Monday, May 11, 2015

A Message from Meghan's Dad

In the nine years I've been writing this blog, I've only once turned it over to another author. Today is the only other exception to that rule. My friend, Brian Sager, has a message that is as beautiful as it is urgent. It was written on Saturday, May 9, on the eighteenth anniversary of the birth of his daughter, Meghan Marie. I knew this little gal. Losing her was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Can you imagine what it must have been like for her mother and father, or her two brothers? I can't even contemplate it - and I've been trying, believe me. The forum is yours, Mr. Sager:


Meghan Sager, 2013
Today marks an anniversary of one of the greatest gifts I was ever blessed with. Today would have been my daughter Meghan’s eighteenth birthday. 

I had many nicknames for Meghan: Meg, Meggo, Magoo (which morphed into “Goot”, which she hated), Sweet Pea (which she liked), and often, “the Amazing Meghan”. Perhaps it’s a father’s pride, but Meghan was, quite simply, the most amazing person I have ever known. I am very proud of all of my children, but Meghan was unique in her pursuit of excellence in everything she did. She wasn’t always “the best”, but she was pretty darned good at anything and everything she tried, and she tried almost everything. She was good at everything she did because, no matter what was at hand, she gave it her all. 

As most of you know by now, Meghan passed away almost a year and a half ago. I “hear from her” now and then, in the song of a bird, or the twinkle of a star, a tune on the radio, or the laughter of a little girl in a pretty dress in springtime. She helped me finish nursing school, she helped me find a job, and she’s helping me be a better man in so many ways. Many have said to me “I don’t know how you do it (deal with the grief)” or “I can’t imagine what you are going through”, and that’s a good thing, because it’s something no parent should ever need to understand or have to go through. We do, because we must. That’s the simple answer. There is no acceptable alternative. 

Such a tragic ending cannot be allowed without something of value to be learned, something to help others, something to prevent such loss from happening to someone else. I wanted to share a few things I have learned or maybe re-learned.

1. Time is limited, so make the most of it. We cannot know when “our time is up” or when we will lose those dear to us. Get after that “bucket list” now, not when you are too old or too broke or too tired. Try to enjoy every moment because there are only so many….
2. MAKE the time to let those you love know you love them. Drop the grudges. Be first to apologize. Be first to forgive.
3. Given the choice between “enjoying life” and “making a few extra bucks”, choose “enjoying life”. That doesn’t mean call out sick to binge watch “House of Cards”, but if a unique opportunity presents itself, take it!

4. Love your family (seriously?!?) Sounds like a no brainer, and I know you do, but what I mean is take a moment to just look at them and enjoy the wonderful people they are. Acknowledge their flaws (to yourself and without dwelling on them), but more importantly, appreciate their strengths and help them build on them. If you were building a house, you’d want a good, strong foundation and go up from there, same with a family. Fix and reinforce the foundation and build.

5. Believe. You are not alone in this world. I am convinced more than ever of a higher power in this world. Common themes of love, kindness, forgiveness and giving are universal to all faiths. Focus a little more on the spirit of the message and less on the letters in the message… jmho….

6. Clinical depression is an illness, not a weakness, and is just as serious and can be just as deadly as cancer or heart disease. It is also far more common than we realize. One in twenty teens will suffer major depression at some point. Too often the tendency is to simply medicate. I can tell you personally that strategy can have fatal consequences. Treating depression with Prozac alone is like trying to build a house using only a screwdriver. It can be a useful tool, in conjunction with others, but by itself is often ineffective (or worse)

7. And finally: GIVE. The support we have received from friends and family and the community has been tremendous, and it is amazing how a simple card, a hug, or a plate of pumpkin bars can lift the spirit when the heart hangs low. If you see or know of someone going through a hardship, reach out. It DOES make a difference! Small efforts can be huge helps. Don’t worry that now “might not be a good time”, it might actually be a great time. Just be understanding if the other party can’t receive your intentions as you would have liked. Remember that they are the ones going through the hardship and might not have the clearest of minds at that moment. Find peace in making the effort, it IS the thought that counts!

Through the generosity of friends and family, we have established a memorial fund to honor Meghan. Among the goals of the fund is to advance awareness of depression among teens and advance the spirit of kindness and caring in our community. A key part of this is the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship, which is issued annually to Goshen seniors who demonstrate several of the same traits Meghan had, such as academic achievement with an interest in sports, languages, music, theater, or volunteerism, but above all, have consistently displayed exceptional kindness and caring for their fellow students and community. 

Last year we awarded two $1,000 scholarships to two amazing young women and look forward continuing this spirit of giving. This fund is now facilitated by The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan. Please consider including the Meghan Sager Memorial Fund in your charitable contributions. Thank you!

Brian Sager

Here's a link to make a donation to the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship Fund:

You'll never know how much I adored this kid.

Still we will remember Mama's little girl.

Autumn 2005: Miss Meghan reaches for the lost chord while two
devoted admirers look on in wonder and awe.


At 8:17 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Again, all off-topic comments will be immediately deleted. Don't even bother. This one is sacred.

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This breaks my heart. We lost our 18-year-old nephew to depression 11 years ago...It shattered our family...I'm so sorry for your loss...

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Lydia said...

Oh, Tom, I think I have an idea of how much you loved Meghan. It shows in the way you continue to honor her and in the way you live on. Brian's tribute is both heart-wrenching and inspiring, and I thank you for giving him this forum to share it with us. The boundless and faithful love her family has for Meghan supports them and allows them to instruct and console others. What a gift!
My favorite of the photos here of Meghan is the one in the green shirt. There is something so naturally free and peaceful and wise about her expression; I love it.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Veronica Harrison said...

Thank you for what you said. Depression is a horrible thing to deal with as an adult, but as a child it is worse (you don't always realize that is what you are feeling). I am a graduate of Goshen (GHS) and we lost a young girl my sophomore year to suicide. I will always keep your family in my prayers. God bless you, your family and your beautiful Meghan!

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all you are doing through your blog in Meghan's memory. Depression and mental disorders are very difficult to deal with. My 19 year old daughter fell into depression and diagnosed with bipolar disorder now for 6 years. She is in the court system because she does risky things. Instead of helping her they put.her in jail making the depression and disorders worse. New things are happening now like night terrors. They put her on a PTSD drug she is being counselled weekly. Her anxiety is atrousious and the MD gives her 1 mg of xanax a day when she could use 3 mg. But they are afraid of addiction. Addiction is small compared to fearing suicide which I do all the time. She never knows when the anxiety, depression is going to be bad. It just happens. Thanks for your thoughts and your inspiration.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous kat said...

Meghan was such a inspiration to know . her frienship with our daughter was a gift not only to her but to us as a family. being able to have her for just one summer at the shore was so memorable. always patient, thoughtful in words and actions, she was by far a special young woman. I know her very spirit does live on in others, at very rare times I have felt her thoughts when having "moments" with my own daughter. She does live on and sometimes , I guess, the Lord takes our special souls home first so all of us are given another chance, once again to soar. Meghan did just that. god bless her family and her memory.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous HarleyA said...

I personally resonate with point 4 especially... It is easy to be so focused on "raising" our children that we fail to enjoy them and let them know how much we enjoy them. I'm probably guilty... I'm learning that wisdom in parenting seems to come too late (or feels that way) - maybe that's why we have grandparents. And, why grandparents tend to simply enjoy the grandkids (and we give them grief for it). Maybe there is some deep wisdom in that...

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Amanda Sowards said...

Brian - Your persistence and courage, your willingness to be open and communicate about something so painful, and your deep and abiding dedication to make all memorials about Meghan about her life and not her death bring me to the edge of tears. I may want to be you when I grow up. If I grow up. (The jury's still out on that one.) Peace and love to you and to all the people who knew and loved your girl. (You, too, Tom.)

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Amanda Mehelich said...

I needed to read this, thank you so much for sharing. My mom died in January, she had been my legal defendant for over a decade so when she died I felt like I'd lost a mom and a child. I know it's not the same but I've just felt gutted since it happened. I've been trying to pull myself out of it but it's been a minute-to-minute struggle. Your posting reminded me that I've still got a family (husband and 2 boys) that I need to concentrate on. When you loose part of your world it's hard not to get caught up in how much you miss them rather than concentrate on what you still have, and I'm sure you went through this but the at you've channeled your grief into something so positive. Thank you.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger De_Bill said...

The pain felt at the loss of a loved one lessens over time, as the memories of your time together start coming to you more often than the memory of the loss, but regrets never fade.
We need to take the time to make sure the people we care about the most know what they mean to us while we can.

At 5:03 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Late one night last summer (July 28) I found myself wide awake at 2:00 in the morning - not an unusual state for me to be in. At 2:30 I decided to take a drive just to clear my mind. I found myself in a little parking area on Minisink Trail, adjacent to the sports field of the local Catholic high school. I got out of the jeep and propped myself on the hood of the vehicle, staring up at the universe before me, smoking a cigarette, and not thinking of anything in particular.

All of the sudden, my reverie was jolted by the sight of a meteorite whizzing across the sky.

"WOW!" I said out loud, "That was so beautiful - but it was too brief."

At that moment a bell went off in my mind: Ah! Who does that remind you of, Degan?

On my way back home, I was unable to get that metaphor out of my head. I went inside the house and made my way upstairs. Before retiring for the rest of the night, I entered the little office across the hall from my bedroom and wrote these words down in my notebook:

"She was the personification of a shooting star. It appears upon the horizon, rapidly making its way across the night sky, illuminating the heavens in a brilliant and beautiful light. Then, in an instant, it's gone."

That's Miss Meghan to me.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Sherrey Meyer said...

Thank you for sharing Meghan with us. I have not lost a family member, especially as young as Meghan, to suicide. However, we hear so much in the news about teen suicide and depression that often I feel like scooping them all up and loving them.

You wisely advise spending time, loving fully, and being aware. These are wise tips in our busy society and for all parents. I'll be sharing this post far and wide to support your efforts with your memorial trust and scholarship.

God bless you!

At 8:37 PM, Blogger TLP said...

We lost our only son to depression almost 24 years ago. He was 26.

People still tell me that they think of him often, and that's music to my ears.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you for all of the sweet comments, folks. Meghan's family have read them all and they are deeply appreciative.

Peace to all of you as well....

....and a Cheerio! Pip! Pip!

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Yiskah said...



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