Sarah Stultz: Lessons learned from an 8-year-old girl

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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In-between rainstorms as I try to take advantage of the dry days, I’ve been out at my garden attempting to get a handle on the weeds that have grown like wildfire from all the precipitation we’ve received.

Gardening can be therapeutic as it gives you time to think and work through emotions from life.

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As I’ve worked these last few days, I’ve found my mind shifting to memories of my daughter, Sophie.

While the Fourth of July holiday is one of my favorite times of year, the days leading up to it are also a challenge because it is a reminder of when Sophie died.

It has already been eight years since that day, and this year she would have been 16.

I remember on that day — July 2, 2016 — my friend and I were having a rummage sale at her house, my husband was on his way to a car show, and my daughter had stayed the night with a friend when I received the phone call that rocked our world.

Sophie had been hit by a car, and the ambulance was called to take her to the hospital.

I left my son with my friend, and I ran to the car to drive over to the site of the crash.

She was already in the ambulance when I arrived, and I remember people yelling at me to hurry because they were ready to pull away.

It was at that point that I knew things were serious.

I jumped into the back of the ambulance, and in those few minutes that it took to get to the hospital, Sophie was coming in and out of it, and I was scared.

It’s all a blur as we were in the emergency room, and she was quickly surrounded by nurses, doctors and other medical staff as they tried to figure out what was going on.

I don’t remember everything that happened, but I remember pieces — like the deputy, who I had worked with frequently for the newspaper, who popped his head in the room and told me he was praying, and of course all the workers frantically trying to help.

My husband arrived shortly after, and together we sat there in shock watching what was playing out before our eyes.

Before too long, however, all the people stopped, and we knew there was nothing else they could do.

Our sweet Sophie had completed her journey on Earth.

We were surrounded with support almost immediately, and in the weeks, months and years that have passed since then have continued to be buoyed up by many of you.

Now, eight years later, as we’ve had a little time to process what has happened, I think about the lessons we learned from her — many of which are inscribed on a monument at the splash pad. She taught us to not be afraid to stand up for what you believe, to be friends with everyone and to not be afraid to stand out.

She loved to play, she loved to laugh and she loved to smile.

Today and into the future, I’m going to try to be a little more like her.

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