Tag Archives: Richard

Heather Lee James, Dead at 23 from Diabetes

Heather Lee James, Memorial Day 2008

Regardless of age, diabetes kills.

The future of Heather Lee James lay before her, but Heather knew her diagnosis with diabetes could prove an obstruction to her future happiness.

Though she was young, energetic, and vibrant, Heather was encountering problems already. The disease had begun to impact her so much that Heather no longer trusted herself to live on her own. Heather moved back home in Ohio with her parents, Richard Lee & Gretchen James.

The family had plans for the afternoon on which Heather died. Early that morning, Heather announced she wasn’t feeling well. She returned to bed. As the time to leave grew closer, Richard reminded Heather to get ready.

Downstairs, Gretchen heard Heather enter the bathroom and close the door. She then heard a thud. Gretchen went upstairs to the bathroom to see what happened. Heather had locked the door. Gretchen called to Richard for help.

Richard busted through the door to find Heather lying on the floor, lifeless and barely breathing. Gretchen called for the paramedics and ambulance. Richard held Heather in his arms. When the paramedics arrived, Heather was dead.

Richard Lee James, Memorial Day 2009

The paramedics came to the bathroom doorway and saw Richard standing over Heather’s body. They asked several questions about identification and what happened. Richard was anxious. He knew Heather was dead, but he still held hope the paramedics could help. They asked Richard to wait outside the room. He and Gretchen were too much in shock. It never occurred to them the paramedics first thought they might have arrived at a crime scene. That was October 31, 2008.

The following Memorial Day, Richard, Gretchen, and Heather’s brother Randy Michael James, drove south to Science Hill, Kentucky for their annual family reunion. Richard remained speechless and numb throughout the day. Everywhere he looked was the reminder of Heather’s presence at the same reunion the year before.

Richard, Gretchen, and Randy returned for the reunion in 2010. Richard finally opened up to tell the story of his daughter’s tragic death. Richard appeared much thinner than he was in years past. He confirmed he was on a diet and exercise program. He had lost 70 pounds. He planned to continue and lose more.

Surprisingly, Richard lifted the backside of his shirt, clear to his neck. There, on his right shoulder, was a tattoo of Heather, as accurate a depiction of Heather as a photo taken of her two years before. Diabetes had stolen Heather from him, but it could not steal his love for her. Richard insured Heather would be with him until the day he dies.

Tattoo of Heather Lee James on the shoulder of her father, Richard Lee James