I got out of my chair and took my cell phone to the bathroom. When I called my mom, she told me the news I'd been anticipating but never really thought I'd hear out loud: This was the end. Shelly was not going to be coming home from the hospital.
I sat in the bathroom of Conner Hall and sobbed uncontrollably. For many reasons, this was a very low point in my life. Nothing about me was emotionally stable. I was heartbroken, I was homesick, I was panicking.
I called Sydney and told her to leave the high school and go over to the hospital to support Rachel. Kim sent flowers, Karen sent pizzas, someone sent a cake...and my Dad brought his courage. Right there in the hospital room, he married Kayla and James so that Miss Shelly could be present. I wasn't there, but I just know that the amount of deep love in the room that day was unmatchable.
Ten days later, on September 20th, Miss Shelly became an angel. Without telling anyone, I got on a plane early in the morning and came right home. But first...I wrote this:
My Newest Guardian Angel
September 20, 2013
People come into your life for a reason. We don't usually think of life so deeply, but I know this to be true - even when we don't always know the reason, there is a reason for every person in your life. Unfortunately, sometimes a tragedy is what really brings clarity to that reason and makes you realize how immensely a person impacted your life. When Miss Shelly passed away this morning, I couldn't help but reflect on our family's journey of friendship with the Bieligk's, and I know that's exactly what she would want - for me to think of all of the happy times and to cherish them with my whole heart.
Rachel and I met in sixth grade. Throughout middle school, we had a few classes together. We would smile at each other in class, and we may have even worked on a few group assignments together, but at that point in my life, I had no idea that this girl would become my very best friend. I definitely had no idea that her dad and my dad would become the best of friends, and her mom and my mom would become the best of friends. I had no idea that her mom, this person I had not even met yet, would become my second mother.
In eighth grade, we both auditioned for the Glenelg Dance Team to be just like our big sisters. We both made the team as freshman, and that's where it all started. This team was, and still is, a family. We were together all day every day practicing, performing, and competing. Miss Shelly, a loving and caring stay-at-home-mom, was so supportive of us on the team. She would pick us up and take us wherever we needed to be, make us something to eat, take us out to do fun things...her laughter was contagious. Just hearing it would make everyone laugh, because it was this silly laugh that just exerted happiness and made everyone around her feel happy, too. She was the kind of person who would drop anything to help anyone. I saw her very often throughout these years. She came to every single performance, she assisted at practices, she was there through it all. Not to mention she was the life of ALL of my parents' parties and wouldn't miss one for the world. She was a person that made me truly think to myself quite frequently, "I feel like I have known this woman for my whole life."
I will never forget the time where the Bieligk's stayed all night after one of the famous Larimore After-States parties and my mom and Mr. Hank got so drunk and made Miss Shelly duct tape their hands. I will never forget when my sister-in-law and mom and Rachel's sister and mom came to watch me and Rachel dance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. I will never forget how my dad would always say to Miss Shelly "Have I told you today how particularly lovely you are?" and she would either giggle with embarrassment or she would say "Shut up, Tom." I will never forget riding in the car with Miss Shelly, and wherever we were going, we were having a heart-to-heart, and she knew just what to say every time. This is the Miss Shelly that I will remember. When she was sick, she was a fighter, and she wanted more than anything to get through this for her family and especially her two beautiful daughters. But to watch her suffer broke my heart. As much as it hurts me that a person as beautiful as she was inside and out had to leave this world, I do feel a sense of comfort knowing that she is no longer in pain. She is at peace, and that's what she deserves.
I remember being in one of the science classrooms in eighth grade talking to Rachel - someone I barely knew - about auditions. Now, almost 6 years later, I don't know how I ever lived without her. My dad even married Rachel's sister and James in the hospital room last week so that Miss Shelly could hear. I know my reason for meeting Rachel - it was so that our families could come together and have a beautiful friendship. Although Miss Shelly is no longer with us on Earth, I know that she is watching over all of us, and she wants us to smile and be happy and have the fun that we would be having if she were here with us, healthy, right now. We are missing a core member of our special friend group now, one that we will miss forever, but I know that our families will continue to be friends for the rest of our lives.
Rachel, you are a very special person. My heart aches that you are hurting so much. I will never forget the news on the bus coming home from Myrtle Beach that your mom was sick, but you know what else I will never forget about that? Your positive attitude. You said to me "Yes, it's scary, but we're gonna do absolutely everything we can to get her healthy." And you know what? You DID do absolutely everything you could. You were so strong for her, and all of you fought so hard. We will ALWAYS be Team Shelly, forever. Through it all, you've been as tough as a person can be, and for that, I admire you so much. I will be here for you for the rest of our lives, right here by your side, to be your best friend.
Rest in Peace, Miss Shelly. I thank God for blessing me enough that I got to have you in my life. What a wonderful, incredible woman. You are so missed already, but I will honor your happy spirit and hold our great memories close to my heart forever. Watch over us. I love you.
I haven't read that since I wrote it. It chokes me up just looking at it; It's very difficult to get through. But, if I take anything away from reflecting on this awful day, it would be the memory of hearing Shelly laugh when my dad would say to her, "have I told you today how particularly lovely you are?" That laugh, still vivacious and loud in my head, drowns out a lot of the sadness. It's so bold, and it's so contagious, that it still makes me smile...even though it's only in my imagination. Miss Shelly was that powerful. She was that special.
If anything at all comes to mind, in closing...it's that angels must have the prettiest laughter.