Empathetic, resilient, naturally talented, undervalued, powerful
Sarah was multi-talented. She played the piano and had an amazing singing voice. Biracial and adopted by white parents in Texas as an infant, she struggled to figure out who she was. “She wanted to live her blackness out loud, and it wasn’t possible,” her friend and mentor Kristy said.
The two met when Sarah came to Florida for treatment. Kristy remembers getting a tour of the facility and finding Sarah alone in a huge, empty room with just a piano and three folding chairs. She heard Sarah singing and marveled at the power and joy that came out of such a young woman. She seemed happy.
Described as having a “tortuous relationship with religion,” Sarah found gospel music healing for her. She didn’t quite know what she believed but always found respite in the church choir. She could disappear into herself while singing hymns. “Sometimes she would cry while singing,” Kristy said.
Sarah struggled with mental health issues as a teenager, which eventually led to a substance use disorder and caused turmoil in the family. After several treatment programs, Sarah was doing well and she and Kristy had plans to meet at the beach for Sarah’s 25th birthday. Sarah was also looking forward to an upcoming family reunion to reconnect and clear the air with her brother, Drew, and her sister, Hillary. Unfortunately, Sarah relapsed and died from fentanyl poisoning before those events could occur.
Sarah often made decisions based more on emotion than logic. Her boyfriend, Vlad, gave her unconditional love and accepted her, which helped Sarah gain confidence and make healthier choices. “I am so glad she felt seen,” Kristy said. Vlad still cares for Bear, the German Shepherd, they got as a puppy.
Kristy recalled some unique aspects of Sarah, like her blue and lavender hair, a nose ring with a tiny diamond stud, and multiple tattoos. Sarah’s favorite was one of a mama elephant with her baby following behind. It had some meaning to Sarah and her sister. After Sarah passed, her sister got an elephant tattoo.
Sarah had a lot of dreams. She wanted to move back to Texas and get her own apartment. She planned to work with kids, write music, keep singing, and work in a recovery center. “I hate it that she didn’t have more time; I feel like her aspirations would have grown with her courage,” Kristy stated. She had a knack for “finding little moments of joy and holding on to them,” Kristy said. “She was good at getting the most out of what she was doing in the moment.”
Sarah was proud that while struggling with substance use disorder, she was able to finish high school. She was also proud that she was promoted to house manager at the sober living facility, but it could also have been what caused her to relapse. “She may not have been ready for that responsibility when she was so new in her sobriety,” Kristy said. “She overcame so much and wanted to make her family proud. It is hard to realize that she is gone. I miss her daily phone calls, her plans, and the recap of her day. I sometimes hear about something she would like, and think ‘I will call her;’ then I realize I can’t.”
Sarah’s mentor, Kristy May, provided the information for this narrative.
February 12, 1997-July 12, 2021
Age 24-Lived with the disease of addiction for eight years.