My obstetrician never gave me an exact due date for my twins, it was always “February 11 plus or minus three days,” so when they were born on February 8, 1990 I always felt they were right on time. That is part of their birth story, the following, sadly, is not. Three days ago, February 8, 2017, was my twin daughter’s birthday. One turned 27, the other remained forever 22.
This year marks the 5th year Kelci was not with us for her birthday. July 24, 2012, marked her last day here on Earth. Even the thought of five years without her stirs an uneasy sensation within me. Five years. Five of the longest years of my life that have no idea where they’ve gone; if you live it, it makes sense. This is a story about time.
Kelci is gone.
In the minutes after, I lost touch with reality. Shock set in, and to this day I see that night unfold like a movie. I was in bed, jolted awake by a loud pounding on the door, and three dogs barking fiercely. Three men standing at my door, two in uniforms; what trouble is she in?
There’s been an accident. She didn’t make it.
What can I do? Nothing.
There is nothing you can do. Be with your family.
I watch myself learn on the couch for support. I’m shaking uncontrollably. Shock, I’m in Shock. This is not real. This isn’t happening. I take a photograph of the wall, and show it to the men. This is Kelci. This is my child. It’s not her in that car. What can I do?
Nothing. There is nothing you can do. Be with your family.
In the hour after the accident, I watch my husband deny it is happening. Ray refuses to accept that his daughter is gone. Kelci is at work, she wasn’t on that mountain. No. She’ll be home any minute. In that hour I watch my son lose any innocence of childhood that remained. I watch Brian comprehend the incomprehensible, his baby sister is gone. In that hour I watch him comfort his father, help him come to terms with the truth that she isn’t coming home. In that hour I watch my husband call my mother to tell her the devastating news. I’m still not sure how any of this got done.
In the hours after the accident I search for my other daughter. When I finally find her I have to tell her that her twin sister is gone. Today, nearly five years later, as I write this my heart still races, the tears still flow, I tremble a little and I have to close my eyes and shake my head to deal with this reality. This isn’t real. This isn’t my story. This isn’t happening to me. The things I had to do in the hours after the accident still bring me to the edge. There is nothing you can do. Be with your family, but find them first. There were moments that I night when I couldn’t find Michelle that I thought I had lost them both.
In the hours after I found my daughter and told her the unthinkable, there was an accident, Kelci didn’t make it, there was also unsettling rage. I know I screamed and screamed and screamed, a guttural, wounded animal, wild, unstoppable scream; a scream that terrified everyone around me and sent them scrambling elsewhere to seek solitude. Leaving my side not because they didn’t want to help me, but because there was nothing they could do. I screamed until exhaustion stopped me. I awoke sobbing and screaming uncontrollably.
In the days after the accident we found things to do, things we had to do, not things we wanted to do. For one, I had to learn to live without my daughter. I was certain I would not survive losing a child, but here I was. I’m still not certain how I’m doing it. When you lose a child, you learn about impossible. You do the impossible. In the days after the accident, I was forced to plan a funeral. I chose to celebrate her life instead.
In the months after the accident, I went through the motions. I got up, I went to work, I did things, and I continued to live. I tried to find my way. I made a promise to my daughter, so I had no choice. She didn’t get to live, so for her I would. From the outside looking in, the rest of the world said I was doing OK. I did not always believe them.
In the years after the accident, much has happened, and I’m still here. I’ve pushed myself to keep going, I’ve traveled, studied, tried new things, run, done yoga, meditated, worked at four different jobs, and I have established a legacy for Kelci. I have done so much good to honor her. I have been really down, but I have never given up, and I have laughed, cried, made people smile and so much more. Life has moved forward, marched on, and yet has stood still. I am here, but I’m still there in that moment of no return. I have considered that much of this has been an attempt to run away, to escape. I know deep down escape is impossible. Where I go, this goes with me. It became my story.
Today, I still watch my family suffer, but I also see their strength, courage, wisdom and grace. We are surviving something we could never fathom surviving. Sometimes we thrive, sometimes we don’t. I still have hope we’ll get there. Time is different now. Five minutes, five days, five months, five years, all an eternity and also nothing at all. If you live it, you understand. My story, time, life, everything remains forever altered now that Kelci is gone.
This story is part of a Photo / Art Challenge I am participating in for February 2017 . The challenge was created by my friend, Angela, a writer, photographer, survivor, advocate and beautiful human being. Check out her website www.ScarsandTiaras.com. I am not an abuse survivor, but a survivor of a different kind. I am however most definitely a supporter and advocate for survivors and art and art therapy. Art therapy provides a beautiful, creative outlet to express ourselves, work through things and find answers.