Emma Jane von Euler was a beautiful, bright and articulate 17-year-old. A talented musician with an outgoing personality, she was a caring daughter, sister and friend to many.
On June 17, 2009, Emma killed herself.
Westport — where her father Peter teaches 5th grade — and Fairfield, where the von Eulers live, were devastated.
Her mother Nancy — writing on a blog she created to preserve Emma’s life — described a “tsunami of destruction that swept up family, friends, teachers, ministers, mentors and neighbors.
“All of us struggled against the current of guilt, pain, shock and bewilderment,” Nancy continued.
For her immediate family, her father, sister and me, life as we knew it ended.
We will never fully understand why Emma ended her life; what caused what must have been an incredibly deep sense of despair and hopelessness; or why she couldn’t reach out to us or to the many other caring adults and professionals she had in her life.
But let’s face it, answers, even if we could find them, won’t fill the incredible hole in our hearts.
The von Eulers established a scholarship in Emma’s name. It’s awarded annually to a Fairfield high school senior who plans to continue studying music in college.
Recipients are talented, sure. But they also show a “kind and generous spirit, and a desire to help and inspire others.”
In other ways too, Emma lives on. This Saturday (October 22), there’s an “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Sherwood Island State Park. The event raises money for research and education programs to prevent suicide, increase awareness about depression and suicide, and provide support for survivors of suicide loss.
The sponsor — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — helped the von Eulers tremendously in the months after her death.
It’s not the 1st walk in Emma’s memory. Just weeks after her death, high school friends formed a team.
“It was one of the many ways that kids showed us they knew best how to respond to the tragedy,” Peter says. “They took action in a positive way.”
The teenagers asked the von Eulers to walk with them.
“At first we were reluctant,” Peter admits.
“We were struggling, and not feeling like being very public. But we wanted to support their initiative and bravery.”
Though extremely hard, he says, “we followed their lead. And it helped us — a lot.”
The von Eulers participated last fall too. They’ve formed a team again this year.
They hope others will join them, as they walk out of the darkness. Into the bright sunlight.
In honor of their beloved daughter — and all the too-many-other victims of suicide — so that no other family will have to march again.
(To participate in this Saturday’s Sherwood Island walk — or make a donation in Emma’s name — click here.
(Contributions to the Emma Jane von Euler Music Scholarship may be sent to PO Box 682, Fairfield, CT 06824.)
For a moving video tribute to Emma, click the YouTube video below: