"Let's go Rockets!!! This was the last tweet that Alexandra "Sasha" McHale wrote on November 3, three weeks before she passed away last Saturday at age 23 after a long battle with lupus. The cheer-like tweet was of course in reference to the Houston basketball team her father, Kevin McHale, coaches. It was only three words, totally unremarkable at the time, but so poignant and heartbreaking when we read them now. Sasha McHale wasn't just cheering for the team, she was cheering for her dad. All the while that he was cheering for her -- for her to beat this thing, to get better, to survive and live the long life she was entitled to. Nothing is more telling of the extremely close relationship Sasha had with her dad than the even more heartbreaking tweet she wrote about McHale at the end of October, when things obviously took a turn for the worse.
The only good thing about being sick on my birthday is spending quality time with my dad. He's lucky I love my
This is the part where we feel that weight build up in our chests along with the urge to reach out to hold hold the McHales in our arms in that compassionate knowing embrace only other parents can give, all the while thanking god it was not our child that was lost.
No one is saying how exactly Sasha McHale died, but it is likely from any one of several possible illnesses related to the disease she suffered, an autoimmune disorder. With lupus, the body's immune system gets confused and starts attacking healthy tissues, causing inflammation. People who die from lupus can succumb to kidney failure, pneumonia, heart attack or stroke -- a whole host of complications. It appears that Sasha took a turn for the worse sometime the end of October and never recovered.
The other tragic part of this story is that while deaths from lupus appear to be on the rise over the last several decades, so many people are able to manage it and live long, healthy lives. The artist Seal is perhaps one of the best known celebrities with the disease -- those facial scars bear witness to the struggles he went through as a child. Others include Barbara Bush, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Portia de Rossi.
The disease manifests itself in different ways in different people, and unfortunately Sasha was not able to win her battle, which is wrong. It's always wrong. A child should never, ever go before her parents. Stories like these always shake us to our core. But she clearly lived those years to her fullest, with a positive and upbeat attitude, and with loving, devoted parents by her side every step of the way. If there's anything to be thankful for in this sad story, it's that.
Do you know anyone who lost a child?
Image via Jonathan Daniel/Getty