Sunday, September 13, 2009

Remembered Well - Allison Fry Miller

Today was a difficult day. I attended a Celebration of Life for an old friend and teammate who recently passed away. Death is an inevitable event that touches all of our lives at some point or another, but I've been overwhelmed by how emotional I've been in regards to this loss. Allison was not my best friend, in fact, she was a grade behind me and I haven't even spoken to her in probably 10 years. Yet her tragic death has had me in tears many times over the last few days.

Growing up in a small town, everyone seems to know everyone else and Allison and I have known each other probably since kindergarten/first grade, if not pre-school. Her dad was my teacher for half of 3rd grade (I got pulled into a 2nd/3rd combo halfway through the year) and then again for 6th grade. Allison and I played softball and basketball together and in high school we were on the traveling Gold Strikkers softball team and her dad coached my senior year.

In his talk at her service today, her dad recalled how Allison made a crucial throw from deep in the outfield to get a player out at home. That game was part of a tournament in which (if my memory serves me right) we started early in the morning and ended up playing 5 games that day, the last of which ended with our winning the tournament a little after midnight (we were flying high on adrenaline)! This tournament win qualified us to compete at National's in Phoenix, AZ where we played in 115 degree weather (no joke - it was HOT!) and had a fantastic trip despite not placing in the tournament. Allison was an amazing outfielder and a reliable batter as well. For some reason when I think of her I think of her having the most RBIs (runs batted in) - not sure if this is correct or not, but in both softball and basketball she was an incredible athlete and competitor.

Victorious at about 12:30 a.m. - Phoenix here we come!

Allison was only 29 years old, two months away from turning 30. Since the cause of death was not really known her father decided to address it to everyone in hopes of helping others and sharing a bit of Allison's struggles over the last 10 years. It was so difficult to hear some of what made up the last 10 years of her life.

In college at age 19 she started struggling with the eating disorder anorexia and battled it fiercely, going back and forth between healthy and unhealthy periods in her life. While stationed in Korea with the Army she met her husband and love of her life. Based on all he and her father shared today, it sounded like they had a very dynamic and happy courtship and wedding. A driven and strong woman, she worked hard and ultimately became a crew chief for a Blackhawk helicopter squad (she was the only girl) and was stationed in Iraq for a time. Her husband shared what a commited soldier she was and how over and over she impressed all she encountered in the military with her skills and passion for protecting and serving this country. After Iraq she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was discharged and given full disability from the VA.

Tragically she and her husband lost their son Collin from SIDS (I'm not sure how old he was, but I think he was somewhere between 8-12 months old). I think it was this horrendous loss that spurred her to turn to alcohol to cope and ultimately she became an alcoholic (her father shared her grandparents had both been alcoholics). Considering what a strong woman Allison was, her father said if she had only suffered one disease she might have been able to conquer it, but battling anorexia, alcoholism and post traumatic stress disorder was too much for Allison and she ended up dying because of malnutrition.

Hearing what caused her ultimate death, an eating disorder, really hit home as I can recall the first moment when I began the struggle with bulimia. It was during a softball tournament, after eating pizza between games, I thought the pizza would make me fat and weigh me down so I wouldn't be able to run as fast and steal bases. I made the decision to go in the bathroom and make myself throw it up so it would no longer be in my system and therefore, I'd be faster for our next game. How naive and ignorant was I? This began a cycle that made the scale both my friend and foe. I'd be excited each time I saw how much weight I'd lost, but I'd also be disappointed when it wasn't more and the need for more exercise and more purging would be stronger and stronger. I can't tell you exactly how much weight I lost, but I know at my lowest I weighed in the low 90s or high 80s and for my frame (short but not skinny) this was definitely not healthy. The acidity from vomiting wore away enamel from my teeth, I lost hair, I lost muscle and I think it's possible I probably did some long term damage to my immune system as well. Did I care? Not really. Each time someone commented on how skinny I was it made me feel good even when they weren't commenting in a positive way. I recall one Varsity soccer tournament when my friend Tighe (we didn't have a girls team so I played with the boys) commented how he didn't like how skinny I was getting. He meant well, but it only fed my desire to keep losing weight. Ultimately God had blessed me with an incredible boyfriend (now my husband) who found out and said if I didn't tell my parents then he was going to. I told my parents and they found a support group for me and despite temptation to go back on a few occasions, I haven't had any urges to venture down that destructive path again. I SO wish Allison had been able to turn from the disease as well.

Many people stood up and shared about Allison today and there were key words used to describe her that I heard over and over: kind, hard working, intense, strong, fearless, "great friend", "lived every moment to it's fullest", "never said anything bad about anyone", "lights up a room". All of these correlate precisely with my memories of Allison. When I think of Allison, a picture of her shy, bright smile instantly pops into my head. She was remembered well and it's the thought that this lovely, caring and energetic woman is no longer here to help make this world better that makes tears spring so quickly to my eyes. I've struggled a bit this week feeling guilty actually and undeserving of mourning her death so deeply since we weren't the best of friends or even in contact. I've come to realize I have been mourning many things: the deep loss her parents, brother and husband must be feeling, the loss she and her husband endured in the tragic death of their son, regret over not having kept in touch after high school, and the fact that as far as I know, through all of her struggles, she didn't know her Savior - didn't feel His strength when she was feeling weak, didn't hear His loving encouragement when she was feeling low, didn't relax in the comfort of His peace when the pain was unbearable and wasn't able to press onward with the HOPE that only He can give. "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed." - 1 Peter 2:24

Oh how I wish Allison had known the Lord's healing!


  1. Praying for peace in your heart friend. And praying for Allison's family. The loss her husband must feel is unimaginable. May he know the healing of our Savior while he grieves....

  2. Thank you for being so transparent about your thoughts and your struggles in the past. God uses our transparency in ways that we will never know.

    Praying for you in your time of heidi

  3. Such a tragic story. My heart just breaks for everyone that knew her.

  4. Mindy - so sorry for you. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing about yourself. Much could be learned from what we all have gone through. I pray the Lord shows you peace and that Allison's family can find strength and love in the Lord.

  5. I've been sitting here staring at the screen for almost 10 minutes not knowing how to start this. I was a friend of Allison's and Daniel's back when they lived in Palm Springs. I practically lived at their house! They were both such great friends to me, very loving and supportive. I overcame a lot thanks to them. The last time I saw either of them was the day before the passing of their son. I adored Collin, and I am still in shock to this day. I can't even imagine what they felt. I spoke with Allison two weeks before her death and was ecstatic to finally reconnect with her. On 9/10 I went on her facebook to send her a message...that's how I found out about her passing. I wanted to find a way to contact Daniel to express my condolences. Since I live 6 hours away, I wasn't able to attend her celebration of life. So I searched her name online and I came across your blog. I just wanted to say thank you for writing about her. It was like reading my own words. I feel like I don't deserve to grieve as well since I wasn't involved in her every day life. But please trust me when I say that Allison loved every single person that came into her life, whether they were there 5 minutes or all the time. I hope you find peace, and I am so grateful to know that you overcame your struggles. May God always bless you.

  6. Stephanie - wow, I am so glad you found my post and thank you so much for sharing about your friendship with Allison and Daniel. I am so sorry for your loss and hope you have found a way to contact Daniel. Blessings to you!

  7. I'm just reading this right now (months later), but thanks for sharing from your heart and for your honesty. I'm sure this post is going to help many others struggling from eating disorders too. I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend.

  8. Thanks Jaimie - it was a difficult time but blogging has really helped me in processing feelings about things. :)