No parent should ever experience the sorrow and grief Tom Johnson of Metropolis is faced with this week as he lays to rest his only child, Alydia Jeannine Johnson, 15, of Kirkwood, Missouri.
What makes the story even more tragic is Alydia took her own life on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.
"I want people to know her story. I want her life, even though short, to have a meaning, a purpose," said Johnson, fighting back tears. "Just last week, I was making plans to drive up and see Alydia, share dinner together and now -- one week later, I'm making plans, funeral plans.
"The shock is overwhelming. I never knew she was battling the demons of depression so bad that she would take her own life," Johnson explained. "She was a vibrant and talented young lady, with an unlimited capacity for love, for her music and her animals to her family and friends."
The family is finding comfort knowing Alydia's organs were donated.
Her liver went to a 61-year-old male; her left kidney went to a 58-year-old male; and her right kidney went to a 58-year old male.
According to Alydia's mother, Emmy Taylor Hamlin, her heart went to a 15-year-old female. "Can you believe that? Another girl, the same age as my daughter, will have my daughter's heart beating in her chest. Both girls happened to have the same rare blood type. . . I pray I can meet her someday and hear Alydia's heart that I made in my womb, beating in another young lady's chest."
The rest of her less vital organs, such as eyes and bones, were also donated, though the family does not know yet who received them.
Besides the importance to being an organ donor, Johnson is now sharing his message on suicide awareness. "One thing I will not do is remain silent or passive. I do not understand depression. I just know it is evil, and it took my child way too soon. The answer is talking about it.
"The last few days have been the hardest of my life. Alydia was sick. No one had any idea how bad her demons were. She had suffered depression, but we thought that she had it under control," Johnson explained. "Parents, pry into your children's lives. Kids, don't be afraid to open up. We [parents] love you and want to help. We were kids once too. If you don't want to talk to a parent, find a friend. If you can not do that, just call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-TALK. Suicide is forever.
With a smile on his face, Johnson reflected back on Alydia's life. She born in Carbondale on June 10, 2003 and spent a lot of time in Massac County on her grandparent's farm.
"She was a redheaded spitfire from day one, with an outstanding sense of humor and a laugh like none other. She was silly and creative and leaves behind an extensive collection of artwork and doodles, which is fitting, when one considers that her nickname was 'Lyddi-Doodles,'" said Johnson.
Alydia was a sophomore at Kirkwood High School and had attended school in Dupo, Illinois as well.
"She was also a student at School of Rock in Kirkwood. She found music to be an outlet and was an incredible musician who both sang and played guitar," remembered Johnson. "Her favorite bands were the Beatles and Pink Floyd, but her taste in music spanned all genres. She was an eclectic, quirky girl who marched to the beat of her own drum and wrote her own songs.
"As she grew up, she enjoyed all animals especially her horse, Bob. When she was spending time with me, she loved to cook with me, and helping her grandparents on the farm. When she was with her mom, they enjoyed concerts, musicals and spending time at the cabin by the lake with her brothers," said Johnson.
Besides her father and mother, Alydia is survived by her stepfather, Chris Hamlin; her brother, Keegan Greenwood; her stepbrothers, Luke, Andrew and Jacob Hamlin; her great-grandmother, Dorothy Farris; her grandparents, Terry and Wanda Farris Johnson of Metropolis, Norelene Hamlin of Kirkwood, Kevin and Gena Martin, Dan and Deb Greenwood and Stephen and Linda Bay Taylor, all of Flora; and her aunts and uncles: Kate Taylor Burmeister and husband Scott of Flora, Zoe Taylor Cangas and husband Joe of St Louis, Kristie Johnson Morgan and husband Roger of Evansville, Indiana and Jessica Johnson Watkins and husband Mason of Paducah.
Jim Greenwood of Dupo helped raise Alydia for a large portion of her life, and she referred to him as "stepdad." She is also survived by his children, Lyndi Greenwood Thompson and husband Dusty of Clay City, Logan Greenwood of Flora and Alec Greenwood of Newton.
Funeral service was held Tuesday evening at Bopp Chapel in Kirkwood with Darryl Jones officiating.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Zion United Church of Christ in Metropolis with Pastor David Krueger officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in support of "Let Them Rock" scholarship foundation, or to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. For more information, go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org or www.letthemrock.org.
"Depression is a tricky beast, and often only those who suffer from it can feel its full power. Those who shine the brightest by day, sometimes endure the darkest of nights," concluded Johnson.