U.S. Rep. Sean Casten said his 17-year-old daughter's death on Monday "was peaceful" as they expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support they have received in the wake of the tragedy.
On Monday, Casten's office announced that the Illinois representative's daughter, Gwen Casten, had died. The announcement did not share the cause of the girl's death.
In posts shared Wednesday on social media, Casten said he and his family were "grateful to all who have reached out with thoughts, condolences and help."
"To all asking what they can do, we ask only that you live your lives as Gwen lived hers," he said, sharing a photo of his daughter.
The lawmaker included a longer statement signed by himself, his wife Kara and their other daughter, Audrey, describing their final moments with Gwen.
"On Sunday night, we had dinner as a family and then she went out with some friends for a few hours. When she got home, she said goodnight to Kara and I, texted a friend to make sure she got home OK, and didn’t wake up on Monday morning," the statement said.
"The only thing we know about her death is that it was peaceful," it said. "And the only lesson we can take from that is to savor the moments you have with your loved ones. We want purpose. We want to believe in a brighter tomorrow. But the only thing we can control is our present."
The statement described Gwen as a "happy, healthy, well-adjusted young woman who was looking forward to starting her freshman year at the University of Vermont, where she was planning to study Environmental Science."
Her family told of the teen's love of music, as a trumpet player with several school ensembles, as well as her passion for activism at Downers Grove North High School.
"She was inspired by the student efforts in the wake of the Parkland shooting to create an Empowerment Club in her high school which became one of the largest clubs at DGN, focusing on everything from gun violence prevention to environmental protection to LGBTQ allyship to organizing Black Lives Matter rallies to registering students to vote," the statement said.
It further said Gwen had "the good fortune to have a community of good friends, teachers and family and the good wisdom to realize how much she owed them."
"If her light seemed a bit brighter than most, it was because she was so generous in reflecting back the light and love that so many gave to her," the statement said.
Casten is currently seeking a third term in Congress, with Gwen recently appearing in a campaign video supporting her father's bid.
In the video, released earlier this month, she had spoken of how turning 18 would be a “big year” filled with “lots of milestones,” including “voting for the first time. But not just for anyone.”
“Sean Casten. My congressman. But I just call him dad,” she said in the video.
Casten, a Democrat, currently represents Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. He was first elected in 2018 and was the first Democrat to represent the district in nearly 50 years, according to his campaign website.