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The Sting of Death


I was sitting in class Thursday night when I learned that my dear friend Ellen died.

I was shocked.

She and I had just exchanged texts about grabbing coffee together.
More specifically, she asked if she could treat me to an iced caramel latte because that’s so who Ellen is – she remembers the details, your preferences, and wants to bless you in that small but meaningful way.

And now she is gone.

I left class early and sobbed my entire drive home.
I screamed at the universe.

How could this beautiful soul already be gone from Earth?


It doesn’t matter how many times you experience the death of loved ones… it always stings.

Yes, they’re in a better place, but it doesn’t take away the very real void they leave behind.

  • Their laughter
  • Their conversations
  • Their presence
  • Their uniqueness
  • Their work, both professional and volunteer

There is a very real absence when a loved one dies.
And it takes time to adjust to the silence, the loss, the void. 


Ellen was someone who was quiet and didn’t draw much attention to herself.
She would be easy to miss in a crowd because she never sought to be the center of attention.
She always just wanted to be the best supporter/friend she could be.

And for those of us who knew her, we regularly experienced her presence leaving an indelible mark.

She was quiet, but she always showed up for me.

  • When I organized neighborhood get togethers, she would be there
  • When I wanted her to live closer to us, she moved here (what an amazing friend, right?!)
  • When I came out as queer, she messaged me and told me how much she loved me
  • When I left the church, she reached out to me and supported me
  • When I organized benefits and announced shows for Uprising Theatre Company, she would be there
  • When I had speaking events, she would try to come to every one
  • When I had Trades of Hope parties, she would buy products as often as she could

Very quietly. Very privately. And all on her own.

At times I would think, What did I do to deserve her?
What made her love me so? 
What did she see in me that she would keep showing up for me?


So it broke my heart to know that she had died all by herself in her apartment on Wednesday.

Oh, how I wish I could have been there for her!
How I wish I could have held her in those last moments.

To stroke her hair and let her know that she’s going to be okay.
That we love her, we’re with her, and will be with her to the end.

To have been there as she took her last breath.

But I wasn’t there. No one was. And that has shattered my heart into a million pieces. 

We’re still waiting for the results of her autopsy but it looks like whatever sickness she had in the days leading up to her death was the culprit in taking her from us.

A stupid sickness.


Your brother called me on Friday, Ellen.
To tell me of your passing.

And he called me from your phone.

I missed the call because I was in class, but when I later checked my phone and saw your name show up on my missed call list, my heart skipped a beat.

For a split second I thought you were here. That you were alive.

But it was your brother, gracious and generous enough to call me personally when he didn’t have to.

And I knew that was the last time I was ever going to see your name and number show up on my phone.

I took a screenshot because I never wanted to forget this moment.
This last connection I had with you.

So I’m posting it here to forever remember you.
How I wish this wasn’t the last time I would see your name on my phone.


Oh, Ellen, I am so sorry we weren’t there with you.
I’m sorry your life was cut so short.
I’m sorry for the pain you experienced in the days and moments leading to your final breath.
I’m sorry we can’t grab coffee one more time.

And while I’m sure you’re in a better place and looking down on us, we still can’t help but miss you immensely.

You were a light to this Earth.
You were love to those around you.
And we couldn’t be more grateful for you.

Thank you for loving us so well.
Thank you for bravely facing this world.
Thank you for being you.

We are all the richer for it, and we will remember you for the rest of our lives.

May you rest in peace.
May you and your father celebrate being together once again.
And may you feel all our love in the days to come.

We will remember you, celebrate you, and cherish our memories with you.

We love you.

[Featured Image: miro polca]


  1. Sabrina on April 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    My heart breaks after reading this. Ellen was a dear friend of mine.
    That is so like Ellen to want to treat you to coffee. As a matter of fact she texted me last week to get together because she had a gift card and she wanted to treat me to dinner. Sweet Ellen!
    How does life work now that Ellen isn’t in it? The loss is unbearable.

    • Nikole on April 16, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      Aw that is so special! And yes, that sounds just like her. And exactly – how does life work without her? Such a heartbreaking but real question. <3 So much love to you.

  2. Carlene Ulacia on April 16, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Wow! I’m so sorry Nikole. How you can write so eloquently, expressing your heart and love so beautifully.. this is a rare gift.

    • Nikole on April 17, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Thank you Carlene! I so appreciate you. <3 <3 <3

  3. Lyn on April 17, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Nikole, such beautiful words for a beautiful woman.

    • Nikole on April 17, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you, Lyn. <3

  4. AnD on April 17, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    So, so sad… Sorry for your (& so many others’) deep loss… She sounds fantastic

    • Nikole on April 23, 2018 at 11:19 pm

      Thank you Andrea <3 <3 <3

  5. Sarah Naranjo on April 17, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    This is so so so so utterly beautiful. And painful to read. Thank you for writing it. Absolutely perfect.

    • Nikole on April 23, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you so much, Sarah. <3

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