by Betty Schnellenberger
Elizabeth Bryan Jarrard was my first granddaughter so that made her special plus she was my namesake. She had riotous curls every mother wants for her little girl. Elizabeth became an Army brat early born at Ft. Bragg and moving to her dad’s other posts including Alaska and Belgium.
At each move every three years every school district proved more difficult for her academically. When my son in law finally retired to Frisco, TX we hoped she would find her place amount lasting friends at the last high school; however that began her descent into a very dark place.
Elizabeth gravitated to people who wanted to use her but not to the people who loved her.
Outbursts, cursing, depression, staying out all hours, experimenting with marijuana and hanging with the wrong crowd. She began to steal from the house and my daughter had to put a lock on their bedroom door. She and her sister had serious skirmishes.
Over the next few years, there were several hospitalizations with the diagnosis of bi-polar and schizoaffective followed by a host of medications which would sometimes calm her. Then she would stop taking her meds since she said “she couldn’t feel anything”. She said they made her feel like a zombie. Chaos and fear would then again reign in their home.
Another hopeful time began when she met a guy that lived nearby. He was autistic but the two of them seemed like “two peas in a pod”. She became relatively stable during this period….until the fairytale ended. He dumped her and then she spiraled.
My other daughter who is a special Ed teacher got her into an alternative school and she did graduate. Later her so-called friends convinced her to sell her old car and they would go to live in California. They left her in Mexico with no money and it took a long bus ride to get her back home.
My daughter and son in law were able to get her accepted into a treatment facility in Houston. We were all relieved and she she seemed to be doing better. Unfortunately she met a guy 14 years older at that facility and when he left to go back to his home in Louisiana, Elizabeth soon followed. They moved in together; a one room flat in a very seedy part of town.
What we didn’t know was that he wasn’t in the treatment facility for depression, he was in for addiction. All the money sent to her went to feed his habit. The guy went back into treatment, took his car and Elizabeth was left without any transportation, a friend, money or food.
At last Elizabeth reached out to my daughter on a Sunday and said she wanted to come home. My daughter told her that she and her dad would come to get her on Saturday since they had to work that week, not realizing how bad her current living situation really was and her state of mind.
My daughter called her throughout Monday but no answer on her cell phone. Monday evening she called the police to go and do a “wellness check” to be sure she was okay.
It was after midnight before they arrived to find her dead from an overdose. It’s been five years but it feels like today that I got that call from my daughter. It’s changed our whole family. It’s a brokenness that a piece of us is forever missing.
My hope is the demons of mental illness that chased Elizabeth are gone and she has found peace she couldn’t find in this world.
My beautiful granddaughter was only twenty-three years old.