Early this season, we had some local high schoolers competing in the Chelsey Henkenius track meet. I had never heard of the meet before, and being the curious type, had to Google. Turned out the South Central Calhoun meet had been given a new name.
It's the kind of honor they give old coaches, or people who give a crapload of money to a school.
Not this time though, I found, as I dug a little deeper.
I found the sheriff's report detailing how Chelsey Henkenius, was killed in a crash south of Lake City on a Saturday morning, two days after Christmas, 2014.
Her passenger, Andrew Lauver, 24, was injured but survived.
The obit says Chelsea was a biology major who graduated in college in just three years. She had been a standout track athlete at SCC and at Wartburg. That just gives you the bones behind a name, though. To find its heart, you'd have to stumble on a blog post by the aforementioned Andrew:
Waking up the day after Christmas 2014, I looked the love of my life, Chelsey Marie Henkenius in the eyes. We laughed, smiled, and talked about what we were going to do with the day God had given us, surrounded by the loving parents, siblings, and friends we are so blessed with. At 24 and 22, we had the world by the tail, daydreaming about what life had in store for us each day.
I did not know this would be the last day I would tell her how much I loved her. For if I did, I would've held on without letting go, cherishing every second we had in hopes time would simply stop..."
Andrew had a cashier's check in his pocket. He was going to buy Chelsey an engagement ring at the start of the week, and surprise her with it on Valntine's Day. The bank cashiers had been so excited when he told them why he was withdrawing his savings. They had a future planned. She would coach track, he would be a 4H leader. They would raise four typical farm kids. It was not to be.
Regaining consciousness in a hospital bed following our auto-accident, the chaplain holding my hand, I was informed Chelsey had gone to Heaven to become an angel. Immediately one starts grasping for answers to questions you may never find an answer to until you arrive at Heaven's gate, while on earth, your world is turned upside down. You see, no one tells you how to deal with something so unexpected. You begin asking yourself what to do, where to go, but there are no answers...
Chelsey left this quote for us before she went to Heaven and I hold it on my heart everyday, "God doesn't give you the people you want, he gives you the people you need. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you, and to make you the person you were meant to be."
In the days after tragedy, there are many people surrounding you, holding you, hugging, and loving you. Some say, "I don't know what to say" or "I can't find the words." To you, I say, "It doesn't matter. You're here, and that's all that matters."
As Chelsey once said, "Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who LOVE YOU no matter what."
When dealing with loss, there comes a point when everyone returns to their "normal lives" and you must define what your "new normal" is. It is during that time period in which I write this, and each day continues to be different, as I feel as though I'm aboard a canoe in an ocean. There is no "right way" to deal with grief, but there are ways to channel your energy to focus on the positives. The months after experiencing loss continue to be a critical time when people who "hold you" become most important. It's your persistent messages, prayers, thoughts and simply asking "How are you really doing?" that means the most during this time.
In summary, when you have the opportunity to comfort those who have lost a loved one, do. Don't hesitate, even if you hardly know them. When you think you have a message typed, or card written, but just aren't sure if what you're saying is right, send it anyway. When you've prepared food, but it might not be just perfect, deliver it anyway. When you have those stories and thoughts to share of the loved one lost, tell them. Your thoughts, prayers, stories, and generosity will be felt beyond what you may believe.
He closes a blog post with,
"I love you to the moon and back Chelsey Marie Henkenius, and I am so blessed have been part of your life :). Thank you for living life to the fullest and setting an example for the rest of us!"
You might have noticed a strange name for a track meet. Now you know, there's a love story, and a message of healing, behind it.