Update, May 24, 2016: This post is receiving a weird re-popularization, which only annoys me because of the 1,700+ posts on the blog, this is one of three I wish I’d perhaps given a little more thought to writing.
As I’d written on a post somewhere on social media, I think there’s a more compassionate way to discuss this girl’s passing, something that lends a little bit more empathy to her plight and how awful it must’ve been in her last moments to know what was coming and have little opportunity to stop it. There’s a level of inhumanity that goes along with seeing a story like this and then harping on her size. I think it’s fair to point that out, as many have done. I completely agree.
At the same time, as caregivers, we have to find ways to connect with the people we love to get them the resources they need when they need them. We do this with mental health—we get people the resources they need WHEN they need them most to prevent them from succumbing to the worst of their condition. We do this with any number of conditions, and as caregivers, we have to find ways to do this with the people we love, albeit compassionately. And that’s the key word. None of this “tough love” nonsense—with empathy and respect.
I’ve learned, years later, that it’s really difficult to discuss situations using *people* because we *never* know the full story. “You don’t want to be like X,” or “you don’t want your kids to look like X” or “You look at what happened to X” uses a person as a mascot for a situation and it’s hard to separate the situation from the person, resulting in judging. *That’s* why it’s fat-shaming. I know that *now*.
But, as I’m not deleting the post because I don’t mind being held accountable (and, I also value my integrity), it stands as a conversation we need to consider for ourselves and our loved ones. We don’t need to be thin, we don’t need to be fitness models, but we do need to be able to save ourselves if the situation arises, but we should only be held accountable to ourselves for that. Not me, not the public, but ourselves. But we are accountable to our children to protect them and help them. And that’s what had me so hype when I first saw this post. I just didn’t care about the other side, I cared about the life lost. But, an empathetic heart means we care about all sides. We support all sides. We learn from all sides. We listen more, read more, and think more before we speak.
So nah, I completely understand people who are upset with this post. I also know I don’t have the answers, and desperately wish I did.
The entire post, written in 2010, follows below.
I’m pretty speechless:
However, a suburban community is realizing that there are even more consequences to being overweight than simply high blood pressure and diabetes.
According to WREX in Rockford, Ill., a fire began in a one-story home just before 4:00 a.m. Monday. The two parents, Joe and Delores Herron, escaped, but when firefighters arrived, their daughter and two foster sons, ages 10 and 11, were still trapped inside.
Firefighters were able to get the 2 boys out through the window, but firefighters could not lift Jamaya
Investigators say she weighed more than 500 pounds. through.
Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said, “That [the weight] did hamper the fire department and fire rescuers from taking her out a window. They did have to bring her out the door and in doing that, two firefighters we’re actually injured.”
By then, it was too late for Jamaya.
The daughter of a pastor and a singer at the church died at the scene. Fire Chief Derek Bergsten, stated:
“They gave 110 percent, did their best and sometimes we’re not able to save everyone, but we were able to get two individuals out of that structure alive.”
Investigators say Jamaya died from breathing smoke. There will be an autopsy later this week.
Fannie Barbee, a relative of the family, says, “She was very faithful in the church. Whenever I go over there, she was a really nice person.” [source]
Of course, I waited a few days to write about this just because I needed to think without the presence of anger or sadness…
..but then I realized that a little anger might be appropriate.
The video above is from the news clip regarding the events surrounding Jamaya’s passing. (If you’re a subscriber, you may want to visit this post on a computer to view it.)
Far be it for me to disrespect a grieving family, but we’re adults, here. Adults take situations and learn from them all the time. This needs to be one of those situations.
She was the daughter of a pastor and actively involved in her church. Obviously well-known.
All those people in her community… and no one was able to assist her before she reached the 300, 400 or 500lb mark? How does a teenager gain so much weight before they even reach adulthood?
Those of us who read this site know the importance of having a supportive environment full of people who care about us to help us reach our goals. What, in the world, is going on in a church when a girl can be “very faithful” yet still no one was as devoted to her as she was to them?
I mean, I get it – I’m the main one saying that we shouldn’t judge people who stand before us because we don’t know where they are on their journey to wellness. That’s my line. I know it by heart. But Jamaya passed away because no one bothered to stop her before it got to the point where her quality of life was so impacted that she couldn’t even be rushed to safety! This isn’t a young girl who we see outside walking and decide to judge from our cars. This is a girl who no one bothered to intervene with 200lbs ago. Major difference.
Now a while back, I wrote asking the readers of BGG2WL if there was anyone in their lives who was allowed to let them know their weight might be getting out of hand… and a lot of the messages I received publicly and privately implied that no one was allowed to tell them. No one was allowed to make them feel like something was wrong with them for gaining weight. And if you’re 140lbs at 5’8″, that makes sense. No one should be making you feel bad.
Having said that, those of us who are on the path to wellness and are experiencing positive results… You know how hard it was for you to obtain the knowledge you’ve developed. Be it from books, from your peers, even from this site. It is your responsibility to “be the change you wish to see” in your community and be a role model for better health. You don’t have to tell anyone “You’re getting fat” – in all my time, I’ve never used those words – but you can show people that good food doesn’t have to be full of sugar or fat or salt. You can be excited by your own loss and share with people how “easy” it’s been for you. (Maybe “simple” might be a better word.) You can let people know that your success has come from cooking more, being more active, and using less junk foods. People don’t want words, and they certainly don’t want insults. They want to see that something works, then they want to know what that something is. Do you think you’d be here reading MY words if you didn’t know that what I write about worked for me? I doubt it.
I question why no one in Jamaya’s community could be “that kind of person” for her. They had 200lbs worth of time to be there for her, and no one did it. I’ll even put it out there – what kind of emotional damage is a teenager going through that she’d rather continue harmful habits than try to get help? The same kind of emotional damage caused by parents who can get out of a house, yet leave their three children inside?
Sorry, I take that back. But I am a devoted parent and… let’s just say there better be a logical explanation for that part.
That is a beautiful girl lost because no one could save her. No one could get to her fast enough. In more ways than one. It is shameful that we have young girls in our community that need help and, apparently, aren’t getting it. It is shameful that they have no one to talk to about their insecurities and seek out some kind of guidance. It is a pain that we should all feel that there are women who would rather endure the decreased quality of life than do what they need to do to be on a path to wellness.
Make no mistake about it – this isn’t about her dress size. This isn’t about her appearance, either – look at her, she’s a beautiful girl! This is about the fact that a girl, obviously devoted to her church community, was able to become so large that two individuals were harmed in an attempt to save her while she was impaired. That is a serious problem.
This should make us all look at ourselves. What do we do for those individuals who might be struggling? Do we talk to them, befriend them to see if they’re okay? Do we invite them over for dinner and, even though we might endure the “forget this – I want some real food!” comments, at least show them what healthier food looks like? Do we offer emotional support? Offer to go for a walk with them? Or are we just judging from afar, and make sure we can chip in on the casket?
I know that’s a bit sensationalist, but that’s real talk. What are we doing to stop this kind of silliness?