|photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick|
I, Jennifer, more commonly known as Jenna, am a 13.75-year-old girl desperate to finish my novel and become published.
I love Jesus and books, tolerate school and homework, and absolutely detest Chinese bok choy and computers that randomly turn off while I am working. I also enjoy writing, reading, hanging out with friends, playing the clarinet, and baking.
Most of all, I love making beautiful things—whether from a once-blank paper or a friend’s broken life—grow out of thorns and dust and burst into riotous blossom.
My primary educational aspiration is to become a missionary pediatric doctor. Whenever I see or read about people who suffer or die from lack of adequate medical treatment, whether in Africa or the Appalachians, my heart breaks.
Most kids my age have a hobby, and in-depth reading about medicine for both purpose and enjoyment is one of mine. I enjoy serving people and seeing the smile on their face when I help them.
I want to go to college and then medical school. Many times my parents have explained to me the challenges of earning M.D. initials—going to school for a prolonged time, taking out extensive loans, studying—but I still dream big. I know it will be hard, but all things worth having demand a price.
My other goal doesn’t fit as much with education, but it’s still a big part of me. Unlike the average middle-school pre-teen, writing is my all-time favorite thing. Someday, as soon as possible, I want to be a published author.
Last summer I gave the fantasy characters that were clamoring inside my head for three years a voice and began to write their story. I now have one hundred fifty typed pages. This isn’t even half of it. I still have a long way to go, but I think I can fulfill this dream before I graduate.
Maybe it’s folly to think I could be published by the end of high school, but to me that dream is so real I spent nearly the entire summer giving it wings.
~Jenna’s own words, written when she was in seventh and eighth grade. Compiled from her bookemon.com bio and her Duke TIP scholarship essays.
|photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick|
|photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick|
After homeschooling and participating in the Mauldin Middle School band, Jenna attended Sterling School’s Charles Townes Center for the Highly Gifted in seventh and eighth grade. She took part in Student Council, Creative Writing Club, and Junior Beta Club--and was delighted to be named queen of her school’s Valentine’s Day dance.
In addition, Jenna was recognized as a South Carolina Junior Scholar through Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.
She played in the Greenville County Youth Orchestra and received all-county and all-region honors in band. She was also involved in the City Church (now Bridgeway Church) youth group. As a freshman in an International Baccalaureate Program, Jenna was part of Southside High School’s marching and concert band. Before her death, Jenna was training to run track.
Jenna loved learning, loved people, and loved life. She was beautiful.
On January 2, 2013, however, she chose to end her life. She had told no one. There were no warning signs, no previous attempts, no indicators of mental illness. From an abundance of writings Jenna left behind, her mom has attempted to piece together what happened. The writings offer understanding, but no solid answers.
After reading Jenna’s freshman-year journal and suicide note, a professional counselor said, “If I had been given the opportunity to read this before Jenna’s death, I would have seen no red flags for suicide—only normal struggles faced by normal teenagers.”
But lies spoken by peers had somehow lodged within Jenna’s heart, with the pain of them tainting the way she saw herself and her life, until living became more than she thought she could bear.
In the letter she left behind, Jenna wrote, “I love you all so much, and I’m so sorry for leaving. Please forgive me. I would hate to die knowing that you never forgave me for what I did.”
Jenna was fourteen.
Life without her here is no longer the same.
Thank you for sharing and being so open. I want to learn more and to make a difference in the lives of others.ReplyDelete
You're very welcome. Thanks for reading, for caring, for responding. I imagine that, as a mother of eight, you're impacting many lives. Abundant blessings to you.Delete
Beth...your blog post has been shared many times in our hometown as graduation comes closer here in the Midwest. It has especially hit home for many as we recently put two neighbor's sons' to rest due to suicide. A week apart, both college students, both wonderful families with great love. As a former teacher I too am just stunned how sometimes warning signs exist, and other times they do not. I am beyond angry when I read about kids like Jenna who experience bullying and this horrible cycle of nastiness continues. I wish I knew the remedy. My prayers are for you, and for both Joe and Jordan's mothers. I couldn't imagine a greater pain.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Giovanna, for sharing this. It sounds as if you can relate in many ways.ReplyDelete
My heart aches for the families of Joe and Jordan. I'm so sorry. Since Jenna's death, I've heard of many suicide attempts and completions--more than I ever would have imagined, many of them unforeseen. I'm devastated every time I do. I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing it.
I will pray for your hometown tonight as graduation approaches. It's a difficult day--for the family first, but the community too.
I don't know the remedy either, but your words encourage me to continue to write and share the story as best I can in hopes that it will somehow make a difference and let others know they're not alone. Thank you for caring and reaching out to those who hurt.
Your loss breaks my heart. I can't thank you enough for taking your pain and letting it become your passion to help others. I pray that God will bless your efforts and make a big difference with these two huge problems - bullying and suicide. Yes, the madness needs to end. When people like you speak up, things can change.ReplyDelete
Thank you for reading, for caring, and for writing such encouraging words. Both the pain of Jenna's loss and the enormity of the problem can seem overwhelming at times, so this means more than you probably know.Delete
Hi Mrs. Saadati!! I was in your English class senior year at St. Viator. You were always one of my favorite teachers. You helped me to be a good writer. I was absolutely shocked when I came across your story in a Chicken soup for the soul book. Your story touched my heart and then I realized I knew you. What a small world. I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine your pain, but your strength is inspiring.ReplyDelete
Freyda! Your reply made my day! Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking a moment to comment. :) I can't believe it's been...what? 22 or 23 or 24 years? As soon as I saw your name, I remembered you sitting in world literature class at SVHS, saw your beautiful smile, heard your sweet voice and laugh. Such a happy memory! Your kind words mean a lot. Thanks for reading the story--I haven't published in Chicken Soup for five years, so that surprised me!--and thanks for "finding" me on the Bittersweet blog and reaching out. You're right to say it's a small world. I hope you're doing well.Delete
Another note from a SVHS grad: Mrs. Saadati, this is Joel, and I was in your English class as well. I ran across your blog posts serendipitously today and felt impelled to comment. I wanted to share our sympathies as well. We have suffered from the sudden unexpected loss of my wife’s younger brothers under different circumstances, and not a day goes by that we think of them, what signs we should have seen, what could have we done, what they would be doing now, etc. They are unanswerable questions, but we can’t stop asking ourselves. Now with three young ones of our own, the questions have changed to now what can we do for the future. It has been interesting. I will keep an eye out for more of your writings and insights. As an aside, my wife is a Duke TIP grad, and she’s speaks of the experience fondly. Knowing what it takes to be considered, your daughter must have been an amazing young person who we wished we could have known. All the best to you and your family.ReplyDelete
Joel, thanks for taking time to read the blog. (I'm curious about how you found it.) Thanks even more for taking time to comment. Same as with Freyda, I can still picture where you sat in class and can still hear your voice. I'm not completely sure, but I think you were also on the Kairos retreat I attended. (If you were in world lit class during 1997-1998, I would have been pregnant with Jenna then.) I never expected to hear from another SVHS grad--and only a month after Freyda replied. I was very touched to see that you'd commented.Delete
Your words here are heartfelt and true and good. It means a lot that you would vulnerably share what you did. Thank you. I'm truly sorry, though, to hear about the loss of your wife's brothers. It hurt to read that; I am grieving with both of you. I understand about the sudden unexpectedness, the "not a day goes by," the unanswerable questions, and the "signs we should have seen." From what you wrote, it's obvious that you and your wife fully understand too. How I wish none of us did.
I have two of my own teenagers--in addition to my high school students--so I also understand the pain of not being able to change the past but the decision to look towards the future--with the hope that the sharing of story and the gained perspective might help prevent it from happening again.
I imagine you being an incredible dad. Abundant blessings to you, your wife, and your three kids. And, thanks again.