A story two long years in the making. Well…longer than. It is hard to say where I should start. I think I should start with how I met her. I had just moved to Westminster, a suburb of Denver, Colorado. I had big dreams of a degree and a pretty awful but awfully cheap apartment. As cheap as it was I couldn’t afford it. I was working at the Westminster mall making a whopping $7.25 an hr and the hours were few. I was intimidated about the city, I come from a small mountain town, the mall seemed like a safe place to work. But the reality was, I wasn’t able to eat. After sitting on the floor dividing up the days portion of a small bag of trail mix, between 2 days…. I decided to take a risk. There was a bar between my apartment and the mall, I always noted how packed it was. I have been a server for a long time, how much different could a bar be? After a short meeting with the owner, I had a full set of shifts. Several months later I was a bartender and dating one of the bouncers. How life changes… The bouncers (all slightly under 6 foot and not one under 300lb) turned out to be good friends from a long time past. Hanging out with them I heard many stories from years back. And one woman’s name kept coming up. Shantelle. Obviously insecure at this time in my life, I was interested to meet this “Shantelle” and measure her up!
Have you ever had a picture of something in your head, really built it up in all the details? Then when you came to the thing/situation/person/or “Shantelle” you discovered that you were exactly wrong?? Happened to me too. My long awaited meeting left me a bit sheepish. Shantelle, turns out, is beloved by the guys because she is just like one of the guys! Like a bouncer with long blond hair bright blue eyes and a wicked smart smile.
Instantly I was drawn to her, her confidence and strong presence told me, if I go to battle- I want her on my team!
Several years later, I met her first child Caydence. I stood with her on her wedding day when she said I do, in a dress made to fit 2. Her boy Landon came a shortly after. Strong and healthy! However Shantelle started to feel sicker and sicker by the day. It wasn’t until she went to the Dr for a check up that they realized the issue.
During the operation to remove London a cancerous tumor on Shantelle’s ovary was cut into. The damage went unnoticed and the fluid was left to settle within the cavity of Shantelle’s belly. Now, many of her organs were covered in tumors.
A two year struggle began. Remission was sweet while it lasted, but the second time was worse. I got a call that I should come down for a visit. I had about 700$ in my savings. I took the 3 hour trip down from the mountains, to Denver in silence.
Almost 2 weeks in hospice took all the bouncer out of her. But I did get her back for one night… I had a slumber party with her! We laughed, recounted jokes and told stories. We listened to music and I handed her card after card for her to sign, “congratulations grad”, “Caydence’s first baby”, “Landon’s wedding day”. . .
The hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I stayed with her children while the family stood by her side. Almost 11:00pm Landon burst out crying in his room, my heart sank a few moments later when my phone rang. Hospice came and took the medical equipment out of the dining room. I stood looking, blankly, at the empty space for almost an hour. Then I set the dining table back up and tried to make it look just as I remembered.
When I got back up the mountain I found a place where I couldn’t see any one for miles. I calmly pulled to the side of the road, exited my vehicle, and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
I screamed mad. I screamed sad.
And in the silence after there was God.
In a series of fortunately unfortunate events I had to rely on her little sister Nikki to drive me to the airport when I left last November for Malawi.
Nikki gave me a small jar of Shantelle’s ashes to take with me. “Replace it with sand where ever you place her and bring it back to me.”, Nikki said. I have been staring at it for 6 months. Then I knew what to do.
I spent a whole day planting a prayer garden on my property in Nkhata Bay, Malawi. I made a special place and now I share it with my buddy.
2 years. Wow. The world misses you.