Just when I thought….

Just when I thought that the month of May could not possibly get more emotional than it already is….it did. So now let me tell you about my friend, Pam.

I never knew Pam. At all. Until I met her at the Art Around Towne which was hosted with bits and pieces of it to honor Michelle literally just a few weeks after she died. And Pam was with my friend, Khrys, whom I’ve known since my Michelle and her Lexie were in Kindergarten together at Johnson. And Pam and Khrys came up to me and Keith…….and I think if I remember correctly they had tutus on. The flyers said to wear bows and/or tutus for Michelle. And so here were Pam and Khrys standing before me and Keith and Pam was crying uncontrollably. Remember Pam didn’t know me, I didn’t know Pam, Pam didn’t know Michelle. But she told Keith and I how affected she was by Michelle’s death. And we cried together. And a friendship began.

Pam took it upon herself to get to know about Michelle and the life she led. She didn’t have to do this. She didn’t have to come to Art Around Towne to meet this girl who had died’s family. But she did. Because over the past 2 years I’ve come to find out that that is the kind of person that Pam is. KIND. And I think Michelle would have loved to meet Pam. No, I know she would have. And I think the 2 of them would have been silly as all get out together.

And so Pam decided she could honor Michelle and one way she did so was by starting up High 5 Fridays at Moyer. I remember being taken aback. Michelle didn’t go to Moyer. Again, we didn’t know Pam. But that’s just the kind of person Pam is. She’s amazing. Amazing in every sense of the word, amazing.

This morning, some of The Moyer Family gathered outside of Pam’s house as she headed to her 2nd to last H5F at Moyer. Next week will be her last and she invited Keith and I to join her so we will. Look at how they honored her this morning!! I’m so grateful they did this FOR Pam because she does so much for others.

Her son, Har, will be at HMS next year in 6th grade. And I bet Pam will be there too…..

Thanks, Pam. Love you.

P.S. I would be remiss if I did not mention that MANY, MANY schools have carried on the H5F tradition and we are grateful.

#H5FforMEC
#LiveFreeLikeMichelle
#PamIsAmazeBallsAwesomeSauce

 

——-> Must Watch!
YouTube Video

 

 

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Second Annual Michelle Chalk Scholarship

Thank you Fort Thomas Matters and Mark Collier…

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Second Annual Michelle Chalk Scholarship Awarded to Highlands Student

Owen

On Thursday, May 9th, during the 2019 HHS Senior Awards night the Michelle Chalk Scholarship was presented.

Owen Craft was this year’s award winner.

Owen’s application included an impressive letter of recommendation and an endearing personal narrative essay. His application was ranked #1 by the MCSF screening committee and later approved by the MCSF selection committee.

Here are some comments from Owen’s mother after receiving the award:

“What a blessing and true honor for Owen to receive the 2nd Michelle Chalk Scholarship. Of all the local scholarships given last night, this one was so incredibly special. I love that Michelle’s cousins are the ones who selected Owen. For the first time in Owen’s life he is truly living free like Michelle. We are so proud of him.”

 

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The Michelle Chalk Scholarship Fund was established to create scholarship grants to graduating seniors to keep the memory of Michelle Chalk alive in the community that she lived and loved.

Michelle Chalk’s death was felt by her family, friends, and the community of Fort Thomas, KY. She was a beloved daughter, sister, niece, cousin and granddaughter. She was a friend to everyone she met. She loved singing, dancing and performing on stage.

Last year’s winner was Ramey Hensley.

Guest blogger: Campbell Smith

Campbell and Michelle danced together for years. I know that Michelle always thought of Campbell as her little sis. I’m honored that Campbell wrote this beautiful piece for my girl michelle. Here’s Campbell…..

 

On July 31, 2017, I had no idea that it would be the last time that I was physically with Michelle. When I heard the news on August 1, 2017, I was completely shocked and heartbroken. Enough about that, I want to share some memories of Michelle that I now hold close and remember when I feel sad.

The first time that remember seeing Michelle and watching her dance was when her dance class and mine were combined at the end of the year before recital. Whenever her class was performing, my eyes would always find her because she was so entertaining with how high she could kick her legs, how amazing her facials were, and how you could actually see the amount of energy that she put into every little move. My first thought was, “Wow that tall girl even sings along!” Which was true, she was so passionate about the dance that she fully immersed herself in every aspect. That included singing along to the words. Most importantly, from that moment on, I strived to be like her. I still do.

After that practice, we had the dance recital and then dance team auditions. I was not surprised to see her there. That was when I learned that “tall girl” had a name, and it was Michelle. Her kindness radiated off of her like rays off the sun. That smile of hers was contagious and it was hard to be sad or angry around her. Even though she was three years older than me, she didn’t seem to get annoyed with me. I looked up to her a lot. In fifth grade, I was nervous about trying out for Kentucky All-State Choir she told me that I would do well and I made it that year. When I found out the news, I immediately thought, “I can’t wait until Thursday when I can tell Michelle at dance!” I would always would overhear her talking to Audrey about the musicals. I really wanted to be in the musicals and was elated when I made it to middle school so I could be like Michelle.

When I was in fourth or fifth grade in Leadership Quest, I was sitting in the middle school Quest room when I saw Michelle and a group of other middle school students walk in. The teachers told us that they were headed off to a Leadership Symposium and said that we would probably get the opportunity to do that as well when we were older. I knew I wanted to really badly after I had seen Michelle do it. In sixth grade, I finally got to and wished that I could’ve talked to her about it. I also used to think that it was cool how we both went on vacation to Hilton Head and put that in my head as another glorious similarity I had to her.

Michelle never complained at dance. Nothing was ever too hard or took too much energy out of her. I had countless dance classes with her and wondered how she stayed so positive and never tired. On July 31,2017, we had dance practice. It was hot outside and we were doing all sorts of workouts in the parking lot. Everyone grudgingly did so except Michelle. She did it with a smile on her face and truly tried her hardest. I remember she had her red Nutcracker water bottle with her that day. When we went inside, we worked on switch leaps and Michelle’s looked the best. At the end, Ms. Sonja gave us a lot of information. She talked about how there was a pointe class that we could take. Michelle lit up and asked tons of questions. I can clearly picture her sitting there raising her hand and asking tons of questions. Ms. Sonja also informed us that we would be dancing a lyrical dance instead of jazz for competition. That got us all excited but especially Michelle, especially when she heard that we would be dancing to Ave Maria by Beyoncé. The last thing that Ms. Sonja said was that we would not have class the following day because of a tumbling class. The last thing that we said to Michelle and she said back to us was, “Goodbye. See you on Wednesday!”

Michelle has had a lasting impact on my life. We all miss her and we all wish that she could physically dance with us but we all know that she will always spiritually be sharing the stage with us. During our lyrical dance last year, Ave Maria (we titled it A Dance for Michelle) when I was doing an arch, I felt back being pushed making my arch look better. When I would do something with my arms or legs I felt them being made straighter and look sharper than normal. Ave Maria is the only dance that I have ever performed multiple times and never messed up. None of us ever messed up on it. I truly believe that was Michelle helping me out. I will never forget her, I couldn’t even if I tried.

Campbell Smith

Yearbook Reflecting…

Several days ago I found myself home alone.

I sat in Michelle’s room and looked page by page through the final yearbook she would ever be in as an enrolled student. It was her 8th grade yearbook. I savored every page that I found her on. It dawned on me that I was looking at this yearbook 2 years after the fact. It was too hard to think about before.
Also not far from my thoughts was that from this day on, she will be represented in both the middle school and high school yearbooks, but instead it will be telling all about her scholarship fund.

What I was thinking as I looked at all the things that Michelle decided to partake in was that She lived. She loved.

She became involved in just about everything she wanted to. 2 things that come to mind that she just couldn’t fit in were Cheerleading and Cross Country/Track.

Academically, she tried to be perfect. I used to tell her as far as I knew there was only 1 perfect person and that was Jesus. Yet she continued to pour her heart and soul into her classes, and her extracurricular activities. Never settling for less. Always striving for more. To quote Tara Jurgens, “Michelle was all in.”

When Michelle died, Keith and I would converse with other parents who would sympathetically and empathetically tell us that they could not imagine what we were going through. And I remember Keith telling Tricia Macke in his final words of their interview. “Don’t take anything, especially your kids, for granted.

I hope parents will store that quote in the back of their mind somewhere. And recall it from memory when it’s a thought you need on any given day. We hope parents will accept and embrace the things in your child’s life that are a normal passageway to growing up. Because it surely beats the alternative of not growing up.

Therefore, be happy for every little moment and milestone with your child…. every little thing that they ‘get’ to experience. Take joy in that they are living life to the fullest and each day can be an adventure for them. We are trying our best and slowly getting back to these feelings with our boys.


If something can be learned from Michelle’s horrible death, Keith and I have said from the beginning…..love your kids, love them hard, for tomorrow they might not be here. Keith and I have no regrets. We are blessed by the thought of that. We are all children of God. God blesses us with the gift of our children. And God also decides when they will be called home to the Kingdom He has prepared for ALL of us.

As per Michelle’s yearbook quote on being involved in Highlands Theatre…. “Being in the musical means belonging somewhere and that’s a great thing to be a part of.”

And I also will never forget her ‘you tube behind-the-scenes quote from Sound of Music. Her little 5th grade self said when asked what she wanted to tell her fans: “If you believe you can, you can do it.”

Michelle, you believed you could, and you definitely did. I love you sweet girl.

 

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8th grade…then & now.

This is a long one.

As Robert is winding up his 8th grade school year at HMS, it takes me back. And I remember all the things with my girl, Michelle that were happening at this time just 2 short, (yet long), years ago. Little did we know at this point, we’d have less than 4 months left with her.

Really it started several months ago. 9th grade scheduling began to get underway. Keith and I were helping Robert think about high school classes. And we met with the counselor to make it official. I remember the day perfectly that we walked into the guidance office to do this with Michelle. She was late getting there. She forgot her time or got absorbed in her current class, or some such, I can’t remember. But when she arrived, she had a huge smile on her face, giggling of course. The counselor had nearly everything typed into the computer at this point. Because in typical Michelle fashion, she KNEW what she wanted. To be honest, Robert did too. And Keith and I are proud that our kids took their class choices so seriously.

Next up comes the 8th grade DC trip. Michelle went without Keith or I. She roomed with 3 other girls. She had such a great time and experience. So many silly pictures sent to me by various moms. Thanks Maureen & Jaclyn. One thing about Michelle, when she had an opportunity such as this, she made the most of it…she soaked it all in. And living true to her 8th grade superlative of “Teacher’s Pet”…she was interested in learning while on the trip.  And from what I hear from my friend, Carrie, she sang. Alot. And Carrie had ‘the pleasure’ of sitting pretty close to Michelle. Carrie and I weren’t friends at that time. I didn’t know her at all, in fact. But she contacted me after Michelle died to tell me she was on Michelle’s DC bus and how her excitement was contagious and made it fun to be around Michelle and her friends.
Robert and Keith left this morning for DC…..Memories flood back.

Next up will come Confirmation. You see, I wasn’t able to attend Michelle’s Confirmation because it was the same night as Senior Awards for Thomas. So Keith and I had to split our parental duties and divide and conquer that night. Her sponsor being, Cathy “Chick” Halloran, and with Keith and her grandparents, and various aunts and uncles and cousins….I knew she was in good hands. And with her Daddy being her 7th grade CCD teacher the year prior, she was ready for this sacrament. But I missed being there. Now more than ever. Robert will make his Confirmation in a few weeks…..memories will flood back. No doubt about it. His Godmother, Liesl, will be coming in from D.C. to be his sponsor. Keith is the sponsor for one of Robert’s friends and will also administer communion. It’s sure to be a special night. Of note, all 3 of our kids chose Francis for their Confirmation name. The Chalks have a Francis trifecta going on.
Special aside: Last year, one of Michelle’s friends from Dance was confirmed and chose the name Michelle for her Confirmation name. We are still so honored by this.

Next up will be 8th grade awards and graduation. I was so proud of her that night. Michelle worked hard. And received lots of awards that evening. But what I remember most is shopping for dresses for Michelle for this night, the 8th grade dance, and her Confirmation. A girl’s gotta have dresses and shoes, right?! Just this past week, I did the same for Robert. He is all outfitted now for all of these important 8th grade events coming up for him….memories flood back.

Recalling back to my reference of missing Michelle’s Confirmation for Senior Awards Night for Thomas. Little did we know, that not only would we be attending just 2 more of these Awards Nights. But we would be attending every.single.Senior.Award ceremony from now til our passing. Our screening commiteee has been hard at work for this process this year. It is so hard to believe that in just a few weeks, we will be giving the SECOND annual Michelle Chalk Scholarship to a very deserving Senior.

The next event which will come inevitably… which at this point Keith and I are having a hard time fathoming, will be 9th grade Transitions Day. Michelle died 2 days before her 9th grade Transitions Day. Her mentor, VERY ironically, won the 1st ever MCSF Scholarship. While Michelle never made it to her high school orientation, she had a plan in place. She was going to spend the night with Maddy and they were going to ride their bikes up to HHS that morning. Plans change on a moment’s notice. Instead, Keith and I were planning her funeral.

So on August 2, 2019, Robert will “pass up” Michelle. It is at that point that Robert will experience all the things that Michelle didn’t get to and will never get to. It’s hard to fathom that.  As Robert’s school picture will change each year on our family room wall, Michelle’s stays the same. Her 9th grade photo taken just a few days before she died. The one and only time HHS did photos that way. On macbook and schedule pick-up day. I’m sure glad they did. We’ve got that one last beautiful school photo of her. To represent her Freshman year at HHS….which never came to be.

Keith, the boys, and I miss Michelle like crazy.

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Holiday Grieving

The burden and pain of the holidays
~by Keith

This is a continuation on my previous blog from March 8th.. Sharing my experiences over the past 20 months. My introspective thoughts and observations while talking with other parents that have had a child die. Like with most things, these are not absolutes. All are anecdotal, and included in this series because my thoughts and experiences were shared with one or more parent I’ve met.

A common declaration I hear from parents that have had a child die, is that they want to skip holidays. All around them is joy and laughter when all they want to do is avoid it. There is no room for joy in the grief of bereavement. Laughter is a rare occurrence, and will fade into guilt. While others are taking pictures to commemorate the moment and track the passage of time, we are reminded that our family will never be complete.

Michelle loved family holiday events. She would bubble over with anticipation all morning long waiting to go. It was a family joke that the party would start when Michelle arrived. The origin of this joke was one event hosted by her uncle Mark was to begin in the afternoon. All morning long Michelle would be asking us if it was time to go. We finally had her call her uncle and to ask if he was ready for us to arrive early. From that moment on, these events started ‘when Michelle arrived.’

Early after Michelle’s death, Patty and I talked to a couple that lost a young child to an accident many years ago. They shared their experience in emotional details. They expressed the challenges to laugh, have fun, and be normal … because they were not. There was a hole in their heart … a hole in their lives. They went through the motions. Going to work. Kids school events. Even vacations. Slow walking through life shrouded in grief. Kids graduations. Weddings. Grandkids. Years of grief for the loss of their young child. Carrying their grief with them. Forever damaged. Then one day, while on vacation they paused, looked at their extended family interacting, and while still missing their young child … they felt true joy for the first time in many years.

What you need to know is that there is no fast track through grief, especially bereavement. We are forever changed because of the experience. We will never be the person we once were. How could we not be changed? We survived a life changing experience. We are going to have a lot of bad days where we are immune to the pleasures of life, especially joy. There are events that we go to because we don’t have a choice, but others we don’t go to because we just don’t have the strength. Holidays are particularly difficult for those that grieve the loss of the life they once had. There will be times that we break down in sorrow, and cannot be consoled. We will have some good days, and some very bad days. It is all part of grief. When we are having a bad day, we don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. When we are having a bad day, we can’t be cheered up. The only thing you can do for us, is to understand, continue to express your love for us, and keep the door open for when our days are good.

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Every Time I Hear Your Name

by Keith…

This is a continuation on my previous blog from March 8th.. Sharing my experiences over the past 20 months. My introspective thoughts and observations while talking with other parents that have had a child die. Like with most things, these are not absolutes. All are anecdotal, and included in this series because my thoughts and experiences were shared with one or more parent I’ve met.

A common declaration I hear from parents that have had a child die, is that other people are afraid to mention our child. People are afraid to say their name. They are afraid to upset us, not wanting to be the person that trigger our tears. Cautious of creating an unpleasant or awkward situation. In nearly every situation, I am the one that will mention Michelle’s name, mostly to the relief of the person with whom I’m having a conversation.

What you should know, not mentioning our child’s name does not change anything. We still know that we had a child. We still know that they died. We still know we miss them. We are still sad. No matter what. Not mentioning their name creates the perception in us that you forgot that they ever existed.

Patty and I named Michelle. We called her name often to get her attention. Her name is sweet music to our ears. When you invoke her name to us you are letting us know that you care. That she mattered.

I think most people adopt this behavior because it is a template learned from friends that have bad break-ups. Our friend’s EX becomes, “He who shall not be named.” I get this misunderstanding. The grief we experience with bereavement looks a lot like the grief we see in our friend’s bad break-up. We understand that our friends may not want to hear their EX’s name, and maybe don’t even want to be reminded of them.

What you need to know is that bereavement is different in this regard. We cherish the memories of children. We want to hear their name. We want you to show us you remember them. We have 15 years of wonderful memories with Michelle. That may seem like a lot, but it is not. As other children grow and forge new experiences, Michelle is forever fifteen. By sharing your memories of Michelle with us, you help us augment our memories with yours, and in the tales, Michelle continues to journey with us.

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20 months

20 months since I’ve seen her face.
I used to say that some days it feels like it just happened.
But not anymore.
It definitely feels like 20 months…. if not more.
Her absence in this house is profound.
Her presence, terribly missed.
Some say the second year is harder than the first.
With that, I agree.
Year 1, you are numb.
Year 2, well it’s in your face every single day that she’s gone.
And that I won’t see her again until I get to Heaven.

Michelle lived and loved.
She was a beacon of light. A voice to be heard.
She could have moved mountains if given the chance.
I miss her like crazy.

20 months

the mountains are calling so I must climb!
trust in God.
~m.e.c.