I’ve often had people tell me that as you lose more and more people to death, Heaven just starts to seem that much sweeter.
February 8 was the day that Allen Nasworthy died after losing a battle with depression. That Monday is engraved in my mind as a day I will never forget. I’ll never forget sitting in chapel that morning when I got a text saying, “Emergency, please call me!” followed by another message saying, “please call me ASAP.”
As I processed these words in my mind, I began to feel sick because I knew exactly what I was about to hear. I knew what I was about to hear, but I didn’t want it to be confirmed. I’ll never forget hearing those words, “he’s dead.”
At that point I felt like my world came to a screeching halt. Everyone’s world around me continued on as they hustled to class, but all I could do was sink to the ground on that sidewalk and cry like I’ve never cried before. All I wanted to do was jump in my car and drive from my school in South Carolina down to camp.
I sat there on the back steps of the library as memories of Allen flew through my mind. I felt like I was in a nightmare and just couldn’t wake up. As I called my family and close friends I could barely get out “Allen is dead” simply because it didn’t seem like it was really happening. I’ve never lost anyone really close to me before, so this feeling was completely new to me.
After the initial grief subsided for the moment, I went into immediate denial. In my mind, there was no way that Allen was dead. He was simply out restocking on Red Bull, and at any moment, his headlights would crest that hill pulling into Fortson. Everyone would realize that they were wrong.
After denial, my next reaction was anger and bitterness, anger that Allen had done this to his family and to his friends. Didn’t he know how many people out there loved him and cared about him? How could he do this to them? Allen was the life of the party in whatever setting he was in, but he didn’t tell many people about his inner struggle with depression.
I returned home from college that Wednesday and immediately drove down to camp. As I turned onto Fortson road, it finally hit me that this was really happening. As I walked around the center that night it was eerily quiet. The animals stood there quietly, the pond didn’t stir, and the trees didn’t blow. Fortson didn’t feel like Fortson. It felt like it knew that its keeper was gone and wasn’t coming back.
That Thursday was hard for so many people as we all traveled to the little church in South Georgia and said goodbye to our dear friend. The world and especially Fortson 4-H center would never be the same without him.
My connection with Allen Nasworthy isn’t like most others. I met him in March of 2015. I went to Camp Fortson with my teen group while I was in high school and fell in love with the place. When I first contacted UGA about working there over the summer, I met Allen who was the Center Director. Allen was so helpful with the whole process of getting hired and starting work there.
When I met Allen in person at the beginning of the summer, I never dreamed of the friendship that would begin. When I started my summer helping out around the center, he was just my boss, but by the middle of the summer, he was so much more than just my boss.
He was my friend that I could laugh with, joke with, or have serious conversations about life with. Allen was awesome. As many know, it didn’t take long to get to know Allen. His smile was so contagious, and no one was a stranger to him.
As my summer working at camp drew to an end, I was disappointed to leave but enjoyed getting updates from Allen all the time on how things were going. I enjoyed getting crazy snapchats from him and reading his random hilarious texts.
Almost every break and weekend that I was home from school I always made it a point to stop by camp, walk around the pond, see the animals at the farm, and sit in the office and talk with Allen as he worked tirelessly. A week before Allen died, I was home from college for the weekend, and he told me to stop by and say hey.
I would’ve stayed and told him how many people genuinely cared for him and loved him. I was worried about Allen as I knew he was struggling and knew that he was starting to distance himself from those around him, but I never dreamed it would lead to what it did.
Before I pulled out of Fortson that day, Allen shook my hand, looked me in the eyes, did that mischievous smile that only he could do, and said, “Hey, I’ll see ya later”. This stuck in my mind for some reason because he had never done it before.
Every day Allen pops into my mind at some point, and when he does, I thank the Lord for the opportunity I had to know him. Even though I only knew him for a short time, he impacted my life greatly. He taught me so much, and I will always remember it. Thank you Allen for the impact you had on my life in those short summer months.
I am so excited to be going back to Fortson this summer. It is going to be hard passing his house and office everyday, but I think Allen would want it. We, the camp staff and counselors, are going to work together to put on a summer program that would make Allen look down and smile.
This phrase is short, but it is something that I will cherish forever. On April 24, 2016, I will be joining many of Allen’s family and friends as we walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of Darkness Walk in Memory of Allen Nasworthy (you can check out my fundraising page here).
Casting Crowns once sang in one of their songs, “So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away, you’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held. Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”
This text has been so helpful to me. Even if we feel like our world is falling apart, we know that God is holding us and that He’s going to get us through. If you’re fighting depression, DON’T GIVE UP! Talk to someone and get help, because you are loved whether you believe it or not.
Psalm 34:17-19 “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”