Penny LeGate Shares Her Daughter’s Heartbreaking Story to Help Others


Photo by Rachel Coward

Penny LeGate lived what seemed to be a charmed life in a world of success and esteem — well-known around the Northwest as a TV journalist, co-hosting King 5’s Evening Magazine for nine years and as a morning news anchor on KIRO. But on June 12, 2012, her life was forever changed. That’s the day LeGate found the lifeless body of her youngest daughter, Marah, in her basement.

Marah was only 19 when she accidentally overdosed on heroin — and now her mom has made it her mission to tell other parents the tragic story in hopes of helping others avoid the same ending. She wants parents to know that heroin use among teens is on the rise. When Marah hit puberty, she began struggling with anxiety and depression. Her parents sought professional help for their daughter, but Marah started self-medicating. First it was alcohol and pot, and eventually she started using heroin.

Here’s what LeGate shared with South Sound magazine:

An Amazing Girl
“She was incredibly brilliant. She could dance; she could sing; she was a great actress. She was a poet. She was an artist. She was a very physically beautiful girl. She had this high spirit, and people flocked to her.”

“The part of Marah where she suffered is she was so incredibly sensitive. When people were in pain, she took it on. She couldn’t separate. She said, ‘I just carry this stuff around, the sadness of the world.’”

A Mother’s Fight
“[It was] hell, because as a mother, your job is to take care of your child. So I always felt like it was my job to figure out who she needed to talk to next, what doctor could she see, what holistic practitioner could help her, what vitamins, what exercise, what shrink.”

A Child’s Journey
“This is a really hard lesson for parents to learn, [Your child] is a sentient human being who is going to make choices of their own and live and breathe by the choices they make. And you’re, to some degree, helpless. No matter how I thought I could change it or control it or fix it, it really was her journey. Boy, is that a hard lesson to learn, because you just want to hold them safe from the world.”

A Life of Their Own
“I remember thinking, when I was having children, I would hear about people who had kids with addiction issues, and I would go, ‘Psh; it’s just because they’re not paying attention. How could they let their child become an addict? I would never do that. I would never let that happen. I would watch them every second of their life …’ And you think you can really live their life for them. And you can’t. As a mother I’ve had to come to accept that fact; otherwise, how could I live with myself thinking I didn’t do enough?”

Finding Peace
“After she died, I felt peace for her, finally. It’s so distressing. There’s no worse thing than losing a child. But I couldn’t help but have a sense of peace for her, about her. It’s almost as if she had her hand on my shoulder going, ‘It’s OK. I’m better now. I’m in a place where I’m not suffering.’”

A Story for Every Parent
“This can happen to anyone. There is a heroin epidemic.”

Simplifying the Problem
“As Marah said, ‘We are not throwaway people.’ She said that a lot. One of her friends has it tattooed to her back. That’s how people want to treat addicts. It’s so simplistic. It’s so easy to discount it that way. And that’s just not the truth.”

The Judgment
“When there was a newspaper article about [Marah’s death] this woman wrote in the comments, ‘Well if Penny LeGate hadn’t had a job and stayed home more, then her daughter wouldn’t be an addict.’ I think that’s what keeps a lot of people from speaking out, because they don’t want to be judged.”

Good Kids Lost
“I can hear Marah going, ‘Give it to them, Mom. Just keep telling them that. Tell them not to judge us; tell them we’re not throwaway people; tell them that we’re good people. We try really hard. We just get lost. We’re just lost children.’”

If She Could Have Another Day
“I’d like to walk the beach and talk with her. I would like to walk and talk about her. I’d want to hold her. I’d want to kiss her and hold her and hug her like a baby. Let her know I never let her go.”

Somewhere Over The Rainbow
“I’ll look up, and there will be like a completely clear sky and there’ll be a rainbow… and it happens like this all the time. I really think if there was anybody with the ability to push through that realm, she’s doing it.”

Learn more about Penny LeGate’s mission to educate families about anxiety, depression and drugs and see how her career has taken her around the world supporting more causes.

is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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