I will forever miss you Kellan.
“Just because someone carries it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.”-Unknown
I survived 8 whole days in Russia. Oh, and 47 hours of travel…that I did alone. It was such an incredible experience, and I’m beyond grateful I was able to go. So thankful I could support my husband on his first international coaching gig.
I had planned to write while I was there, but once I arrived, I decided to disconnect and just live.
When I landed in Moscow, the customs line was insane. There were at least 500 people waiting to go through, and I had a little over an hour to get through, find my bag, get it re-checked, get back through security, and make my flight. My solution? I went to the empty Diplomat line…asked for help, and called myself a Stupid American for messing up. It worked – go me.
I mean I was technically the official coach’s wife for the United States team? I consider that a Diplomat.
I proceeded to walk through the very confusing airport like a lost toddler looking for their family. It was then I discovered the language barrier might be more difficult than I anticipated. After getting lost several times, leaving my credit cards behind at the ticket counter, and taking the very long tram (twice)….I missed my flight. Good news, they rebooked me on one an hour later and I was finally on my way!
On my first full day I decided to explore Sochi. I walked over 7 miles just trying to figure out where everything was. I quickly discovered that the language barrier would absolutely be tough to manage. My nifty translator apps that I downloaded didn’t work so hot with the dial-up like internet I had access to on my phone.
I immediately started to question if I made a good choice coming on this trip. It was insanely humid, the food was strange, I felt like a complete idiot when trying to communicate, and people were not all that friendly. I was truly worried.
Day 2 is when my outlook changed. I realized that I needed to change my perception and embrace the differences. So I did. I got back up and took another long walk to explore. Over the next few days I rented a moped (and kind of wrecked it – slightly), discovered how to get inside the Olympic area and saw the torch, and walked over the Formula 1 track several times.
I traveled to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I purchased tons of food and tried it all. I learned how to tell the difference between the sparkling water and still water (this sounds strange, but was hard!) I also figured out how to understand the value of their money.
During one of my walks, I came across the live Russian version of American Idol – New Wave. I explored the USSR museum, and walked the Coca-Cola shopping area. I figured out how to travel to McDonald’s via taxi and ordered all the strange food we don’t have on our menu here. I ordered Papa Johns, went to a mall, and stepped into a casino. I walked on the rocky beach and put my feet in the Black Sea.
Sochi was beautiful. Russia was incredible.
I looked past the lack of smiles, and appreciated that people would nod as a way to acknowledge me. I embraced the hot tea and weird food in the morning. I learned to talk slower, and in badly broken English. I also learned how to say thank you in Russian – Spasibo (spa-see-bah). I loved when I said thank you in English, that they would almost always reply with “please”.
The best part? The majority of these things I conquered and did all by myself. I went to a foreign country, where I couldn’t speak or read any of the language, and I lived my life as full as I could. I worked to grow my confidence and refused to be nervous and weak. I am so proud of myself. And I know that I had Kellan with me the entire time.
I looked at his pictures in Russia. Just a few of them that I have on my phone. I felt strong and powerful and decided now was the time. It was incredibly painful and tore me to pieces. I cried so hard it shook my body. But I did it.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to look at them again. I hope others realize how fortunate they are to be able to do something as simple as look at photos of their child with joy and happiness. I wish I could do it so easily.
My travel back to the United States was long, almost 30 hours between flights and layovers. I had a great plan to reduce jet lag, and it worked well. While I was prepared for the potential physical struggles of coming back, I wasn’t quite prepared for how it would feel mentally. It was overwhelming.
After being away for so long and in a world of unknown, I had to face reality again. It’s funny, so many people ask me if I felt safe in Russia. I have never felt safer. I was in a world where no one knew me, and I could conquer a whole new set of challenges. For 8 days I was free. Being home is so much scarier.
I never know who I’m safe with or where I’m safe here.
Before I left, I envisioned this idea of returning from Russia stronger and better than ever. Refreshed and ready to get back at it. I wish I could say I was right, but I was wrong.
I returned and realized that hockey had already started, it was time to get back to work, and my business needed attention as well. Oh, and my son was still dead. I instantly became mentally exhausted and realized this week would need to be spent re-grouping. Re-learning how to live in this world. Re-creating my new normal again.
The Wings had a scrimmage less than 24 hours after we got back. I was incredibly nervous to go, but knew it was something I had to face. It took a lot of energy to be there, but I did it.
As I was about to leave, a little 5 year old girl I know came up to talk to me with her sister. She said innocently as she looked at my stomach, “So, your baby died.” I looked at her sweet face and replied, “Yes, he did.” The subject quickly changed to her starting Kindergarten.
A few moments later, she looked at me with loving eyes and told me, “I’m sad your baby died.” I looked back at her and said, “Me too.” Her innocence and genuine love behind what she told me was so special. She said what I’m sure so many feel. She was sad and wanted me to know. We were both sad.
Kids are so precious. They don’t know how to do and say things perfectly, they just express what they’re feeling however they can. They don’t know “etiquette”, and they don’t have filters. I could absolutely feel her love, and I’m so thankful she told me.
I hope I’m able to face all people in the future who bring up Kellan in a non-filtered way, or ask me questions about having kids, or if I want a baby, like I did this little girl – with love and understanding. Sometimes even adults just don’t know better, even when they should. And instead of letting it hurt me, I pray I can handle it with strength and grace.
Every single day when I wake up, I have to make a choice to get out of bed. I tell myself to get up, get dressed, and accomplish tasks. It takes a ton of energy to get through the day, but I do it.
Every. Single. Day.
I may look like I’m normal, but I am far from it. I may be strong, and some days may get easier to live, but it doesn’t mean that what I’m carrying isn’t still incredibly heavy. As I go on with my life, I realize that. I want those around me to understand it too. Those you love that are going through trauma are still dealing with it daily, even when they appear to be normal. It takes an incredible amount of energy.
It’s been 9 weeks, 12 hours, 47 minutes since Kellan died.
64 days, 12 hours, 47 minutes.
No matter how I type it, it still kills me inside the same. I don’t believe it will ever feel any different when I think of his death.
I can travel the world, and conquer my fears. I can live my life to the fullest. And I will. I will live every single day for my son. But I will also forever long for him.
I will forever miss you Kellan.