FEATURE — After losing her husband to suicide in October, a St. George woman has been surviving his death through the kindness that has been shown to her family. Sara Truman’s gratitude for the compassion and generosity of others has helped carry her through the darkest and most painful days of her life.
Amelia Earhart once said: “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
Over the last six weeks, Sara Truman has experienced the veracity of this statement firsthand after the death of her husband, 39-year-old Tyler Truman. Following his funeral, Sara shared a photo of her kitchen filled with flowers along with the following words:
Tyler’s love and charity has come back tenfold to me.
Tyler Truman, a St. George native, was known throughout Southern Utah for his vibrant personality, ability to make people laugh and lift people up and his insistence on helping others.
Research has shown that an act of kindness directed toward another strengthens the immune system and increases serotonin levels in both the recipient of kindness and the person extending the kindness. Perhaps even more astonishing is the observer of an act of kindness has their serotonin levels increased and immune system strengthened as well.
Even after his death, Tyler Truman’s acts of kindness remain alive in the hearts of those he served. The love he put out into the world has come back to his wife during a time in which she needs it most – just as Sara was there to love Tyler when he needed it most.
See Sara Truman’s video interview in the media player top of this story.
It was Sara’s senior year at Dixie High School when she first met Tyler Truman, a sophomore also attending Dixie at the time. It wasn’t until 20 years later, however, that the two would reconnect on Facebook and eventually fall in love.
After a Facebook message rekindled their friendship, Tyler and Sara spent the next four months corresponding online and getting to know each other better. They learned they had both been married and divorced and discovered some of their many commonalities.
It was during that time that Tyler confided in Sara about the struggles he had been facing, sharing with her that he was at a Salvation Army treatment center for drug addiction.
“He had an addiction to Ambien, and he’d hit rock bottom – like he really had,” she said. “He had a wonderful wife and great job. Lost his wife, lost his job, lost his house, everything.”
Tyler Truman had innocently been taking Ambien, a zolpidem medication prescribed to manage his insomnia, for years without a problem, Sara Truman said. However, in 2008, he began abusing the prescription drug.
“It was like he would do anything for Ambien. He was an insomniac since he was 17; and people ask me a lot of times, ‘well, did he really not sleep?’ No, you don’t understand, he wouldn’t sleep for three days straight,” Sara said, adding, “So I know that his affliction, it was real.”
With prolonged use, Ambien may become addictive, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as many people develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects and, soon thereafter, experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they haven’t had the drug in a while.
In addition, using Ambien may cause a person to feel depressed or even become suicidal, particularly if they have a history of depression or mental illness, the FDA warns, adding that completed suicides had been reported in association with the use of the sedative.
“Everyone always asks ‘well, was he addicted to something else?’ No, he wasn’t,” Sara Truman said, “but does it really matter? I mean, Ambien was his heroin.”
Sara Truman had dealt with addiction in her family and was leery of bringing it back into her household, she said, but Tyler Truman had made great strides in rehab and, by March 2014, Sara decided she would go on a date with Tyler as “friends.”
But, it was evident the two would be more than friends. The moment they were together, Sara recalls an undeniable, instantaneous connection and feeling as though she had known Tyler Truman forever. Within five months, the two were engaged to be married.
At age 37, Sara Truman said, she had no idea what true love was until meeting Tyler Truman.
“My true love – someone that loved me unconditionally and, actually, I mean really loved me – that was Tyler,” Sara Truman said, “and I remember just saying to people, ‘oh my gosh, this is what people feel.’”
About a year into what appeared to be a fairy tale marriage, drug addiction reared its ugly head, and, after three years of sobriety, Tyler Truman relapsed.
“The addiction kind of took over,” Sara Truman said, “and what I want people to know, though, is he wasn’t in bed all the time, ornery and a recluse and just this awful addict … but he was an addict that was trying to make it work. He was constantly living, you know, always was trying to make things good.”
Sara Truman said the last couple months of their marriage became especially hard; though it’s not something she often talks about because she wants people to remember the wonderful things about Tyler Truman.
“I think that he tried his hardest; he really did,” she said. “I have notes that he has from therapy that prove that he really did try his hardest, but I just think it was a little too late.”
The drug addiction, she said, became too much for Tyler and he got tired of fighting.
“I think that he already was in so deep, and I didn’t know that,” she said. “If I would have even had a clue, I would have just committed him and, like, protected him and put him somewhere special; but I didn’t know that.”
On the evening of Oct. 3, Tyler was found hanging from a rope around his neck.
Within three hours of his death, Sara Truman said, she began receiving an outpouring of love from the community along with messages detailing the countless acts of kindness Tyler had selflessly given to others – positive things she said she didn’t even know he had done.
She was astonished when she began receiving money donations, Sara Truman said, food and gift packages.
“I’m amazed at the love that people have for not just me, but Tyler, but everyone,” Sara Truman said. “I mean, there’s so much negativity right now on our Facebook feed, but if you just go through and weed through and find the positive, there’s so much great stuff, too. I feel like people have just given me so many different blessings since Ty’s been gone and I really feel like, ‘oh shoot, he missed out, you know, he should have seen this,’ but I really think he’s seen them all.”
The first two days after Tyler Truman died, Sara felt angry and wished she never would have gone on the journey with him, she said. But those feelings soon changed.
“I went: ‘no, I’m glad I did,’” Sara Truman said of what she called their venture. “I can’t imagine what I’d be like today if I wouldn’t have known Tyler. I’m so glad I did it. I’m so grateful. And I’m grateful because he made me a better person and he made me find myself again, which I lost for so many years.”
Sara Truman recommends anyone who has a feeling that someone they know may be having thoughts of depression or suicide not ignore it.
“Yeah, you might offend somebody, you might, but what good is it if you don’t say anything and the inevitable happens and they’re not here tomorrow? Just act,” she said.
Holidays can be hard. Resources.
- Southwestern Utah’s high suicide rates; prevention: What do you say to a loved one?
- Suicide loss support group provides safe space for survivors
- The Utah dichotomy: High rankings in happiness, suicide
- Groups hope to spur awareness for suicide prevention; resources
Ed. note: Tyler Truman worked as a marketing consultant for St. George News.
About the series “Thanksgiving 2016”
This story is part of the St. George News / Cedar City News “Thanksgiving 2016” series.
Whether you are looking for fun ideas for entertaining friends and family, alternatives to the traditional turkey dinner, history of the holiday and those who practice it or simply stories of gratitude, continue to check back over the course of the holiday for more “Thanksgiving 2016” stories.
Other stories in the series:
- Families change up traditional Thanksgiving meals
- Thanksgiving, John F. Kennedy and the death of a Washington County turkey empire
- Sometimes ‘thanks’ isn’t necessary
- 5 ways to bond with your family this Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving in Paiute Country
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