Sarah Stultz: Out of tragedy came examples of kindness

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

One month.

That’s how many days have passed since I last saw my 8-year-old daughter, Sophie, alive.

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I have started and re-started this column at least a half dozen times in the last few weeks, knowing that the day I returned to work would be the one-month anniversary of the day Sophie died.

On one hand, it has been a month full of painful experiences — experiences I don’t wish on anyone — but on the other hand, it has been a month of remarkably touching experiences.

It seems as if it was only yesterday that I received the phone call from my friend that Sophie was in the crash that ultimately claimed her life. She had spent the night at one of her friend’s homes the night before and was riding a bicycle in that family’s neighborhood with her friend.

When I received the call, I raced to the intersection of Frank Hall Drive and Eighth Street, arriving right in time to jump into the ambulance and ride with Sophie to the hospital. She looked pale and her lips had turned a bluish-color, but my strong-willed daughter was showing signs of strength as she periodically woke up and fought the restraints the emergency personnel had placed on her.

When we arrived at the hospital a few minutes later, Sophie was swiftly taken into a room where a full team of medical personnel sprang into action.

The emergency room is not a strange place to our family as we have had to visit it on a few occasions  in the past with our 4-year-old son, Landon, who suffers from seizures. Each time we have gone to the hospital with Landon, it has been an emotional experience, but, thankfully, we have always walked out of the hospital doors together — either later that day or a few days later.

When we first arrived, I hoped in my mind that it would be the same way — that it would simply be an emotionally draining experience that would eventually come to an end and that life would return back to normal. Even as I walked in, I never imagined walking out of that hospital without Sophie.

But as the minutes passed, the outcome became more unfavorable.

By that time, my husband, who had been on his way out of town, arrived.

The doctors, nurses and others in that emergency room worked diligently to help Sophie, but before we knew it, a little more than an hour after we arrived, the life of our vibrant, young daughter slipped away.

My heart sank.

It seemed like a bad dream and that moments later I would wake up in my bed, walk down the hall of our home and see my precious young girl sleeping peacefully in her room. I quickly realized it was not a dream.

I’ve heard before that nothing compares to the loss of a child. I agree with that statement, as this last month has been the most challenging month I have ever faced.

However, in the middle of the tears and the heartache, I have been grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from so many people — not only in Albert Lea, but also across southern Minnesota and even from other places across the country.

I have been touched hearing the stories people have shared about Sophie and how she affected their lives, and I have been touched by the acts of kindness both small and large that our family has received and continues to receive.

To all of you who have offered prayers, written words of sympathy, delivered meals, helped with our son, donated money or given some other kind act, please know how thankful we are.

In the middle of this horrible tragedy, this kindness has lifted us up and has been a testament to me of the influence for good we can have on each other.

My daughter, Sophie, loved to smile and she loved to be a friend to all, both young and old.

As I begin a new month, it is my goal to spread that kindness.