Updated: Sep 22, 2021
I'm not entirely sure what to say about Michelle's Celebration of Life. It was definitely a whirlwind the way I went about it...
I started my day off at my old-school bro's place west of London...about a three and a half hour drive away. It was so good to see Kurt though, and meet his family. We sat up talking til about 2:00am, and then sat outside talking some more with his son in the morning. I left around 10:30am, which meant I had to fly back to Collingwood because the celebration started at 3:00pm.
As soon as I got back into town, I called up a florist to order two bouquets, one for Michelle, and one for her mom. They were in the middle of some wedding arrangements, so they asked if 3:00pm would be an OK pick-up time. I told them that was perfect! That gave me just enough time to clean myself up, and roll on over.
Once again, I didn't know what was really going through me in the lead-up to heading over there.
I was nervous.
I was devastated.
I was anxious.
I was subtly apprehensive.
I had butterflies.
I was a mess.
I was broken.
I was not OK.
Somehow, I was keeping it together though. Grinding poker face in some of the toughest times reared its face once again.
I parked a bit down the road in the shade for Fennario. Walking towards her house is when things really started stirring. When I stepped foot onto Michelle's driveway, I almost threw up. I kinda didn't even know what to do. The last time I made that walk is when I looked Michelle in her eyes and I told her what she has meant to my life, and the true impact that she had. That was the last time I was properly in Ontario in 2015.
(At Halloween in 2018 I was on the ground for 35 hours to see Fat Cats, so I was here, but kinda not really.)
I've made it no secret to the world of how I have felt about Michelle, and how I have felt about her passing. I have been an absolute mess, and I'm not OK. It's simple, but it is kind of layered in minor complexities.
I feel like I let her down in her last days because I didn't get to her in time, and it is destroying me inside. It is hard to explain that here, but it is a real feeling. I know myself too well, and I will never get over this. However, I assure you that I will not let her down in her passing. The only thing holding me together is knowing that I at least took that time to tell her how I felt.
All of that hit me so hard when I was walking up her driveway...and so was the unrelenting urge to throw up.
I just want her back, so I can trade my life for hers...
When I pulled myself together, and walked into the backyard, I was only looking for one person...
I had met Michelle's whole family back in the day, except for her sister. Jarka and I collided from the first quick post I made about Michelle the day she passed. She made a comment, and I responded saying that I had sent her a message. In that message held the rough notes to the proper words I was writing about Michelle. It made her cry, and we have messaged a zillion times since, pretty much every day.
Both, Jarka and I, were looking forward to sharing a big ol' super fatty hug; so when I walked into Michelle's backyard, I was only looking for her.
I walked straight over to Jarka, interrupted whoever she was talking with, and with a smile on each of our faces, we gave each other that fatty hug we were both anticipating.
The surprise was that neither of us cried, but rather smiled warmly toward, and with, each other. We didn't even really have much to say that we both hadn't already said over and over in those zillions of daily messages, and we both acknowledged that.
I've made my feelings about Michelle clear to the world, and Jarka is her sister, so you can probably guess the general gist of those conversations without me saying a thing.
Everything we needed to say in the moment was exchanged in an embrace.
I gave her one of the bouquets, and I took the other one to the altar for Michelle in the back of her yard. It was real hard walking back there. I could see this gorgeous urn from the distance, but I could hardly look at it because it is just too devastating. I set the flowers behind it, and then just stood in front of this beautiful photo of Michelle.
I was motionless...
I stared and stared.
Tears trickled down my cheeks.
I stared and stared.
I was in my own world. It still didn't seem real. I chewed myself up in a painful swirling denial.
Tears trickled down my cheeks...
After awhile, I'd kinda snap out of it, and realize I was hogging the space to myself. I felt bad about that, even though it wasn't intentional and I couldn't help it.
I walked away to be respectful to other people wanting to do the same kind of thing. That's when I just kind of lingered aimlessly around by myself...
Until Jeannine and Marsha found me...
"Ooooh, maaan...lookkit these two!"
It seemed only fitting that Jeannine was the first person I saw after Jarka. I could never really separate her from Michelle. In the aftermath, I wrote this about her...
Although I was keeping it together, seeing Jeannine absolutely levelled me. Is it weird to say she made everything feel complete in this twisting turmoil that was tearing me apart??
I just mean that in the way that I couldn't have possibly imagined this day without her. It would have been wrong in a time where everything felt wrong...except the hug with Jarka.
Jeannine is just so, so special, and sweet, and I see so much of Michelle in her, and her in Michelle. I can't say that enough.
With the two sweetest humans ever. How lucky am I?!?
Throughout the entire time I was there, it was Jeannine's presence that kept me sewn together.
Oh, my dear Marsha!!
She was the unexpected thing I needed that I didn't even know. Oh my dear goodness...Marsha!!
Do you ever have those times where you get absolutely blindsided by everything you didn't know you needed, and it felt like perfect symmetry?!
That was Marsha!
Jeannine melted me into puddles, but I couldn't get enough of Marsha. She is freakin' hilariously amazing in such an effortless way. She made me re-fall in love with her in mere seconds.
Jeannine and Marsha were the one-two punch that I desperately needed...
The heavens provide in a moment so wrong!!
After talking with those two beautiful souls for a bit, I walked back to spend more time with Michelle.
I stood motionless and stared while tears trickled down my cheeks at random intervals. Each time I was back there seemed to be longer than the time before. I couldn't bring myself to leave...or even simply move my feet.
I just didn't want to leave Michelle...
I felt so selfish because I would come out of my little trances from staring at her photo, and not wanting to leave to give other people time. It made me feel so shitty, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave her.
I knew Kris was comin' just before 5:00pm(ish), and I really wanted to see her, so I made sure to stay. That part was easy, because I just kept going back to Michelle whenever I saw a gap in people visiting her altar. As the day moved along, I was able to stand there for longer periods of time as it seemed most people paid their respects and showed their love earlier on.
"Score one for me!"
Kris came with Kyla and Danielle...
"Oh sweet Jeezuz... Yaaaaay for this party of three!!"
L to R - Marsha, Kris, Danielle, Kyla...
Well, here we go with some more heart skipping. This was fantastic! More old-school hugs of loving warmth! It's quite amazing how much love I have for these people.
Those three being at the gathering ended up eliciting perhaps my favourite part of the day...
I was staring at the collage of Michelle that was hanging on the fence. It had all these hearts pinned around it from messages people wrote. While I was standing there in my silence, through crushing emotions I had swirling within, and the conversations of everyone around, everything seemed to disappear except the sound of Jeannine's voice. Immediately, it painted the warmest smile on my face, while filling me with this depth of pure emotion that I used to always feel around Michelle.
Like I've said, it's near impossible for me to separate Michelle and Jeannine.
Through the sound of her so kindly sweet voice, and the demeanor it exudes, I could feel the essence of Michelle swallow me up.
Jeannine was perfect balance for everything I needed in that moment.
Soon after that, Orval, Mandy and Shannon appeared...
Enter in more of the old-school feels!
Orv had a puppy with him, so I took off to go get Fennario.
When we were walking back up Michelle's driveway, I almost threw up again. Groundhog Day!! I was haunted with visions of the look on Michelle's face when she opened the door to see me standing there, and I could hear her voice echoing through the depths in my mind. It was hard to keep it together, but I tried my best.
The doggie-o's played like mad. It was great to see. I knew Michelle would have enjoyed seeing them trounce around in her backyard, and I liked that, but it also broke me down even more inside.
Fennario and Willow pup...
Seeing all of these great people that I have known for over 30+ years felt really good. It's like that little break of warm sunshine in the gnarliest storm of your life. We shared a bunch of laughs together...my favourite being when Kris chopped up Sarge-y-Boy...but I'm gonna keep that for us.
"Awe, shiiit...do I ever know some awesome people!"
I left in a quick hurry from outta nowhere when I heard Marsha say that she was leaving to go to her sister and Randy's place. I said I was coming, and would follow her there...so I bounced pretty quickly.
I did get to enjoy some more of that awesome Marsha time, which was amazing. I really loved seeing her be sisters with Kim too. So kind.
And, Randy...I've known him for just over 40 years, so it goes without saying that it felt so good to see him for sure!
It was an exhausting day, and I felt it through everything. The frantic trip across the country to get here in time, coupled with the emotional torment, has wreaked havoc on my insides, and clenched onto all of the cells in my being...but I still had the Terry Fox Run to do in the morning that I signed up for while I was talking to Michelle during the sunset just after visiting the Terry Fox Memorial outside of Thunder Bay days earlier.
Worn out everything?? Yup!!
It's a couple days later now that I am writing this at about 1:00am while sitting in the skatepark after shooting some ball in a futile attempt to clear my head, and let Fennario do her Fennario thing. I've been shedding more tears as I have been writing this, and my emotions are all over the place. None of this still hides one simple notion that I come back to all day, every day...
I want Michelle back with us. I am lost without her. She was everything to me. I am broken.
This is why Fennario is my doggie...she knows!
I had this crystal with me on the two overnight swims I did while Michelle was in the hospital. It holds significance to the future...
I appreciated Michelle's yard while I was there. It speaks to who she is...
The girls I love...