Thoughts and lessons learned on life after Kiki.
It has been 365 days since…You've been gone. That's 52 weeks, 365 days, or 8,760 hours, and not a second has gone by that I haven't thought of you, or wished you were here. It has been a year of no phone calls, no texts messages, or random Facebook messages. Yet somehow, it feels like just yesterday.
That's 365 days to heal, to question, to sometimes become so bitter at the fact that you're truly gone. To cope, and to try and face reality that you aren’t here. I am having to come to terms you won't be at my wedding, or to see me start a family, and meet my children. Something I never thought, I'd live a life without.
365 days, while it’s a long time, it doesn't seem long to me. A lot can happen in just year, and I have come to notice all that you have missed. People said to me "Give it time" "It'll get better" "Everything happens for a reason". but does it? Does it really get better? Was there a reason you had to die? Are you really "in a better place?" I am not so sure about that. What I am sure of, is that 365 days isn't a lot of time, because 365 days later, I am still grieving, still healing, and sometimes still suffering.
The days leading up to your passing...
I remember the call from Chelsea, on June 10th, saying you were leaning toward the idea, of hospice, and that it was probably a good idea to come see you. I was in a Starbucks. You truly don't forget where you are, when things like that happen, and I can tell you, I think of you every time I go to that specific Starbucks. I got on a flight that following morning, to Atlanta, sick to my stomach knowing that when I returned back to Illinois, I was going to more than likely live a life without you...
I got to Piedmont Hospital, and walked into your hospital room, to you, with a smile on your face. Seeing your face was as beautiful, as it was excruciating. But still, you smiled, happy to see me. You would rather smile through your pain, and fear, so that we didn’t have to worry as much as we already were. You were going to face death, the same way you embraced life. With grace, courage, dignity. You made the decision on Sunday, June 12th, that you were going into Hospice. Your next thought following, was to notify your 2,000 friends on Facebook. Again, always worried about others, before yourself. I wrote your post. That sucked. People rallied around you. Just as you did for them. Even in your last days, you were so brave. I am so thankful for those last moments we shared. Where you told me you loved me and loved us, and you told me it was Okay, and that I didn't need to cry. You kept telling us, "I lived a life well lived. Just take care of the others around you." Not once, did you question "Why?" You could of sat there, mad and angry at God (like we all were), but you chose Peace. You chose to enjoy what little days you had left here on this earth, rather than to be frustrated at the things you can't control,
You went into the Hospice Home on Tuesday June 14th. We all stayed by your side. We laughed, we cried, we talked about your life. I can't even imagine how you felt. Knowing what was going to come in the next coming days... How does one handle they are going to die, but not know when? Wednesday June 15th came, and I could tell the end was near. I was going to do the night shift alone, but I knew I had to call Chelsea, and she called your best friends Chrysan, and Mel. They drove 3 hours to be by your side. You laughed with them, told stories, made jokes, that I am so glad I videotaped, and when they left, it was you, me and Chelsea. We chatted until Midnight, and then we never heard your voice again... but you were still with us. That was hard. It wasn’t until 2-3pm the next day, the nurse suggested, maybe it us being there, and we were the reason you were still holding on, and suggested we leave.
We left the room that afternoon, and we physically left the building, and when we returned at 5:02pm, you left us for Heaven. In true Kiki fashion, you put us before yourself, and would never want us to witness, your passing...
We notified your Facebook friends, and we had an outpouring of thoughts, prayers, and love, from over 750 people. I had to then write your Obituary. I spoke at your celebration of life. Nothing a 27-year-old should have to.
Your death affected me more than I thought it would.
I wish I'd had been stronger. It was excruciating to watch this horrific disease slowly take you, after your many, many years battling everything else. I could hardly sleep, could hardly eat. I know that's nothing compared to what you went through, but it was so hard to accept a reality without you in it. My reality, turned into a nightmare, I couldn't escape.
"It's not fair!" "Why you?" I'd scream into my pillow, or cry in the shower, only to hear nothing in return. I think that's why I struggled so bad. Because while we all know how you died, cancer, we all couldn't grasp why someone would choose you? Why the person, who put others before herself. Who would give the shirt off her back for the person next to her. For the person who battled MS for 20 years, Lung Cancer, Lupus, and then now, Appendix Cancer? You were the poster child, for why do bad things happen to such good people? Wasn't that enough? I guess we'll never know...
I broke, and I broke hard. I didn't think I would survive this past year. Grief and loss are a horrible thing, that I would never wish on my worst enemy. People truly don't understand loss, until they have experienced it first hand. I think that's also why I struggled. The loneliness truly was a lot. You think more people have gone through a loss like this before, but not many have. You have an army of people behind you, supporting you with whatever you need, but it still doesn't feel like enough. You still feel empty, lost. I lived a life in black and white. There wasn't a life with color after you died. I woke up, did my work, went home, cried, went to bed, and repeated it, day in and day out. You try to lean on your family, but you also have to remember, they are grieving too. They too were going through the exact same thing as you were, so when you wanted to cry to them, you ended up crying with them. There were definitely more tears shed, than smiles in 2022.
November was particularly hard for me. Gosh, The first of the holidays without you. I remember being in Atlanta, lying in bed, wondering when this would all stop. Everything in grandmas house, reminded me of you. The living room we all sat, and opened Christmas gifts, or the back patio, where we watched the Braves play. Every inch of that house, had memories with you. I wondered, when would the pain leave me? The tears stop falling? When would I start to feel normal again? What if I don’t ever feel the same? I pushed many people away, but also realized the ones who were there for me. Checking in on me, when I was a little too quiet, or shut out from the world. That happened often. How could I converse in conversation, or celebrate peoples joyous moments, when I didn't have an ounce of happiness left in my body. I felt depleted. Life was really dark. I had thoughts about what life would be like, if I wasn't here. I let the pain, sorrow and depression take over my body. How could I live a life without you? A life without pain, grief, sadness. Because, I truly didn't see a life without you in it. Somehow, I made it through, and I think it's because of you.
But I wish I could tell you have far I've come- and how hard I worked to better myself, both mentally and physically. I took care of my health. I got Genetic testing. I was negative for all Cancer Genes, Whew. I was beginning to believe, I was too, going to die of Cancer at some point. I started saying No, when I truly needed to, and stopped living with the idea, that I had to do it, to make people happy. I started living with a purpose, doing things because it mattered, not because I needed too. I spent quality time with my friends, and family, and truly took in the time we spent, because you never know what life is going to hand you tomorrow. I started to not take for granted the little things; Walks with my fiance at the end of a long work day, dinner with friends, catching up on life, best friends having babies. I truly began to celebrate any and all things, big and small. I also let go of people who don't treat me how I deserve to be treated. Life is not about the quanity of your circle, but the quality, something you taught me. While I think I've always had that inside of me, you taught me to be brave. Sometimes you have to face reality with strength, even when you want to crumble...
Somedays I am OK- and others, the grief hits me like a train. I dread car rides by myself, and often times, I pull into my driveway with a stream of tears down my cheek. It's the silence in the car, that allows my thoughts to take over. I try to hide it, but I am lucky to have such an incredible support system, that understands when I am truly not OK.
I'd give the world, to see you once more.
The reality is, I don’t think I will ever stop grieving you, or crying over you. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, we're never ready to say goodbye, and even if one more day, or 365 more, it wouldn't have been enough. I've come to terms with the fact that, that is OK to not be OK, and if someone isn't OK with it, they have never lived a life without a special someone. I feel like society makes us believe that Grief has a timer, and that when someone asks what's wrong? and you say "I just miss them", people seem surprised. Surprised that is still affects you. It could be 1 year or 8 years since your passing, but we are allowed to forever grieve. There is no set end date. The minute I stop grieving, is the minute that Kikis life is no longer honored, and I will never get to that point. Grief does not always mean sadness. It means memories you hold near and dear, or future memories you wish your loved one was present for.
I will never take my life that I have for granted. I am lucky to have air to breath, a heart that is pumping, and a body that isn't taken over by cancer. The best way we can honor anyone we've loved and lost- is to live a life worth living. I will live for you, Kiki. I will spend the money, take the trips, because life is too damn short. I want to work harder, love deeply and always do my best, knowing that you'd be proud. You truly taught me, that no matter how hard things can get, life can be good.
We will never stop loving you Kiki. Never stop missing you- but that’s not a bad thing. It shows how much you were loved and cherished by us all. It is OK to have good days, and even the bad days. We need to normalize more the bad days, because even after a bad day, you have to pick yourself up and keep going. Right, Kik?
Thank you, Kiki, for teaching me that Life is good. The life we live, is a blessed life, and every day we have on this earth, is a gift. Thank you for teaching me how to always look for the good in every situation, especially in people. To forgive people without ever getting an apology. I will try to live my life more and more like you. To go out of my way to love and care for people in the selfness way that you always did.
I don’t know what God's plan was for taking you, and I may never know. Do I question it? All the time, but I still believe he has a plan.
We miss you every damn day, Kiki.