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‘To me, she represents all of you’


Photo by Rob Clay/Federal Way News
Jill Ririe

by Sharon Altaras
Federal Way News

In a portable classroom, with anti-smoking posters and health lesson schedules on the wall, 30 Decatur juniors and seniors listen quietly to Jill Ririe talk about her daughter, Molli Anne.

“She was the bright spot in my day. She gave great hugs and she hated meanness... When the phone rang, Molli answered it like: ‘Hi!’ like she hadn’t heard from the person in months,” Ririe told them. “She had exuberance for life.”

The first glimpse Ririe had into the heartache that her youngest of four daughters possessed came on a July night in 2001 - the night before Molli ended her life.

She and Molli took a trip to the video store and although Molli, 15, was enrolled in driver’s education, she told her mom she didn't want to drive.

When they got to the store she asked to stay in the car, saying she was embarrassed about her acne.

“I told her how beautiful she is,” Ririe said to the class. “She always cornered it, with, ‘thanks, Mom, so are you.’”

“[But] it just shocked me because she looked so sad,” Ririe’s voice dropped, “She looked so sad.”

The next afternoon, Ririe came home from work to a completely quiet house and a “strange stillness in the air.”

She called out for her daughter, with no answer. Then she opened the bathroom door and saw Molli lying in the tub.

“There was a lot of blood behind her head. I thought she’d hit her head.”

“Then I saw the gun lying against her chest with her beautiful, beautiful fingers pressed against it... my gun. And (on the phone) I had to choke out the words: ‘potential suicide of my child,’” she told the class, in a broken voice.

“Am I trying to shock you? Yes. I will do whatever it takes to stop one family from going through what happened to our family,” Ririe said.

“You see, to me, she represents all of you. Your faces might look different, but your hearts are still the same. People don’t choose suicide because they want to die. They choose it because they want the pain to stop.”

When Ririe asked the students to put their heads down and raise their hands if they knew anyone who had attempted or committed suicide, she received a unanimous response.

In Washington, 1 out of 10 young people has tried to take their own life, according to data from the department of health.

Suicide in our state is the second leading cause of death for those 15 to 24, subsequent only to accidental injury.

In the note that Molli left for her family and friends, she said the world was all about money and meanness and she couldn’t take it anymore, but Ririe had something different to tell the class.

“If all it was about was money and meanness,” she said, “I wouldn’t be here.”

“You are so valuable to the world, to God, and to me,” she added. “All you have to do is get through today. That’s how I did it because I miss her a lot. I even miss the loud music coming from her room,” Ririe said with a smile.

“Don’t leave this world. Help me change it.”

Though Molli’s tragic death at age 15 seemed hopeless, she touched multiple lives while on Earth, according to her close friends Kim Miller and Amanda Conner, Decatur seniors.

“If she smiled at you, you knew you were important,” Miller said. “There was never a bad memory with Molli.”

“Her reason [for committing suicide] wasn’t because she had a bad life,” Miller continued. “God needed another angel.”

Both of the girls and Ririe believe that Molli has communicated with them through messages she’s imparted to her mother and to others.

“It’s like if someone were reading to you,” Ririe said. “That is how some of her thoughts come - through the Holy Spirit.”

Believing that Molli is in heaven and reliving happy memories from her life on earth has helped the girls move on, though Miller said the reality of her close friend’s death hit her only recently.

“I don’t want to say closure, because there is no closure,” she said.

“I have really bad anxiety, and [at first] I thought what if I go crazy someday and want to kill myself?”

According to Miller, as long as young people are willing to break the silence surrounding suicide, Ririe’s mission will be effective.

“Yeah, lives will be saved,” Conner agreed.

Through a website Ririe built, mollisgarden.com, talks she gives at churches and schools, and her recently published book, “I Can Only Imagine,” she believes that the story of her daughter’s death will impact people, too.

Standing in the classroom, next to a framed picture of her family that includes the smiling face of 15-year-old Molli Anne, Ririe asked any students willing to help her in her quest to end suicide to raise their hands.

She encouraged them to smile at their peers in the hall way, join discussion groups and speak out if they’ve survived depression.

Slowly, 10 students raised their hands.

“The point is,” Ririe told them, “reach out and talk to somebody. And don’t stop talking until somebody listens. Take time to smile at one another and be kind. That was how Molli lived.”

“I just think [suicide] needs to be talked about and talked about until it’s out in the open,” she said, "and there’s no more shame associated with it."