Nagoonberry

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Meeting Marya

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Last Tuesday morning, one of the first things I read on Facebook was a friend’s link to a story from KTUU, our local NBC affiliate. Neighbors had discovered a woman’s body that morning in the parking lot of the Anchorage UU Fellowship.

The article said that police were investigating her death as a homicide.

My mind scrambled, thinking of people I knew from the fellowship who might match the article’s description of the unnamed woman. A quick check of Twitter and Facebook ruled out the two auburn-haired Unitarian Universalists who came to mind.

About thirty-six hours later, on Wednesday evening, police released the woman’s name: Marya Abramczyk, known to AUUF as Mya.

The next day, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Marya had taken her own life.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended her memorial service. I had never met Marya. My only contact with her was a series of emails this past May. She was serving as a pastoral care assistant for the congregation, and wanted information about online UU resources for one of the people she was visiting.

I attended Marya’s service to support her family and the congregation, both rocked by this tragedy.

And I was hoping to find some way to understand what had happened. I wanted to meet Marya for the first time, in the stories of those who knew and loved her.

The service included an extended time for storytelling. One by one—beginning with Marya’s mother—family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors stepped to the microphone and introduced me to Marya.

She was a gifted quilter, an artist who loved color, a person brave enough with a paintbrush to paint the walls of her home vibrant reds and yellows. She was a generous volunteer, a friend to newcomers, a maker of gifts for people she barely knew. She worked hard, and noticed the little things, like the grubby towels in the fellowship kitchen that she replaced with cheerful new ones. She chased down happiness with everything she had—even if it meant walking in the rain.

Everyone spoke of her generosity of spirit, her kindness, her beauty, her light. Their words formed a picture of such a loving, lovely person.

I found myself thinking about Jenny Lawson, the journalist and quirky blogger known as “The Bloggess.” Lawson, who suffers from depression, passed along a simple, two-word mantra that I’ve found tremendously helpful: depression lies.

I don’t know what lies depression told Marya. But somehow depression deceived this lovely, loving soul into not seeing, not feeling, not knowing the healing love flowing her way in return for all she gave, and all she was.

And that’s a tragedy. A too-common tragedy.

One of the last people to speak yesterday was a neighbor who lives a half-block from the fellowship.

She saw the police tape as she drove by on her way to work on Tuesday morning. When she learned that a woman had been killed, and that the police were investigating it as a possible homicide, her first thought was, “It could have been me.”

Then as things unfolded through the week, and it became clear how Marya died, she said again to herself, “It could have been me. I live alone, and I’m a very private person. It could have been me.”

Rates of suicide and depression in Alaska are very high. Those of us gathered yesterday knew exactly what she meant. We know the crazy whispers in the darkness of the mind.

It could have been any one of us. It could have been our spouse, parent, sibling, friend, co-worker or neighbor. It could have been any one of us.

This week it was Marya, a beautiful soul I know only through the stories of those who loved her.

Photo by TK Kleiner. Used with permission.

 

15 thoughts on “Meeting Marya

  1. Oh, Heather, I’m so sorry for your community’s loss. Just a few hours ago, I saw a headline about this, and immediately thought of you. Rough times, both of us blogging about suicides on the same weekend. Thank you for honoring Marya’s life, while shining a light on the lies of depression. I’ll be keeping you, the AUUF, and Marya’s family in my thoughts. Big hugs.

    • Thank you, Tele. I wasn’t sure about the person you lost, but reading between the lines, I suspected. So sad. Hugs to you, too.

  2. Thank you. I’ve lost congregants and friends to depression, and “depression lies” is a good, good phrase to pass along. My deep sympathy to you and everyone connected to Marya. If only she could have seen herself the way you saw her.

  3. One of the comments that hit me the hardest was from Mya’s sister, who said “I want her back!” That so resonates with me.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Heather. I’d been thinking about this since I saw the FB post the other day.

  5. I’m so sorry for your community’s loss. Yes, depression lies. And it’s so true that it could have been me, or any of us – it’s not just a few who suffer like this, but many many of us.

    • When Rhonda said “it could have been me” for the second time, there was a palpable sense of recognition in the room. I’m guessing that if we had asked everyone there to raise their hand if they’d ever had suicidal thoughts, experienced depression or known someone who had, most hands would have been raised.

  6. You know, when I went up to speak, I truly didn’t know what words would come out… it was as if the words just came all on their own, speaking through me. It was something that needed to be said. I felt the silence in the room after I said that too. And breathed in and had to say it again. Hopefully someone was spoken to, and will call a friend in a time of need, or see some beauty in the day ~ that propels them forward. And hopefully everyone will take an extra moment to connect with others ~ to share kindness, love, ask each other how they are doing ~ really ~ .. Whenever anyone leaves too soon, it is a tragedy, no matter how they leave – but when they leave this way – it is even more of a tragedy. And it touches everyone’s lives, everyone. Rhonda

  7. I’m late to see this, but I appreciate it very much. Ihad a similar experience (with a colleague I didn’t know well) a couple of years ago. Her funeral was remarkably redemptive, despite being a very, very sad event. Her life had been well-lived, at least much of the time, and she had made lots of contributions to lots of people. “Depression lies” is an important mantra indeed. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Kate. During my time as an associate pastor, I did a lot of funerals for strangers (requests that came from the local funeral homes). Listening to family stories felt holy–a form of resurrection, perhaps, as the deceased person came to life in my imagination, and then in words reflected back during the service.

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