A beautiful girl’s memory: Girl’s death inspires Web site for teenagers
Wednesday February 19, 2003
By Mike Strobel, Toronto Sun
Boo MacLeod, forever 18, lies beneath a granite heart in an Orangeville graveyard. She is buried next to Lyn-Zee Kelly. I wrote last year about Lyn-Zee, whose death at 17 inspired her mom to start a home for unwed mothers. That the two young women lie side by side is pure chance. But it is as it should be.
Stephanie “Boo” MacLeod was inspiring, too. Monday was the second anniversary of her death from meningitis. Maybe you saw her smile light up our announcements page this week. You could not help but smile back.
I make my way to her mom and dad’s Rexdale bungalow, where the photos of a tight-knit family cover the walls. Where Boo’s room is as it was the day she fell into a coma at Etobicoke General. Where her parents, Ed and Enid, both 47, and sister Natalie, 22, are working on Boo’s legacy: http://www.beautifulboo.com.
It is new online and will be a place for teenage girls to share stories and seek inspiration. About love. About looks. About all the dreams and demons that dwell in teenage girls.
Boo had her share of demons. After Grade 8, she drifted into depression. Her family thinks she tried to carry the problems that beset a family. Oldest brother Eddy’s marriage breakdown. Other brother Paul’s struggle to become a cop (he’s now with the Peel force). Boo couldn’t fix it all, so she went to ground, limping along at Thistletown Collegiate, taking credits here and there. She didn’t know she was beautiful and smart. She thought she was fat, ugly, stupid. After she died, her mom found a photo collage of skinny models in her room.
She was four years adrift. Sick Kids’ teen clinic finally brought her out of it the summer before she died. It was a magic summer. “She was Boo again,” says Enid. She gussied up the bridesmaids when Eddy remarried. She had a flair for makeup. She got a tattoo on the small of her back. Boo, it said, in Japanese. You can see the cloud lifted from her face in the photos from that summer. The rebel in her took over. The rebel who, after she got her tongue pierced, lived at brother Paul’s house ’til the swelling went down. So her folks wouldn’t know. She caught up on nightclubbing, using Natalie’s ID. She went back to school full-time. The world was hers again. “She was always so magnetic,” says her dad. “She would light up a room.”
Then on Valentine’s Day, 2001, she felt off. They thought it was the flu. But the next night, Enid found her in the bathtub, sick and weeping. In a cubicle at Etobicoke General, Enid tried a cold cloth on her daughter and waited for blood tests. “Then she sat up and made sounds that weren’t words. I ran for the doctor. But she just stopped breathing.”
On Feb. 17, with her room full of family, they turned off the life support. The seventeenth of the second month.
Funny thing. The MacLeods are not very religious, but after Boo died, they found a Bible she had picked up at school. She had highlighted Genesis 7:11.
In the second month, on the seventeenth day … all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
I dunno. But I do know Boo’s family will not let her memory die. They have high hopes for beautifulboo.com. It was Natalie’s idea. Her longtime beau Stanley Bergman, 24, does the tech work. Ed is a graphic designer. Enid and Natalie are spreading the word to high schools. And they all have “Boo” tattoos in Japanese. Natalie got hers on her back after the funeral. Ed got one on his shoulder last month. Enid got one over her heart on Monday. Stanley has one. So do Boo’s brothers and their wives. Her locker at Thistletown is sealed, full of notes and photos. Best friend Patricia Peatling drew a rose on the door.
On Jan. 6, the day Boo would have turned 20, a family mob gathered at the Orangeville grave. Eddy and Paul live nearby. Ed and Enid plan to move up there, too. They lighted candles and drank tequila, Boo’s club drink. They wrote messages on 18 balloons – “I miss you,” said her mom – and let them go. Then one of the closest families I ever met huddled in the cold and watched the balloons disappear in the slate-grey sky.
One and a half months before her sudden death in February 2001, Stephanie wrote this poem, the only thing that would be written in her journal of Dreams & Aspirations.
I came to realize a short while ago
that the only person that I can be is me.
I cannot please everyone,
but I can please myself.
I will not be liked by everyone,
but I can like myself.
I do not need anyones acceptance,
I just need to accept myself.
I always tried to be the best of everyone.
Then it came to me,
the people that I am taking
the pieces from are not perfect,
so then why do I expect it from myself?
All I can be is me,
and being me is just wonderful.
I am a strong young woman who is
very bright in many talented ways.
I am a person who knows how to love,
And gets love in return.
I am me.
I am beautiful.
teens, grief, memorial, inspiration, eating disorders