in my arms before they took her away four hours later. They allowed me to kiss her, touch her face and say goodbye right before they left. It's like there was no closure - not that there ever could be with your child. How could I let them just take my baby? In 15 years there was rarely a time that I didn't know exactly where she was and that she was safe.

I just remember fighting to breathe and not scream - not wanting to sleep because I knew the very first thought would be that she was gone forever when I woke. The DISBELIEF! I had planned on choosing the movie we'd watch snuggled together on the couch that night, and instead I was sitting there with a stranger talking about decisions about her funeral! "Oh Molli, how could you leave me like that!!??" is what I remember sobbing over and over, rocking back and forth, unable to sit still.

The next few days are kind of a blur to me now. What I do remember is how my heart felt when kids and parents started coming to the door with candles and flowers and especially hugs. Kids and people I'd never seen before - who had somehow been touched by Molli and loved her. Big and small, boys and girls, men and women - crying and giving hugs. The girls set up a place out in front of the house where people could put flowers, candles, pictures - it was like a scene out of the movie "Pay It Forward" - one of our family favorites.

Two nights later, a group of over one hundred kids with the help of a parent and Dr. Tim Klerekoper - the chaplain who came to the house and became my lifeline to sanity - got together at a local church - over a hundred kids and some parents - to share feelings about Molli. That was when we learned about many of the kind and loving deeds she had done to others that neither we nor her best friends were aware of. How my child, whom I knew was wonderful, had touched and affected so many lives of those she barely knew. We knew God was blessing us with this to comfort us. We could literally feel His arms around us during this time.

I had to get a memorial card together for the memorial service. No one knew what I wanted on it and no one knew how to do the graphics, yet every time I looked at her picture or tried to type the information, I pictured her as I found her, and Kelly would seek me out and find me in the office downstairs sobbing uncontrollably. He'd put his arms around me and not say a word and cry with me until I was too weak to cry anymore - then I'd pick myself up and it would all start over again.

Family and friends were wonderful. This family couldn't have gotten through that week without the tenderness and love we received. Every day we'd hear from at least one person, and many times more, how either Molli or what she'd done had changed their lives and/or their family's life. We felt God's presence with us everywhere. Being in the house where Molli shared every day was excruciating, yet being away from it was difficult as well.

The service was a wonderful tribute to Molli. The church was so filled with people, some were standing outside. Somehow, we got through that, too, and saw people we hadn't seen in years. The church custodian shared a very special occurrence with us that next Sunday after church. It seems when he came to prepare the church the night before the service, as he walked into the sanctuary, it was completely dark - except for a bright beam of light coming from a window and shining on the bouquet of flowers in the front of the church that had been delivered for Molli earlier that day - illuminating the entire vase and flowers. He shared that he'd never seen anything like that before. He also told us that while cleaning up the day after the service, he picked up more tissue off the floor than he'd ever done before, revealing how Molli and words that were shared had touched everyone.

We had a candle vigil in front of our home that night at 9pm to which we estimate over 150 people - kids and adults - brought candles and love to share for our wonderful Molli. One special person brought fireworks to, as he said, "Light up the skies with Molli's love." Again, stories were shared as to how Molli had touched fellow classmates and friends' lives. All came to say goodbye to Molli and show their love.