Dear Kellie,

Dear Kellie

I like to think that you can read this from wherever you are. I like to think that because it is comforting to me. And comfort, when it comes to the absence of you, is scarce. So I take my threads of hope in there being a hereafter and I try to weave them into something tangible.  You, looking over my shoulder from another dimension.  Reading about the shock wave of your departure. Knowing that you are missed as much today as this day a year ago.

Truth is Kel, there really isn’t any way of reconciling your departure. It was sudden.  You were such a long way from home… you were meant to come back to us. You are meant to be here. I wish you were.

I spoke with you on Facebook messenger, we talked about the kids, your man, how it was all going.  You said how tired your were and something awful gripped me.  Through all the difficulties to that point you had barely even mentioned feeling low, even though the trials were many.  You were in isolation, and glad for the opportunity to rest.  Then it went quiet. I hoped then that you were getting lots of rest, that you would bounce back onto my screen and tell me how the weekend had been for you. 
But then, I saw a message in our patient group.  Someone said what a terrible shock it was to hear about your passing. I reeled. I messaged you. Kellie?  Did you hear me?  Did my thoughts catch in your wake and follow you to where you are?

I wrote to you on messenger for a while after I knew for sure.  Not wanting to believe you were truly gone. I’d been your online friend since you messaged me to ask if I would help with your blog and it was a fast-track friendship.  I hadn’t known you for very long, but I suspect you had a gift for making everyone feel like your close friend.  Warm, funny, irrepressible. That’s how I found you. I enjoyed our friendship and I looked forward to the futures we imagined, cured and cackling with a glass of wine.  Trans-tasman trips and girlie weekends. We joked about an arranged marriage for our firstborns, the way Mums like us can. Mums who wish they really could make the world do their bidding, keep their kids happy, safeguard the future. Mums who knew we couldn’t do any such thing.

I wish I knew how your family are. But I never joined your personal Facebook page.  We were always in contact via messenger or email and I don’t know how I didn’t think to Facebook friend request you.  I wish I had. I would have loved to have seen all the beautiful things your friends have said about you. To share with them this difficult date, a year since you left us. If any of them see this, I hope they know they are not the only ones wishing you were here.  Sometimes it helps to know there are others keeping the memories alive too; here we are Kel, a groundswell of grief. Your people.

I miss you Kellie. I miss your profile picture popping up. I miss the laughter that you brought me even on my sickest days.  Sometimes I would laugh until the tears squeezed out the corners of my eyes.  We were cyber friends, digital buddies, pen-pals of the keyboard kind.  When my days were awful, you were a bright spot. You funny, irreverent, girl.  I am cast adrift by my grief at your loss, and I knew you for such a short time. I cannot begin to comprehend how your Mum, your Aunty, your best friend are getting on. Your man, your eloquent lad, your beautiful girl. All the people closest to you.

Today, the world has travelled once around the sun since your heart stopped beating. For Mark and Luc and Ash, the rest of your beloved family, your friends; every laborious step of that year has been heavy with longing for you. There will be a silvery path of salt water in the wake of Earth’s orbit, because Kellie, we cannot help but measure our grief for you in tears and time. The earth will keep on traversing that path, and every year as it passes this dreadful date, we will commemorate you. All of the special memories that each of us has. All of the beauty, and liveliness that was you. We will put down our work, our play, our every-day, and remember the way our own worlds stopped the moment we heard about you. The incomprehensible news that you were gone from us. Around the wells of sadness that opened in our hearts, we will ring wreaths of remembering.

If my hopes are real, and somewhere just beyond, your soul is living on; know that we are remembering you.  Know that you mattered to us.  Know that everything you did and said and loved and created left an indelible print in this world.  You’ll be up there wearing some gorgeous jewelled floaty kaftan. Raising a glass with some new friends and old.  Rarking it up in celestial style. We miss you Kel.

xxx

Rach

Words Fall Out

If we’re lucky, it visits us a few times before taking us away; Death.
I remember the death of our dog.  That first aching glimpse into the yawning chasm of ‘gone forever’.  And the death of a grandparent; quiet censored whisperings of adults and the hurried ushering of the children away from the coffin.  Gone forever. First one person, then a sprinkling of elderly others.  Watching the grief in my mothers eyes spill over into tears.  She didn’t usually cry.  It sent a chill of foreboding through me, seeing her mourn her own mother.  I was fourteen then, and beginning to comprehend.  Death loomed close to my imagination. An irrefutable, unescapable, cruel end and a bitter suffering.

Then, facing the shock news of a car crash, a cousin, close to my own age. Another friend too, another car. Somehow so much more tragic than losing the elderly; more personal, more real.  The horror of knowing they are gone.  Forever.  And it could just as well have been you.  You contemplate all the things that you get to still do that they don’t.  You think about the future they’ll never have.  You marvel at how the birds still sing, but they cannot.  You can’t absorb the fact that everything they were, the entirety of their being, is gone. It’s too frightening. Too close to your bones. A whisper too near to your ear.

You let the tomorrows slowly ease your mortal fears.  Time anaesthetising you from the truth.  We die.  One day that will be my funeral.  One day it will be yours.  We try to forget that immutable fact. We are expert at it.  We close our eyes and batten down the hatches.

We pretend that we will live forever.

But we won’t.

Any of us, at any moment are a hairs-breadth away from it…  why don’t we live like that is so? Why do we pretend?  Diminishing our existence by living as if there will always be a tomorrow?  Another chance? Limiting what we see and ring-fencing our hopes, saving them for another day?

Why do we do that?

Death is on my mind today because this is the anniversary of the day my Mum took her last breath.  I remember staying with her through the night of New Year’s Eve.   She was so tired.  In so much pain. Throughout the night I had counted her breaths, and the terrible pauses between, the gasp and rasp as she fought for air again.  I was terrified about how death would come. When she opened her eyes the next morning, her barely audible whisper: “am I still alive?”.
“You are Mum.  You’re here.  It’s a New Year” her tiny amount of energy collapsed her tiny frame, deeper into the bed, lost in defeat.  “Still here” she mouthed, this time, no sound escaping her mouth as she closed her eyes against the day, the year, the endless struggle of her ending.

I didn’t see her open them again. I left my shift of the bedside vigil and went to sit at the beach.  My brother called me when it happened.  She had gone when they had stepped out of her room. I wondered if she had waited for them to go, to save them the torment of hearing the last breath, of counting the pause that would never be broken with another rasp.

I sat there on the dunes and watched the skies as her spirit flew past.  North to the Bay of Islands, and on to Cape Reinga. She was free.  I knew I should be able to breathe easier knowing that.  But what settled on my chest was a heavy weight of knowing.  She was gone forever.   Forever is a long time to be motherless.  And I cried like the baby I am.  Her baby.  Cried because I didn’t know how I could do it.  This life.  How could I do it without a mother?   I felt lost and cut loose of the only tie that truly binds.  Her freedom became my burden.  My debt to her, paid in grief and measured out across my own forever.

Thank you Mum, for loving me.  I miss you.

I was in the car this morning, coming back from a morning out with the horses.  It had all been far too much for me. I was half-sleeping, listening to the music.  Kellie’s song came on the radio.  My eyes were shut and my head lolling against the head rest.  Her song pops up at interesting times.  I always listen.  Think about her, miss her.  Wish she was still here, wisecracking on my blog, or messaging me about something.  Another gone forever girl.  Breaking our hearts with her absence.  Filling our days with remembrances and regrets for all the things we never said.

I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say,
let the words fall out
honestly

I want to see you be brave.
(Sarah Bareilles, Brave)

Death is not a palatable subject.  People don’t like to read about it.  We don’t want to be reminded.
We go to such great lengths to ignore the truth and fight the realisations.  We all want to live forever; I get it, me too.  But what I want to say today is hard to read.
Wake up! We all die, people.
My words are falling out.

gone

Don’t push it away, not this day.
Remember.
Do it for the memory of my Mumma, for the memory of Kellie, or for the memory of someone you loved and lost. Do it for yourself, as an act of wilful rebellion against the denial we usually prefer. Live like there’s no tomorrow, in whatever way that would be for you.
What would you tell your children?
How long would you hold your lover’s gaze?
What would you say that needs to be said?
Who would you forgive? Who would you ask it from?
What would you do today?
What would you choose to look at, to feel, to notice?
If this was it.  What would it be?

This song probably says what I want to say in a much better way.  Have a listen to this.  And make today matter.