Madilyn Rubye-Rayn Vickers died by suicide on Nov. 23 near Birmingham, Ala. She had been living in Amherst while attending the University of Massachusetts. She was 23 years old.

In her application to Amherst three years ago she wrote: “I don’t want to have any last-minute regrets, so I take regular account of what I value, what I want, and how what I’m doing does or doesn’t align with it.”

Madilyn lived and loved courageously and was deeply loved by family and friends, here and around the world. She had an affinity for animals, all animals. Her cats and fish, the foxes that passed by her windows, the snapping turtle in Amherst. The ground hog in Alabama that would sit for hours and stare at her and she back at it. The sea turtles that found her every time she went in the ocean in Hawaii and made her heart sing.

Madilyn had a thirst for happiness and a wry sense of humor that reminded you at every turn that if you were taking anything too seriously, you were getting in your own way. She was a seeker of knowledge, in every step of her life, even in seemingly mundane ones. She devoured books like they were the best meal she had ever had. She cherished her friends, old and new. She was a free and creative spirit, who bored easily once she had attained the level of skill she was aiming for.

On the Vineyard she attended the charter school and the regional high school. She also loved the time she spent cooking and working in restaurants on the Vineyard, in Woods Hole and in Amherst.

Madilyn’s life also included mental illness that at times was debilitating. At those times she shifted into a different world; moody, withdrawn, disinhibited and impetuous. The irony of her illness co-existing with the other amazing parts of her life was not lost on her.

Boundaries of good and bad didn’t exist for Madilyn like they do for most people. She could see the good in anyone and was the first person to step forward and help someone in pain. She didn’t hesitate to say what was on her mind without filters. Her heart was on her sleeve. One of her teachers described her as having an old, old soul, who was going to have a hard time living in this world.

Madilyn’s death in no way is the end of her story. Her words, deeds and spirit continue forever with every person she touched. She would want us all to share our struggles and joys by being present for one another and patient in our own and in others’ journeys. She loved us just the way we are. She knows how much she was and is loved.

Donations can be made to the or American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( or any other organization you feel is doing good work to help people who need support in this world.