DHS Classmates

Kelsey Nalepa Remembered Through Her Dad’s Loving Eyes

April 12, 2017
  • ​The question I’ve been asked most frequently since last Thursday night is “how is Marcus?”  Every time I’ve had to answer that I didn’t know.  We’ve exchanged some texts, but I saw him and spoke to him for the first time last night at the viewing.  He spoke onstage about the conversations he was having with Kelsey in his head.  Marcus said he was focused on doing things just right for his daughter, Kelsey.   It was as though the whole time he was speaking not only for her but to her.
  • Marcus was gracious about and maybe astonished at the public response to his family’s loss.  The response was exactly what you’d expect if you’ve been following social media.  The outpouring of support and compassion has been powerful and uncontrollable.  For those of you who donated, he expressed humility and gratitude.
  • Marcus referred to Kelsey throughout as a “bright light”.  If you’d ever met her, you know how spot on that was.
  • A few anecdotes he shared...
    • Kellen, Marcus’ son, was apparently a perfect baby.  After his birth, Marcus and Nicole discussed having four or five children.  After Kelsey, they decided…we’re good.  
    • She was the one who challenged Marcus and Nicole as parents to become an even better team.  You could tell Marcus loved this about her spirit.
    • He imitated how she would stand in the crib and demand to be doing something other than just playing by herself in the crib.
    • Marcus talked about Kelsey knowing what she did and didn’t want.  Kelsey wasn’t interested in riding a bicycle and never learned, in spite of him volunteering to help her.  He was baffled but he respected that she clearly was hearing the beat of her own personal drummer.  She instead chose to ride her big wheel which, in his words, was “way past its prime”.​
    • Marcus relished the “good cop” role he played with Kelsey.  He regretted not recording some of her stories.​  I got the sense that maybe he had thought about it well before the accident, as he sensed that she would soon be old enough that she wouldn’t be nearly so free in what she shared with her Dad.
  • Marcus glowingly described Kelsey as “stubborn, stubborn, stubborn” and strong willed. He talked about her negotiation skills.  Even though I had never witnessed these skills in full force, I knew what he was really saying.  Kelsey had been just like her Daddy in those respects.
  • He called her the smartest member of his family.  He spoke with deep, heartfelt regret about his curiosity and desire to see her mix of brains, strong will, and incandescent personality brought to the world, to learn what she might have become.  Marcus isn’t an exaggerator.  He is very matter of fact.  So when he spoke that her absence would be felt by not just her family, friends, and community, but also the world, that registered with me.
  • Marcus asked everyone in the room to raise their hands if they thought that Kelsey was their  best friend.  A number of hands shot up.  I thought his point was that she, again, was like Marcus, who had a half-dozen to a dozen people at any point that would claim him as best friend, myself included.  His point ended up being that her brother, Kellen, was her best friend.
  • He spoke gently about Kellen’s troubled dreams at night the past two days of time traveling back in time to change the course of events and to save his sister.
  • Marcus’ tone changed from loving reflection to resolute leadership as he asked the congregation to support Kellen in the weeks, months, and years ahead.  The sweetness of his dreams of time travel bely the grief and trauma he’s experiencing.  Kellen has lost not only his sister, but also his best friend.  This message from Marcus was the one that most broke my heart as I began to process what he was calling us to do and why.
  • I’m sorry I don’t have more on Nicole.  I hugged her and muttered, “I’m sorry”.  It’s all I could muster.  I can tell you this.  Marcus talked about arriving home for the first time after leaving the hospital following Kelsey’s death.  He said to Nicole: “I don’t think I can live here anymore”.  She responded that she couldn’t live anywhere else.  Kelsey and her memories were still alive in the house.  Marcus, when he heard Nicole, understood and agreed.  I thought to myself…follow her, Marcus.
  • He spoke of the vision he and Nicole had for their house and backyard as the place where all the kids hung out.  Their intent was to build a pool.  That plan would go on for Kellen’s sake, but it visibly hurt him that he wouldn’t get to watch Kelsey and her friends live out that vision that he’s had since he was young.  This was one of only two times where Marcus appeared to struggle to maintain his composure.  You could feel and hear his sense of loss and pain.
  • Marcus kissed Kelsey’s forehead in the casket, then turned and led the congregation in a touching and spontaneous round of This Little Light of Mine”.  It’s the song he keeps repeating to himself in his head to remind him of his daughter, to put a smile on his face, and to get him through the day.
  • For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s an old African-American spiritual.  You can listen here to an extended version of which I am I fond: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=92MC91NU

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