Sunday, December 29, 2013

happy birthday to me!

I missed you a lot today. You always made a big deal of my birthday. You drove 40 minutes to make it to my birthday, made sure I got what I wanted for dinner, and hugged me a lot.

You would have reminded me that they day was about ME.
Reminded me that everyone loved me, that's why they wanted to hang out with me.
You would have wolf-whistled at me so many times that I blushed.
You would have made sure we sang 'happy birthday' at church.
You would have yelled something ridiculous at some point today.
You would have given me that special smile that reminded me that I am super special to you.

I miss you. I miss the way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you always made it on the dance floor with me. You would have been with me ALL day long, from waking up to church to lunch to dinner to cleaning up.

I miss your face. Your voice. Your generosity and care for me. I miss holding your hand. Making faces at you from across the room.

And yet... I am grateful for memories of the day of our baptism. We baptized two little ones at church today, and as I remembered my own baptism... there you were in the memory. Holding my hand as we prayed, smiling at me as we all jumped in the pool after singing a couple songs. Your joy. Oh, your joy on that day.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


On a cold night Rachelle, Sarah and I went to the "Will you B here?" Show at UCLA's Royce Hall. We'd engaged all day with the epidemic of Hepatitis B, and learned how Asian Americans are more prone to contract the disease.

It'd been a hard day, but a great one. Rachelle had often come with me to Latino events, learned more about Mexican culture, and understood my love of everything Native American. That day, I spent learning about something that was incredibly important to her. We'd been through displays, awareness videos... more than anything, I was glad to be spending so much time with her.

We scored tickets to the culmination of the campaign, where lots of Asian American artists brought their talents of dancing, singing, and musicality to the stage. We were delighted by the likes of Joseph Vincent, Clara Chung, Quest Crew, and others. It was a night when I knew I was experiencing something amazing.

At the end of the night, we were walking toward the dorms. I'd mentioned to Rachelle how much I love Hok from Quest Crew... without missing a beat she said, "Then let's wait out here for him!" She had this look in her eye, letting me know we weren't going anywhere until Hok came out. She also knew how much Sarah loved Clara Chung, so it just made sense to stay.

We stayed by the back door of Royce, waiting in the cold, and giggling as we made eye contact with each other. We were really those girls waiting outside the building for these artists we were slightly fond of. 

Rachelle asked the security guard if he knew of Quest's whereabouts. He let us know they were packing up their stuff and were making their way out. As soon as Hok made it to the back door Rachelle yells, "HOK TOKONOSHI! MY FRIEND SOL THINKS YOU'RE AMAZING, AND WANTS TO HUG YOU!"

Uhh....thanks, Rachelle! I was embarrassed but still smiling like a fool. It was really Hok! I introduced myself like the starstruck fool I was, and he leaned in and gave me a hug! AAHHH. I then asked if we could take a photo. He graciously accepted. 

There's no way around it, I miss this girl. She inspired me to live my dreams, to stay in a strategic location to meet folks I love and am slightly intimidated by. She made a dream come true by being her crazy, stubborn Rachelle self.

And for that, I am grateful.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Again and Again.

Someone shared with me that a family member was recently hospitalized for self-injury and was put on suicide watch. They shared how they were upset that family hadn't told her earlier what was happening so she could at least pray.

My heart broke. It's so hard to hear about the grief, anxiety, and deep sadness that falls on us all when we learn of someone who is struggling so deeply.

I am grateful for the loss of Rachelle. Since losing her, I feel a deeper sense of compassion both for those who need love, compassion and friendship... as well as those who love them and are struggling to offer the best they can, often not knowing how to help.

I am grateful for a heart that has been broken, and that will break again and again as I continue to love.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


I'm learning trauma doesn't just go away. I've had two friends who I have felt seriously concerned for: one who struggled with self-injury, and the other who ultimately committed suicide.

I recently had a friend who got really sick, and needed to be hospitalized. The family asked for privacy regarding the whole thing. As I didn't have the details, my heart jumped into my throat, and I began to panic. I began to talk myself through it...
What happened?
I can't believe I didn't know.
Are they okay?
No, they're not okay.
Did the family say what happened?

My brain was racing. A mile a minute, and I couldn't stop the impending grief, panic and deep fear. I wanted to respect the privacy, as well as call on the phone and demand answers.

I realized that I relived Rachelle's death in so many ways that night. I relived someone telling me, learning the few facts there were, and then needing to be patient and wait to see what had happened.

Thankfully, this friend is fine and continues to heal. My wounds, however, are more and more subtle than I believe. Lord, have deep mercy and grace in letting me recognize you in the middle of the continued trauma and grief.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beauty and the Beast

Sometimes when I'm on Facebook, I see Rachelle's name out of the corner of my eye and then I hunt for where her name actually is.

Tonight it was because she liked "Beauty and the Beast". Haha.

I imagined us singing "Belle's Song" at the top of our lungs. And yelling warnings to Belle regarding Gaston.

I don't think we ever talked about Beauty and the Beast, and how it was our favorite. Thankfully, I have a bunch of other random/silly/ridiculous memories of that girl.

Like photobombing this really cute photo...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Some days I find myself asking the question, "Why?". Sunday, I sat in the front pew of our church with the bread and juice, my heart silently pleading... why? Sunday service tends to touch a tender place in my heart regarding grief. The place where I come to know and understand Jesus, and be with a community I love.

To this day, I find it hard to sing the latter part of the Doxology. The words get caught in my throat, and tears quickly form in my eyes. I become a hot mess. I think of my friend, Evelyn, who lost her little sister, Christiana, a few years ago. I remember sitting with her at a conference years ago, as she realized that Christiana was in heaven declaring God's holiness in heaven. I didn't understand the deep significance of it at the time.

I sing the Doxology with tears streaming down my face, my voice cracking pretty badly... yet I choose to work through the awkward and painful to declare God's goodness that Rachelle is singing and worshipping Jesus.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye Heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Opening Up.

The last week of July that quickly bled into August was when I found myself in San Francisco. The week before SF, I found myself groaning while speaking with my best friend over the phone. I was slightly dreading going to San Francisco and investing in that place. In previous mission trips, I'd fallen deeply in love with Fresno and St. Louis. I mean, when you choose to raise money to go to a place, and to see the places people avoid and choose to open your eyes and heart to see the beauty there...well, you're kind of a goner.

I dreaded going to San Francisco, and falling in love with The City. I dreaded opening myself up to another city when I didn't know the longevity of my stay or impact. However, with six high schoolers, it's difficult to not be excited when visiting the City and what adventures we might find ourselves in. I braced myself for a difficult yet joyous week, committing that I'd never wanted to visit a city where I wouldn't be present to its realities.

Not surprisingly, I met some great families, communities, and had my heart stolen by a 6 year-old named, Bailey. Within the first 24 hours, I was cursing my soft heart that is so ready to love people, and empathize with their lives. It hurt to love someone so much in the span of a couple hours and have to say goodbye.

I've sometimes wondered about cutting off meeting new people and making new friends in light of Rachelle's death. It was easy loving Rachelle, but it's been one of the most miserable parts of my existence to lose her.

I seriously think about it for a bit, and let myself grieve deeply for what I've lost. Good friends are hard to find and keep, never mind losing them. Under any circumstances. I breathe deep, reminding myself that life is to be fought for, that people and friendship and love are to be fought for. It's not about me, it's about us and how we learn about God, hope, and joy... through each other.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Rain.

A week ago, I was seriously complaining about the heat. It was hot since 8 am, and it was humid to boot. It was not pretty. I spent the day drinking horchata, eating Vietnamese sandwiches, and hopping from business to business that offered appropriate air conditioning. It was stupid hot.

As I went about the day, I ran into my friends Isaak and Chris. And their beautiful baby, Ayla. [She is so beautiful, I literally gasped.] As I was catching up with them, Isaak mentioned she heard on the news that it was going to rain later that day. I gave her the 'what news were you watching?' face... it felt too hot to rain. And in the middle of August? Get real, people.

I continued to spend the day enjoying air conditioning, lots of water...and the regular routine mentioned above. I counted the hours until the day was over (I started work at 9am, and was very much waiting for 7:30pm). My best friend texted me asking how I was doing regarding Rachelle. I said fine, I'd thought of her some, and the knot in my stomach eased and went away. Why? Was it an anniversary that I'd forgotten? The funeral? I shrugged it off, needing to get back to work.

As my co-worker and I were walking back to the office to wrap up the day, I looked up to the sky and realized it was really dark. Rain sort of dark. I smiled a bit, and shook my head. I guess I was wrong to be so incredulous about Isaak's earlier comment.

We wrapped up our paperwork, and as soon as I stepped outside I asked, "Is it raining?!" I'd suddenly found myself in a state of anticipation about it raining in August. And then, I smelled it. That beautiful smell of wet cement/rain that we all associate with, well, rain. I ended up gleefully stepping outside, and beginning my trek home.

It was sprinkling. I was initially disappointed, but as it started raining harder and harder, I found myself smiling, and pretty soon, laughing! This joy just bubbled from my soul and out of my mouth... when else would it rain this hard? In the middle of the summer?

I walked home thinking of Rachelle. How she'd start running through the rain, how she'd tell me some epic story we could tell as we got home pretty much soaked to the skin with August rain. I thought of how she'd be the one who'd wordlessly reach for my hand, knowing that this was a special moment in the summer, but a moment that was a fluke we'd shared to begin with.

After getting home and cleaning myself up, I wound down for the night by checking Facebook. There it was: Rachelle's birthday. The guilt hit first. I'd missed her birthday.

And yet, after offering myself grace for not remembering, I thought of how amazing it was to be caught in a rainstorm in the summer. It would only happen on Rachelle's birthday, after all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures."
-Amazing Grace

Friday, August 9, 2013


I heard this song on Sunday, on my way to church. And for some reason, the song has stuck with me since then with a couple other songs.

"Try" by P!nk is one of my favorite songs by her, and regarding Rachelle, I keep coming back to the line:
"Just because it burns doesn't mean you're going to die, you gotta get up and try..."

It's true. The pain of losing Rachelle burns and hurts and is scarring, but it doesn't mean I'm going to die.
It means it's another opportunity to get up and try living another day.

Seriously, this video is AMAZING. Rachelle would have loved this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Very Few.

Bryce asked me for a 'Sol Story' last night. I found that words clung in my throat. I wouldn't be able to tell a story without crying. Words are far and few when I feel a lot of emotion deeply. A year ago, I had a hard time speaking, often wanting to be alone to let words flow on pen and paper instead of using my voice. I couldn't speak. The first words out of my mouth were in a song, and that's when I knew I'd make it through.

This year is no different. Sunday was particularly difficult. I wanted to stay in bed and sleep, letting the day pass in a slight coma. I asked a friend to join me for church, to give me a reason to not bum myself out. To help remind me that as unfair as it seems, the world goes on. There's beauty in that.

Church was good. I was greeted by folks I love, and I prepared to help with communion. I felt numb, sad, and a slight pulling sensation to run away. (Don't worry, I didn't.)

However, it struck me that part of what I was asked to recite during communion was this:

And with our loved ones,
Separate from us now,
Who in this mystery are still close to us,
We join in the song of your unending nearness.

As we took communion, as I partook of the bread...I began to cry. I've been struggling for so long between knowing and understanding God's goodness with that of the frustration, anger, and doubt as I lost a dear friend. And yet, as I leaned into this remembrance of Jesus, I felt my heart choosing to hope and trust in Jesus through the heartbreak of grief.

And as my words were those to glorify God, who some days I blame with the loss of Rachelle, I mustered up enough courage to continue to seek his face.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


A year ago today, I got a call from my best friend. Rachelle was gone. It was a day when I truly thought my heart would break into a million pieces. And yet, miraculously, I began to smile and laugh a bit that day too.

She is one of my greatest friends. She could read me like a book, understood and embraced my love language of touch, and knew the way to my heart: good food, laughter, and some dancing.

I choose to remember her today. As I walk around with a huge lump in my throat, and some tears threaten to fall, and others definitely do... I randomly laugh and smile at the unexpected, silly, and precious moments we had together.

I love you, Rachelle-y.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

God and Suicide

Ever since Rachelle's suicide, I've found myself deeply connecting to the passages of the Bible dealing with death and the power of death. I've found myself gripped by songs we've sung in church regarding death and loss, and rejoicing all the more when speaking about Jesus' resurrection. Death has a whole new meaning and depth on the other side of losing a beloved friend.

Chris, my friend, and Senior Pastor of University Presbyterian Church (UPC), has also experienced first-hand the loss of a dear friend to suicide. He has done some work on his blog speaking of his experience with God in this tender place. I just sobbed my way through this sermon that he gave just three days after his friend's suicide. I am grateful for his vulnerability, and his pastoral care as he preaches. You may find his sermon here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Creeping Up.

I am ridiculously aware that in a couple weeks is the anniversary of Rachelle's suicide.

I am terrified.

I've already had a few days of not handling her death well, and I'm fearful of what will happen as the anniversary creeps closer and closer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fourth of July.

The Fourth of July holds a special implication for me when it comes to Rachelle. It was the last night I saw her. I was at my best friend's house, and I'd asked Rachelle to come.  And to bring my guy best friend. She did.

It was my first time grilling! I made burgers, and we ate in a happy chattering of food and conversation and soda and new memories and connections being made. We talked about Rachelle's upcoming mission trip to Honduras, where she'd fallen in love with the children and the complication of entering someone else's world.

At the end of the night, I walked her and my guy best friend out the door. I gave each of them a hug and told them I loved them. I hugged Rachelle extra tightly and told her "I love you" and we did what we always did, held our hands in a hand hug.

Rachelle told me to go inside, so I did. Before I shut the door, I looked back one more time and waved, with the happiest smile on my face.

And I'm mad.

I'm sad because I miss her so much.
I'm mad because she made a decision that makes me miss her this much.
And I'm grieved because I'm mad at her.

It's a complicated and emotional sort of day. I try to shake it off, and let myself just feel sad... and then I realize that it's fair to let myself feel whatever the hell I'm feeling. And 'cause I feel awful, I can only say it one way. I feel like shit. I feel like a horrible friend for being pissed at her, in the way that it sits in my gut. And how talking about it creates a knot in my throat, and makes me want to cry.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

LCC water bottle.

I've recently started using my LCC water bottle. It's from the Lapu the Coyote that Cares Theatre Company at UCLA. You can visit their website here. Rachelle was greatly invested in this company, and a lot of her skills and talents were showcased within this company, her writing, her acting, her improv skills, and sometimes her dancing.

I got the water bottle at the last show I saw Rachelle in, it's blue and has the LCC logo, and I thought I'd support artists who'd been so incredibly loving to Rachelle. It was also slightly spontaneous...what can I say? I like markers of good days.

And now, although it's still not my favorite water bottle, it's the one I use. This is mainly because I lost my awesome orange one, and I need to drink water. It's summer in Fresno...

But I've had people ask me about it. If I know that the LCC logo looks similar to the Turkish flag, they ask if I did theater... on Thursday, I had to explain where I got it, that it was in support of a friend. The last thing I remember saying was, "She was incredible, so I supported her."

I doubt anyone realized that I said 'was' or that I was referring to someone who is dead. But the sentence, that word stayed in my mouth. Was.

It's getting easier to use the past tense when talking about Rachelle. Not because I've forgotten or am letting her go, but because the memories I have of her are in the past. I don't have any future ones to look forward to just yet.

I hold onto my LCC water bottle, and think of her often. Twirling in that skirt that she didn't want to be wearing in that last musical number, or wearing all that make-up... but hey, she looked cute.

Friends couldn't resist photo-bombing this moment.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Go back!"

One of the last times I saw Rachelle was at Gushi. It was right around this time, folks were graduating, celebratory meals were being had, and I'd recently come back from a conference where I had kind of an awkward DTR (defining the relationship conversation).

I was with The Twin, and Earl. Earl and I had had a great reunion hug. A long one. We knew Rachelle was going to be a little late, so we ordered. And then we started eating without her. As time went on, we wondered what was taking so long...

She eventually arrived, in her car! She'd been feeling kind of sick, and she decided to drive. From there, hilarity ensued. We played various songs, "Call Me Maybe" one of which was "I Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele, my favorite was the chipmunk version. But nothing could be compared to watching Rachelle slap Earl across the face as the phrase, 'as I touch your face' in Adele's song. Hilarious!

The next was, as we watched graduates walking back to the apartments or dorms, Earl saying he'd like to approach them, saying: "Do you know hunger? No? Go back!!!" The Twin and I laughed 'cause we'd been in tight financial situations after graduation. Rachelle laughed 'cause, let's face it, it's pretty funny.

We ended the night full, with our leftovers in Rachelle's fridge. Lucky duck. I went to my friend's place content and happy. As times with Rachelle usually were.

Monday, June 10, 2013

That Day.

My very best friend, Earl, called me with the news that day. I answered, joyful that he'd called, but also wondering why he'd done so (we're more of a texting sort). As soon as I said a chipper 'hello' and heard his hesitation, I knew something was wrong. I waited.

As he told me that Rachelle was dead, it was physically hard to breathe. My mind was racing, 
 What does he mean?
 Is he sure it's Rachelle? 
Are they sure there's absolutely nothing that can be done?

About 15 seconds after that, it began to sink in. Earl wouldn't tell me this without being absolutely sure. My voice began to shake as I told Earl "I love you" among other words that don't matter. Words I don't remember. Words that attempted to fill the space between us, and share the grief. The pain. 

I thank God I wasn't alone. I was with my dear friend, Mariah. We prayed. I prayed for Rachelle's family, for her friends, for me. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it off the couch. It felt as though I was in a really bad dream and need to wake up. Yet I saw Mariah across from me, her eyes lovingly holding mine, and her hand clutching mine. I was not alone.

And then the greatest thing happened: I envisioned Rachelle with an awesome haircut (think short mohawk) dancing her crazy way with Jesus. She was laughing, smiling, and having a ball. I laughed and uttered a sentence that would soothe my soul ever since, "She's dancing with Jesus."

I couldn't help but be a little jealous.


Pretty much anytime I say, "Get it!" I think of Rachelle. Often, it's because I get looks from folks who don't understand why I'm saying it, and I sorely miss her.

Rachelle would often say it while watching folks play basketball, while cheering someone on to take the shot, or dominate as they block. Other times was when someone was doing something epic or stupid. Or stupidly epic, like one-biting a brownie or pulling a prank on someone.

My favorite instances of hearing Rachelle yell "GET IT, GET IT" were when Rachelle would yell this at a couple. Particularly a shy couple. They'd be talking, or getting close to show some PDA (public display of affection), only to have Rachelle fully put them on blast and embarrass them by shouting, "GET IT!"

I'm smiling as I type this, 'cause Rachelle was such an instigator. If I were to mention any of my brushes with dating, I'd be hearing, "GET IT!"

It's Time.

It's been ten months since Rachelle decided to take her own life. There are still a lot of questions, lack of answers, and emotion that choose to make their own entrance every now and again... but I thought it was time to create space to share the memories and love.

Rachelle was one of my greatest friends. The one who made sure I knew just how much she loved me, and who knew just how much I loved her. She was the one who was not at all shy to yell across a room (or a quad, or a semi-quiet building) to make sure you knew she saw you. She made you feel special like that.

Rachelle knew how to tug at my heart strings. She knew I was a sucker for good food, music, and dance. And, you know it, she made it a point to do some (or all!) of those things with me when we hung out. Great food, strumming some guitar, and awkward dance moves always made for a party with Rachelle.

I loved her then, I love her now, and I miss her more than I can ever put into words. Thanks for sharing her memory with me through this blog.

More to come.