by Ed Rosensteel − May 29, 2021
It has been almost two years ago since we lost Moe and her friend Brendan. Some days it seems like I am there in that moment, lost, still trying to find answers; and other days, it seems distant when you realize time stops for no one and how much she has missed. The whole pandemic was here and gone and she has been gone longer. I hear people saying that they cannot stand being locked up in their house. I would have given anything to have been stuck at home and have her home with us while she should have been online for school, watching Netflix, shopping for toilet paper and cases of water. Another family vacation come and gone, but not the same without her.
Dad Can Fix It
Ever since Keli, Moe and Clayton were small, it was always, “Don’t worry, dad can fix it.” I may not have been able to fix the exact problem, but I could come up with something that would make it all better. That is part of being a dad. I always would tell them, “Relax; we can fix it. It will be okay.”
I can remember that day. Getting a concerned phone call from Keli and then my wife Shelley. Deciding I better get out there and see what is going on. I could see on her phone the last spot she was at: Mammoth Park. I tried texting her, calling her, using our walkie talkie app on the phone to call to her. Nothing. I called 911 as I was leaving to say I think my daughter might have been injured at Mammoth Park. I called a good friend who could get me some answers while I was driving. I remember getting the call back suggesting, “Why don’t we meet over by Westmoreland Mall?” I got a feeling like I never had before, a feeling that it is out of my hands.
I got to the park and explained who I was and what I am concerned about. They had me park in a spot away from everything. I am by myself, waiting to hear where she is. What can I do? How can I fix it?! Not long after arriving, a gentleman came to me and explained to me, I cannot fix this. It was too late. Everyone tried their best, but they are both gone. I asked to go back and see her, I wanted to hold her and be with her. I wanted to say goodbye to my baby girl. Tell her I love her, but I could not.
I remember making the phone calls I needed to make. I was numb and lost. I could not explain it. I could not fix it.
My wife arrived and two of our friends arrived. I don’t remember a lot after that, outside of a few things. One was watching the vehicle drive by that had my daughter in it. No more than 10-15 yards in front of me and I cannot see her. Helpless is not even the word to describe it. The other was standing at the edge of the lake. The skies had cleared, the lake was calm and two swans were just floating along, and it was quiet. There was not a noise to be heard. We had to drive home and see our kids and explain what happened, which we really did not know. We just would repeat what the coroner would say.
The next several days would be an absolute blur. We had things to take care of that I never would have imagined I would be doing for my daughter. I am trying to console a family, a grieving mother, be strong for my children Keli and Clayton. I am not. I am lost. I am asked to make decisions I cannot make. I am still trying to understand why Moe is gone. Keli did so much for her sister. Something a 20-year-old girl should not have to deal with. She took charge for her parents, for her family and for her sister. She kept me going because I did not want to let her down. With all this busy work to make things right, you lose track of time and you lose what day it is. You rely on each other and friends to keep you aware of everything.
The service at the church was where we would speak. Keli, Clayton and myself. Listening to my children speak about their love for their sister, the sister who is gone, and to be eloquent in what they said and how they said it. I was really taken back in how strong in that moment they were. They stood and spoke for their sister and their friend.
The Grief Monster
The grief you feel in all of this is different. The initial shock of everything, dealing with the loss of your child. You are numb and a zombie. People are in your house, calling you, texting you, emailing you. Everyone wants to hug you and tell you they are sorry for your loss. I know people felt sorrow for my family, but I hated to hear the word “sorry.” I heard it so many times and I knew there is not much you can say other than “sorry.” But “sorry” just kept telling me Moe was gone.
The grief in the beginning just felt like, every time you looked up, it would hit you in the face, punch you in the gut and leave you laying there crying. Grief was a bully in the beginning. It constantly was in your face. It was playing with your mind. It held you down and kept you there. Sitting in my home or at work, I would cry for long periods of time. I could not stop. I would try and get through it.
As time has gone on, grief has changed how it gets you now. There are days it is on your back as soon as you wake up. Those were usually the days I had dreams about Moe. I would dream she was with me. I could hold her but I was going to lose her and I knew it. I could not stop it from happening. I would wake up crying hard, trying to compose myself just to get out of bed, even with grief anchored on my back. The days I did not wake up crying or grief hanging on me, grief would find me in the shoe department of Dick’s Sporting Goods, sending me out the store crying; in the aisle of a grocery store because I saw a bag of Swedish Fish and I would lose it. Grief would sing to me through the radio, playing songs that reminded me of Moe. Grief is in my everyday life.
One of the last dreams I had of Moe where I was holding her and I was going to lose her, she was going to be married. I was getting ready to give her away. I don’t remember giving her to anyone, but I remember how beautiful she was in her dress. I woke up crying, but I remember the smile on her face. I decided at that point that, if this was true life and I was going to give her away, I would be crying but happy for her and sad she was not my little girl anymore. I can deal with grief, hopefully.
I can neither escape grief nor avoid it. It still is waiting for me in many ways. What I did decide was that, if I feel, hear or see grief, I will take it head-on. I will cry and feel sad. I will get it out of my system and think of a happy moment that was, maybe, part of why I am crying, or find another moment to overtake what is making me sad.
Grief is a monster; it is a whole that cannot be filled. It is many things in many shapes and will always find its way to the surface. I feel I just found a way to deal with it, work around it and push it aside. Now, some days, the grief monster just kicks my ass. I am angry at everything; I want to scream at the top of lungs. I want to fight, but there is nothing to punch, slam or kick. The objects that would get hit have led to a broken hand and finger, cuts, scrapes and emptiness. The fighting against something that is not there is not healthy. So dealing with grief and getting through the moment is what I decided is best, at least for now.
When I am not dealing with the grief, I am dealing with anxiety. I worry about my wife and my children. I know some times are hard for them, but I don’t always know when those are. I can anticipate some moments, but I am not always with them. And, unless they tell me or I see it on them, I don’t know. I find sometimes that I am afraid for them because I know I can’t stop the feelings they are having. But like I stated before, I want to fix things. I just hope that they can talk to me when they are having their moments. To lean on me and let me carry their burden for them a little bit. Scream towards the sky when they are angry, so I can scream with them.
I started Moe Mondays right after everything had happened. I wanted to share Moe with the world and let everyone see who she was. Her beautiful life, smile and personality. How she shared her life with so many of her family and friends. We built a website to tell her story. How she became Moe, what made her unique in her own special way.
Purple Pics for Moe on her birthday is a touching day for us. Seeing so many friends, family, soccer teams and players wear their purple and share their smiles with us. The day can be overwhelming, but there are smiles during the day.
When you see me, I know I might not show the grief, anger, depression or the anxiety sitting under the surface. I am a person who wants others to be happy. I want to make them laugh and smile, say “Hello” and wave. But that is the image that I want them to see. I want people to be comfortable with me and around me.
I know I have to do better and not be distracted throughout the days and I am getting better with it. I work on it almost every day. Finding the way to do it changes each day because the challenges are different each day with each moment that hits me emotionally.
I started to realize the phrase, “It’s okay to not be okay.” I am willing to accept that I am not ok some days. I will not accept to live there. I don’t want to lose other parts of my life with my family and friends. I want to be able to share these moments, share stories of Moe and have both parts of these lives live in chorus. When I get to this part of my life, I hope others are ready to be there with me. But I can’t expect everyone to be with me.
There is a line from a movie that resonated with me: “The nature of all tragedies. The hero dies, and the story lives on forever.”
It is my job to tell Moe’s story, put life into what is gone. To share what she meant to people. Even in a short-lived life, the impact she made on so many.
The story of Moe lives on forever, because she is my hero.
Kaitlyn “Moe” Rosensteel was a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, family and friend. Someone we all gravitated to. We gravitated to her because she cared, smiled and made you laugh with her quick sarcastic wit. The ideas were always rolling in her head about way things should look, what new type of shoes she was going to get or where were we going next.