There are some days, still, where my late husband Don dies over and over again.
Or at least it feels that way.
As the years go by, all the things and all the people and all the ways that I am connected to Don Shepherd –
And whenever this happens,
it feels sort of like he is dying all over again.
Not in that all-consuming, I don’t know how to even breathe kind of way –
but in a more subtle way.
A way that feels like little pieces of him, and us, and that life,
just keep disappearing.
Margaret Chandler died this week.
Well, we all called her Meg.
She was a very close friend of Don’s.
She became a friend of mine, too –
they were super close in a deeply bonded kind of way.
They were partners in EMS for years in New Jersey.
Sat in that ambulance together, day after long day,
running calls, seeing trauma, finding ways to laugh and cope.
She was also a nurse, and a few years before Don died,
she decided to go into the Air Force.
As an Air Force veteran himself, Don was so proud of her.
She was like a little sister to him.
He loved her like family.
He was her big brother.
When Don died suddenly, she was the first one to call me.
She said in a panicked and shaky voice:
“No, Kelley. This isnt true, is it? Tell me this isnt true!”
She had seen my post on Facebook, and she was in utter shock.
Yesterday I was on Facebook, sitting in my car, and I came across an old post of mine
where I was thanking EMS workers and service providers for their passionate work.
Another fellow EMS friend of Don’s left a comment that said she hoped Meg and Don were hanging out together now.
I went to Meg’s page, and began to see all the comments.
All of the RIP comments.
The messages to her husband and their very young little girl.
Meg was even younger than Don.
I kept reading more and more, scrolling down the page, trying to find some answer that made sense.
She had breast cancer, which I knew.
Last time we talked, about a month or two ago, she had messaged me saying she was thinking about Don.
She said she missed talking about music with him.
She missed her friend.
We spoke about that, I asked how she was doing, and she said “I feel really good.”
The cancer was in remission.
Until last week.
Apparently, it matastisized, and spread to her brain.
From there, it was a very quick downfall, that led to her family having to make the worst decision of all.
It had happened so fast, I had absolutely no idea.
So I sat there in my car, in utter shock.
No, this isnt true, is it? Tell me its not true.
But I had nobody to ask.
Im not really friends with her friends,
I no longer live in New Jersey,
and Im no longer connected to her husband.
(although I will definitely reconnect and reach out to him soon)
It just felt so awful.
And I sat there crying at the unfairness of it all.
We were at her wedding.
I was her unofficial wedding coordinator.
She was instrumental in helping me after Don’s death.
She was the one who made sure the Air Force was there to honor him.
She and another man handed me that folded up American flag.
She walked me arm in arm through each moving part of the process that day.
She helped comfort me in the kind of way that my husband was so good at.
She made sure I was taken care of.
She smashed up my couch and entertainment center into a billion pieces when it was time for me to move out of Jersey.
She wore a hazmat mask and took a mallet to it.
Don would have been so proud.
And now he is dead.
And now she is dead too.
I dont know how this is possible.
It feels like another piece of him has gone away.
That life feels like ages ago.
I know the love lasts forever,
but I hate this feeling of everything being so fleeting.
Death keeps happening,
and thats just life,
but sometimes it all feels so incredibly unfair.
These two people,
who gave so much to the world,
who helped save others every single day,
their lives cut short,
in an instant.
That tiny part of me that believes that there might be some form of life or energy after this,
hopes like mad that my husband and his dear friend are joking around together
and talking about music,
Because the pain from the seats Im sitting in,
It feels as if Im grieving the loss of her,
the loss of him again,
the loss of pieces of that life,
and then grieving her on behalf of my husband.
If he were here, his heart would be shattered over this.
I hope he is continuing his life’s purpose of taking care of people,
and comforting them when they are scared,
and that he is able to do that with Meg right now.
I really need to believe that,
even if part of me doesnt.
I know Im not making any sense,
but none of this makes any sense either.
R.I.P. Don and Meg.
Two exceptionally special souls,
together in friendship,
may they fly.