How Can It Be?

February 2, 2022

I whisper, “How can it be?” as you explain the latest test results, the ones that show how cancer is ravaging your body and stealing the time you have left with us. I am in disbelief and denial. I do not know what the future holds but I know it must include you for longer than what you’re telling me it will.

I cry, “How can it be?” as your last breath slips from your tired body. I hold you tightly not sure I’ll have the strength to let go. Somewhere in between cries and prayer I hear someone call the time of death, the time of your death. I beg them not to take you, to not separate us, to let you stay, and as they gently wheel you farther and farther from us, I weep, “How can it be?”

I scream, “How can it be?” as I look at the fresh dirt that covers the place where you’ve been lowered, the place that we’ll be forced to visit you now. I am angry that a cemetery is the place that will hold our time together. This isn’t how I envisioned life, at least not for a very very long time and if I’m being honest, not ever. 

I whimper, “How can it be” as I catch the first glimpse of your newly placed headstone. A beautiful and harsh stone that displays your picture and your name. A rock that somehow serves testament to your life and your love. It’s black, which is the opposite of you. You were always so full of light. I don’t remember why we chose black but I think it accurately portrays the way the world looks without you in it. It certainly doesn’t shine the same. 

I bawl, “How can it be?” at every holiday without you, every “first” without you, and every day of celebration that you miss. I stare at an empty space with as much denial and heartbreak as the very day you left. They say time will make it easier, but it doesn’t. Time has simply trained my heart and soul to carry it so it seems lighter, because when it seems lighter it becomes less uncomfortable for those around me. I will never get used to you not being here. I will never get used to the missing magic and the absent love. I will never get used to life without you. 

I sob, “How can it be?” when they tell me it’s been a year since your death, as if I don’t know the date that broke my heart and changed my life forever. Eventually, one turns to two…and then three..and four…and as the years go by your absence solidifies the ache in my heart and the space that no one else could ever fill. 

I think, “How can it be?” when I’m doing the big moments of life without you and again when I’m doing the minuscule moments without you too. It isn’t fair. It’s isn’t right. It isn’t supposed to be this way, things I’ve been saying since the moment you left. Simple truths that remain a constant in this journey they call grief. 

When I look at pictures, when I hear your name, when I need you or want you or miss you, which is always, I ask, “How can it be?” 

How. Can. It. Be.

Four words that slip out of my mouth constantly since your final moments and our last goodbye. Four words that have become mine. Four words I’ve muttered so much, it’s as if they’ve been tattooed on my heart. 

Four powerful words.

“How can it be?”

Then, sometimes, when I’m on my knees in despair and sorrow, I feel your comfort. And sometimes, when I’m lonely and afraid, I feel your support. And sometimes, when I’m lost and detached, I feel your love. And sometimes, when I’m broken by grief and hopeless in heartbreak, I feel your presence and your light. And sometimes, when I’m at my lowest, my darkest, and my most vulnerable, I feel you, all of you. All that you were and all that I loved, as if you are still here, showing up for me and loving me beautifully from eternity. And I look up and think, “How can it be?”

How can it be?

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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