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Lost Cause: How to Overcome Losing Rachel

April 22, 2015 @ No Comments

This may be the first in a series of occasional ramblings about dealing with the loss of life, losing a loved one. Maybe some day I will return to what was once considered normal around here, complete with non-gratuitous photos and videos. That day is not today.


Funny how time flies. Or not funny in this case.

Rachel and Brad

Rachel and Brad

Today marks the three-week anniversary of my daughter Rachel’s death during what was supposed to be a fairly routine out-patient procedure.

It hurts to have typed the previous sentence. Just as it hurts every time I think of her, regardless of how happy the thought might have been. Because each thought, each marvelous memory ends the same: Rachel is not here.

I was picking up some items for toddler Tyler (Rachel’s and her husband Brad’s terrific tyke) at the grocery store the other night, and I saw a display of Duncan Hines icing on sale. It made me recall a time when I bought her several cans of icing – with the particular flavors specified by Rachel. That was then. Now I started to reach for a can of icing and realized there no longer is Rachel around to give it to.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last three weeks that I have had to come to that realization.

Three weeks. Twenty-one days.

For some, that is a long time. For some, that is a short time. For me, it is an eternity, an eternity of emptiness, of loss, of sorrow.

Tyler and Rachel

Tyler and Rachel

I realize my wife Sue and I are not the first parents to lose a child and will not be the last. That realization is of no consolation whatsoever.

The numbness that accompanied Rachel’s unexpected death remains. As does the void that her loss created. As does the heartache. Especially the heartache. It sits there like pieces of a broken dish. The heartache will go away when those ceramic pieces magically mend themselves. It’s not going to happen. That much I know. Not in the universe where we exist, that’s for certain.

What I don’t know is why such a tragedy had to occur. And, yes, in my world and the world of those who loved her so much, one person’s death does qualify as a tragedy.

What I do know is no answer – as if one would be forthcoming – will be satisfactory.

Because nothing short of Rachel’s return will be satisfactory.

To envision her “in a better place” is an exercise in imagination. To suppose she is looking after loved ones from an invisible existence in the after-life is comforting, even if it is a concept that does seem to defy rational thought. Then again, maybe our definition of “rational” and the after-life’s definition are vastly different.

In grief, we occasionally find relief by letting our wishing, our hoping, our imagining overwhelm our rational mind. In a battle against overwhelming loss and sorrow, such wishing and hoping and imagining become our weapons of choice. Because our choice is either to choose those weapons or drown in our own tears and grief. No, it’s not a fair fight.

But no one ever said life is fair. Because it’s not.

And neither is death.


A fund — appropriately named Rachel Loves Tyler Fund — has been set up for the benefit of the toddler whom Rachel and her husband Brad were in the process of adopting. The adoption still will occur, much to our relief. Persons who wish to donate to the fund may do so by sending a check to:

Rachel Loves Tyler Fund
c/o Ron Jackson Insurance Agency
814 S. Burdick St.
Kalamazoo MI 49001


On behalf of the Harris and Doxey families, thank you to everyone who has reached out to offer their condolences. Your cards and kind words mean the world to us at a time when our world has been changed so much. Thank you also to Mark and Jennifer Jackson at Ron Jackson Insurance. Your kindness no doubt was part of the reason why Rachel enjoyed working at your company so much.

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© 2018 Elliott Harris.