Did you know?

The loss of hope. That’s the worst. I thought I’d given up all hope. It wasn’t until you died that I realized there was a reservoir. That I always thought you’d get better. Perhaps one more rehab. Perhaps each relapse would be your last. And it was your last, but not with a bright outcome.

Your moments of clarity, of longing to do better. A hankering to shake the addiction. Those moments when you were so very yourself. Those were the moments I lived for, Sweetie. Seeing your strength, your compassion, your kindness, your humor, your love of family. You were so highly functioning that we tended to momentarily forget your dark suffering.

I’m so afraid people will only remember you as an addict. Not as the girl with wonder in her eyes. The girl who’d give anything she had to anyone in need. The girl who never met an animal that didn’t fall in love with her. The girl who could make anyone laugh, and always unexpectedly. The girl who questioned everything – and I loved you for it.

I know you hated disappointing me, but did you know? Did you know I was so proud of you? That stubborn streak, which you got from me, that fire that always burned in your eyes. Wanting the world to be a better place. Wanting to help make it a better place. Did I tell you enough that I was so proud of those parts of you? Did you know that I knew family was the most important thing to you? Did I tell you enough that you meant everything to me? Did I tell you enough that with all my accomplishments, the single greatest thing I ever did was raise my two beautiful children? That’s what I thank my lucky stars for. That’s always been the most beautiful part of my life. Did you know?

Did you know how many times you saved me? As a young twenty something year old mother, coming home to you kept me from making bad decisions. Day in and day out, I just wanted to be the best mommie for you. When you were six you asked me what Reincarnation meant, asked if I believed in it, and asked if you could come back as an animal. You told me if you were ever reincarnated, you’d come back as a butterfly so you would always be beautiful and would bring beauty to me whenever I was sad. I said, “But daughters don’t die before their momies, silly”. Maybe you knew.

I know I failed you in many ways. Perhaps if I hadn’t, you’d still be here. Maybe if I’d told you one more time how much I love you. Then maybe you would have shaken the addiction. Then maybe you wouldn’t have given up. Then maybe you’d have come home to me. I recited the 4 C’s so many fucking times over the years: I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it, I can’t Cure it, and I can’t Condone it. It became my mantra. That and, “You won’t love my child to death”. Jesus, what if my mantra had been more positive?

What if I’d known when I saw you last, on Christmas Day, that it was the last time I’d ever see you alive? When you removed Marah’s necklace with her ashes and asked me to put it in my safe, I was worried. I asked you what it meant. You told me it meant “put it in your effing safe”. But Sweetie, if I’d known, really known… I would have held you longer. I would have asked you the hard questions; the ones you hated talking about. I would have asked anyway. I would have said I’m sorry. I would have told you how much you inspired me. I would have told you how proud I was to be your mom. I would have begged you to stay longer.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve – that’s what I’m left with.

Honestly, I expected a phone call from a hospital or a morgue many times over the years. I WAS NOT PREPARED. I’d been in Thailand less than two hours when I got the call. There can be no preparation for THE CALL. “Your daughter was brought in as Ursula Doe and is on ‘Maximum Life Support’. Her heart stopped at least two hours before an ambulance was even called. Sarah as you knew her will never leave this hospital. Your daughter is brain dead. We can’t declare her dead until she’s warm and dead. We’ll keep her body warm for you until you can get here. ”

But I didn’t get there in time. For 36 hours I watched your body via video chat with my sisters. I watched our whole family say their goodbyes. I said my goodbye over video chat. Over fucking video chat! Who does that?! We turned the machines off and within 5 minutes your body was dead. 10 minutes later I left for the airport. Thanks to the freak snow storm and a back-up at the Medical Examiner’s office, it would be another 8 days before I could see your body and say goodbye in person.

I had 15 minutes with you. I looked at all your tattoos, hoping they weren’t yours. Selfishly wishing that was someone else’s dead 26-year-old baby girl lying there. I begged the Universe to take somebody else’s, anybody else’s child instead. When my deal with the devil didn’t work, the memories of you as a little girl with stars in your eyes came flooding back. I had 15 minutes to stroke your hair, your forehead, your eyebrows and your nose, just like when you were little and would drift off to sleep. It was almost like you were sleeping then. Since I didn’t have your body embalmed, when I held your hand, your fingers fell over mine. We were holding hands. Sweetie, did you know I was there? Did you hear me say it was okay to go? The hardest words I’ve ever spoken.

We had four Thai Buddhist Monks bless your body before cremation. They chanted the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard, helping you to transition to your next life, if there is one. They told me to make “happy wishes” so you could transition in peace, knowing I’d be okay. But Sweetie, I’m not okay. Sarah, I don’t think I’ll ever be okay.

The rest of the world is walking around, living their lives, oblivious to your absence. I want to scream at them. I want to make them remember your name and shout at the top of their lungs, SARAH, SARAH, SARAH! Maybe if we all scream your name at the same time, you’ll come back. But you won’t. I want them all to know about the great black, gaping, cavernous hole your absence has left in my very being. And I know I’m not the only one. Your brother, your oma and opa, your aunts and uncle, your dear friends, we’re all shaken. We all love you so much. We all had hope.

But hope is gone. My reservoir is empty. My heart is shattered. The Earth’s axis is off! Nothing is aligned properly. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. Parents shouldn’t bury their children. This is wrong! I’ve joined the secret club of parents who’ve outlived their children. I never liked secret clubs.

The words ringing in my ears these last six weeks are the end of the poem Funeral Blues:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I know life will go on. I know I’ll eventually get used to the pain. Like stomach ulcers, you just get used to it. But I don’t believe “Time heals all wounds”, “It was God’s will”, or any of the other absurd things well-intentioned yet incredibly naïve people say out of their desperate desire to be comforting. For now, I’m just going to feel this pain instead of burying it. Remember burying it? That thing we both perfected over the years? That stops with me. I’m changing it now.

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the final bardo you see all these people making love but there’s one particular couple you’re drawn to. As you approach them, there’s a bright light. This is the moment of your conception, the moment you’ve chosen your parents for your next life. This is your rebirth.

My therapist reminded me of the final bardo and said she believes you chose me to be your mother. That no other woman could have taken this journey with you, while setting healthy boundaries, without ever giving up on you, without ever losing hope, and yet still loving you the exact way you needed to be loved. Who knows, maybe it’s all complete bullshit. But I take great comfort in thinking how completely and utterly lucky I am that I got to share this journey with you for nearly 27 years. I’m out of hope but I’m not out of love. I will love you eternally. And I promise to never forget you.

Thank you for allowing me the great privilege of being your mom. Thank you for choosing me.

Jen Troyer ~ March 2019


This was placed in the casket with Sarah for her cremation:

Tell me why

I’m begging you to explain it to me

Tell me why you had to go. Why was it your turn?

Tell me why I couldn’t save you

Tell me why you suffered

Tell me why you had a void that could never be filled

Tell me why I can no longer hope for your future

Tell me why I’ll never know what you could have been

Tell me why I’ll never hold you again or caress your hair when you’re hurting

Tell me why I’ll never walk you down the aisle

Tell me why I’ll never see your face light up when you have your own child

Tell me why you were alone when your heart stopped. Was your heart so broken that it just couldn’t beat anymore? Mine is.

Tell me why you gave up

Tell me why you didn’t ask Oma for boots at Christmas, as you’ve done every year

Tell me why you weren’t wearing shoes. Were your feet cold in the snow?

Tell me why we’ll never have another Christmas together

Tell me what to do on your birthday in a few weeks

Tell me how to heal

Tell me how to help your brother’s heart heal

I wish you would have come to Thailand with me. I think it would have calmed you the way it’s calmed me. You’ll be with me now wherever I go.

I love you dearly, my sweet little girl. I love you more than you ever knew.

The Buddha said,

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp – a phantom – and a dream. *
*Vairacchedika 32.

Jen Troyer ~ February 2019

Sarah Jordan Troyer, 04.14.92 – 02.10.19

Sarah was a beautiful soul with a compassionate heart, a fierce dedication to family and friends, and an incredible love for animals.

She was a daughter, sister, niece, grandaughter, great grandaughter, cousin and friend.

Sarah’s body passed Sunday, February 10, 2019. On Monday, February 18, 2019, surrounded by her family, Sarah’s body was blessed by 4 Thai Buddhist Monks before cremation.

Sarah’s favorite poem:
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)
EE Cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be,”

I love you, Sweetie.


Little Girl Lost, December 2017

Little Girl Lost

I knew as your mother at twenty-three
My job was always to choose you over me
I sacrificed so you could be free
Little girl, heroin is NOT your destiny

Remember wanting to be a fire fighter
Your life was supposed to be easy and lighter
Tables have turned, you’re unconcerned
The fire you fight is with yourself at night

Denial so vile, the heart can’t reconcile
Selling your self-esteem
For tar in your bloodstream
This is NOT the American Dream

The addict’s con requires participation
Hope springs eternal
The desperation of trepidation

Didn’t sharing my pain and struggles
Absolve my children of future troubles

The sermons I gave urging you to be brave
Not heroin’s slave
Little girl it’s time
Stop digging your grave

You’re twenty-five now, should be grown
These choices you’ve made all on your own
It’s not too late to atone.
Little girl, just pick up the phone.

The present and the past, the feelings so vast
My baby girl lost

Treason for no reason
The lying, crying, trying…
Watching my little girl slowly dying

“Where did I go wrong?” “Didn’t I teach you to be strong?”
My heart’s questions an interrogation
My love not enough to resist temptation

The confusion of my illusion
The frustration of the situation
My pain. Your agony. Be free of this tragedy

My love a flotation device; not enough to suffice
Help yourself, choose to be free
This time, baby girl, YOU choose you over me.

~ Jen Troyer, December 2017

Little Girl, November 2007

Little Girl


Tears shed, happy and sad

Heartbreak, both mine and yours

Unconditional love, my feelings for you

Overwhelming joy, what you’ve given to me


I know you can’t see through 15 year old eyes

The decisions I made were for both of us

The times you saved my life because I was coming home to you

My real birth date it’s not 1971….it’s April 1992


You don’t have to like me or even love me

But you are stuck with me

I’m the only mother you’ll ever have

And I’m not going anywhere


So listen up:

  • I want you to want what’s best for you
  • Demand respect from others, by having self-respect
  • Determine where your life goes, by choosing your path wisely
  • See the world and all it has to offer, create your own destiny
  • Give your heart away, but only to someone who is worthy
  • Give to those less fortunate, but first be good to yourself
  • Shout out loud and make yourself heard, and know when to just listen
  • Have your own opinion and stand up for what you believe, but do your research
  • Vote…every time, it is not your right, it’s your obligation
  • Support other women, there’s a long line of women who stood up for you
  • If something seems too good to be true, say “No, thank you”.
  • Avoid dangerous situations, but know how to protect yourself
  • Hold doors open for the elderly, and don’t be offended if someone opens the door for you
  • Wear clean underwear, brush your teeth, and be thankful
  • Show compassion – through all of your actions
  • Believe in yourself, even when you think no one else does
  • Always – always – always know that I love you


~ Jen Troyer, November 2007