Congressman from Illinois Sean Casten opens up about his daughter Gwen‘s final moments after it was announced that she died Monday at the age of 17.
Tribute to his beloved teenager (far right) in a statement shared on social media, which was also signed by his wife Kara and 15-year-old daughter Audrey, the politician explained that nothing out of the ordinary had happened in the hours before Gwen’s untimely death. She enjoyed a nice family dinner on Sunday before heading out to see some friends. It was later that night when they shared what would be their last moment together, he wrote:
“When she got home she said goodnight to Kara and me, texted a friend to make sure she got home okay and didn’t wake up Monday morning.”
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Few details have been released about Gwen’s cause of death. The Dupage County coroner in Illinois said: AND! news that “her death is under investigation.” For now, the family believes it was “peaceful,” the statement continued:
“All we know about her death is that it was peaceful.”
As you can imagine, the family deeply mourns the loss of their loved one. The congressman decided to pause for a moment on what made Gwen such an impressive young woman, noting:
“There are no words to describe the hole in your heart when a child dies. Gwen was a happy, healthy, well-adjusted young woman who looked forward to her first year at the University of Vermont where she planned to study Environmental Sciences.”
She also played trumpet in her school’s Jazz Band and during their production of Mary Poppins† Like her father, she was an activist who hoped to make positive changes in the world around her. Inspired to do more after the Parkland High School firing, she founded the Empowerment Club at her school, which focused on “everything from gun violence prevention to environmental protection to LGBTQ alliance to organizing Black Lives Matter rallies to registering students to vote.” Awesome!
Perhaps most importantly, the family remembered how generous and kind she was to those around her, adding:
“She was fortunate to have a community of close friends, teachers and family and the good wisdom to realize how much she owed them. If her light seemed a little brighter than most, it was because she was so generous in reflecting the light and love that so many gave her.”
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The family now uses the truly heartbreaking loss as a reminder to live in the present and never take anything for granted, saying:
“The only lesson we can learn from that is to enjoy the moments you have with your loved ones. We want a goal. We want to believe in a better future. But the only thing we can control is our present.”
They hope that others will do the same and conclude:
“We are grateful to everyone who has helped us with thoughts, condolences and assistance. To anyone who asks what they can do, we just ask that you live your life the way Gwen lived hers. Enjoy the moments. Use every ounce of energy you have to create a better, more tolerant, more generous and more loving future tomorrow. Not because you know you’ll come tomorrow, but because you know someone else will. Lead with love. – Sean, Kara and Audrey Casten.”
Just so sad. We send love to all of Gwen’s family and friends as they mourn this unexpected and tragic death. May she rest in peace.
[Image via Sean Casten/Instagram]