It is never easier or better or softer. Loss is loss. Every single loss takes something in you, a bit of you… when you are sitting right in it you won’t get to see all that gets put back into that spot, for now all that is tangible and real and right on top is this loss. I can look back at the time after losing Madeline and see the huge gouge out of me… the missing part of me. I can feel how much that part hurt… then I can see it gradually filling up. I see and have felt it be filled up with support, kind actions, solid hugs, best.people.ever, adventures, accomplishments and many other things. Though it is filling it is different than before and still lacking, but it is becoming more of the missing part of me.
This weekend the world lost an amazing teenager, an avid music lover and one bold chick. After a long cancer journey she has left us here to carry her legacy and help create a world where teenagers and amazing kids don’t leave us too soon because of cancer. She left us to carry on her bold strength and confidence… to appreciate the things that we are able to do.
The last visit my girls and I had with Kalina was hard. She was tired and I could feel her sad for what she was missing. She wanted to go outside and swim, but she was stuck in her bed. She wanted to see friends and watch movies… but so many had withdrawn. Kalina had a sense of sureness that I see in her Nanna, a way to say out loud what she wants or needs. We had brought Soul Surfer the last movie night we had. Kalina told the girls that they need to appreciate what they have when they have it. She identified with the story about Bethany Hamilton, her loss of functioning appendages. Kalina, in recent weeks, lost the ability to get around and was bedridden. In the past year her functions really deteriorated… which is so hard for a teen. Imagine a time in your life when you are building and broken and confused and sure and happy and sad all in five minutes- for me that was teenagerhood. It was hard. I remember the waves of sure and broken, the fears of failing and the fear of so many others caring or laughing. Imagine losing part of you that was so important, walking and moving right alongside the side effects of the lifesaving steroids. Kalina is a beautiful angel, she was a beautiful person. In her last months she had pain from headaches and skin that was stretching from steroids… changes she didn’t pick. So watching Soul Surfer she told my girls that it is hard to be without something we have had use of, that she used to be able to walk and get around. She told them it is hard to be used to something and have it be gone. She was a teenager, struggling with what she was missing and feeling sad about her markings and side effects. She was self-conscious that I would think she was boring because she fell asleep at the end of the movie. I will say- there is not one moment I thought she was boring never.ever.crossed.my.mind.
Kalina is no longer stuck in her body, her body that was laced with tumors and didn’t work the way she wanted and needed. She doesn’t get tired from just eating dinner, she doesn’t have super sensitive skin that has been stretched and marked from steroids. She doesn’t have to stay in bed only 40 feet from her sunny pool and not be able to swim. This fact can help a lot of hearts… but that big hunk of me has been cut out of me. There has been a big hunk of her Nanna and Poppa that is missing and many others. A part of me knows she is all good now, she is in a safe place. A part of me knows she is finally not broken and hurting. Yet, a huge part of me and others is broken and missing. Even if we know she is good and awesome and safe and comfortable- how does the world go on? How does the Earth still spin? How do people still grow and change and move and live? How do kids get to grow, adults get to laugh? Honestly I still don’t try to answer this… I just remind myself that we don’t get to pick the hard stuff, we get to love the good stuff… we get to love enough to miss. We get to lose a part of us when a person we love is gone… this is a gift. It sounds like a curse, but grief is a gift. To miss and grieve is to have loved and known and appreciated. What would it be like if we didn’t feel this grief…
Kalina, from the moment I met her, was unlike most teenagers. She has a mature demeanor, a boldness teens lack. She is not a person who would give into peer pressure, she would have grown into a 19 year old that only did things if they wanted to. She would not have said yes to drugs if someone told her they were cool, she would have thought about her own desire to try or whether it was worth it or not. Kalina loved her bands, she made me feel old and far from young culture. She talked about Paramore and her love for the band all.the.time. She loved band clothes, posters and articles. She loved the deep meaning of the music, the words that were written about life and hard and love and stories… not just the pop stuff that makes us move and smile. Kalina was funny and had a great sense of good entertainment. She built an extensive movie collection with her Nanna. I can only imagine, after the childhood Kalina had, having a set of grandparents who honored and loved you just.for.you. A set of grandparents who encouraged you to be you… who kept you safe and loved and surrounded in all the hard stuff. Kalina had that amazing ability to say ‘No’… something most women learn in their 30’s…
Kalina changed me. She made me fear teens and the future much less. She made me glad for the bold and honest that I work hard for my girls to carry (bold and honest shows in many ways… and usually means adults get a good workout in putting their foot down). I love that Kalina told me to bring her cheese ravioli, please. I didn’t have to waste my time grabbing pizza or subs… instead she told me what she likes. Kalina talked to me openly about her faith. She told me how people who put others down or argue about God are not paying attention… She was confused by people who don’t ‘know’ what we ‘know’. I get that… she talked about the things that she knows and how sure she is. It was a moment around her dining room table I will not forget. I don’t get to know Kalina’s big purpose, I don’t get to know why her, just as with Madeline… I only get to keep chugging and moving and living. I get to carry what she showed me, reassured me and built in me.
Life is not about how many moments in the end stand out as perfect and easy… but instead how many gouges we have had that get refilled. The good stuff is in the filling… the mercies and support- the herds are sent in to fill the gouges. When life takes a scoop out of us… the amazing part is what fills that scoop. That scoop feels physical, the wound that is left is open and hurts so much… it misses and it knocks us on our butts often… then it starts healing and filling.
Our gouge, our scoop, leaves a scar. That scar is reminder of the awesome healing… the work and the support that filled that scoop. That scar is a reminder of our lovely… our amazing. That scar represents a story… my dad used to say that scars are patina… they are part of the story. Patina is the wear of life… patina on a dining room table is the markings from life- the pencils marks and spills of nail polish removed- the paint on the edges… just as our scars are patina on our lives. Life warrants patina, the best lives are full of wear… and I am proud of the scars and patina in my journey. I am proud of my scars, the ones that are inside me and the ones on the outside.
Kalina had her own journey, her own scars. She is forever a part of me, forever a part of many. Many lost a scoop of themselves when she left… we will keep her woven in our fabric and our hearts.