I Noticed You Weren’t There

February 9, 2022

I noticed you weren’t there when your entire family showed up without you. As your mom and your dad and your entire family hugged me I wondered where you were. There, standing in front of my mother’s casket, unable to think about much, I thought about the fact that you weren’t there.

There were so many people in attendance that day it’s hard to remember exactly who came and who didn’t but there is one absence that I will never forget and it was you. Someone who had been in my life for decades. Someone who knew my family inside and out. Someone who had been blessed by my mother’s love and attention almost as much as I had. Someone who used to love me and someone I used to love. You. 

I remember your lack of attendance. 

I don’t know why I was so shocked by your absence or even able to comprehend it. Things were so messy and incomprehensible, yet there I stood wondering where you were. Wondering why this wasn’t significant enough to stop what you were doing and show up for someone who used to be an important person in your life. Wondering what was so important that you couldn’t take a few minutes to show me that you noticed my mother had died. To show me that you noticed my world had just collapsed and that things would never be the same for me.

I remember wondering if you sent every single person in your family as a replacement for you to make up for the fact that you knew you weren’t coming. I wonder if you thought maybe I wouldn’t notice because there were lines and lines of people. But I noticed. I wonder if you made the conscious decision not to come or if maybe it was just happenstance. I don’t know why I wonder all these years later, but I do. 

I wonder why you didn’t come.

I don’t remember what I said to your family. I just remember that I stood there broken, wearing some black dress I had just purchased the day before. I don’t remember what they said to me as they hugged me and tried to comfort the broken heart that I carried. What I remember is that you were not with them. 

And as I stood there, the most vulnerable I had ever been, I felt a little more broken at the fact that you were not there. That you didn’t show up for me. That I wasn’t important enough to show up for on the day that I was burying my mother. I know time has turned us closer to strangers than what we were before but if roles were reversed, there is no doubt I’d show up for you.

Now, years after my mothers death I wonder if you even remember that she’s gone. I wonder if you ever regret not showing up for me and my family because at one time we were your family too. I wonder if there’s ever a day or time where you think about me and the moment you failed me. The moment when you decided to be absent at my weakest and my lowest. 

Since my mother‘s death I’ve seen you only a few times. And each time it was when someone I knew was burying someone they loved. You showed up for them. Each time I’ve seen you I’ve hugged you and told you I was sorry for the loss that our friends and family were experiencing. I might show up messy and emotional and completely unraveled, but I always show up. Losing my mother taught me the importance of showing up, even when it’s hard and especially when it’s difficult.

There is a small part of me that will never forget my mothers funeral and the fact that you were not there. There is a small part of me that needed to see you sitting in those pews wearing black and acknowledging the darkness that found my life. There is a small part of me that wonders where you were and why it wasn’t there inside of that church. 

I noticed you weren’t there. Maybe because out of a sea of black and a church full of people, I simply expected you to be there. Maybe because a small part of me needed you there or maybe because I knew she always liked you and if nothing else, you should have showed up for her. Maybe failing her is what really made me notice. 

Either way, I noticed you weren’t there and to this day I wonder why. I’ll never ask you. I’ll never bring it up. But every single time I see you, it’s my first thought. I noticed you weren’t there, and truth is, it’s an absence I’ll never forget.

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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