I have written, edited, deleted and re-written this post no more than four or five times over these past few days- each time feeling like the words I tried to use to convey the significance of such a loss to the world and describe such an incredible, beautiful person were never good enough. I would go back and revisit over a decade of friendship and a sisterly bond and remember things I wanted to add- funny or touching anecdotes and stories and memories- but never know where to place them in what was an already lengthy and emotionally-charged tribute that I couldn’t believe I was writing in the first place.
It wasn’t until this past weekend, when I had an opportunity to sit down by myself- listen to the music we loved and sang along to together, look through years’ worth of photos and recent messages- that I decided to just start from the beginning and let the words flow freely and unapologetically.
I met Kelsey in Las Vegas ten years ago. It was a planned meeting- by her- unbeknownst to me. We had a shared love of the band The Killers- and from that we had mutual friends who ran in the same social circles and some who worked together on the Killers touring crew at the time. Kelsey and I had interacted before meeting face-to-face- mostly on social media when one of our mutuals would post something. We’d be in the comments, have brief correspondence- laugh at or like each other’s tweets- so on and so forth.
She had apparently heard I would be present for a Brandon Flowers show at the House of Blues back when he was beginning to promote his first solo record, “Flamingo.” She asked our mutual friends if they could arrange an introduction between us and they thankfully agreed. I remember when I saw her for the first time. I was standing by the sound booth at the House of Blues, talking to my friend Steven- when she walked into the area. She saw me, ran over- and gave me a hug. I’m a lot taller than Kelsey was, and I had to lean down to hug her back. I remember thinking she was beautiful and her makeup looked perfect. I immediately wanted her to teach me how to do my own like hers.
Within a half hour, Kelsey and I had abandoned the House of Blues and our mutual friends- escaping to her car arm-in-arm so she could take me to In-N-Out Burger for the very first time (and she taught me about their secret menu and wanted to know how good I thought everything tasted) and run some errands for the crew that took us all over the Vegas strip. We knew basics about each other- who the other was dating at the time, what they did for work, etc. but the more we drove and the more we talked it felt like we had known each other for our entire lives. There was an immediate connection.
When some people look back on friendships, they’ll pick a particular moment or event that made them realize that the person was the real deal and someone they could depend on. For me? That moment was the moment Kelsey and I met. I knew it was the beginning of something really special- and I was right.
That night Kelsey and I sat on the side of the stage and watched Brandon Flowers perform. When he started to sing a song that neither one of us liked too much- we would catch each other out of the corner of our eyes and start laughing. At an after-party- she shielded me from people who she perceived to be threatening or overbearing or whom she knew had wanted to start petty, drunken trouble. I remember thinking of how funny it was that someone so petite would be my bodyguard.
I was leaving for home two days later, so Kelsey made sure that my last full day in Vegas was a good one. She picked me up at the hotel I was staying in and we spent the whole day together. She gave me a tour of the side of Vegas she liked best- secret spots, places to eat, attractions, etc. I had mentioned that I would love to live there someday after I’d finished college and she didn’t hesitate at all to suggest I move in with her. She was so loving and so eager to give and to help others. I joked with her. “What if I’m a psychopath?” to which she replied- “we can be psychopaths together.”
After that trip, Kelsey and I stayed in constant contact. We texted each other or interacted on social media almost every day- memes or gossip or advice when the other was going through a hard time. I’d always make a point to stop by Vegas when I was heading out West- typically to Southern California- so we could see each other, hang out. grab a drink, etc. She was a rock when my father passed away. I tried to be an anchor when she went through a difficult breakup. Whenever one of our favorite bands would release a single or an album- we knew the other was listening to it on a constant loop and we’d spend so much time talking about our favorite songs, favorite lyrics, whether or not the band were still attractive- which always resulted in hilarity.
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when Kelsey married the love of her life, Andrew. Their wedding was my first time meeting him and I liked him right away. At the reception, when Kelsey found me and sat next to me- I remember her asking me what I thought. “He’s a good one,” I told her. “You two are perfect together,” and she seemed so happy to hear it. Later on, when Andrew stopped by to talk- I gave him a faux-stern lecture. “You better take care of her, and treat her right,” I warned him- half jokingly. Deep down I knew he would. They were a perfect fit who complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses in such a way that you could tell just by looking at them that they were made for each other.
I flew back to Vegas after Kelsey had lost her first daughter, Harlow. I remember being in awe of her courage and her strength as she told me what had happened with the pregnancy and what had gone wrong. The grief was there- it was in her eyes- but she remained optimistic and determined. She wanted to try again. She had a maternal instinct in her that I had first seen the night we met- and I knew she’d make a fantastic mother when the time was right.
And I finally got to see her in Mommy Mode once Haven was born. From then on, whenever I was in Nevada- our girl duo became a girl trio. We brought Haven with us wherever we could- shopping, dinner and long drives through the desert to California to visit Kelsey’s family in San Diego. I told Kelsey that her fiery little redhead reminded me so much of her- not just in looks- but in personality. How someone so tiny could have such a big soul continued to fascinate me. I watched them together and saw just how much love they had for one another. Kelsey was a committed, doting mother and Haven could sense just how loved and protected she was.
Andrew, bless him- never seemed to mind that whenever Kelsey and I were together- we would essentially take Haven and leave him behind. He didn’t seem to mind that Kelsey and I referred to each other as “wife” constantly. One night, when we were all at dinner- Kelsey again suggested I move in with her and her family to be closer to them while I got acclimated in Vegas. She knew how much I loved her, and she saw how much I adored Haven. I thought for sure Andrew would put his foot down- but instead he began talking about helping me find a good job out there. I remember feeling like I was part of their family too- and it felt really good.
If there’s one story I can tell that truly highlights the type of selfless, protective, incredible person Kelsey was- it would be the time her and I had driven to San Diego with Haven for what was going to be an extended weekend. I have friends in San Diego, as well as a guy I was interested in at the time- and I had made plans with them and him to give Kelsey an opportunity to spend some time with her family. By day three of five in California- everything that could have gone wrong on my end did. I was miserable, and when Kelsey found out that my own plans had fallen through- she called me to find out where I was.
An hour later, she showed up- Haven and their bags buckled into the back seat. “Let’s just get out of here and go back to Vegas and get some food at Peppermill,” she told me. I felt awful, thinking that she had cut her own plans short for me but she told me not to worry about it- that she was craving Peppermill anyway. She drove us six hours through the desert- giving me a pep talk the entire drive about how I deserved better, how any man with common sense would be thrilled to have me, and she played me some Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga to make me feel empowered again.
She did all of that for me. She remained my protector.
The last time Kelsey and I saw each other was the week of Mother’s Day in 2019. Her and I were going to take Haven to San Diego to stay with Kelsey’s mother while Kelsey and I went to a concert together. It was during this visit that she told me she was pregnant again. At the time, she was experiencing symptoms unlike anything she had encountered with her pregnancies with Harlow and Haven. I remember driving with her, and she was talking about awful morning sickness and her skin breaking out. I suggested it was a boy. When Kelsey asked me why I thought that, I replied “only a male would cause this much grief for a woman.”
A few weeks later, long after I’d returned to my job on the East Coast- she texted me in all capital letters: “YOU WERE RIGHT.” Archer was born a few months later.
Leading up to now, Kelsey and I had made short and long-term plans. I was going to come out this month to visit her, Andrew and Haven- and meet Archer for the first time. She knew Troy had moved away at the beginning of February- leaving me devastated- and that my lease would be up in May. We finally began talking- really talking seriously- about me moving out to Nevada to be closer. While I was looking at apartments and sending her listings to gauge her thoughts- she would keep telling me “just move in with us,” and I finally agreed.
I spoke to Kelsey the morning of her surgical procedure for her heart. She was nervous, as everyone was- but I assured her she’d be okay and that I’d see her soon. The last thing I said to her was that I loved her.
She didn’t make it through the procedure.
This past week has been grueling- both for myself and for anyone who was fortunate enough to know Kelsey. Throughout her far-too-short stay here- she touched so many lives. Everyone who met her loved her: her kindness, her quick wit, her intelligence, her sense of self and her ability to make you feel safe and loved whenever she was around. To be in her presence was like having a lightness around you. She was fun. She was funny. She was bold and brave- and she was helpful and compassionate. She had the best laugh I’ll miss hearing and the prettiest smile I’ll miss seeing.
I’ll miss listening to the same song on a continuous loop with her. I’ll miss brunch dates with her at Peppermill. I’ll miss binge-watching “Queer Eye” and entire true crime documentaries on Netflix on her couch with her. I’ll miss our drives through the desert, our trips to Sephora, our late night talks and super sarcastic tweets.
And although there’s some comfort to be found that she is reunited with Harlow, and her sister, and her cousin- all who were dear to her and who passed before her- I would much prefer to have her here with her husband, with Haven and Archer, with her parents and in-laws- and with all of us who were privileged enough to call her a friend.
I was blessed to have Kelsey in my life for as long as I did. I’m thankful every single day for her. I’m grateful I got to experience a friendship that was so full of love and laughter, of silliness and growth. She changed my life and me for the better and I can only hope that anyone reading this has a friendship like that in their own lives.
If you have someone in your life that you care about- please make sure you tell them how much they mean to you and do it as often as you can- because you just never know when you may never see them again.
While I await confirmation of arrangements and make necessary travel plans to say goodbye and be close to her family and other friends at this time- I am going to attempt to continue posting as normal and try to regain some semblance of routine again. Kelsey knew, as many do- that I tend to throw myself into my work while I process grief. To be able to have some control over something- anything- gives me some relief. As does writing this.
I love you, Kelsey. I hope I get to see you again someday.