“The More You Laugh, The Longer You Live.”
— From Madison Holleran’s Twitter Page
Few people can tell you why Madison Holleran couldn’t laugh anymore. Many more people, however, are crying this week, brokenhearted with the knowledge that she will never be able to laugh again.
Last Friday night, Madison — a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania — took her own life. She jumped from the top of a parking garage in downtown Philadelphia. She was 19 years old.
The story, told just like that, is sad enough. A young person takes their own life before their life even really gets a chance to start.
But when you look a little closer, read a little deeper into things, you can’t help but wonder, “Why?” and that’s always the worst thing about suicides. Those who are left behind can only ask, “Why?” Rarely, can the question be answered.
Madison was 19 and she was beautiful. She was, by all reports, popular; a great student, a great athlete.
Over the weekend, her grandfather told NorthJersey.com, “There must have been 50 kids here telling stories about her. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, there wouldn’t be 50 people telling stories about me. They simply loved that beautiful girl.”
The fact she was a Penn student says everything you need to know about her academic prowess. She was an Ivy League student who was no doubt destined to do great things when she went out into the real world.
As an athlete, she was just as much a star, having been a two-time All-State selection in soccer. She also won the New Jersey State Open 800 meter champion while competing for Northern Highlands High School in Bergen County.
At Penn, she decided to run cross country and track. During this fall’s Ivy League XC Championship meet, she finished as her team’s No. 5 runner, in a scoring position, which for a freshman is a pretty fantastic and impressive accomplishment.
Madison had so many reasons to live. For some reason, though, at least inside her own mind, she decided she had no reason to laugh.
Her father told the New York Post, “We knew she needed help. She knew she needed help.”
When she left home for college, everything seemed perfect, according to Jim Holleran, her devastated dad.
“At the end of high school and going to Penn, she was the happiest girl on the planet. It was easy for her in high school. There was a lot more pressure in the classroom at Penn. She wasn’t normal, happy Madison. Now she had worries and stress.”
Holleran called his daughter a “perfectionist” and said she had “grown depressed” while adjusting to life away from home.
In December, Madison expressed thoughts of suicide and started seeing a therapist.
Again, from the New York Post: “My daughter’s stress was self-induced, and although we had started her in therapy to address her issues, she hid the severity of those issues from everyone,” her father said. “We knew she needed help. She knew she needed help. She had lost confidence in academics, and she also lost confidence in her track abilities.”
On a Friday night, just hours from her home and all of those who loved her the most, she lost hope.
I didn’t know Madison personally and didn’t even know she existed until I followed a web link that told me the story of her tragic death. I didn’t even realize she had been buried earlier this morning until I sat down to research a few things before I wrote this post.
I may not have known Madison, but I know plenty of young people like her and that’s why her death hits so close to home.
Student-athletes just like Madison are a part of my life every day and I’ve told their stories for my entire professional career. They’re great kids, great students, great athletes and they’re doing great things in both classrooms and sports arenas everywhere.
One of our most prolific athletes from my current landing spot, a field hockey player from nearby Wilton, is headed to Penn in the fall to play for the Quakers. Coincidentally, her name is also Madison.
The Bergen Record reported that Madison Holleran left gifts for her family, along with a suicide note, before making her final, fateful decision to end her life.
“I just wish and pray that Madison is truly at peace,” her older sister Ashley was quoted as saying in the Record article. “I always looked up to her as a mentor and a hero. Now, we’re even luckier to have her looking down on us.”
Today, we weep for Madison Holleran, and her family and friends.
Tomorrow, I pray we can all find a reason to laugh again.