Gosh, this was a hard post to write. I stopped, stared at the image of my cousin above, typed a little, and deleted a lot before finally deciding on how to write about her. My cousin has been gone now for quite some time. This week marks the 16th anniversary of her death. It was an extremely painful experience to lose a best friend and someone who I essentially grew up with.
Most of my friends and co-workers do not even know. It is not that I have forgotten about her…I just cannot “go there” very often. I am extremely blessed with amazing friends, but there will always be that space that only Kelly filled. The vast majority of my early life memories involve her. Cousins really do become children’s first friends.
She was only 23-years-old; yet, had many sorrows and troubles. Addictions and sadness plagued her, even though, there was a tremendous amount of sweetness, tenderness, and love buried underneath all of the dirt of life. She battled addictions for several years and though she wanted to live a full, healthy life, I think that the struggles she had were just too great for her. So much life has happened since hers ended, but she is never really too far from my thoughts.
My last words to her, while she was conscious, were “baby steps, Kelly, baby steps.” I was trying to get her to slow down with her eagerness to get out of the hospital. I knew she needed to just put one foot in front of the other and that starting a new, healthier life would be much more difficult than she probably imagined. “Baby steps”….I regretted those words. If I had known those words were my last to her, I would not have chosen them.
Moments before her death, I ran to the chapel at the hospital and pleaded with the Lord. I was not an active Christian at the time and had a lot of confusion, but I still believed in a Heavenly Father who heard our cries.
“Lord, please God, I will do anything. Please let Kelly live. Please God….she needs a miracle.”
These words stumbled off of my clumsy lips that were quivering and drenched with tears. My broken and trembling body laid over the back of the pew. My hands were clasped together and I was reaching out to the cross before me. I was alone in the chapel begging….it was just me and God. It was me bargaining for Him to deliver a miracle to my near lifeless best friend.
Soon after, this I heard my name and turned around. In the doorway, my aunt stood there shaking her head with tears rolling down her cheeks.
I got up and nearly ran right into a lady wearing a white jumpsuit. I remember her brown hair for some reason, but I do not remember her face and did not know she was even in the room. She said to me, “I heard you pray and wanted to let you know that your cousin is going to be okay. It is all-Saints day.” She hugged me and I walked out of the chapel. I was not Catholic (still am not), so I really did not know what she meant, but something about my encounter with her felt good.
Several months after my cousin’s death, I prayed that God would allow me to see Kelly one more time so that I would know she was okay. My prayer was answered in a dream. We were driving around in a car listening to music just like old times when she was breathing Earthly air. No words were spoken, but I could “hear” her say “I’m okay Caroline. I’m okay.” There she sat glowing in all white with that beautiful smile on her face. There was great peace in the car and I remember not wanting the ride to come to an end. I woke up and even though it pained me to realize she was gone, I just knew that she was at peace and with the Lord. I have not dreamed of her since then, but that is okay.
I believe the Lord did grant her the miracle I so pleaded for on that fateful day. You see, Kelly had been rendered unconscious just a week or two prior to her death. She miraculously came to, asked for forgiveness, recommitted her faith in the Lord, told her family and friends that she loved them, laughed, hugged, and then passed away. That was her miracle.
I too was touched by a miracle on the day Kelly died. My aunt who ran into the chapel to let me know Kelly passed away does not remember the lady in the white jumpsuit. She told me there was no one else in the chapel with me when she came in. In other words, I believe my miracle on that day was an encounter with an angel telling me that my sweet cousin was going to be okay even though she would be leaving the Earth.
Kelly never had the opportunity to become a mom, graduate from college, start a career, own a personal computer, use a smart phone, or travel to some far off exotic place. She did not get to stand next to me at my wedding, attend my adoption hearings, and watch how my story of infertility unfolded. I know she would have been so in love with my babies and would have cherished them as much as I do. I believe a part of her will always be with me during all of the moments I share with my children.
I look forward with great anticipation and joy at the reunion I will have with her in Heaven. I look forward to breathing in the same celestial air that she is breathing and to shine with her in the glory of the Lord. But, for now, I will continue to hold her in that quiet space that belongs only to her. I will continue to think of her every time I see tulips and daisies. And, I will continue to rejoice in the miracles that occurred during that week when Kelly danced her way into Heaven.
Love You, Kelly