I just returned home from a solo trip to Manitou Springs, Colorado where I went for a respite between semesters, but mostly I went to find a moment to slow life down, take pause and connect with you. Although, I think about and miss you each and every day, life seems to stay busy (or maybe I just busy myself) and I need to carve out time to hear the universe and the sound of your spirit. In the early years after your passing, I was very mindful to look for signs of you. As time has gone by, I have fallen back into old habits of rushing from one task to the next not taking time to truly see what is always around me – your love, your spirit.
While hiking up at Pikes Peak, I found a spot devoid of other humans in an alluring meadow and did a meditation atop a small boulder. It was probably the most peaceful place I have ever meditated. When I opened my eyes, I asked you to show me a sign in the form of a marmot and promised to not take pictures – I’d simply enjoy the moment. Sitting there on that rock for a while, no marmots to be seen, I abandoned the idea that my request would come to fruition. Walking back towards the trail head, I began to hear a chirping. As the sound grew louder, I kept looking for the source, hopping over small boulders, pausing, listening and then there it was…. a large marmot sitting on a rock chirping. I stopped and watched him without taking pictures just as I had promised. Looking around, I began to notice there were marmots all around me. I could see their little heads peeking over the tops of large boulders and even more sitting disbursed throughout this boulder field. I watched them, listened to and followed their chirping until I decided it was time to head back to the car. As I relinquished my marmot expedition and turned to head back to my car – there was the biggest heart rock I have ever seen, a heart boulder if you will. You delivered in droves to my request for a sign and I am so incredibly grateful.
Since you left this earth, grief has become a close and cruel friend. I thought I knew so much, I mean I’d been through some very difficult times in my life, but nothing could have prepared me for the depths of sorrow that is child loss. Don’t get me wrong, I have happiness, joy, excitement, love – all the positive things that life has to offer, but there is always a piece of me that will forever be lost as it died right along with you. The pieces that remain have come so far in this journey and for that I am proud. As life resumes its busyness, I am beyond grateful for the time to “take pause” and connect with spirit.
Until next time, my sunshine…..
Well, Chels, I have traveled more since your passing than I ever have in my life. I think subconsciously, I must think I can run away from missing you. Turns out, that each time I return home, I am left feeling empty and sad. Being away and the vacations I have been fortunate enough to experience in the past 2.7 years have been an incredible experience, don’t get me wrong. However, it is not an elixir that cures an ailing heart. I do find some solace in knowing that you are traveling with me. You are with me in spirit, but also in the ashes that I carry and spread along the way.
When you kiddos were young and your father and I traveled, I was always wishing that the three of you could experience what I was experiencing. I often tried to figure out a way to bring you all back to the place I had just visited. Now, sometimes…..somehow…. you are just there. You show me your presence with your special signs. I am so grateful for that – like the gigantic heart in the Andes Mountains at the end of the first day on the Inca Trail. Maddy and I just sat and basked in your presence. Believe me, we needed your inspiration after such a grueling day on the trail. Although I love these moments with you, let me be perfectly honest, it is not even in the same realm as having you physically here in the flesh experiencing life with me.
I’ve tried to adapt to this new reality and I use a lot of positive self talk to get through the days. Some days, though, I just don’t have the fight in me and I want to give in to my despair, leave my body and come to you. I’ve tried alternative therapies in an attempt to have an out of body experience – hoping I would be able to find you in spirit. I’m always looking for something more tangible than just feeling your presence. I’ve mediated, done sensory deprivation, and age regression hypnosis. All these have helped me in some way, but haven’t given me the ultimate goal for which I was searching.
I guess I am going to have to continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking the path set before me. I know someday that path will lead to you, although, it is so hard for me to fathom what that existence is like. It’s actually mind boggling when I attempt to figure it out. So, again and again I choose let go…. to trust the journey and have faith in its course.
Chels, know I am doing the best I can. Please keep showing me the way.
P.S. I’m totally okay if you want to come visit me in my dreams!!
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.