Guest Blogger: Teri Walsh Wagner

Watching the news is a daily part of my everyday life but today’s news on August 2, 2017 hit a part of me that has touched my heart.

The story came on of a young girl named Michelle Chalk from Fort Thomas who was sitting in a hammock and was killed when a tree fell on her. I watched the story again on the nightly news and for the next week or so And I watched different channels to see what all they were reporting about this child who had me somehow intrigued.

I learned after a few days of the news and Facebook post from people that I am friends with that I had went to school with Amy Baumann at St. Catherine of Siena. Patty was Amy’s younger sister and Michelle was her child. I could not imagine how the family was coping with the loss of their daughter.

I was amazed when I drove thru my hometown of Fort Thomas and all the ribbons and bows decorating this community and the out pouring of their love for this special young child and her family 🎀💛.

I had followed many post on Facebook over a few weeks and then Keith Chalk did an interview on TV about his daughter Michelle’s death. I was overwhelmed on how strong and brave a father Keith was and how courageous he was to speak out on how they were coping with Michelle’s death.

I still continued to follow stories and all pictures that different people had posted about Michelle and the impact she had on their lives and often wondered why this child had impacted my life so much when there were many cases of young children whose stories were in the news also and they never intrigued me as much.

On October 13, 2017 I got a phone call like the Chalk family received a knock at their family home that pulls your heart out of your chest. My daughter Heather McNamara was killed by a tree while setting up for her friends wedding. It was on all the little news channels also.

I had a huge support of family and friends that helped me in the upcoming week for Heather’s funeral and we went to the Cemetary and had to pick out plots and after we signed everything and went back down to the 4 plots we purchased I noticed Michelle Chalk was buried only a few spots away from Heather’s plot I picked out.

I asked God to bless both of our daughters again and said a prayer to Michelle to help me deal with the loss of my daughter Heather and to welcome her into Heaven with her.

Patty Chalk sent me a friend request and a message on messenger and we met each other around December and many tears were exchanged on our similar stories. Patty has extended her heart and support to help me get thru my daughters death. I have met Patty and Keith Chalk many times at the cemetery and I would of never imagined from hearing Michelle Chalks name on the news August 2, 2017 that I would of bonded thru love and support with this family. I have never met Michelle before but she has made such an impact on how she choose to live such a kind and loving life and that is how my daughter lived her life.

May Michelle and Heather always sing and dance their eternal life together in Heaven and have their arms wrapped around us in love until we their parents are reunited with our loving daughters. Saddened by their deaths but bonded now as friends till God calls us to our final resting place. 💛 😇 💜

 

 

 

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Constant Reminders….by Keith

Every day I get emails to alert me of discount books available for my Kindle reader. Most of the time it is not something I would be interested in reading. Occasionally I will find a book that interests me. Recently I found one that triggered me.

“The Fault in our Stars”, by John Green.

I remember Michelle reading this. I remember her being sad about the subject and how it ends.

As I pondered this memory I recalled another book, “Bridge to Terabithia”, by Katherine Paterson. When Thomas was in second grade Ms. Leftin read it to the class in anticipation for the movie release in February of 2007. An unofficial class field trip to AMC to view the movie during a Saturday matinée was planned. All I knew about the movie was a local kid, Josh Hutcherson, had been cast in the lead role.

The final Act took my breath away.

I’m not sure if I can spoil a movie that is over 10 years old, but I’m conditioned not too. I remember Thomas telling me later that Ms. Leftin did not want the kids to tell their parents anything about the story. They wanted us, parents, to be caught by surprise. I was!

It has been a while since I watched that movie, and I’m going to find time to watch it again. In light of Michelle’s accident, I’m curious if I will see something I missed before.

Life is sometimes like that. We notice things that are important to us. As our priorities change we notice new things. I used to wake up each morning and focus on being productive. Now I wake up each morning and focus on being loving. Priorities change.

I think of the Gospels. I ponder the Lord’s Prayer, the parables, the Beatitudes, and especially the summation of the Ten Commandments; “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s what life is about; Love!

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…until He tests them deeply.

September 1, 2018.

13 months gone. 13 months since I’ve seen her beautiful face.
Nothing about this life is easy. No one told us that it would be.
With the help, love, support, and prayers of many we have made it this far.
And we are grateful. Blessed in our sorrow. Still.
Yet the pain is still raw. The pain is still real.

The triggers come from many things:
*dropping Robert off at HMS for 8th grade. Her last academic year… she crossed the street and entered the building with him. He in 6th, she in 8th.
*driving forward and getting stopped at the HHS crosswalk, only to see an occasional classmate or two of hers crossing with their Starbucks. That would have been her.
*seeing photos of the football games. She loved going. Especially the pink out. She would be decked out head to toe in breast cancer awareness gear, and wouldn’t leave til she found Chick to get a hug and a picture together.
*going to church. She always served Mass with Robert. Not seeing her walk down the aisle to the entrance hymn with him. If she had the candle for the gospel, she would look at us and smile. I always had to tell Keith not to make her get the giggles. Because he could and she would.
*walking past her room. silent. devoid. very still.

I wonder what she does in Heaven. I wonder her higher purpose. Keith likes to say that she graduated life. There was no more for her to do here on earth. But much more for her to do in Heaven. And I know she’s doing great things from above. I feel her. But I miss her.
If only…….

DeeplyThanks to my dear cousin, Barb, for this ever-so-true imagery.

Honor the space…..

I read a quote recently. It said, “Honor the space between no longer and not yet.”

It resonated with me.

Michelle is no longer of this earth. And I miss her greatly. Down to the depths of my core.
And I can’t be with her. Not yet.
But I’m struggling with how to honor the space between Michelle not being here physically with me on earth and basically, when I get to heaven so I can be with her again.

The past almost 13 months have been HARD.  I vacillate between periods of feeling almost sick to my stomach about the present and feeling overwhelmed when looking to the future because how do I live without Michelle? I fear what is coming ahead of me.

So this in between phase if you will, I feel like is what I need an answer from God for. What do you want me to do, Lord? How can I serve you? Because I’m going to be completely honest with my readers. My sole purpose is to live my life like Jesus asks of me so that I can get to heaven to spend eternity with Him and Michelle. So I wait. I wait for His answer. And until it becomes blatantly clear, I have blind faith that I’m doing the best I can to do His will.

For now I need alot of faith, hope, and love. But once I’m in heaven with Michelle, my faith and hope will be fulfilled…..and all I will know and experience is glorious and intense love.

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Better to have loved and lost…

I belong to a Facebook group that someone lovingly ‘deposited’ me into very early on. It’s called Silent Grief – Child Loss Support. And this resonated with me.

There are no warnings of heartbreak that come with the birth of a child. Every parent thinks it will be a lifetime of love and joy. But when your child dies, that thought is shattered. Along with your whole heart.

The pain of loss is so deep, deep to your very core. Yet every parent would say the same thing. “I’m so blessed to have had my child. I just wish it could have been longer.”

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Guest Blogger: David Hagedorn

It was days after Michelle died. Several people mentioned David & Barbara Hagedorn’s name to us. More days passed, and their name was mentioned to Keith and I again. Weeks went by and their name just kept coming up. Everyone told us the same thing, “When you’re ready, you should talk to David & Barbara Hagedorn.” I’m a firm believer in signs and so I knew this was one. A special friend connected David and Keith by text. We arranged for them to come to our house so we could talk to them. The words they shared comforted us so much that they resonate with me still today. I’m also a firm believer that God puts people into our pathway when He knows we are going to need them. Hagedorns were those people placed in our path by God. Thank you so much for providing comfort to us, David & Barbara, in one of our darkest moments of grief. Here’s David…

When Patty invited me to express some of my ideas on My Girl Michelle and said it would be an honor I almost cried. Actually I did but men aren’t supposed to cry. Life’s experiences seem to influence how we look at ourselves, relationships, the world and, in my case, my relationship to God. When Phillip died so did I. I know it was worse for Barb even though I can’t imagine how. I believe God’s revelations breathed life back into me along with the support of family and friends. Barb’s incredible strength and the support of each other also played a key part in our recovery. As God revealed why this happened I began to see more clearly my relationship with God and God’s relationship with me and all of His creation. I look at the message of Jesus from a different perspective. Some of the revelation is in conflict with how I use to think and believe. It made more sense of what happens in this world even the loss of Phillip. The only true commandment is to love God, your neighbor and yourself. Search for the truth of God’s creation which is grounded in facts. I believe this is what God wants of us. I believe this is why He created us. P. S. To quote a song from the movie Titanic I believe that the heart does go on.

Sometimes, things go from bad to worse.

Keith and I attended two of my company conferences last week in Nashville. Of course, being in the heart of country music, we heard lots of it. One song that resonated with us was a song about vulnerability and things don’t always go our way. And what do we do? How do we adjust our businesses when this happens? My mind, and Keith’s, immediately went to our personal lives and our family life and grief.

Here’s the song if you care to take a listen:

It was July 21. I was in Columbus with 2 of my besties: CathyO & Bethie. When the text came through. Dad had taken a fall and it was decided to call the squad. There are a few first responders that are near and dear to our hearts. One being Chris Rust who wasn’t on duty, and the other Matt Stuart who was on duty. You see Chris (long time family friend) and Matt (dad of Ethan who was a great friend of Michelle’s and present at the accident) were both the first responders, of many I’m sure, on 8/1/17. So it turned out that Matt responded to my Dad and Mom on 7/21…..and retired on or about 8/3. We are grateful that he was on duty that evening.

I could turn this into a long post. But the fact of the matter is it doesn’t need to be. My dad is private and would never want his illness mentioned on social media. After talking with my sister, we decided I could share in this forum. Michelle’s blog.

My dad, and Michelle’s dear Poppy, has been diagnosed with Liver Cancer. On Wednesday of this coming week, Dad will return home with hospice services from a short term rehab stay.

The grief is coming back full force. “Things have gone from bad to worse.” My parents and my entire family are trying to process all of this. We have spent the past 3 weeks doing just that. All while mourning Michelle’s 1 year and all while planning and celebrating the life of Jacob yesterday in his 1st annual Memorial Golf Outing which was nothing short of amazing. I have to stop there for a minute to say I’m so proud of Mark and Terri, Erin and Rebecca…..if there’s heart and soul, they are the epitome!

We made the decision after Jacob’s event to share (not on social media) but through private messages, texts, phone calls, and here, Michelle’s blog.

We ask for prayers. Many, many prayers. Once again. Yes once again. You all stand by our family. We are blessed in our sorrow. Michelle had my dad in her life for 15 years, me 49 years. My one and only comfort is that I’m giving my Dad back to Michelle for eternity.
It won’t come easy. But all I know as of recent, is that I have to find and then cling to whatever will give me some small source of comfort to push through day by day.
And that’s what it is. We don’t know when, but Dad will see the light of Jesus’ face and be surrounded in His warm, strong embrace. And Dad will be whole again. And Dad has so many people who love him waiting in  heaven. Michelle, Jacob, Dean, and MANY of his relatives who have gone before him.

I’ll never be ready to say goodbye to my Dad, but I will be ready for Michelle to get her Poppy.

Today we honor Jacob

On August 19, 2016, our family’s life changed forever. It was the day we lost Michelle’s cousin, Jacob. Michelle was very affected by Jacob’s death and made it her silent mission to educate others about drug addiction, especially during Red Ribbon Week her 8th grade year at HMS. She wanted people to know that it was a disease and that particularly Jacob couldn’t help it. He didn’t have control. The addiction did.

On the last day of school, the kids generally empty the contents of their backpacks into a pile. It’s because they know that I like to go through and save a few things from the school year that I think are special. Maybe art, maybe a certain writing assignment, maybe just a doodle page.  Recently, I was going through Michelle’s 8th grade pile and I found pictures of Jacob, inspirational quotes, and this picture below tucked into many places: under her macbook case, in folders, taped in journals, etc. (I already knew that folded up in her pants pocket, she carried a photo of Jacob with her) The picture was taken Christmas Day at Mark’s house years ago. It became a photo she clung to. Jacob’s funeral was the first funeral that Michelle had ever attended. It hit her hard. She was changed. Our family is changed. We will never be the same.

Now all the photos I found tucked into her schoolwork that once she clung to, now I do.

They lived.
They loved.
They. Are. Loved.

So today we have Jacob’s 1st Annual Golf Outing at AJ Jolly Park. Keith & I were blessed to take part in a small portion of the planning.
We have LOTS of Silent Auction baskets. If you find yourself in the area, stop by and bid.
If you find yourself with nothing to do today, stop by and bid. The baskets are amazing but most of all ….all funds raised are going to Jacob’s Scholarship Fund.
We are blessed in our sorrow.

 

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Keith writes…

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a couple of business conventions and listen to some incredible speakers. One of these presentations triggered a memory that I had forgotten and thought this blog to be the best place to share.

Our family has vacationed on Hilton Head Island for several summers. To save money we would pick a week shortly after the last day of school and just before rates increased for the peak season. Michelle’s birthday, June 16, would often hit while we were in HHI.

Occasionally we would rent a tandem bicycle. Michelle was the only one of the three kids that learned how to ride a bike, so she was the most eager to go biking. One year she was so eager to go biking, I agreed to go with her shortly after we arrived and unpacked. We headed out of the complex and I decided to go bike to Saint Francis by The Sea church, about 5 miles away, and check the mass time. It was evening as we started out. We passed several golf courses and could see the last of the golfers completing their rounds. About halfway to our destination the chain fell off. I can remember Michelle giving a little shriek of concern. She never said it, but her face and body communicated to me, “What do we do now.” We hopped off the bike, and I showed her how to put the chain back on. Under closer inspection I could tell that the chain was loose and if we peddled too fast it could fall off again. As I communicated this all to Michelle her concern evaporated and gave all indications that she trusted me and that we would be okay. That because she was under my care, I would make it all turn out okay.

We continued on our journey to the church, and when we got there I checked my phone and saw the missed calls from Patty. I returned the call, told her were we were, our problem with the chain and that we were heading back. On the way back the sun was setting and this was going to be our problem. HHI does not have lights on the bike path. Something about sea turtles. The bike path was difficult to see and navigate as it would serpentine through the trees. What I remember about this moment is that Michelle trusted me to get her back safely.

Michelle always had complete confidence in me. To take care of her. To fix problems.