In Memoriam: Alexis
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm116:15
Last week, our department lost a graduate student to an eating disorder. Alexis was a cheerful, bright and attractive Christian. She successfully defended her dissertation in June.
I first met her in 2008 and she was dreadfully thin and obviously suffering from an eating disorder then. She only got worse over the last three years. I had a student in her research group as a TA, also a Christian, and we discussed what could be done for her. I contacted the uni’s hotline for her, but she only got thinner.
Alexis and I had coffee last month in the student union. She talked about her career plans, and options she was considering and for which she was applying. We talked of her growing up in Oklahoma and undergrad days at Oklahoma State. Not surprisingly, we didn’t talk about her eating issues.
As we walked back to the chemistry building, this twenty-eight or nine year old woman carefully took each step with more care, frailty and slowness than my ninety year old grandmother. If I had to guess, she was between 50 and 70 pounds. You could see individual vertebrae sticking out and, except for a thin layer of skin, touch forefinger and thumb while encircling her collarbone.
I’ve said here all I know about her disorder and maybe more than I know. I am in no position to lay blame, cite causes or pontificate on solutions. I am sad for Alexis, and grieve that anyone should go through this, especially those of the Body of Christ.
Did the church fail her? I don’t know—I don’t know what people did or didn’t do to help. Part of me wonders if social taboos about who can talk about what contributed. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable talking with her directly about it. It doesn’t do much good to ask, “what if?” right now. I did what I thought I could, except, I didn’t pray for her regularly. I didn’t talk to the One most informed on her situation enough. Would it have changed things? I don’t know. Only He knows.
I just know we’ve lost in this world a sister in Christ with a lot of promise, and there are others in similar straits. What a waste.