The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 9, 2013

Writer: If all could know level of love without devastating loss

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

LAMONT, Okla. — When Lorrie Desbien went through a nightmare no parent should have to know — burying a child — one of her ways to find peace was to write a book about it.

That book, “Losing Sarah: A Mother’s Journey to Peace,” was more than her means of expressing herself. It chronicles the first difficult year after Sarah Ray died in a car wreck on Interstate 35 the night of the Deer Creek-Lamont High School homecoming.

Desbien had just begun teaching preschool at DCLA in August 2011. Sarah died Sept. 23, 2011.

Sarah decided to stay out a while after the homecoming game. It wasn’t long afterward two officers came to the Desbien home to notify the family that Sarah was dead.

“She was so easy to raise, such a good kid, and she made good grades,” Desbien said. “She kind of had an old soul. I don’t know if she wasn’t meant for this world very long and she just had a head start, but she could always look past the stuff that trips the rest of us up.”

Desbien said she purposefully waited a year after Sarah’s death to publish the book about the family’s journey after the loss.

“It told the story of what we’d been through,” Desbien said. “It began on homecoming night, and it ended on homecoming night.”

The final day of Sarah’s life was well chronicled, Desbien said.

“There were so many pictures taken of her that day,” Desbien said. “There were a lot of cameras out that night.”

The small communities of Deer Creek and Lamont gathered around the Desbien family immediately.

“The homecoming queen came that night,” Desbien said. “She still had on her crown. A couple of kids stayed the night that night.”

Her students did little things like bring her cookies “to help her feel better.” Sarah’s fellow students memorialized her in their own ways as well, like wearing her favorite color at important moments.

“At graduation last year all the boys wore purple shirts under their caps and gowns,” Desbien said.

Supporting Desbien and her family in the wake of the tragic death is part of the fabric the small town is made of, Desbien said.

“It’s just like a family here,” Desbien said. “I can’t think of a better place to heal than this place.”

The experience changed Desbien’s understanding of the world in many ways, but it brought one thing into clear focus.

“I think the thing that I have pulled away from this situation more than anything else is I know that I am loved,” Desbien said. “I knew I was loved before, but I really know that now.”

What she wishes the readers of “Losing Sarah” would understand is that others care.

“I wish that everyone could know what I know now, without having to go through this,” Desbien said. “I wish everyone could know the level of love that I know now without having to lose a child.”

It’s too easy for people to get caught up in the unimportant things, Desbien said.

“That stuff doesn’t matter,” she said. “The only thing that matters is love.”

Desbien lives in Ponca City. She has a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree as a reading specialist. She teaches English at Deer Creek-Lamont High School.