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Goodbye, Megan

Talented teen musician ends life on a sad note

Oxford High School freshman Megan Abbott took her own life sometime between May 31 and June 2 in a wooded area just south of the school. (click for larger version)
June 05, 2013 - Megan Marie Abbott will never again strum her pink-colored electric guitar, nor will she grow up to pursue her dream of becoming a math teacher.

Never again will she make her friends chuckle or cheer the Oxford Wildcats on to victory from the sidelines.

Unfortunately, the 15-year-old Oxford High School freshman ended her own life sometime between Friday, May 31 and when her body was found on Sunday, June 2 in a wooded area just south of the high school.

"She's in heaven and I know she's safe," said her mother, Amy Hafeli. "I will always love her and I will always be proud of her."

Hafeli is grateful that she and her daughter did get to exchange "I love you's" when Abbott left for school Friday morning.

"She purposely looked me in the eye and said she loved me. I should have known (something was wrong)," Hafeli said.

When Abbott's body was discovered, it was apparent that she had hanged herself. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office on Monday.

No note was found at the scene, according to Oakland County Sheriff's Det. Jason Louwaert.

Abbott was reported missing by Hafeli on Friday after the high school notified her that her daughter hadn't attended classes that day and she hadn't come home.

A security camera captured her leaving the school shortly before 8 a.m. Friday.

A large-scale search party consisting of family, friends, OHS staff members and sheriff's deputies began combing the area for Abbott on Sunday. An OHS teacher found her body around 10:30 a.m.

The sheriff's department reported that Abbott suffered from mental health issues and was taking medication for depression and borderline personality disorder.

"Abbott has had numerous contacts with the sheriff's office for running away and making suicidal statements/actions that caused her to be hospitalized," according to a written statement issued by the sheriff's department. "There have been 19 calls for service and 10 case reports involving Abbott running away and/or making suicidal statements during the years 2012-2013."

There's been some discussion on Facebook that bullying may have played a role in Megan's suicide, but Hafeli isn't sure.

"It's hard to say at this time," she said. "Was there possibly some bullying? Yes. Was it to an extreme? I don't know."

Hafeli indicated her daughter shared some things other students had said, but she's not sure how much of Abbott's perception of others' behavior towards her was colored by her mental illness.

"I haven't been given any information that would indicate that (bullying is) a factor," Det. Louwaert said.

Hafeli believes her daughter's suicide was the result of "a combination of things."

"She got some bad news (that) morning," she said. "With everything that was already going on in her life and with her mental state, the impulsivity took over."

"She had a plan to run away," explained Hafeli, who noted her daughter was found with a bag packed with clothing and "survival stuff" that indicated Abbott was planning to live in the woods. "She talked about that – she just wanted to start her life all over again."

Hafeli explained that her daughter's personal appearance Friday morning didn't raise any red flags.

"She looked beautiful," she said. "Usually, when she was depressed, when there was a time I needed to be concerned, she didn't do her hair, she didn't do her makeup, she didn't dress nice.

"But when she walked out that door Friday morning, she looked absolutely gorgeous – alive and vibrant. She had her favorite scarf on. She had her makeup done so pretty. I didn't have any clue or any inclination that anything bad was going to happen."

Hafeli admitted she did have a feeling that Abbott might try to run away after her second-hour class.

"But I knew she wanted to see her boyfriend before she did anything. They had second-hour class together," she said. "My plan was to pull her out of class during second hour and bring her home, so I could watch her."

Unfortunately, Abbott received some bad news prior to the start of school and she left before her first-hour class.

Hafeli described the situation with her daughter since September 2012 as a "constant up and down."

"I've slept at her (bedroom) door," she said. "I've made her sleep in my bed just to keep her safe."

Hafeli indicated she did everything she possibly could to reach her daughter including getting her medical help, talking, hugging and frequently exchanging, "I love you's"

"Anything I could do, I did it," she said. "And it worked most of the time."

Although Abbott had her share of personal problems, she was loved by many people around her. A Facebook memorial to Abbott ("RIP Megan Abbott Always Missing You") had received 2,598 'likes' as of Tuesday afternoon and numerous messages offering condolences, support and prayers.

Hafeli described her daughter as a "fun-loving" and "hilarious" person who "definitely had a big heart" and was "absolutely beautiful, inside and out."

"She was quite the little jokester," she said. "She could easily make you laugh."

"She was a beautiful person," said Oxford resident Katie Fallon, who's a friend of the family.

Fallon indicated Abbott was a good friend to have. "She was always there if you needed her," she said.

Abbott was clearly a young lady with many talents. She was "just a fantastic musician," who played the guitar for about four years, according to Fallon.

"She was hoping to join the jazz band next year," Fallon said.

"She was looking forward to that," Hafeli noted.

Abbott had been taking private guitar lessons at the Oxford School of Music (117 S. Washington St.) for the past few years.

Hafeli noted her daughter also played the ukulele and bass.

"We all love music," she said. "Her grandpa taught her how to play guitar."

Abbott and her grandparents used to go around performing for senior citizens at various venues.

"As a joke, they called themselves 'The Bad Habits,'" Hafeli said.

Abbott was a good student and she wanted to share her knowledge with others.

"She wanted to be a math teacher when she grew up," Fallon said. "She took pride in being smart."

"She loved math," Hafeli said. "She was really good at it."

Local sports fans may remember Abbott from her days as a sideline cheerleader. She rooted the Wildcats on to victory from the seventh through ninth grades.

Outside of school and music, Abbott also loved to read, go for walks and spend time with her 2-year-old brother, Ian.

"She loved her little brother so much," Hafeli said. "(He) was her pride and joy."

Hafeli encouraged parents reading this "to be there" for their children and really listen to what they say, no matter how insignificant something may seem. "Any little comment needs to be addressed immediately," she said.

"But the biggest thing is to know where your child is at all times and what they are doing," Hafeli added. "That's the only way to keep them safe."

She also advised parents to monitor their children's communications.

"I know there are parents out there that don't check (their children's) Facebook (pages) or their (cell) phones. I check my kids' Facebook (pages) regularly . . . You just never know what these kids are saying. As parents, we might not like what we hear (from) our kids, but when it comes to their safety, you want to know because you want to be able to step in."

Keeping close track of what Abbott was saying and doing enabled Hafeli to prevent her daughter from attempting suicide on multiple occasions.

"I was a nosey mom," she said. "Had I never once checked her phone (before), this might have happened a long time ago."

Hafeli wished to express her gratitude to everyone who helped in the search for her daughter.

"Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart," she said. "You people are amazing and it just really shows what this community is all about – that there is love."

"I really did not expect the turnout that I got," Hafeli noted. "I didn't expect any help because we are not that well-known in the community."

Hafeli was also grateful to the American Red Cross for flying her husband, Darrin Hafeli, a 1996 OHS graduate, home from New York. He serves in the U.S. Army.

"I needed him so bad and they came through for us," she said.

The investigation into Abbott's death continues. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to please contact sheriff's Det. Jason Louwaert, who works at the Oxford substation, at (248) 969-0369.

Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors Bossardet Chapel (39 W. Burdick St.) in Oxford is handling the funeral arrangements.

Visitation will take place from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, June 6 and Friday, June 7. Visitation will continue on Saturday, June 8 beginning at 10 a.m. and end when the funeral service begins at 11 a.m.

The family is asking ladies who attend the funeral to please wear pink, which was Abbott's favorite color. The men are asked to please wear either pink or white.

Those wishing to make donations to help offset funeral expenses can do so at any branch of Flagstar Bank. The account number is 111253580 and it's called the "Megan Abbott Memorial Fund."

The Oxford school district is making grief counselors available at the high school and middle schools "for as long as necessary," according to a statement issued by Superintendent Dr. William Skilling.

Central Michigan University Professor Dave Opalewski, president of the Saginaw-based Grief Recovery, Inc and the author of numerous books and articles on suicide prevention and related topics, spent Monday with school staff and students, guiding them through the process of grief and healing. He met directly with the freshman class to help comfort them.

Abbott is the second member of the Class of 2016 to die by suicide. In January 2012, Shane Hrischuk, an eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School, ended his own life at his family's home while getting ready for school.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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