I met her online, in a support group for people with Dysautonomia. She asked me for help with her new blog and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We chatted over the internet regularly. We were ‘bloggy buddies’ and ‘cyber-besties’. In the space of only four months, we covered the sort of ground in friendships that usually takes years. I knew her. But I never got the chance to meet her. One day, we’d laugh, after Russia, she’d come to New Zealand, or I’d go to Brisbane; one day we’d have a drink and laugh about the ‘bad old days’.
And then it was Friday night, Kellie and I were facebook chatting, making jokes and catching up on what was happening with her kids back home. About how much they love their babysitter and how her husband was off on a well deserved boys night out. She was missing her family, but getting closer to when she’d fly back home to be with them. She signed off so she could go and Skype her kids. I had been worried about her. Since her stem cells had gone in, her posts and messages had become a lot quieter. She was in isolation because her immune system was non-existent. And then her numbers started going wrong. She’d been having platelet infusions because she was at such a high risk for a haemorrhage. She was very, very tired. Busy, bubbly Kellie was struggling, but never found it easy to admit it. It concerned her that her family would worry more. She was toughing it out, Aussie-chick-style. And some time between our last chat, and today, Kellie had a massive heart attack and lost her life. Her life. That whole, wonderful, beautiful person, suddenly gone. And the hole she has left behind is too big to wrap words around, too large to define. It will continue to widen. We will fall into it, those who loved her, in our darkest moments of grief. We’ll claw our way out, the way grievers do, pulled onward by the relentless demands of the living. And all that Kellie was, will remain with us. It is the bittersweet burden we carry of the lost. It’s that terrible fact that we shoulder across every day we’re here without her. She’s gone.
I sent her a message when I heard. I think my ability to believe that it’s true has flickered in and out like a bad transmission. In my head, I have one word. no. It plays on repeat. I’m calling it out to her. No no no no no. I hear her echoing my word back to me. No. Just no.
My disbelieving heart tries to grapple with what it all means. For her husband Mark, for their kids, Ash and Luc…
I don’t know if you will ever read this, but if you do, I want to confirm what you already know. She loved you with fierce passion. You are why she tried so hard. You are what she was fighting for. Life with you. She had enough love in that heart of hers to fuel a nuclear explosion on a galactic scale. To light up the whole universe. You’ll carry her love in your hearts with you. It is still there, enough to illuminate many lifetimes. I am so so sorry for your unfathomable loss.
I know I am only one of Kellie’s lucky friends. Our friendship is new. The first time we met online, she’d just discovered she had the antibody for Stiff Person Syndrome. In my typical fashion, I thought having a definitive diagnosis was a lucky break, it meant treatment. But she started on IVIG straight away and continued to decline. Her spirit almost broke, she nearly gave up. But then she remembered something and a tiny little spark of hope began to light her outlook. You can read her brave post about that here. She was going to Russia for stem cell therapy, then no, she was staying in Australia, then no, back to Russia again. Her confidence was high, her can-do attitude carrying her through all the challenges of her preparation. She wrote to me about how she was going to be okay. About how she hoped she would never take being healthy for granted when she was well again. And we all believed that she was coming home. That she, if anyone, could beat the odds and make it. That she’d be laughing in the face of adversity and raising a glass of champers to life itself.
No. No no no no. No. Oh Kellie. Your beautiful heart didn’t make it through. And our hearts are aching with all the tears you’ll never shed, for all the hugs you were yet to have, for your homecoming that isn’t what it should have been. We ache for your family, for your much loved kids and husband, Mark. We long for a world where things like this don’t happen. We want to be back at Friday, when you were still here with us.
Before you went to Russia, I sent you a cyber-bestie t-shirt to match my own. “Fall seven, get up eight” it read across the front. I thought it was the perfect slogan for your positive, ‘She’ll-be-right’ chutzpah. Oh Kellie, I wish you had made it to the eighth.
I will miss you my friend. X
Kellie van Meurs posted this on her facebook page while she was in Russia. I so wish the choice was still hers.
Rest now beautiful brave girl.
If you are able to donate to the fund to bring Kellie’s body home from Russia, here is the link to the fund. Please help if you can. X