In loving memory of Carli Elizabeth Sears
Calm Before the Storm
I don't think I will ever forget what I was doing on the evening of January 16, 2016. It was the last time my life was normal. I had all of my best friends at my fingertips - just a phone call or text message away. I was having a great time in Charlotte, North Carolina with old and new friends. I was completely unaware as I laid down to go to sleep with a turned off cell phone that 400 miles away my best friend's life was on the line and my other best friends were helpless and horrified. I woke up to the most terrifying news I could have ever imagined. One best friend was gone and the rest were traumatized by the experience.
"How are you doing?" - The question I've dreaded my entire life takes on a whole new, dark meaning in times like this. "I'm not doing well and you asking me that isn't going to make it better. You can't bring her back," is all I want to say. But I shrug and reply with the casual, "I'm doing ok" or "Hanging in there." But the truth is, I just don't know. I have no idea.
I resort to writing during times like these. Writing has always been my saving grace. Carli always read my blog posts and encouraged me to keep writing. There was something about writing that made me feel a little less lonely, knowing that the way I feel resonates with someone else when they feel a special connection to my words. I wanted to write to avoid paying for a therapy session that probably wouldn't do me any good anyways. I wanted to write because Carli read every blog post. One day after I heard the news I sat down to construct sentences, but found no words. So here I go, trying again.
I sit and stare at a blank screen fully aware of the thoughts and feelings in my head, but unable to translate these thoughts into words. There's a lot I'm trying to process as I make my best attempt to understand life and why things happen the way they do. I used to believe that fate was my favorite thing - it was a magical power that helped me believe everything happens for a reason. I loved how serendipitous life could be. You meet someone and all of a sudden your life is different and you couldn't imagine life without them. Fate made my life worth living. Now, fate is my worst nightmare. Fate took away my best friend and left me feeling empty and alone.
There's no way to adequately explain how I'm feeling in this moment - confused, lonely, empty, numb, overwhelmed, lost, mad. These are all understatements to how I truly feel. It took a 13-second phone call to turn my world into a living nightmare. Anything I thought was important or worth my time and attention fell to the wayside. I find myself having to pick up the pieces to my now broken life and find a way to put them back together. But it will not look the same. It will never be the same.
For a moment I felt like my life stopped - like I would never be able to do anything I once thought I could. My plans and dreams and stage of life all were put on hold. There were several points this week when I truly believed that I would not ever be OK. I spend most of my time replaying and reminiscing our incredible memories and imagining all of the things we will never be able to share - the words that will go unsaid, the wedding I will never be a part of, the children I will never be "Aunt Madison" to, the college graduation I won't attend, the vacations we will never go on, the crazy nights we will never experience. The list goes on for an entire lifetime. It has and it will continue to burn a hole in me.
It's hard because everyone grieves differently. It makes you feel even more alone. We are all experiencing this pain in a different way. I can't decide if I'd rather be alone or surrounded by friends. I can't decide if I'd rather cry it out or laugh about the good times. I can't decide if I'm more angry or sad or somewhere in between. It's taking a toll on my mental state and keeping me on the couch in a dark room and away from any sign of the sun.
Yesterday, for just a short amount of time, I felt better. I felt motivated and inspired to live life to the fullest and to do it for Carli. I've grown a new kind of appreciation for life, people, and experiences. There are so many lessons I learned from the life of the most selfless, kind, silly soul I've ever known. The only thing I can do is take these lessons, apply them to my life, and live life the way Carli would - positively and passionately. That's all I can do.
What Carli taught me:
- It is better to give than to receive.
Carli was the most selfless person I've ever known. She was the craft queen. She was always making gifts for friends or artwork for her apartment. It brought her joy to give a homemade gift to someone. She also gave her time. Carli would drop everything to answer your phone call or talk you through a crappy day. She was the true definition of a friend. She always put other people before herself and loved me for exactly who I was. She constantly picked me up when I was feeling down.
- A positive outlook can remedy any bad day.
Carli's bubbly personality never let bad days last long. She always saw the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long or dark it seemed. I choose a quote every January to define my year. This year, I believe it is no coincidence that I chose,
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
That's the way Carli lived her life, like every day was the best day ever. That's how I want to live mine.
- Being yourself is the best gift you can give the world.
Carli was just... Carli. There's no other way to describe her. She spoke her mind and never apologized for being herself. Through all of the posts I have seen on social media and the memories I have with Carli, it is clear that her bright personality that she shared with the world made a lasting impact. She was genuine and real 100% of the time. There are few people in this world who are that real.
- Friendships are priceless.
I have a newfound appreciation for friendship. We are not promised another day with the people we love. If you find me telling you that I love you several times a day, this is why. This experience has challenged me to keep in touch in my friends, but that's not enough. I want to spend time with my friends, face-to-face, as much as I possibly can. Soon I will be taking off on a journey to do just that, spend time with people I love. You really don't realize how much a hug from a friend means until you lose the opportunity to hug them one more time. If you're fortunate enough to have a beautiful friendship, or in my case several, hold on tight - don't ever let go.
- Follow your dreams, today.
I've learned that life doesn't promise us the opportunity to be miserable today in hopes of being happy tomorrow. That's how I have been living my life. I've put up with several circumstances that don't make me happy thinking to myself, "in a week, a month, or a year, I'll change them. Then I will truly be happy." That's no way to live life. I'm determined to follow my dreams, today, and stop making excuses for why I should be unhappy. Carli always believed in happiness, in following her dreams. She may not have known what she wanted to do in the future, but she made sure whatever she was doing made her happy. I refuse to live another day doing something I don't want to do. Life's too short for that.
- Roll with the punches, one day at a time.
Life has thrown me a few curveballs in the last year. It's not always sunshine and flowers on the path to success. It's hard days with tough times and an unclear path, but I can't keep living for this future that I am not promised. I have to live for today. I have to take things one day at a time and the punches as they come. Only I can make myself better and it's a conscious decision. Carli showed me that I can take any bad situation and get a positive outcome. That's what I'm going to do, starting with one day, one moment at a time.
- I'm gonna be OK ...
... because that's what Carli would want.
Carli Bear, I love you. Thank you for always believing in me and never letting me give up. Your light will shine in my life for as long as I live. I know there will be moments of weakness and I will break down more times than I will be able to count. But I will get back up when I fall down. I will be happy twice as much as I am sad. I promise to make this life I'm given worthwhile, to honor you and the positive vibration you radiated. You're on my hand and in my heart. I've got lots hidden up my sleeve, and I'm going to need your help and strength to follow my dreams and make life sweet.