I appetite to go to beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. — India.Arie, “Beautiful.”
PEORIA — On an contrarily accustomed day, 17-year-old A’saiah Allen adapted breakfast for her household, chatted with ancestors and watched TV with her mom.
Then she went into her bedroom, bound the aperture and agilely dead herself.
Weeks later, while aggravating to braid burial affairs amidst the aching columnist of sorrow, Jennifer Raines ponders the brusque afterlife of her daughter. The accident seems abnormally abominable afterwards A’saiah had fought for years to survive adolescence leukemia.
“I don’t apperceive what my babyish was cerebration that day,” Raines, 43, says agilely amidst sobs. “Things were normal.”
But course was generally like the eye of a blow for A’saiah. Beyond looming bloom woes, her challenges additionally included acquaintance bullying, affectionate discord, domiciliary poverty, casual homelessness, amusing all-overs and conflicted sexuality. Still, amidst anarchy generally bouncing about her, A’saiah usually managed to accumulate an alike keel, at atomic on the outside. To bolt her bearings, she generally would retire to the haven of her room, earbuds and music drowning out storms angry from aural and without.
A’saiah, who adopted music from afore her time, generally enjoyed anatomy accompanist India.Arie. A admired was the 2001 carol “Beautiful,” in which an cryptic mix of confusion, abasement and agitation fuels a anxious for an ambiguous escape and accord accepted abandoned as beautiful.
“She would comedy that afresh and again,” says sister Tahira Reed, 25.
At the acknowledgment of that song, their mother sobs again, stung by a faculty of self-imposed guilt. She seeks ascendancy over bound grief, alike if it agency blaming herself. All day, every day, she ruminates detail afterwards detail of A’saiah’s life, abnormally her assimilation in “Beautiful.”
“Now I can see she was cogent us something,” her mother says. “But we weren’t advantageous attention.”
Reed isn’t so abiding A’saiah beatific any admonishing signs. Reed, who survived her own suicide attack years back, thinks it’s unproductive, conceivably alike wrong, for anyone to try to booty albatross for A’saiah’s decisions.
“Everybody is actuality selfish,” Reed says. “Everyone is asking, ‘What did I do wrong?’
“The catechism to ask is, ‘What was she activity through?’”
The time is right, I’m gonna backpack my bags
And booty that adventure bottomward the road
‘Cause over the abundance I see the ablaze sun shining
But I appetite to alive central the glow, yeah, yeah
A’saiah begin abundance in two niches of her personality.
There was the A’saiah the little kid. Her allowance was abounding with absurd playthings, such as babyish dolls and bright unicorns.
“She said she was a unicorn. I don’t apperceive why,” Raines says. “But unicorns are bewitched people.”
And there was the A’saiah the old soul. She admired coffee — “The abode consistently smelled like coffee,” her mother says — and old-school R&B like Betty Wright.
“I was like, ‘What do you apperceive ‘bout Betty Wright?’” Raines says with a laugh.
But A’saiah the boyhood sometimes acquainted abandoned and overmatched adjoin the raw force of storms that consistently kept brewing, central and out. However, admitting she aggregate some of her thoughts and anxieties with her sister, she would try to maintain surface tranquility.
At home, she seemed animated as she’d draw pictures and comedy music. Abroad from family, she had a babyish accumulation of accompany who would adore gabbing and dancing.
“On the outside, A’saiah was so asinine and bedlam and goofy,” her mother says. “… On the outside, she was a accustomed girl.”
But inside, affections roiled.
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She was the fourth of six children, the others now ages 25, 23, 19, 16 and 9. Her aboriginal attack started at age 5, aback she complained that her appropriate hip hurt.
When the affliction persisted, a cruise to the ancestors doctor led to analysis afterwards test, afresh a analysis of leukemia. A’saiah underwent chemotherapy and added clarification analysis for seven years afore the ache assuredly went into remission.
Along the way, added difficulties emerged at altered times. In elementary and aerial school, classmates would aces on her apropos what they perceived as a abridgement of femininity.
“She was a lot like me,” her mother says. “I’m not a changeable girl.”
Not continued afterwards the leukemia went into remission, agitation befuddled the family. In 2017, Jennifer Raines and her husband, Pharaoh Allen, divorced. A’saiah abhorrent herself for the split, assertive her medical needs put too abundant accent on her parents.
“She acquainted she was the acumen our ancestors was ruined,” her sister says.
I appetite to go to a abode area I am annihilation and everything
That exists amidst actuality and nowhere
I appetite to go to a abode area time has no aftereffect and oh yeah
The sky opens to my prayers
Also in 2017, Raines was arrested on accuse of misdemeanor annexation and spent three months in jail. During that time, A’saiah and her adolescent ancestors were tended by Reed and added relatives.
When Raines and the accouchement were reunited, affairs were tight. At times, she could not allow rent, banishment the domiciliary to breach up amid kin.
Relatives were accessible in those situations. But some weren’t as compassionate aback A’saiah appear she was gay.
“They weren’t admiring by that,” Reed says.
The female blowback added to A’saiah’s growing close conflict.
“I don’t anticipate my sister was agreeable with herself,” Reed says.
In that regard, Reed offered her a uniquely accordant ear.
“I knew absolutely what she was activity through,” Reed says.
In aerial school, Reed additionally had acquainted the accent of cheeky — “I was afraid for actuality a darker girl, and for actuality a basketball player,” she says — which she approved to abate by acid herself. One time, she absitively to cut a little deeper, in an attack to annihilate herself. But she stresses that she wasn’t lashing out at bullies or anyone else.
“When you’re cerebration about suicide, you’re aggressive with herself,” she says. “… You don’t feel acceptable enough. And if you don’t feel acceptable enough, why should you stick around?”
After the suicide attempt, Reed struggled with acrimony and added emotions, abnormally afterwards constant pushback afterwards advancing out as gay. Afterwards marrying a woman, she went to counseling and abstruse to bigger cope with anger.
Their mother additionally approved advice with emotions. Under the accent of aggravating to advance a household, she would cry out in pain, generally aural aural of her children.
“They heard me babble about killing myself at the top of my lungs,” Raines recalls, breaking into tears. “I couldn’t booty this (stuff).”
Raines says she arrested herself into a hospital for cerebral appraisal and counseling. Still, admitting she doubtable A’saiah was aggress by depression, she didn’t seek counseling for her daughter. Raines, who already struggled with a prescription-drug addition, feared a agnate fate for A’saiah.
“I didn’t appetite her put on medicine,” Raines says adamantly. “That’s the aboriginal affair they do.”
Plus, she says, A’saiah generally seemed placid, abnormally at home. Yet alfresco that abundance zone, she could crack.
Please accept that it’s not that I don’t care
But appropriate now these walls are closing in on me
I adulation you added than I adulation activity itself
But I charge to acquisition a abode area I can breathe, I can breathe
In the abatement of 2018, during A’saiah’s green year at Manual Aerial School, she abounding the accession ball with a scattering of friends. She hated dresses, but wore one for the dance. Admitting she looked radiant, she came home early, arrant and about inconsolable.
Reed says she was alarmed: “We anticipation she might’ve been attacked, like she was raped or something.”
But no one had laid a duke on her. Rather, she artlessly could not handle adulation and absorption from classmates. As A’saiah explained through sobs, “Everybody was cogent me I was pretty.”
Reed still tries to accept her sister’s brittle mindset and abrupt reactions.
“It was like success afraid her,” Reed says.
As the academy year pushed able-bodied into 2020, A’saiah absitively to bead out. Continued cheeky might’ve played a role, but so did the bulk of added advancing troubles. Her mother doesn’t accusation A’saiah’s classmates for her abrogation school.
“It started at home,” her mom says. “There were so abounding things. Hell, alike I was depressed.”
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Still, aftermost fall, A’saiah showed signs of arresting alfresco her bubble. She was aflame at actuality assassin for her aboriginal job, as a fast-food cashier.
To get to work, she would accept to booty a bus. She’d never done that alone, a angle that abounding her with anxiety. But continued afore the aboriginal day of work, Raines showed her the bus avenue and helped get her adequate with the process. A’saiah bidding confidence.
“She was aflame about acquisition that,” Raines says. “I anticipate she was adequate that allotment of her independence.”
The job seemed to be activity able-bodied until one day she came home from work, crestfallen. Wondering what had happened, Raines alleged the restaurant’s manager, who said A’saiah had “freaked out” afterwards declining to accommodate french chips with a patron’s order.
“That wasn’t the aboriginal time,” the administrator said.
Overwhelmed with animosity of burden and failure, A’saiah abdicate the job she had capital so much. She afresh aloof to the accustomed ambience of her household.
In December, on the West Bluff, her mother begin a new apartment, big abundant to accommodate Reed and her wife. A’saiah was blessed to accept her own bedroom, which she busy as consistently with unicorns and babyish dolls.
But afresh an old stressor returned, in her appropriate hip. She acquainted affliction in the aforementioned atom that had led to her leukemia analysis years ago.
“She started crying,” Reed says. “She was afraid that the leukemia ability be advancing back.”
Yet activity pushed forward. A’saiah doodled in her annual pad and listened to her music.
Until Feb. 8.
I appetite to go to a abode area I can authority the intangible
And let go of the affliction with all my might
I want to go to a abode area I’m abeyant in ecstasy
Somewhere amidst aphotic and light
Where amiss becomes right
That morning, A’saiah woke up aboriginal and said hi to her mother. She afresh went to the kitchen and absitively to baker breakfast for the accomplished household. Afterward, A’saiah and her mom watched television for a while, with A’saiah acutely in a acceptable mood.
That afternoon, A’saiah and Reed got in a abrupt argument with Raines — annihilation big, aloof a altercation about whether the sisters should be talking to a accurate ancestors affiliate who had affronted their mom. Aback things calmed down, A’saiah did as she generally did: retired to her bedroom, closing and locking the aperture abaft her.
As time passed, Raines heard annihilation from the room, bidding her to anticipate A’saiah had popped in ear buds to accept to music — possibly falling asleep, as she was decumbent to do. Raines discerned annihilation aberant abaft the bound door.
“I don’t apperceive what was in my baby’s arch that day,” Raines says. “I don’t apperceive what the harbinger was that bankrupt the camel’s back.”
About 4 p.m., Reed asked area she could acquisition the household’s abandoned beard dryer. Raines said A’saiah had aftermost had it, central her bedroom. The aperture was still bankrupt and locked, so Reed broke on the door. There was no response, so Reed — cerebration her sister was sleeping — acclimated a adulate knife to assault accessible the door’s lock.
Inside, she begin the abhorrence of the room’s quietude: A’saiah had hanged herself in a closet.
As the ancestors alleged 911, Reed helped bottomward her asleep sister. Admitting their mother screams at that recollection, Reed insists on anecdotic her accomplishments in detail.
“People charge to apperceive what can happen,” Reed says. “Maybe the truth can advice someone.”
Emergency cadre accustomed and took the 17-year-old’s anatomy away. Peoria Canton Coroner Jamie Harwood afterwards disqualified the annual of afterlife as suicide.
On Facebook, commentators — including some of A’saiah’s continued ancestors — accept acicular a feel of accusation at Raines. She wonders — over and over and over afresh — if she could accept done added to anticipate her daughter’s death.
“Why I’m the best mad at myself is that I saw the signs,” she says. “I aloof didn’t pay abundant attention.”
“… We too generally apathy our adolescent ones. And they could be reaching out for help.”
“What was in her mind?” Raines says, tears calamity her eyes. “… That’s the allotment that’s active me crazy. I ambition I could allocution to her one added time to ask why. Aloof one added time.”
Reed understands her mom’s anguish. But she isn’t abiding if alike A’saiah would accept an acknowledgment that would amuse all questions.
“I don’t anticipate she absolutely accepted herself,” Reed says. “People admired her. But you accept to adulation yourself.”
A GoFundMe folio has been set up to advice awning A’saiah Allen’s burial expenses.
Phil Luciano is a Journal Star columnist. He can be accomplished at [email protected] and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Black females annual for the aboriginal demographic amid Peoria Canton suicides, according to Coroner Jamie Harwood.
From 2018 through 2020, the canton averaged 22 suicides a year. Of 66 total, two were Black females. The breakdown by gender was 54 males and 12 females.
If you accept suicide apropos about yourself or others, OSF HealthCare recommends contacting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, online or at (800) 273-8255. For teens, added specific advice is accessible online or at (800) 852-8336. Mental bloom advice is accessible through OSF’s SilverCloud online resource.
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