“In one moment, my life was changed forever. My dreams, my hopes, my future, my happiness — all perished in a second. I was on a family vacation, living a very charmed life, and traveling with my husband and two small children, which was something we did often. Our daughter, Finley, had just turned 5 and we took her to Disneyland to celebrate. We then headed to Palm Springs, the place we were married nearly 11 years prior, to spend much needed time with my sisters and their families. It was a perfect trip turned into a perfect weekend, a perfect day. But then again, every day truly was beautiful. Not perfect, but perfect for us. We lived true happiness. Kyle was known for always stating, ‘I’m living the dream.’ We really were.
And then my world stopped.
I was startled from my sleep a little after 10 p.m. on October 6, 2018, after not being asleep for long because of what I thought was Kyle snoring loudly. But he never snored so I was confused. I quickly realized he was struggling to breathe and I thought he was having a seizure, although he had never had one prior. I screamed for help. My sisters and their husbands came running. They administered CPR and called 911 as I cradled Kyle’s face in my hands, begging. Pleading. Screaming at him to wake up. I even splashed water hoping he’d come back to me. Please God let him wake up. He quickly turned blue. I saw him take what I prayed wouldn’t be his last breath. I ran out to the driveway to scream at the ambulance. I screamed at the paramedics, ‘You aren’t moving fast enough. He needs help. HELP HIM PLEASE.’
I sat on the floor. In a ball on my knees in another room of the Airbnb we were staying in. I begged God to save him. Begged. Pleaded. On my knees. With everything I had in me, I told God to take me. I screamed at God.
Kyle died that night.
I actually already knew it was coming. As I lay on the floor waiting and praying for a miracle, I felt a giant hug from behind, just the way Kyle hugged me. I actually thought it was him. Oh my gosh, he was actually okay. I turned and no one was there. I instinctively knew he had passed. I lost control of my bowels. I vomited until I couldn’t vomit anymore. I cried tears from depths I didn’t know I had. Kyle died. Suddenly. Tragically. Inexplicably. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.
We had just had dinner. We kissed our babies goodnight, made love, and told each other how much we loved each other. I fell asleep in his arms. He was 36 and in the best shape of his life. He worked out hard 4 to 5 days a week. He never smoked or did any sort of drugs. He wasn’t on any prescription medication. He had just had a major physical and passed with flying colors. The only thing found in his body when I got the autopsy months later was a small amount of alcohol from the wine he drank at dinner that night. None of it makes sense.
Kyle was the best and most dedicated husband and the most loving father. He made life more fun. The kids and I felt so special every day. He was my best friend. He taught me how to love, how to be comfortable in my own skin, how to trust and have faith, how to listen to my inner voice. He’d always ask me, ‘But Chels what is it that YOU want?’ He softened me without ever wanting me to change who I was. We were connected unlike most, truly in sync. There was a love between us that radiated to those around us. We often knew people envied our love. We’d joke about it. We’d think, if only people knew how hard we work to make each other our number one priority.
We’d tell each other we were the only ones that understood the other, that we couldn’t live without each other, and how lucky we were to have met so young. We were college sweethearts. He was the star baseball player who went on to play minor league baseball before earning incredible success in risk management after earning his degree. I played on the tennis team in college and went on to get my Masters. We pursued our own dreams over the years, always knowing we had each other and that our dreams always aligned. From day one, we were inseparable.
Kyle told me from the start he was never going anywhere and he would never leave me. And he truly never has, even after death. His body failed him and it failed us. And a really big part of me died too. But what I quickly realized is our love never died. The grief is so immense because our love is so grand. It is unconditional. It knows no barriers. It is Kyle’s love that has carried me through and continues to carry me from the darkest valleys into the light.
I sit here nearly nineteen months after Kyle died to tell you that although I really believed I died that night, and I believed it for a long time, I am living. My story is one of devastating loss, traumatic grief, pain, suffering AND it is also of hope and joy, grace, promises of a future. I live in a BOTH world. It’s not either-or for me. It’s BOTH pain AND joy. BOTH sorrow AND beauty. You might wonder how I could ever get to the point I am at today, where I still struggle daily with why this happened and at the same time, one where I refuse to accept this is it for me and my children, that this is the end of our story, that there is nothing left for us. I refuse to give up or quit on life. Kyle would be so disappointed if I did. So instead, I dig, just as Kyle would expect. I made a promise to myself, to Kyle, and to God very early on. I promised I would lean into all of this. That I would surrender to what was, what is, and what will be.
After Kyle died, I was unable to eat. Like I really couldn’t eat, to the point where I was threatened if I didn’t, I would have to go to the hospital. I was barely able to get out of bed. I couldn’t function. I remember thinking, if I feel like this for the rest of my life, I won’t survive. I will die. It will kill me. I thought of my two small children, these precious and perfect kiddos whose entire world was flipped upside down. That was the first time I remember knowing I have to start living or I will die.
It was baby steps at first: deciding to go to counseling, picking out a plot at the cemetery for Kyle, and one day for me, pouring my energy into knowing I had to speak at his funeral, taking my kids to school and facing all the curious stares and looks of utter sadness, making myself get dressed and wear lipgloss even though I felt dead inside. I started speaking up for the needs of the kids and me. And I started accepting help. I had and continue to have the most amazing community around me that showed up in all the big and small ways. Part of having this community is their willingness to show up and also my willingness to accept it. I said yes to help because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. You truly cannot do it alone.
Surrendering didn’t happen easily, and it also didn’t happen just once. I often surrender each day that I wake up, constantly reminding myself to keep leaning in and I can only control what I can control, and the rest is in God’s hand. I remember about a month or so out from Kyle’s passing, I received a letter in the mail. The kids and I were driving to counseling, something I started immediately because I knew we would need it and my fears of PTSD was very real. I stopped at the mailbox on the way out. I noticed one letter in particular. I didn’t recognize the return address or the name. I read a letter written to me from someone I had never met. She had lost her husband 30 years prior when she had three small children. She spoke of their love and marriage. She also spoke of how her life was never the same and the memories before her husband died were the best memories of her life. I remember feeling like I could relate. I often cried that I had too long a life to live without Kyle and to spend my life alone, knowing how much better it was with someone you truly love, seemed like a death sentence. Then I had this overwhelming sense to surrender. I told God right there I didn’t know why this had happened or the plans He had for me. But I would trust the process. I would say yes to things I would have never said yes to. I would believe Kyle’s love would carry me through and in doing so, provide a life for the kids. It would become my life mission to make him proud.
You will often hear me say we don’t move on, we move forward. This is very true. I move forward each day. Some days more than others. But I never move on from Kyle. Kyle is very much alive in our home, with our children and those around us. His legacy lives on through us. In my journey since that night that Kyle left us physically, there have been many moments, when all woven together, that have truly allowed my healing to take place. It’s been quite a journey. I have revisited the Airbnb in Palm Springs, the place Kyle took his last breath and a place I swore I’d never return. I have faced my fears from that nightmare night. I have faced my fears of ever feeling loving and joy again. I ran in a triathlon. I have taken over our finances and made decisions I am so damn proud of. All along my journey, I have been gifted many beautiful tender mercies urging me to keep going. I really see every moment in my life, God was preparing me to be able to handle this.
I’m here. I’m not giving up, even on the days I still shake my head in disbelief this really is my life. I refuse to quit. There is too much good left in this world and I will continue to see the world through the lens of love. Because like I said, Kyle would be so mad at me if I didn’t. We live the dream for Kyle.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Chelsy Wilson from Clovis, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. You can contribute to the Kyle S. Wilson Endowed Baseball Scholarship here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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