If we live long enough, we are bound to endure that which we once thought unimaginable.
Most of us, despite our noblest efforts, go through our day to day lives unconsciously, assuming an amount of mundaneness that we take blissfully for granted.
And then something happens, and we are shaken to our core. And suddenly, nothing looks the same or is the same, and life becomes a stark contrast that we mark forever in our minds by “before” and “after.”
We know the only dependable constant is change, and yet, we pretend to be oblivious to that, because to really live in the knowing of that uncertainty would mean to acknowledge our fragility. And we cannot bear to do that, let alone embrace it.
We are fragile. And the truth of it is we do not know each other’s pain or the burdens we bear. If we did, we would treat each other with kid gloves, and caress each other with our words, and comfort each other with our deeds. We would know to tread lightly, for each of us is harboring a broken heart of some sort that another cannot fathom.
When I first decided to record an album of heart-centered, uplifting songs, I needed an image to use that would somehow visually embody the feeling I wanted people to have about it. I had one in my mind of someone on the beach, arms outstretched, the vastness of the ocean before them, triumphant, victorious, empowered and love filled. I didn’t have any such pictures of myself like this at the ready, oddly enough, so I scoured stock photos online, as well as those of anyone I knew that popped into my head.
I don’t know why I thought of her, but when we went to Michelle’s Facebook page, there was the exact picture I had imagined. I asked her if it was okay to use it and she was thrilled. She was the image of The Gratitude Project, as it was called initialy. Gratitude was what we shared (as well as an unabashed love of Barbra Streisand), and Michelle would go on to be a staunch supporter and champion of both this project and of me, with “Grateful” being her favorite of my songs on it.
When someone chooses to take their own life, their pain outweighs everything else. I know that. It is not a choice made from lack of love. It is one made from seemingly inescapable pain.
For those left behind, the devastation is unrivaled. And I, who would try to find the ray of sunshine in the middle of Armageddon, am hard pressed to find anything even remotely resembling something positive to take away and carry forward as each new day dawns since Michelle’s passing.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of a legacy. What is our imprint on the world? Who are we to others? What ripples do we cause in the sea of humanity?
It is easy in our grief to focus on how Michelle died. But couldn’t we, even for a moment, shift our focus to how she lived?
It is natural to see a future forever left unfinished. But we must also see the valuable time spent here as both a seeker and a teacher. She impacted the lives of the many she touched with her spirit, her love, her sensitivity, her beauty and her light. And if her legacy is to be anything, I think the world would better benefit from those qualities than the means by which her life ended.
I sent Michelle an email a few days ago, and she answered back immediately and cheerfully, signing off with “Love & Light! – Michelle”
She was gone the next day. But I will do my best to carry with me the love and light that was Michelle Angel at her truest self, and pay it forward in whatever way I can. I believe we honor those who have left us not only by remembering them, but by recognizing and appreciating how we have been changed forever by their presence in our lives and by being that love and light to others as we live out our days from here on out.
Rest in peace, Michelle.
And to Jill and all my family, as well as anyone hurting right now for any reason anywhere – may God hold you in the palm of His hand and grant you peace.
May we all be ambassadors of love and light.
Michelle Renee Angel