Woman writes about sister’s suicide in obituary ‘to tell the truth’ about depression

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Photo credit Eleni Pinnow via Facebook

DULUTH, Minn. (March 28, 2016) – A woman is sharing her sister’s story in a heartbreaking obituary “to tell the truth” about depression after her suicide.

Eleni Pinnow wrote the obituary that was published in the Duluth News Tribune earlier this month. Eleni starts the obituary by writing that Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, died of depression and suicide.

Eleni describes her sister as “caring, genuine, vivacious, hilarious, and sparkly.” But she writes that Aletha was unable to see how loved and valued she was due to her battle with depression.

Eleni told The Washington Post, “Depression lied to my sister, told her that she was worthless. A burden. Unlovable. Undeserving of life… After years of the lies and the torment, my sister believed that depression told her the truth. In the notes she left for my parents and me, Aletha wrote, ‘don’t feel sad, I’m not worth it.’”

Eleni says her sister was wrong. And she felt the need to tell the truth.

“Here is the truth: You have value. You have worth. You are loved. Trust the voices of those who love you. Trust the enormous chorus of voices that say only one thing: You matter. Depression lies. We must tell the truth,” Eleni told The Washington Post.

Aletha’s memorial serviceis June 4 at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to endow a scholarship in Aletha’s name at her alma mater Northern Illinois University. Checks (with the memo line “NIU Aletha Pinnow Endowment”) may be mailed to: NIU Foundation, PO Box 746, DeKalb IL 60115-0746.

Below is the complete obituary in the Duluth News Tribune:

Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth, formerly of Oswego and Chicago, Ill., died from depression and suicide on Feb. 20, 2016.

Aletha was born on Dec. 29, 1984 to Bonnie and Bryce Pinnow.

The parents promised a tiny baby to their older daughter (who was sorely disappointed by the giant 11 pound baby that came home with them). This was an auspicious start for Aletha, who spent her life defying expectations and charting her own hilarious and unique path.

She loved animals, theater, Halloween, Star Wars, cartoons, preparing food for loved ones, and cuddling with aforementioned animals. She did not love France (they know why) and William Shatner (who also presumably knew why). Aletha was fond of making her mom laugh until she literally cried and helping her dad do anything and everything. It is impossible to sum up a woman so caring, genuine, vivacious, hilarious, and sparkly. Those qualities were so obvious to everyone around her. Aletha was her family’s whole entire world. She enriched the lives of countless colleagues and students. Unfortunately, a battle with depression made her innate glow invisible to her and she could not see how desperately loved and valued she was.

Aletha found her true passion in fifth grade when she decided to become a special education teacher. She graduated high school a year early to enroll in her future alma mater, Northern Illinois University (NIU), in anticipation of that goal. It is the ultimate understatement to say that Aletha loved working with people with disabilities (especially people on the autism spectrum). She was a special education teacher for over a decade and she was, as she was happy to tell you, awesome at it. She saw the potential and value of every single one of her students and she loved them with a ferocity that would make a rabid mother bear quiver.

If the family were to have a big pie in the sky dream, we would ask for a community-wide discussion about mental health and to pull the suffocating demon of depression and suicide into the bright light of day. Please help us break the destructive silence and stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide.

Aletha was preceded in death by her adoring grandparents: Barb and Dave Ashby and Orla and Don Pinnow.

Aletha is survived by her parents, Bonnie (Momster) and Bryce (Dadzilla) Pinnow; sister/seestar, Eleni (Smelly) Pinnow (Steve Rosenberg), and BFF Sara Clark. Aletha is also survived by an uncle, Mark (Casey) Ashby; aunt Charla (Doug) Antrobus; aunt Theresa “TT” Ashby; cousins Stacy (Igor) Zapadinsky, Leslie Antrobus, David (Dorothy) Ashby, Phil (Lauren) Ashby, and Steve (Maris) Ashby. Countless heartbroken friends mourn Aletha with her family. Aletha also leaves behind her devoted pitbull, Asta Louise, and two cats, Fido and Ralphie. Because Aletha was so dedicated to her vocation as a special education teacher, she also is survived by hundreds of students whose lives are immeasurably better because of her, and by colleagues in Wheaton, Chicago, and Duluth.

The family would also appreciate if friends and colleagues would share memories and photos of Aletha with themthis would provide us comfort as we find our way without her.