As I was reading yet another book on grief/afterlife/near death experiences/etc in my search for solace, I came across this poem that spoke to my soul. I am going to write it below just as it is written by its original author, Sandy Goodman, only changing the name in the title.
When you left
You took the cool breeze of summer with you.
Rainbows paled, smiles became grimaces,
And the air I sucked into my aching soul was fetid and thick.
Prayers became jokes, faith turned to doubt,
And hope lay buried under a rock.
Sunsets came in browns and grays, muted by the dullness
in my soul.
Then you returned…
Swooping into my heart, transforming my reality;
And bringing me truth – A gift throbbing with the intensity of spirit.
Now rainbows pulse with brilliance, breezes rustle emerald leaves,
And the air I breathe gently cools my burning soul.
I understand that to know turquoise, I must first know grey.
And to know pink, I must understand brown.
I had to huddle in the black of an endless night before I could grasp
the radiance of a purple dawn.
There is no awakening,
And without knowing the desperate screaming agony of death,
I did not know life.
Chelsea, I still have gray days, some so gray that I don’t think the clouds will ever clear, but I am grateful that the “purple dawn” has become a part of my existence as well. I am no longer fresh vegetation; my soul has seen the weathering of seasons gone by. I’ve learned how to survive the elements and in surviving, I have also learned how live.
I love you, Chelsea Rose – thank your for teaching me!
It seems impossible that it’s been two years since I’ve gotten to touch you, smell you, laugh with you or experience your physical presence. Two years ago, I felt like I was sinking in quicksand, unable to pull myself out no matter how hard I tried. Over the past two years, I still have those days where I feel like I’m sinking, but, I also have days where I think about the gift of your life that I was so fortunate to share for 23 years and I smile at the opportunity.
I have a long way to go on this grief journey, with so much more to learn. For today though, I have learned that sorrow and joy can live in me simultaneously.I have uploaded the five memorial tattoos that family and friends have gotten in your honor/memory thus far.
Chels, you may have been here only a short while, but your impact was sizable. These tattoos represent just a morsel of your influence on those who experienced you.
In the twilight coloring of the approaching night…
On the rise of a park side tree she kneels in the light…
A mother left alone with just a memorial…
And a memory and a love and pictorial…
Arranged with care at the base of this tree… …her Chelsea.
Well, I just made it through my second Mother’s Day without your physical presence. I had been dreading this day as I knew it would heighten my awareness of your absence. No, that’s not right, my awareness is always heightened. I guess, it’s just one of those holidays that you figure you will get to spend with your kids for the rest of your life. Even as children grow older and are unable to come home for Mom’s special day, a phone call or the like is usually made in the absence of the presence. Sadly, I did not get you in the physical, nor did I get a phone call or a text. However, I did start my day by seeing that silly little gnat crawling all over my computer while I logged in to roll the phones to myself since I was working and on call. The presence of that gnat was, in my mind, your way of saying “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I’m here and I love you.” I never would’ve imagined that a gnat could bring such joy to my life. But, in typical Chelsea humor, that has been one of the signs of love that you shower upon me. The week leading up to Mother’s Day was full of hearts and a few gnats as well – almost like you knew that this holiday would be difficult and you were building me up to make it though this special day. Well, Chels, you did it – you filled me with your sunshine all week, which gave me the strength to enjoy the day. Now, Joshy and Maddy Mad came out to spend the day with me, which is always my favorite way to celebrate any holiday – with you kiddos! Betty, Ryan and Betty Lane came out to spend a few hours and asked to visit your tree. Of course, Scotty was there along with Kassie. All the wonderful signs from you mixed with the presence of the people I love so dearly made for a very pleasant day.
Life is full of surprises. I would have never dreamed that I could be so in tune with your energy, but here I am feeling your presence in my life even when your physical self is no longer walking the earth. Sometimes, I think I am just crazy and playing a lot of mind games, but then I see one of your signs and “that feeling” goes all over me and I know its you! Unfortunately not everyone is open to feeling or receiving messages from their departed loved ones, so I am so grateful to you for your persistence in making sure that I see your gifts of love. I don’t pretend to understand how it all works – life after death – it remains a great mystery and will until the day I die and join you on the other side of the veil. Until then, I will watch for your gifts of love and keep smiling when that little gnat flies around my face and makes its presence known.
I love you to the moon and back times 2!
Chelsea, It’s been one year, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes since we spoke. There have been so many moments in this short year that you were not here in the flesh to share with us. You have been gone for such a short time, yet it seems like you have been gone forever. Even though, you haven’t physically been here, you are always with me. You are my first thought when I wake up each morning. You are my constant companion as I go through the day and you are the last thought before I sleep at night. I don’t seem to find you in my dreams, except on some very rare occasions. Dreams of you are such an incredible gift – you are almost tangible in them. What I wouldn’t give to touch you, to smell you, to wrap my arms around you. I do feel you around though and for that I am grateful. I see/feel you in various ways: whether it be a heart, a rose, a C, a bird or an ornery gnat – certain things speak Chelsea to me. There are those times that I just “know” it’s you! Of course, I always want more. I feel so needy. I need constant reminders that you are still a part of me. Time has a way of fading images in the mind, so there are things that are foggy from your growing up, but there are still many things that are clear. I pray for clarity every day to remember moments lost along the way.
I have grown over the past year. Lessons in life, love and sorrow that I never could have imagined. I never thought I could survive the loss of a child. But, here I am, a year later still standing. Thanks to a strong support network of family and friends. Chelsea, I have come to know a few of your friends much more closely since your passing. I find comfort in them and the relationships they shared with you. I hope that I provide the same comfort to them. You were/are a very loved woman. I have been told story after story of how you have impacted the lives of others. I have always been proud to be your mom, but my pride grows bigger with each story I hear. Who would’ve ever guessed that you would have taught me so many life lessons? (I can hear you answering that sarcastically.)
Admittedly, you weren’t always easy. You gave me a run for my money many times. You were never afraid to challenge me. I used to get so frustrated with you, but at the same time, I was awed by your authority. Now, I am grateful for the tough times as well as the good times – they all create memories that warm my heart. Motherhood is definitely a painful privilege! I thank God that I got to be your momma and you my daughter. Our dance was cut short here on this earth plane, but I know one day our dance will go on.
I love and miss you My Beautiful Sunshine!
Let’s just start with the obvious reason I am writing; it has been a year since I have gotten to see you. I would say talk to you to but I feel as though our communication is just different now. Granted, I prefer to hangout and talk in the flesh but things don’t always go how you wish they did. That has officially been engraved into my brain. I will always hope for the best, but, I have realized that life doesn’t play favorites and it doesn’t wait up on anybody. I have tried so hard to learn everything I am supposed to from this experience and it has really changed me as a person. In general I try to be a better person but within myself I have changed too. I have taken in great account that nothing really matters except the people you love. I don’t let the little things get to me and I can see the bigger picture a little better. I would never say I am grateful for this particular lesson, all I can continue to tell myself is that it was meant to be this way, we must learn from it and move forward on our own personal journeys. I miss you so much though. I woke up this morning and immediately thought of you when I saw the sunrise hitting the mountains outside of my window. I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that a year ago this was our last day to speak. It wasn’t a good goodbye unfortunately. You were upset and woke me up by telling me I was a f**ker haha, I try to find a little humor in that. That morning I didn’t think twice about you being all up in arms because I had seen you, let’s say, express your emotions so many times before. I offered a hug and you denied it. You were standing in my doorway when you said something I have thought back on a lot. You looked right at me and said “no Maddy, you probably won’t see me for a very long time”. All I thought then was, huh she ventured away from saying “I’m never talking to you guys again”. I so regret not forcefully hugging you before you left. But I know that our last conversation doesn’t depict the sisterly love we have and our relationship, so I try to let it go. I am actually kind of happy you said that though, I see it now as almost a subconscious foreshadowing. All I have to do now is wait that long time and I will see you again. I may reiterate this too much but I cannot believe it has been a year. It seems like yesterday still, that I was woken up with the phone call telling me to come home. At the same time though, I have done so much this year, it feels like there’s no way that you weren’t alive during those times. Today doesn’t seem so bad though. The holidays were hard but I must be distracted today due to being in our favorite state, Colorado. I wish you were here with us, where we all can see you but I will accept the many signs and sightings of you. On Christmas we left Tulsa at 5:30 in the morning to head to our destination. I was so tired that I kept forgetting it was Christmas. Although I wasn’t able to really feel you during the ride up, by the time I actually woke up I began to see your signs. The most major one would probably be the song I stumbled across when I was looking for a Dirty Heads song. I guess they have a song titled “Chelsea”. Obviously I played it when I saw it, it didn’t say your name in the song but the lyrics are so spot on. It was a great find that I know you placed right under my nose. I have also “seen” you a few times this trip. I’ll turn my head and I’ll see your face or hair, but it always turns out not to be you. It is nice though to feel like I can see you on this trip with us. Some people may think I’ve gone crazy with all of the things I say about you being here and signs and whatnot. Sometimes I even think I’m going crazy and that it’s all a trick of the brain, but I would rather be crazy and happy then just sad all the time haha. This being said I have learned too that it is okay to keep some sadness and anger, it’s kind of unavoidable. When I’m alone, or with someone for that matter, a funny joke or phrase will pop into my head. I don’t share these thoughts sometimes because It almost feels like it was just you chiming in and I like to have some personal jokes with you still. I think I have become more like you this past year too. I can’t name specific ways but I just see it in some of the things I do or say, I like it though. Josh finally got his tattoo and its beautiful, I can’t wait to get mine. Mom and Dad are talking about theirs too. I am sure you have got to be loving this attention. The picture I posted may seem like an interesting choice but I love it because it captured us being weird together. I miss having my dinner table partner to play around with and do stupid stuff while the rest of the family is having adult conversations. We all miss you so much sister. I hope you can help our family remember what it means to be a family, all together as one with our differences aside. I know you are watching over all of us and I know you are alive and well in heaven, or whatever comes next. Like you said, “you guys are more dead than I am”… still an odd saying but I guess I can find comfort in it, so thanks haha. Thank you for everything sissy, stay with us as much as you can. Tell everyone I say hello and I love them too. I am thankful to have you as a part of me, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Your 24th was one for the books. Whenever I am spacing out or just about to slip into sleep, I imagine those graceful, floating lanterns swirling down the Arkansas with the huge, blood red moon reflecting on the water. I just want to run that scene on repeat in my head somedays. Its kinda similar to not wanting a thunderstorm to stop pattering the roof and booming the sky.
Besides seeing you in my dreams I have struggled to really feel your presence back here with me. I remember writing you a birthday love note on the outside of my lantern and decorating the wooden base with mandalas and roses. I feel like I could have done that for hours just hanging out in the grass drawing like a little kid but thank god everyone else kept me on schedule.
I loved the parade down to the river edge with everyone clutching their little personalized lantern for you. The night was growing dark as the candles flamed and then slowly we started placing them into the current one by one. And off they went bobbing along together slowly moving along the river. I am not really sure if people were actually silent but I was in my own little bubble with you.
Once I placed your light on the water I just thought it would follow the others and float on. But it just stayed there right next to me on the shore. It was like I couldn’t let you go and drift away and maybe (or so I like to think) you were holding on too. I literally had to push that lantern away to go and catch up with the others. Which were now all heading to a low hanging tree! Oh shit.
I just couldn’t let them have that short of a journey so I just automatically started wading in the water on a mission. And boom Ori was right there with me–no questions asked–in that nasty ass water to save the day! Definitely went for gold and had to actually swim to get to the tree and start saving lanterns. It was hilarious! The current was way stronger than we thought but the sketchiness was way worth it to see your lights continue on the river. We knew you would be the first to hop in that murky water too so it was pretty suiting!
Thank you for that night. I will always remember it.
Chelsea, today is the 6th month anniversary of your passing. As life moves forward, people revert back into their old routines of the everyday. But, not me – I am forever changed, forever plagued by what was and what will never be. As people move forward, I need them to remember to say your name! Say Chelsea to me!
The following is adapted from Donald Hackettt’s ‘Say Olin.’
The time of concern is over.
No longer am I asked how I am doing.
Hardly ever is the name of my daughter mentioned to me.
A curtain descends. The moment has passed.
A life slips from frequent recall.
There are exceptions: close and compassionate friends, sensitive and loving family.
For most, the drama is over.
The spotlight is off. Applause is silent.
But for me the play will never end.
The effects on me are timeless.
Say Chelsea to me!
Do not tiptoe around the greatest event of my life.
Love does not die.
Her name is written on my life.
The sound of her voice replays within my mind.
You feel she is dead.
I feel she is of the dead and still lives.
She ghost walks my soul, beckoning in future welcome.
You say she was my daughter.
I say she is.
Say Chelsea to me and say Chelsea again.
It hurts to bury her memory in silence.
What she was in flesh is spread over the earth.
What she is in spirit stirs within me always.
She is of my past but she is part of my now.
She is my hope for the future.
You say not to remind me.
How little you understand I cannot forget.
I would not if I could.
I understand you, but feel pain in being forced to do so.
I forgive you, because you cannot know.
I accept how you see me,
But understand that you see me not at all.
I strive not to judge you, for yesterday I was like you.
I love you, will make no expectations toward you.
But, I wish you could understand that I dwell both in flesh and spirit.
I do not ask you to walk this road.
The ascent is steep and the burden heavy.
I walk it not by choice.
I would rather walk with her in flesh.
Looking not to spirit roads beyond.
I am what I have to be.
What I have gained you cannot see.
And I would not have you.
Say Chelsea for she is alive in me.
She and I will meet again, though in many ways we have never parted.
She and her life play songs in my mind,
Sunrises and sunsets on my dreams.
She is real and shadow, was and is.
Say Chelsea to me and say Chelsea again.
She is my daughter and I love her as I always did.
The year moves on.
Between the weeks and days
are spaces filled
with more than only time.
Those minutes, moments,
when your life stands still
and aches in memory…
And part of you
needs to endure the dark
because it means
to have that love again.
And, part of you
prays for forgetfulness,
because your mind
may break, remembering.
Between the weeks and days
are spaces filled
with more than only time…..
People often ask me what it is that I need to do with the time that I seek for solitude. Why do you need less time at work? It’s simply that the evenings and weekends do not allow enough time for all that my heart and head are feeling. The ebbing and flowing of grief’s continual stream. It takes time to endure the darkness and absorb all the feelings that it delivers. Denial is still a strong contestant for winning through the phases of grief. Just this weekend Leah and I had a discussion about a particular girl and we were tying to remember if she ran in your crowd. In my head, I said, “I’ll just call Chelsea and ask her.” Then it hit me like a cunt punt (a Chelsea quote) on the soccer field that actually, no… I wouldn’t. Most days you are ever present, just under the surface of my smile. Or, laid out like a shiny patch on my sleeve while I cry. But, there is that moment – that moment that I forget for a split second and think I’ll make a phone call.
As hard as remembering is, I don’t ever want to forget! I want to always remember that you were… that we were! A gift for 23 years. A gift that brought a thousand smiles to my face and, yes, many tears to my eyes. And, lets not forget, how many times you left me with my mouth hanging open from shock of what you had just shared with me. I’m so thankful for the many intimate moments we shared and how honesty, even when it was definitely inappropriate, was on your lips. You’ve shocked me, you’ve awed me, but most of all – you loved me. I still feel your love today and see it in those around me through the stories they share and the tears they cry. Although our journey together was far from perfect – it was like Cinderella’s slipper – the right fit for us!
Damn. I am jealous of other people’s connections that they have been feeling with you lately. I woke up today feeling almost guilty for the numbness I have been swimming in the last couple of weeks. I can physically feel and mentally see you fading. Fading out of my head, dreams, conversations and my present moments. I keep thinking maybe this is just time scabbing over the freshness of loosing you. But then I think maybe I am just ignoring you because its easier not to hold on so tight all the time.
Maybe its because we haven’t talked in four months. Haven’t spoken a damn word. It’s like you are getting heavier to pull into my world. I should pull harder, right? Keep you in my pocket, right? Like I said a couple of months ago. Most of the time its not enlightening or refreshing to hold you that close. Its so overwhelmingly painful because I want something thats straight up impossible. I want to pull you all the way back from that night so bad. Shit, I want to pull you outta the darkness that you surrounded yourself with the last couple of years, Chels. Rewind time.
I have been wearing your baller little flat bill that finally came to fruition. I expected to put it on and have you pop into the room or something. Don’t get me wrong it is my favorite hat I have ever had and most meaningful thing I have ever designed. I have never really owned something that I have been super scared about loosing. I hope it gets sun faded and taken on adventures to who knows where for my whole life.
Expectations are so dangerous. I expected to have you at my wedding, be crazy Auntie Chelsea, and be chillen on each others porches till the end of time. I expected you to change your situation, stop associating with people who didn’t support you in any way but like clouds they didn’t hold your fall.
I am still uncomfortable accepting that I have accepted your passing. That I can now calmly tell people where I got my rose hat from without exploding into an emotional ramble. It bothers me that I am reaching a Chelsea-less normal. It hit home today, but feel free to help me snap out of my distance whenever you please.