Too Sick to be Alive

August 20, 2021

They sit cuddled together as she helps him put on his shoes. He’s lucky to have a big sister like her and she’s equally as lucky to have such an adoring baby brother. As she slides on his tiny sneaker, he looks at her and says, “Why did Memere have to pass away?”

She softly replies, “Oh buddy. She got sick. She got sick with a disease called cancer. She got so sick she lost her hair. She got too sick to be alive and so she passed away.”

As innocent as can be he whispers, “Oh. I miss her.” She gives him a squeeze, they embrace, then they hop up and ask for a snack. A moment I wasn’t prepared for, one that has made my heart raw and fragile. A moment highlighting their resiliency and grace. Motherhood and grief mixed together are such tricky and delicate experiences. 

I’m flooded with emotion. I’m overwhelmed with the contents of the words I’ve just overheard. My ten year-old daughter has the wisdom and life-experiences that some adults don’t have. She has a compassion only a child who has known loss could hold. He has a sister who teaches him things, even when they are sad and uncomfortable. 

He said he misses her, and he probably does, except he’s never known her. She died before he was born. He learned loss and longing through his older siblings. He saw their ache and saw her pictures and learned to wish she was here just as they do. 

My mother was so beautiful and one-of-a-kind she’s missed by a grandson that never got to meet her. That is both painful and such a gift. 

In moments like these, when my grief gets intertwined with motherhood, I find myself dumbfounded by the lessons that escape. I’m always filled with hope and new perspective in hearing the simplicity of a child’s mind. 

“She got too sick to be alive and so she passed away.” These words are simple and harsh and full of truth. They verbalize the simplicity of death and life. These words will stick with me. 


As tears stream down my face, I whisper, knowing neither child will hear me, adding hope to my daughter’s simple truths…

“She got too sick to be alive, but she’ll always be alive in our hearts.

She passed away and left for eternity, but she’s not completely absent from our journey.

We are her legacy and her remaining love. We are what remains of her.

Never forget that, sweet children. Never forget that.” 

And though my words are heard by no one but me, the reminder is really just as much, if not more, for me as it is for them. 

Too sick to be alive here, in the traditional capacity, but she’s here. I promise. 

xox, Chels

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2 responses to “Too Sick to be Alive”

  1. Tiffany says:

    This is so beautiful, thank you!

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Tiffany, thank you so much for reading my work and taking the time to comment. I pray you continue to find hope and encouragement on my page. 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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