"Where do I even start?"
These were the first words I uttered, shocked, to McKenna Lee Campbell's father when I called him in Illinois early Monday morning. McKenna and I have no relation to each other, no friends in common, and have never met each other, however I felt the need to find Dan Campbell's number and tell him how special his daughter is to me. "How do I even start?" I said, sitting in my bed with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes, "I don't even quite know why, but I thought it was important for me to call you and let you know who I am".
I can't explain it, but sometimes there is a deep-rooted, instinctual need to do something that doesn't even really make sense at the time. But you can feel it anyways, urging you on like a wild, rushing river that pulls you into it without any control. You float along with its path, powerless to its will and obedient to its gentles bends and curves. Your head is swimming with light-headeness and your eyes glaze with an unfocused haze. This feeling is all encompassing and vital to survival. This feeling is one of raw, earthly instinct coursing through your veins with decisiveness that precedes your understanding of the situation.
This is the feeling I experienced when I woke up Monday morning and read my emails from my phone, a morning ritual. I opened one from a conversation I started with McKenna on her Venmo account ordering an Orange Bead Collective Bracelet. She ordered one on September 17th, however I still hadn't received an address from her on where to send it.The email was a reply from her father, Dan Campbell, to my question with the address saying, " Hi Bree, this is McKenna's dad. You may not know but McKenna passed away a couple of weeks ago".
"Wait, did I read that right?" An audible gasp slipped from my lips, "There has to be a typo, she can't have passed," I thought in shock.
I reread it multiple times, each time the dread and pit sinking lower and lower in my gut. I stared at the tiny icon image of 19 year-old McKenna's face, big, gorgeous eyes and warm smile looking back at me. I immediately googled and found her obituary. She had passed on September 25th, a week after her Bracelet order. I ended up locating Dan's phone number from the church that had McKenna's Memorial Service and shakily dialed his number, still not even sure what I was going to say. We ended up talking for half an hour on the phone, Dan being patient, warm, and compassionate while listening to my story and telling me heart-warming tidbits about his daughter. I explained that McKenna ordered a bracelet from me and explained the mission of The Orange Bead Collective as a non-profit started to bring awareness to the stigma behind Depression, Anxiety, and other Mental Illnesses.
Dan explained that McKenna did suffer from Depression and Anxiety and was being treated for it. He made it clear that McKenna had died by an accidental alcohol overdose, and that she was drinking by herself but was an amazingly bright and selfless woman, who loved her family and had a lot to live for. He also spoke to me about McKenna's strong faith and that it helped mold her into the charming, passionate, philanthropic woman that she was. She was also a normal teen, with the stressors and worries that often plague women at our age. The reality is that I am McKenna. All of my girl friends are McKenna. Anyone at this age, living the world today, is McKenna. Although McKenna Campbell is utterly unique and will never be replicated, especially to her family and those close to her, her Depression, Anxiety, and worries are all, unfortunately, common to the young generations growing up in today's social and political atmosphere.
In this way, I feel closer to McKenna than I had ever had the pleasure of being while she was alive. I understand McKenna's struggles as I struggle the same way every day.
I only wish that I had been able to meet her and let her know, in person, how NOT alone she was - matter how much she felt it. I only wish that I had gotten the chance to send McKenna her Orange Bead Bracelet and have her send me a picture of her with it on to feature her on the site. I only wish that McKenna had been able to wear in her bracelet to shreds so that I could have sent her another one as a constant physical reminder of the community supporting her.
It's incredible how much one person who you've never met can move you to easy, sorrow-filled tears. I mourn you McKenna Lee and I will continue to. I honor you McKenna Lee and I will continue to. I now wear your bracelet on my wrist alongside my own and I will continue to. Don't ever mistake the importance of the legacy you left to those who still live on this Earth. You will always be missed dearly my gorgeous girl.