This past July, I wrote a piece about women being light bearers, the brandishers of flames whom we follow and emulate. But lately I’ve been given pause to think and try to understand what might be hiding behind a few of these beautiful torches.
Late September, we lost another incredible woman within our circle of friends and community. A wild, bold bearer of light, her memory now seared upon the broken hearts of many. Angela Mallory was smart, savvy, brash, passionate, and quick to turn strangers to friends. Her eulogy, a patchwork of memories and love penned by family and friends, captured the women we all knew and loved, a woman who approached everything she did with childlike abandon. Angie laughed loudly, cursed heartily, hugged ferociously, loved passionately, danced wildly, and gave of herself fearlessly.
And yet, unbeknownst to many, she was hiding behind her light, fearful something or someone was attempting to douse her flame, and instead of asking for help with her burden, she extinguished her beautiful light. She was hurting and her quiet suffering remained unseen by many who were unable or not wanting to see beyond her glorious blaze. The pain of her loss is deep and aching, felt in the bones and the recesses of our hearts, and partly because we cannot help but feel we failed her. How did we fail to see those hints of darkness piercing through her radiance?
I wonder how many others feel the need, the urgency to hide behind their flames. Do we place so much pressure on others to always be as the women (or men) we believe and want them to be, so much so they feel they cannot appear otherwise? When others revel in your joy of life, how can you possibly show them your sorrow of self. The stigma of being considered as damaged or weak pushes many to hide their feelings of sadness, self-doubt, fear, or hopelessness and yet, we all, at one time or another, have experienced one, if not all of these emotions. Everyone wants to be liked, to be accepted, and to be loved. No one should ever feel shunned, betrayed or unwanted. For none of us are perfect. Not one of us. We all have our faults, we all have our sins, whether spoken or unspoken, we are all imperfect, and that is what makes us all so incredible and believe it or not, so lovable.
There will always be unresolved questions, but I hope we fight to find answers for those who still struggle and will struggle. A woman whose flame we are drawn, should never feel she cannot set down her torch and ask for help. There is no shame in saying aloud that our heart is hurting, our soul is crying, and we can’t and don’t want to keep walking the path. There is great strength in knowing when we need someone to hold our hand or rest roadside with us. Every woman should know there are others readily available to carry her torch and should her light dim ever so slightly, know we will still find warmth beneath its glow.
Angie’s light will never be extinguished; she will forever guide us with her colorful fire. While she may have veiled her pain behind her splendid light, the torchbearer we will forever remember is a sensitive soul given over to compassion and unconditional love. She will continue to illuminate our lives, the shadow of her magnificent hat dancing along the path beside us in times of joy and in times of sadness. She has become our teacher, urging us to recognize a quivering flame or a muted glow, not only in others but in ourselves, and to understand when and how to reach out in times of need, not only to others, but for others. As torchbearers, we must illuminate the dark of depression and eliminate the shadows of suicide.