“When I first learned about her, no less than two million buffalo stampeded across my chest. (That is just an estimate at the risk of sounding dramatic.) When the dust finally settled, when chaos clipped its own wing & the Earth relinquished her thunder, I found the remains of a heart not twenty feet from my aching body, trampled into a bloody mess. This heart did not belong to me, but I ripped open my own ribcage just to double-check.”
This post was meant for Feb 14th but I was too busy with work and sick to edit it and fix it up for posting. But better late than never! I meant to post it over a week ago after my cold got better but never did. I had a bad sinus thing recently and my nose has been bleeding everyday. My throat was sore and my whole body was weak and I had night sweats and chills. It did not last long at all. Since I wrote this post for two women I knew who died on the same day a few years apart, another young woman I only knew online died on the same date this year, of a rare form of cancer. She has been battling it for years and did all she could to live as long as she could even though she was incredibly Ill. Some people with end stage cancer surrender, give up treatment, and choose to live as comfortably as possible even if treatment can help them live longer, because treatments make them sicker but only extend their lives a bit longer. In states where it’s legal, some even take a pill to speed up their death and put them out of their misery or prevent even worse misery later when the illness can only get worse. Gabriella made the choice to do whatever it took to live as long as possible no matter how sick she was and how much sicker she would become because of the treatment and cancer continuing to spread. She took all the treatment she could to live even if just an extra day because she loved life so much. It was an incredible wisdom, strength, and love for life she had. No matter how much she suffered, her love for life was stronger and she would not give up just to live more comfortably but not as long. This inspires me deeply. Someone with terminal cancer choosing to keep going n live, not out of denial or not accepting the truth but out of great love for life and being determined enough to endure unimaginable suffering because life is beautiful anyway and she could still see the good in all that sickness and terrible pain.
I do not at all in any way judge those who do give up treatment to live and die more comfortably or those who choose the pill to die before the illness takes them, of course not. It doesn’t mean they are less strong. But it inspires me so much when someone chooses to keep going no matter what. I have struggled with severe depression on and off and am inspired when someone can keep wanting to live even in the midst of much darkness. Also, I have always thought that if I were to get terminal cancer, I would do whatever it takes to live as long as possible even if I would get sicker because of treatment and only live a month longer. When I’m not depressed(& sometimes even when I am), I have always had a deep love for life like Gabriella. So her attitude and choice resonates with me. Some people may think that’s very wrong of me to think I would do whatever it takes to live as long as I can since I dont know that pain and sickness but it’s just a philosophy I have, not a judgment of others. We all make whatever choice we know is best for us in each situation and we are not in a position to say someone else’s choice is wrong or less. Gabriella was a true warrior and she inspires me still. And always will.
This is a screencap of Gabriella’s instagram account. Her sister was kind enough to let us all know the tragedy in that last post at the top. In the midst of her own immense grief & unbearable loss, she was loving enough to care about us, her sister’s social media followers.
Gabriella was realistic and admitted she did not believe she would get better but she held onto hope and wanted to walk this Earth as long as she could. And she did this all with a positive attitude and big smile on her beautiful face. I did not ever talk to her or know her in person. I just watched her YouTube videos and followed her social media account because her positivity and beauty (both inner and physical beauty) inspires me. She helped me with anxiety and depression flareups. Her positivity was and still is infectious. She died on February 14th 2020. When I saw the post on her account by her beautiful sister, who is also her best friend, it took the life out of me. I was hoping so much she would somehow get better. I’m thankful I waited to post this because now I can also post in honor of beautiful Gabriella who displayed an incredible strength, courage, and love in the face of a terrifying and dreadful disease at only twenty-three years old. She was motivated to keep up her physical appearance with beautiful wigs and makeup and fashion. The cancer and treatment took a tremendous toll on her body but she did not let that stop her.
Her physical appearance was very important to her, not in a shallow way, but an inspiring and motivated way. Like the sicker she got, it seemed the more motivated she got to show the disease it had no hold on her. Cancer took away her hair, her healthy skin complexion, her flat stomach (it was in her liver and made her stomach begin to balloon while the rest of her was very thin), her healthy body weight, it made her weight drop dramatically….but she countered each thing with positive actions and a positive mind. She admitted how difficult it was but still kept being positive. She admitted to being a bit vain and not liking what the cancer was doing to her physical appearance. And this is one of the things I love about her. She was positive but she was real. Who would be apathetic to the fact of a terrible disease messing with our physical appearance? I think most of us would care.
Sweet & Beautiful Gabriella showing off her new wig. This is a screencap. I can’t believe she is really gone. She was so full of love & life. ❤
New Wig! UniWigs – Gabrielle wig review
(The wig is called Gabrielle! 😍 It’s the official name of this one)
I think her YouTube video that inspires me most is the one where she shows off her new wig made of real human hair. Link above. It was a gift someone gave to her, the company who makes them, I think. To see the joy on her face at something so simple and something no 23 year old girl should have to have. But it made her so so happy just to have this new wig. All her other ones were fake hair and not as good quality. The human hair ones are expensive and she never had one before this. I’m very thankful she got to experience the joy of having one before she had to go.
My heart breaks for Gabriella and her family and friends. Someone who loved life so much she chose immense suffering over death just to keep on experiencing life, but she had to lose her life anyway at just 23 years old. She stated that at one point, before she was diagnosed with cancer, her biggest fear was death. So imagine having that terrible fear then finding you have stage 4 cancer? To have to stare death in the face and accept that reality. Death would probably scare just about anyone who has to come to terms with it soon but especially someone who already has a fear of it before getting sick. The strength and courage she had is definitely awe inspiring.
I have been grieving for her in a way very similar to when I grieve for someone I know in person who dies. I even fell into a very severe depression for a few days where I had to struggle to do things. All I could think about was her and how horrific it is. What cruelty this disease is.
I don’t always get depressed when someone dies but sometimes I do and her death triggered a mini episode. Grief is different than depression. But grief can trigger a depression in some of us. I call depressive episodes “mini episodes” when they last less than two weeks. They can be just as severe but the duration is not long enough to be considered clinical when they are less than two weeks. At least that’s how it was the last I checked. The dsm book said so. But anyway I have been so depressed; it feels like someone I know died and it is absolutely devastating and crushing. This is definitely one of the more difficult things I have encounterd in this life.
Gabriella had a great sense of humor and was able to laugh and joke. She was just naturally very funny. She also thought cancer jokes are funny and suggested her social media followers follow an account by people with cancer who joke about it. I can never think any cancer joke is amusing and don’t follow that account but I am happy for her that she was so lighthearted and was able to find the humor in her disease. I understand because I think mental health jokes are funny since I have struggled with depression myself.
I have followed her account and story for about a year and always looked for her updates. I am beyond broken. Just shattered. It seems so wrong that a 23 year old girl had to die like this. A 23 year old girl who loved life so much and loved everything and everyone and got so happy over the simplest things like pretty blonde wigs and Starbucks drinks. She loved the strawberry acai drink. One day I will buy one and drink it in honor of her. She has a dog who she loved so much. Gabriella was the same age as my little sister. I will always have her in my heart. And I will honor her by keep loving life like she did even when it’s hard. I will keep looking for the gems of beauty all around me even when I have to look harder. This is what I have been doing to battle my depression about her death. She wouldn’t want me to walk around depressed like that. She wasn’t the kind of girl to get depressed. She mentioned in one of her YouTube videos that she has never been depressed; she just wasn’t prone to it. Even when cancer took over her body, it never depressed her. Once she had to take some medication and it messed with her chemistry and she did become depressed and it was like a dark cloud hanging over her wherever she would go. When she stopped the med the depression was gone. She said it scared her to see what depression is like.
In each moment I have consciously looked for the good to battle my depression after learning of her death. I know that is what she would do and want me to do.
If my grief is like this just imagine what her friends and family are experiencing. But I will always remember her and keep sending them my love even if just in the form of energy. I did write to her sister and express my love. While Gabriella did lose the ultimate battle to cancer, I believe she did not lose truly because her spirit stayed alive until the end and she did not let it crush it. I think her life is a reminder to us all to never give up no matter what battle we are facing whether it’s something as serious as cancer or something like just having a not so pleasant day or bad mood. Her life is a beautiful message to the world. Keep going. She even had a tattoo on her arm that read “Keep fighting.”
Gabriella said one of the things that kept her going through the pain is the fact that it’s her who had cancer and not someone else she loved like her mom for example. (I understand this because I felt the same way when I had cancer fear; at least it was me and not someone else and I have this gratitude when my pain disorder flares up that it’s me and not another – Gabriella’s and my energy seem to operate on a similar wavelength) Then her mom was diagnosed with another rare form of cancer. Another thing that kept her going is the promise that one day her treatment would finally end and she would be healthy again. Then the doctors gave her the devastating news that she would never be healthy again. But still she just kept finding things to go on for and be happy about.
She said no matter how sick she was at least she wasn’t dead. And she encouraged us all to think the same way about everything. No matter how bad it is, at least it isn’t worse. That is the gist of what was her life philosophy and in honor of her, I will adopt it as my own more consciously, more frequently.
Imagine loving life itself so, so much that in your worst physical pain and emotional pain, in your worst physical sickness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, physical appearance changing in unpleasant ways, in your most suffocating fear, waiting for test results to see where the disease spread to next, to keep finding at every dr visit that it metastasized to somewhere else in the body, ravaging every organ, throughout countless painful and frightening medical tests and painful, life draining treatments, losing all your hair, your healthy skin, aging more quickly than you’re supposed to, infinite amounts of hospital visits and infections, scary uncertainty, physical and emotional exhaustion, being bedridden, watching everyone who loves you suffer because of your pain, and being told in the end there is no cure or hope anyway, you still want to push through and go on living as long as you can, even if you have to always live like this, because life is still beautiful. Imagine that. This is what it is to truly love. This inspires me more than anything else in life. The fact that this was done out of love for life and not fear of death is what inspires me. I cannot imagine a more inspiring or loving person. Whenever I have a flareup of depression or if I ever have health anxiety again or my facial pain disorder flares up…I am going to go on living like Gaby.
If I could, I would switch places with Gabriella so she can live again. That terrifies me to write or even think that because last year, I developed a debilitating fear of cancer, which is gone now but still a touch of it flares up once in a while. For six months, I obsessed over having or getting cancer and I could hardly go on living. But my health anxiety actually made me happier and more mindful overall. It made me love this beautiful life even more. As a result of my cancer phobia (I was not diagnosed with a phobia or treated professionally but no doubt it was a fullblown phobia), I also learned things about myself I never realized before and began to accept things I couldn’t as much before. It is a gift to me and was a blessing in disguise all along. But I would give it all up for this sweet girl. Gabriella has my whole heart. ❤❤❤
In loving memory of and in honor of two(update: now three) beautiful women who both died unexpectedly and too soon on the same date, four years apart. Diane (58 years old) on February 14th, 2015 & Haley (20 years old) on February 14th, 2019. (And Gabriella on February 14th, 2020 – 23 years old) Both of their hearts just stopped out of nowhere on Feb. 14th. I knew both of them at one point. Diane was my good friend & coworker for nearly a decade and Haley was a sweet girl who lived close to me and was a customer at the place where Diane and me worked.
Diane and me worked together and she always talked to me and about me as if I was her daughter. She has three sons close to the same age as me. She was a significant part of my everyday. She was kind, funny, loud, she cursed a lot, and gave everyone as much as she could even when she had very little to give. She gave people at stores tips when she was about to get thrown out of the place she lived for not being able to pay. She would stay later at work without getting paid to serve last minute customers. She accidentally taught her baby grandson to say “fuck” and she was frantic trying to get him to stop saying it. She always told me to stay warm and kind even in the face of other people’s bitterness, unkindness, and difficult situations. She told me one of her worst fears in life was that my personality would change. I can’t believe she thought my personality is that amazing that it actually scared her to think of it changing!
She made me laugh and sometimes she annoyed me. Lol
Her favorite holiday was Valentine’s Day. And that is the day she suffered sudden cardiac arrest for no known reason. She was small and healthy seeming. She was stressed about financial concerns though. I mention this because I think excessive levels of or frequent stress can contribute to a heart attack/cardiac arrest(I am not sure if these two are the same thing – they told me Diane suffered a heart attack but I also read something about cardiac arrest being the accurate term) and do not want it to happen to anyone else. If you are reading this and experience stress frequently for any reason or significant levels, I hope you will try some things to reduce it. Whatever helps calm us or maybe exercise can lessen it. One very good thing to reduce stress is meditation, even just five minutes of conscious breathing a day can help. Even if we are young and seemingly healthy, we can have a heart attack. Diane was younger than the average age of people who have heart attacks and die. This is very, very common and I do not want it to happen to anyone else whether or not I know the person. I have been terrified after her death that it will happen to more people. Thankfully my fear has calmed through the years but once in a while it flares up a bit then calms again.
Here is a sleep meditation I found shortly after her death to help me cope, before my true healing began:
Sleep Hypnosis for Anxiety Reduction and Reversal
Diane was full of life and had no symptoms of an impending heart attack. It just struck unexpectedly. On Saturday morning, five years ago, she came to work just like any other day, collapsed to the floor. And died. It was the most traumatic experience of my whole life. My entire world crumbled on top of me. It felt that I had to learn to rebuild part of myself. I had to learn to cope not only with the death itself but the fact of no longer seeing her nearly everyday. It is traumatic to lose someone to death (or even moving away) who we see and talk to everyday. Losing her felt like losing a limb on my body. I felt that loss so poignantly and still do but it’s easier now to bear than it was. I learned to live well with the grief. Some moments I stop and feel the throb of the loss. I still grieve for her. I always will. Some moments I long for her and to tell her things like I used to. I miss her loud mouth, her sarcasm, and cursing. I’m not always the biggest fan of sarcasm but I came to love her sarcasm. Lol
The last word I heard her say is “unfuckingbelievable.” And it makes me laugh.
Just writing this post reopened some wounds in me and feels like my insides bleeding all over again. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s just how it is when we lose someone.
And Haley. Haley, the girl in the pictures above, was a beautiful, beautiful young woman who literally everyone loved. No one could have possibly known her and not loved her. She was kind, compassionate, caring, helpful. She picked up trash off the ground as a little girl and threw it away. Who does that?!?! What kid or even adult sees trash on the ground that is not ours and cares to pick it up and throw it away?! We may care enough to throw our own trash in a can and not the ground but do you ever even think of throwing it away when you see it on the ground already? Lol
I heard she would sit with kids in school who she saw eating lunch alone. This is one of the stories of her that hit me hardest because I know what it’s like to not have friends at some ages/stages of life. As a kid in school, I always did have friends to have lunch with but did not always have friends outside of school or in college when I first took classes. My first couple of years were lonely. To think there was a girl who would have cared so much and sat with me when I had no one, warms me. Haley has my heart, always.
She was compassionate to everyone even those who were unkind to her. She had a light around her. And that light still shines brightly in this world even though she is gone. One year ago, she lost her life, quickly & unexpectedly.
Many years ago, I knew a little girl named Haley. She used to come to the food serving place that I worked, sometimes with her dad. She would get iced tea, pizza pretzels, ice cream. She was so sweet and adorable. She was kind and very well mannered. The years went on and eventually the store I worked at closed up and I got a new job. A few years later, last year, my mom showed me a picture of an incredibly beautiful young woman who lived closeby and died. Her beauty took my breath away when I looked at her photo. She asked if I knew her since the girl was very popular in the community and I know so many people who came to my previous workplace. I was struck by her breathtaking beauty when I saw her photo. I thought how tragic it is her life ended the way it did. I said I did not know her. But her death weighted heavy on me each day. I kept thinking of her and the heartbreak of her loss. I kept hearing about her and her tragic, unexpected death around the neighborhood and on social media. I kept seeing pictures of her beautiful face and reading all the stories of how kind and loving she was in life. She was the kind of girl everyone knew. Then someone posted a picture of her as a little girl. When I saw it, my whole body was overcome in a trembly, terrible kind of fear and felt like jelly.
It was her.
It was that adorable, sweet young girl I knew who came to my workplace. Then I remembered I did see her around the neighborhood as a young woman but did not realize she was that little girl I knew.
All I saw in my head was that sweet, innocent little girl eating ice cream with her dad. Her death filled me with absolute dread and terror. She died when she was just twenty years old. She was very athletic, healthy, physically fit. She played sports, worked out, and took very good care of her body.
On February 14th, 2019, after 3:00 in the morning, she ran to her mom & dad’s room because something was happening inside her body and she did not know what to do. I heard she thought she was having a heart attack. She was pleading for help. She collapsed then died later that morning in front of her mom, dad, and little brother, who is only a little boy.
How on Earth does a healthy 20 year old girl’s heart…..just stop? Just like that. In the middle of the night.
She had a terrible disease no one realized she had. It’s called HHT. She had it since birth but there were no symptoms and it does not show up in routine medical test results. It’s like an internal bleeding disorder or something of that sort. It often presents no symptoms and someone can just collapse and die out of nowhere. It is rare and is genetic. Most people who have it do not die of it and for most people, the symptoms they display are nosebleeds and marks on the skin, not a sudden tragic death. Her family said she never had one symptom until her death.
Of all the people I have known and have never known, who died, Haley is the one I would bring back if I could. Even if I had to die myself. Right now, I would die and bring her “back from the dead” if it were possible. I wouldn’t even hesitate. I would bring that beautiful girl back in an instant without a second thought.
She was everything. Everyone loved her. Her family, friends, everyone in the neighborhood, even strangers. She had a boyfriend, a sweet girl, who I also knew/worked with, who is her cousin, best friend, and sister all in one, lots of friends, a loving family, a job, she was a college girl and very close to her mom and dad and brother. She had a dog she loved who loved her. Very successful already at just 20 years old.
I saw some of her photography and am deeply inspired. Like me, she had an appreciation for the simple, mundane, often overlooked things in life like shadows, raindrops, lights, her own beauty(she knew how very beautiful she was)…and like me, she loved to capture it in photos. She inspires me to take even more pictures and be even more mindful of the simple joys of living. She was so confident and it showed in the way she carried herself and her photos.
Throughout the year since she has been gone, there are a few occasions I struggled with something like a wave of depression or a flare up of my my facial pain disorder here & there, then I would happen to see a picture of her beautiful smile in my newsfeed on social media, posted by her family, and it would lift me and remind me to live like she did, confidently, in the moment, compassionately…I also struggled with anxiety for six months beginning the month she died and for three of those months, it was severe, debilitating. And throughout my journey, Haley’s beauty and light and smile was with me every step of the way.
So much of what I am today is because of Haley.
Haley inspires me everyday. She’s on my mind every single day. There is not a day I don’t think of her. And not a moment I’m not inspired by her. I did not know her well but because of the kind of person she was, she has a tremendous impact on anyone who met her even just for a few seconds. Anyone who looked at her was stunned by her beauty. Even people who never had the joy of knowing her while she was here are deeply inspired by her photos and stories of her. She is the kind of person anyone would aspire to be like. People say there is no such thing as perfect. Haley was perfection itself. Just look at a picture of her and you will see.
The Haley Morris Foundation ❤
Imagine the trauma her mom, dad, and little brother live with every single day not just at the fact that Haley died but seeing it happen right in front of them, hearing her pleading in the night for help and there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it. My love goes out to them every single day. I never stop thinking of them.
I remember a year ago, shortly after Haley died, I found myself laying on a floor numb and paralyzed in fear, terror, horror, unable to move, thinking of her and her poor mom. I wondered how her mom was still breathing. The pain & fear in me was unlike anything I have ever known before and I had no idea what to do with it. I was already beginning to develop an anxiety condition and this tragedy triggered it to spiral quickly out of control. I am thankful to say today, it is gone. After six months, it disappeared on its own.
Haley’s family is very particular about what photos of her can be shared by others and which ones cannot be. When I share any on facebook with the share button, I ask for permission first. So I took a screencap of this picture above off her public memorial/awareness page, called Hearts for Haley. The picture does not belong to me at all. It’s just a screencap of a photo that is her family’s. And the other photo is a screencapture of a picture of her off of the foundation website.
Her family chose to rise above the tragedy and begin an organization to bring awareness to the disease that took her life to try to make it so it will never take another and bring devastation and ruin to another family. They could have chosen to crumble in their grief but instead they made the brave decision to stand back up and keep going and bring love to everyone they can. They took tragedy and devastation and used it as inspiration to bring more goodness and love to the world. Their strength, love for others, including complete strangers, and courage are deeply inspiring.
Haley has only been gone a year and that quickly her family developed a successful foundation called The Haley Morris Foundation, in her honor.
None of the photos of Haley are mine and I do not have permission to use any of her photos in any way at all. These are screencaptures off of her memorial page and website for the foundation her family, developed to honor her. And the photo of Diane is not mine. It’s one that showed up on my newsfeed after she died. And the ones of Gabriella are screencaps of her accounts. I also do not have permission to screencap any of these but I did to honor them.
I love Diane & Haley & Gaby and I’m so thankful they lived. I am honored to be able to say I knew two such women in person and one online, all beautiful, loving, kind. I have nothing but the deepest love for them.
Recently, I have been feeling a lack of friendship because in the last couple of years, my friends and me have drifted apart on their end, not mine. I wanted to keep the friendships going but they no longer care to be friends like we once were. I am very extroverted and crave socialization so losing friendships or lacking socialization for a while can trigger a depressive episode in me. It does not always but it does happen. In fact, that is the main trigger for me, social things or social isolation. As an adult, it’s not always easy to meet new friends. Usually I just accept that our friendships have been ending and am still generally happy but sometimes it really gets to me and loneliness sets in or worse, depression, which often is accompanied by loneliness. Sometimes I get angry with my friends for neglecting our friendships when I am putting in work trying to recover our lost friendship. I know it’s not their obligation to be my friends but that does not always prevent my anger or resentment towards them. Also, sometimes it tends to contribute to my self esteem greatly plummeting for a while (then getting better again later) to think they no longer care. This does not always happen, just flareups. But it’s not pleasant.
When my self esteem plummets thinking of them no longer caring, I will remember Haley’s self confidence and remember to be confident myself and I will remember her compassion for others and lavish my own compassion onto others and not dwell so much on my own sadness. And I will remember a girl who would sit with lonely people who had no friends and know if she were here right now, she would sit with me. And whenever I begin to have unkind thoughts about my friends for being how they are now or unkind thoughts about myself, triggered by others not caring, I will remember Diane telling me to not be unkind as a result of other people’s unkindness and to stay warm and caring no matter what and to never change because she loved me just how I am, and I will let my angry thoughts melt away. And when I begin to get depressed, wondering if my own life is worth living, I will remember Gabriella and her love for life that reminds me so much of my own love for life (depression can make me forget sometimes) and her zest and motivation to keep going no matter how bad things got for her and I will remember that that zest and love is in me too. And I will keep going. I will remember her philosophy to appreciate exactly what is. I have a Diane, a Haley, & a Gabriella who would be cheering me on if they were here and their love & wisdom surrounds me each day. They are all around me and within me. I carry them everywhere. Three beautiful women I have been lucky & blessed enough to cross paths with in this life.
I am thankful to have crossed paths with each of them. I try not to dwell on the tragic, traumatic circumstances of their unexpected(haley & diane) or agonizing (Gabriella) deaths and instead rejoice that they walked this Earth even if only briefly and that I got to know them when I did.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Haley & Diane & Gabriella for once existing and sharing that light & beauty with our world.
My heart just aches that they are gone but I am also filled with gratitude that they were here.
“You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on”❤
My love goes out to all who are grieving the loss of a friend, family member, pet, coworker…or just anyone who has touched your life in some way, however long or briefly, then vanished forever. Let’s remember to honor them and live how we know would make them happy and proud.
What would make them happy and proud? Acts of kindness, happiness, compassion for others and our own self, courage, strength…
I very much prefer for all sympathy, healing thoughts/prayers/meditations/vibes….go not to me but to Haley & Diane’s (and Gabriella’s) close family & friends. Even though I grieve for them, my grief is just a fraction of what their friends and family experience each day, who lived with them and/or knew them much better than I did. This post isn’t truly about grief; that is just part of it. And it’s not about my loss or sadness. It’s about love, honor, remembrance, gratitude, life. Everyone who is good and dies is worthy of being remembered in a positive light with love and gratitude instead of remembering more or focusing more on the tragedy. This is about the love & light Haley & Diane & Gabriella all brought to Earth on their brief journeys here.
Much love & light,