sorrow & joy

Thank you all so much for the kind words, prayers, and thoughts. There aren't adequate words to tell you much I appreciate it. The love I've felt from everyone in my life has moved me to tears over and over. I've gotten to talk to a lot of people I had drifted apart from, and it's managed to bring me some joy in this awful time. It's been CRAZY to see the way a few chance encounters I've had with people have impacted this week for me. People I ran into randomly 6 months ago and reconnected with or met a few months ago have been integral parts of my life this week. God truly works all things for good, even a chance encounter in Hobby Lobby last fall that led to grieving together at a funeral and lifting each other up.

We found out Colleen died of an aneurysm. It's something she was born with, and she's been living on borrowed time since the day she was born. Even if it had burst at the hospital, they most likely could not have saved her. Something about that news, as tragic as it is, gave me so much comfort. What a miracle that she lived nearly 28 years. What I can't stop thinking about is the way God so graciously let her live out her goals on earth. All she wanted, ALL she wanted, was to get married, move back near her family, and have a baby. All those things came together within weeks of her death. In the past month, she told me at least a dozen times how happy she was, how grateful that everything had fallen into place in life. I had never seen her so happy. Instead of thinking about how she was taken so young, let this be a sign of the graciousness of God. She lived her dreams before she died. I'm so grateful for that, so grateful for the nearly 17 years I knew her. God is so kind.

The past week has been surreal. I could barely bring myself to brush my teeth last weekend. I felt paralyzed. At some point in there, I managed to put a load of laundry in the washer, and it made me feel guilty. It's weird, but I felt like doing laundry was a betrayal. I'm alive and still doing things to keep pushing through life, and she's not. James' boss was kind enough to let him work from home for a few days so I didn't have to be alone. James ripped up more of the kitchen carpet and we ordered some new flooring and a guest bed. Maybe that sounds frivolous to do while in mourning, but it just felt right. Colleen was all about decorating her home and making it an inviting place for others. She was always hosting and entertaining. The past couple months have centered around home talk, with our renovations and her new house. We shopped together for furniture and decorations and talked back and forth about ideas. Continuing to make our house a home feels like a way to honor her.

I went to her calling hours Thursday night. I'm finding that calling hours/viewings/wakes are very regional things, which is kind of fascinating. We have calling hours here, and unfortunately the norm is to have an open casket. In high school, a good friend of mine died in a car accident the week before he graduated. They had an open casket at his calling hours, and it absolutely traumatized me. I've been reliving that all week. Colleen's was almost as traumatizing, but thankfully I was a little better prepared this time. It was like a mini high school reunion. I saw dozens of people I never thought I'd see or speak to again. A lot of people I had just been celebrating with at Colleen's wedding not even two years ago. I made awkward small talk with people I hadn't seen in nearly 11 years, asking about jobs and living situations just feet away from our friend's dead body. I made me want to laugh like a maniac, like WHY are we doing this? This is so weird, so uncomfortable, so awkward for everyone. So much nervous laughter in the form of coping mechanisms. It goes down as one of the strangest, most surreal and bizarre nights of my life. At one point I said out loud, to no one in particular without thinking, "I have to text Colleen about this!" thinking about what a kick she'd get about some of the people who showed up and how some of them had changed so much.

Her funeral was sad but so sweet. I sat between two old friends of mine. We hadn't spent much time together in nearly a decade, but their presence was such a comfort and a balm to my soul. When it was over, we gathered outside around the coffin, in the frigid wind and occasional snowflakes, and let go of 150 balloons: 60 for Colleen's remaining birthday parties she would've loved to plan, and 90 for her daughter Marla. It was one of those moments I'll never forget. She would have loved it. We laughed, thinking about how she would've wanted us to wear bright colors and play inappropriate music.

I've been laughing all week over her crazy antics. I went to visit her at work on a break from school, and I couldn't find her. All of a sudden I heard "Michelle! Miiiiicheeeeellleeee! I'm in the dog! I'm sweaty the dog!" The time she yelled out "MEATSAUCE" instead of cheese during my wedding photos, making us all laugh hysterically. The time my mom and I were fighting, so she brought up Jersey Shore and Pauly D, the one surefire way to cheer my mom up. Jumping on the bed listening to The Backstreet Boys before her wedding. Making fun of essential oils, just last week! It's been impossible to be constantly sad with all these hilarious and fun memories of her.

I walked out of her funeral with a smile on my face. I hugged my old friends, and we talked about how nothing would have made her happier than to know that we all reconnected and supported each other through this. I've spent the whole week talking about her and to her family, so it hasn't really hit yet that I haven't been talking to her. I'm sad, but I really am ok. I have so much peace. I have so much joy remembering her and sharing those memories with friends. I am so inspired by the way she lived her life. It sucks, but it's going to be ok. Gracie and I are getting out of town for awhile to celebrate my birthday and reset. I hate being away from James at a time like this, but I'm really looking forward to a change of scenery as I start life without her.

Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?


  1. I love that Colleen got to meet all of her life’s goals. She is holding baby Marla in the presence of Jesus right now.

    I am so glad you are going to visit your parents. What a wonderful birthday present.

    Love you, dear dear friend! <3

  2. I'm really sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you're able to be grateful and positive about so much and as you said it's what she would have wanted!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, Michelle! That's beautiful that her death, while heartbreaking, was able to bring you and so many people together. And what a miracle that she was able to spend so many years living abundantly here on Earth before going to be with Our Lord!

  4. Sweet memories will be the calm to your weary soul... you'll cherish each & every one of them & they will be in your mind & heart so clearly for the longest time. Keep remembering each & every moment of them.
    I dont even know her but my heart aches for the loss of her life... & am grateful that she was so happy these last few years, finding fulfillment in all the things she wanted to accomplish. Still lifting prayers. I know it doesnt get easier but harder before a little bit of the peace comes. Hugs to you!

  5. I am so so sorry friend for your loss! Thank you for sharing your grief with us, it was a beautiful thing to read, both posts!! praying for you:) xoxo Katie

  6. I am so glad to hear that you have had some peace through this. And I'm glad you have so many good memories to look back on. Continuing to pray for her family (and you!).


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