The Moonshadow Story
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” This quote from Bansky (a graffiti artist from Bristol, England) was probably intended to show he would “live” forever. But if you are a parent who has lost a child, these words have a much deeper meaning.
My daughter, Jennifer, died February 21, 2009 at the age of 26. I have no stories of her current accomplishments or her upcoming wedding or her children. My entire being shouts, “She cannot be forgotten! She will not be forgotten! Her name was Jennifer and she lived and her name can’t disappear!”
Shortly after Jenn’s death, I looked at her Facebook page to find consolation in the comments there. What I found were messages of profound sadness from women all over the world. Their names were unfamiliar to me. And I needed to know how they knew my daughter. When I contacted them I heard stories of love and compassion and long lasting friendship.
Jennifer suffered from an eating disorder for 10 years until she recovered in 2005. It was during that time that Jenn joined an online support group of fellow sufferers. Those Facebook friends shared many stories about my daughter. “Jennifer called me and stayed up all night.” “Jennifer visited me while I was in recovery.” “Jennifer convinced me to get help.” “Jennifer cheered me up when I was desperate.”
They also told me that there were many more friends from this online group who did not know Jenn by her given name. They knew her simply as “moonshadow”, her login name. All of these other friends also wanted to share memories of the girl they knew as moonshadow. And I received dozens of anonymous messages. Too many for me to share in a blog. I’ll share a few.
“This is rather small and silly, but for some reason I remember the first time I noticed Moonshadow. … I was having one of those horrific, harrowing everything-is-wrong I-will-never-be-happy-again-ever days that only stupid teenage girls are able to have. And her reply made me laugh so hard. She was such a delightful, charming, wonderful person. I got a warm fuzzy feeling whenever I saw her avatar even without reading her words. I can't imagine my having been more than the tiniest blip on her radar. But even someone like me, whom she barely knew, [liked] her so much. She didn’t even have to have had a personal relationship with someone to make someone like her. Her beauty and grace simply radiated.”
“Jenn's mission in life was to see her friends happy. She was quick to make someone smile or laugh, even at her own expense.”
“she was a pillar of support for so many individuals, constantly offering support.”
“Jen was bubbly and outgoing, caring and kind. I met her at 2 different ... meetups and she was a lovely girl.”
“She was quite possibly the kindest person I have ever known, and that never waivered from her.”
“And I know you don't know me at all, but your daughter was amazing and one of the very best friends anyone could ever have, always.”
When I asked what would be a good memorial for Jennifer, it was one of those online friends who told me that Jenn was saddened that so many sufferers could not get help because of financial difficulties. That’s when Moonshadow’s Spirit was created. Our initial focus was to provide financial assistance. And, in the five years since we began, we have given 45 awards totalling more than $100,000. We have now expanded our mission to include awareness and, with awareness, we add advocacy.
In the 6 years since I first discovered my sweet moonshadow, I’ve met so many of her friends from that support group. They all make an effort to contact me and tell me how much they miss Jenn. My daughter, the girl who called me every day. My daughter, the girl who told me more than I might have wanted to know about her personal life. My daughter, moonshadow, kept these friends secret and safe and always loved.
I remember when Jenn was in high school, she asked me if I had ever heard of Cat Stevens. I told her I had a CD of his songs. I also told her that “Moonshadow” was my favorite song because it always made me smile. It seems she took that name for the same purpose – to make people smile. And now people who never met her tell me they feel her spirit helping them through recovery.
Yes, her name will continue to be spoken and she will live on.