About a week ago, I went out to check how many blooms my peonies would have this year. I have three of them — one for Obi, one for Kelly, and one for Heather and now Dexter, planted at the edge of the spot where our Cottonwood tree used to be, a tiny memorial to so much loss. As I counted the blooms, I noticed one had a friend, a ladybug. It always feels like a nudge from Kelly, and to see one on my peonies is a double whammy.
Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of her death. A phone call woke me from my sleep late that night, telling me she was gone. I was still foggy from sleep, and even though I knew it was coming, it still didn’t feel real, felt like a dream. How could this be true? How could this be possible? Honestly, I still feel like that about it — how is there a world without Kelly in it?
A few days later, I posted to her Facebook wall, “Kelly, I am so sorry that the only time I came to Kentucky will be when I come to say good-bye. I’m sorry that I didn’t come sooner, didn’t throw you a dance party. I’m so sorry that all the time I was near you, I didn’t memorize every second. What I am not sorry about, thank goodness, is I know that you know how much I love you, will love you always. That, thank goodness, I got right.”
After I returned from Kentucky, I posted, “The most heartbreaking, beautiful thing from Kelly’s memorial service was learning that her last words were ‘I’m happy.’ I wish that for all of us, to be happy.” This is still true too, the heartbreak and the wish. It’s been six years and I still have to be careful how I talk about her, because it makes me cry to say it out loud, to know that I’ll never see her again. Along with that is the awareness that her loss has brought about some of the best things in my life. Because of her, I committed to really trying, to not giving up. I started writing this blog, I got certified to become a yoga teacher, I wrote a book and am working on another, I survived when I lost my second dog to cancer, I started therapy, I (mostly) healed a 30+ year eating disorder, I took Buddhist vows, I healed a long term abusive relationship with myself.
I am still here in large part because of Kelly. That and a huge dose of survivor’s guilt. I live with the somewhat twisted notion that if a person as amazing as her doesn’t get to be here, I need to earn the right to be here. I have to try harder, be better, not waste my time, stop messing around, “suck it up and get tough” like my high school football couch and social studies teacher used to say. And yet, today as I remember her, on this day of rest, I know that she wouldn’t want me to feel like that. She would tell me “it’s okay, cheer up, you’re perfect.”