Representative Shawn Castane mourned the loss of his 17-year-old daughter on Wednesday and said the teen died peacefully in his sleep.
The Illinois Democrat said his eldest daughter, Gwen Castane, went to bed Sunday night and never got up in a heartbreaking statement Wednesday.
“There are no words to describe the hole in your heart when a child dies,” the Congress member said in a statement on behalf of himself, his wife and his other daughter.
His office announced Gwen’s passing in a brief statement on Monday, but did not provide any further details at the time.
In new detail, Rep. Castane recounts the night before the teen’s unexpected death.
He said that Gwen, his wife Cara and younger daughter Audrey had dinner together as a family that night, and then Gwen went out with friends for a few hours. After returning home, she said goodnight to her parents, texted a friend to make sure she got home and went to bed. She never got up.
Castane said that he and his family only knew about his death that it was peaceful.
“And the only lesson we can take from this is to enjoy the moments you spend with your loved ones,” he said. “We want purpose. We want to believe in a brighter tomorrow. But the only thing we can control is our present.”
Gwen plans to start college at the University of Vermont to study environmental science, Kasten said.
The 17-year-old was passionate about music and activism like her father.
She played trumpet in a spring production of Mary Poppins in her high school Downers Grove North’s jazz band, Wind Ensemble and Pitt Orchestra.
Gwen also created an “empowerment club” at her school after being inspired by student activists after the Parkland shooting, Castane said. The club became one of the largest in high school and raised issues such as gun violence prevention, environmental protection and LGBTQ allies.
Through her work with the club, the teenager helped register students of the age group to vote and organized Black Lives Matter rallies.
She also appeared in a campaign video In support of his father, who is running for a third term in Congress.
Castane said of her late daughter, “If her light seemed the brightest, it was because she was so generous in reflecting back the light and love that many gave to her.”
Just 10 days before his death, Congress member proudly recognize your daughter’s work Conducting “Stop the Bleed” training at his school in a broadcast interview.
Castane and his family thank everyone who reached out with condolences and support.
“To all ask what they can do, all we ask is that you live your life the way Gwen lived it,” he said. “Enjoy the moments. Use whatever energy you have to ensure a better, more tolerant, more generous, more loving tomorrow. Not because you know your tomorrow will come, but because you know That’s someone else’s wish.”