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“I have great reverence and understanding that everyone’s grief journey is deeply individual.”

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By Kyle Vanes

“Kyle, you are my everything and you have made my life worth living. I will continue to help you write your poetry and I know you will be successful.”

Heather Marie Allman's final words were spoken as I held her hand, desperately trying to find strength in a paralyzing moment. These words, spoken with the honest heart of love, have left an indelible mark on my life and my soul.

Heather walked through the door and into my life on a July 4th evening. On that particular day my world began to shift in the most unexpected, yet rewarding of ways. I thank God often for allowing me to recognize Heather for exactly who she was, and not for the circumstance that wrapped her body and her daily life.

I came to find out that Heather was not only living with stage-four breast cancer, but both her mom and dad had passed away unexpectedly during this time in her life. Throughout all of life's uncertainties and its harrowing circumstances, Heather lived with an unrivaled passion and gratitude for every breath she was gifted. Becoming aware of these life events and how she faced them, only strengthened my love and admiration for her.

Losing Heather at such a young age has undoubtedly been the most trying and traumatic experience of my life. I understand the emptiness, the sorrows and the cold and often lonely road we are forced to walk when we lose the most important person in our lives. I also understand walking this unpredictable and exhausting road with an open heart, can help us find a deeper sense of purpose, develop the desired breath of patience, while allowing the opportunity to express gratitude for moments that may have previously been judged as insignificant.

Bearing witness to a beautifully lived life, I made a vow to myself and to Heather to do everything in my power to proceed in a way that will make her proud, while shining my light through even the darkest of hollows.

Option B will never be my Option A, but I have found Option B to be a precious gift of self-discovery, personal growth and spiritual enlightenment.

Early on in our relationship, I presented Heather with a creative writing adventure. It was my hope that through this artistic expression, Heather would find the inspiring light to tell her story of love, compassion and resilience.

Much to my surprise, during this writing exchange, Heather helped unearth my ability to write poetry. It was the beginning of what I now recognize as our co-destiny.

For months after Heather passed I had little inspiration to do much of anything. But, as time continued to crawl, I started to find moments of inspiration, they were fleeting, but they appeared. Eventually, playing music, surfing and writing poetry became the outlets I used to dump a significant amount of raw emotion.

One evening last June, while in New York, a set of surreal events sequentially fell like dominoes. After randomly running into a friend in the middle of Times Square (who also held a deep connection to Heather) I began to hear and feel an inspiration I had never felt.

Walking around the city that evening I wrote a poem called “Still the Love”. It felt as if Heather was talking to me or through me, reminding me or anyone who has ever lost deeply, that even though our loved ones are physically gone, and the pain cuts unbearably deep, the shared love is the one constant that will always remain.

The next morning I felt compelled to send this poem to my bandmate Drew. Drew, who is a successful songwriter, read the words, ran to the piano and "Still the Love" was born.

"Still the Love", got the attention of Jerry Streeter, a Grammy Nominated Producer (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile). Jerry was deeply touched by what he heard and he invited us to Bear Creek Studio to record our debut album. While at Bear Creek, Jerry suggest we name the album "Marie" (Heather's middle name) as he stated none of this would have happened if it weren’t for Heather.

The music and our band, The Dales, didn't exist when Heather was alive. They only lived only as child like dreams, but now here we sit with a life-inspired album named after my soul mate Heather Marie Allman. We have been afforded the opportunity to work with one of today’s great music producers, “Still the Love” and subsequently the music of “Marie” grabbed the ear of a major management company and this Saturday, April 15th we are playing to a sold out crowd of over 1,000 people.

The universe may take away the physical presence of the ones we hold so dearly, but joy can be found again. Joy may look and feel different, but it still has the ability to radiate through out the soul.

I have great reverence and understanding that everyone’s grief journey is deeply individual. I have also come to understand that time doesn’t necessarily heal anything, but I believe love and compassion have the ability to heal everything.

I spoke the following words at Heather’s Celebration of Life…

"So Heather Marie Rest in Peace. Rest in peace where love and happiness flow easily and endlessly. Rest in Peace where pain and anguish are impossible outcomes. Rest in Peace knowing I will carry the torch of your essence and every breath that I breathe will be for you, and every step that I take will be with you"

These words have never lost their meaning, and I can say with great confidence that they never will. 

Grief & Loss Bouncing forward Building resilience Finding joy Finding meaning Journaling Loss of partner Supporting others
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