While “everything can change in the blink of an eye,” is a strung out and overused cliché, it holds an abundance of truth. In my case, everything changed in the time it took for my text tone notification to sound. As a senior in high school, burying a friend is not something that you plan to do before graduation. I am no stranger to death or grief or loss, but the loss of a friend at a young age is a different kind of grief all together. There is no way to accurately describe the feeling you get in your stomach when you first hear the news, and there is no way to properly explain how your brain and heart send distress signals to your knees, causing them to buckle. Your heart stops beating for a moment as it tries to keep up with your brain as it processes, causing your hands to shake out of confusion.
I can’t explain anything about the situation, and I lived through it. I can’t explain how the smell of peppermint coffee creamer still makes my head spin because it reminds me of the time I spilled my coffee on her worn converse during art class. She laughed it off and helped me clean it up as I apologized profusely, and I still feel guilty that she had to walk home with coffee stained shoes that day. I wonder if the smell of peppermint still lingers in her sealed closet in her now empty bedroom.
I now spend most of my days wondering. Wondering if the perfectly painted smile Chelsie wore held the truth of how truly happy she was, and if it made her cheeks ache from sincerity. Wondering if those watery blue eyes saw me as half the person as I saw her. I wonder if she forgives the man that was behind the wheel of the car that hit and killed her, and I wonder if she would want me to do the same. I know that is not in the realm of possibility. I can’t help but wonder what happened that night, and sometimes the feeling of uncertainty gnaws at my stomach late into the night as I imagine the incident. Guilt fills my throat as I try to remember what the last word she said to me was. All I can come up with in my mind is, “See you later.” I wish she meant it.
I know I told her that she did an amazing job on stage, and I hugged her and told her that I wished I was up there with her again. Little did I know that 48 hours later I would be shouting the same thing up to the heavens as I begged God to give her back, or to let me be with her just one last time. Just one more song.
God never granted me my encore.
I still see her everywhere I go. I have found myself stopped in my tracks in a busy school hallway because I saw a girl with brown hair and blonde highlights, or I saw a girl with a backpack with a similar color scheme. If I listen closely enough, I swear I can still hear her laugh echo through the auditorium. If I sit in the theatre seats long enough, I sink into them and travel back in time to my sophomore year during our spring production.
In those three and a half months, I shared more laughs and tears and songs with Chelsie than anyone. She had the ability to completely fill a room with just her voice or her laughter. Chelsie showed me that you can spread joy and happiness through song and through acting and performing, and I want to spread it in her name. I want to do the things she would have done if she had more time here with us, but I know in my heart I will never be as great at it as she was. Chelsie had the ability to lift your spirits even if you didn’t want her to. She was the first person I told when my step dad passed away, and was the first person to make me smile after the fact. Her instant reaction was to hug me, despite my refusal because I “hate hugs.” She adored hugs, and would use any excuse to hug you. She viewed it as just another way to show you just how much she loved you.
I would do anything to have her hug me again.
She completely changed my view on how I interact with my friends, and she showed me how important it is to tell people how you feel about them while they are here. Hug your friends, kiss their cheeks, hold their hands, and tell them you love them every chance you get. Never let your friend go a day feeling like they are not loved. Chelsie made sure that everyone around her felt her love, and it is something that I still feel to this day. Chelsie’s love is a love unlike any other – it is infinite.
One of the hardest things about losing a close friend at such a young age, is going through all the milestones without them there. At prom, all I could think about was how excited Chelsie would be, and I could picture her dress perfectly as she twirled on the dance floor. Every great moment I had, I wished she was there to share it with me and the rest of our classmates. At graduation, I couldn’t focus on how happy I was to receive my diploma because all I could focus on was the empty and aching feeling I had in my chest when I saw her empty seat. I wished so badly I could have heard her name be called, and see her walk proudly across that stage with her million dollar smile.
I felt her in the breeze as it blew around us, and I felt her in the rays of the sun as it hung overhead. The seat at graduation may have been empty, but I know in my heart that Chelsie was there with us, she was the wind that carried our caps as they flew threw the air, and she was the light that fell over us.
I do not want those who read this to be sad, as that is not the intent of this piece. I want everyone to know who Chelsie was, and who she continues to be. I want everyone to realize just how important friendship is, even those friendships that only happen under certain circumstances. The love of friends is one of the most important loves you can find. Hold onto it, no matter where life takes you.
Tell those you love just how much you love them, and don’t be afraid to love with everything you have.
Platonic love is just as important and valuable as romantic love. Chelsie might not be with me in the physical world anymore, but I will hold onto her love forever. I will always carry a piece of her with me as a reminder to love fiercely and genuinely. Chelsie’s song will forever be stuck in my ear and my heart.