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A Soul-Crushing Loss

Yesterday, we were devastated to learn that Lee MacMillan took her own life at 28 years of age.  We first noticed Lee through her global VanLife adventures that were beautifully documented on YouTube.  Though we never knew Lee personally, we felt a real connection to her and her then partner Max partly because Lee hailed from our hometown of Barrie, Ontario, but mostly because Lee and Max and their dog Occy exuded a special kindness and zest for life.

Over time, Lee was public about struggling with depression and anxiety, explaining that the gulf between her social media presence and how she was really feeling about her life and circumstances was widening to a point where she began questioning if she really needed to be alive.  She further explained that part of her angst stemmed from continually prioritizing the needs of those around her over her own, and losing her sense of self and love for life in the process.

Lee worked hard to overcome depression and was grateful for the enormous love and support of her family and friends.  She did not try to fight the battle on her own.  And she did overcome severe periods of darkness, beginning a new chapter in her extraordinary life in Santa Barbara several months ago.   The news of her passing has been heart-shattering, and we mourn for her and her loved ones, especially her parents, sister, and closest friends who clearly cared for her dearly.

I echo the message of Lee's loved ones in the midst of this unquantifiable loss:  We must spread the message that mental illness is as real and as potentially devastating as physical illness, and it can fall upon any of us.

Those who are suffering must ask for help, but not everyone can afford mental health services for as long as would be ideal.  If there is an answer to this challenge, it must involve all of us striving to be a better friend to those around us.  To care more, empathize more, to check in more.  Mental health professionals are very much needed, but a good friend is absolutely priceless, and all of us can strive to be one.

As Henri Nouwen once wrote:

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

Sending love to all,



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