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Red: A Story of Loss + Hope


By Lucy Keoni

I thought about you the other day. Its been years since you crossed my mind. We stopped to help a young girl who had been left alone, faced down on the grass in Dolores Park. She was obviously rolling hard. Another bystander had stopped seconds before us and tried to flip her over. Her eyes were glazed over. A blank stare. Makeup smeared. There was streaks of blood on her face and fingers. Bright red. The blood was from her nose. We stayed with her, comforting her with words and touch until the medics came. As we walked away, I remembered the blood. I remembered red…

Red. It used to be my favorite color. The color of passion, of fire, of power, of love, of beauty, of grace. But in this very moment as I stare in disbelief, the color red brings death. The death of this anticipated life growing inside me, the death of all the dreams of having unconditional love to give and have, the death of being the mother I knew I could be, the death of this marriage.

I sit in disbelief. My pants dripping with blood. This can’t be happening. Why would God rip the life out of me so cruelly? I look in the mirror only to see the reflection of a ghost. She looks oddly like me. Long black hair, smooth tan skin, tears flowing from her almond eyes, but no life left within in her. She must have died the cruelest death.

Where is your God now?

I was going to name her Isabel. She would have my eyes and smile with Daddy’s nose because I’ve always thought my nose was too wide. Her curly locks against her caramel skin would keep people guessing what her heritage was. Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, French, Chinese and who knows what else since I never met my dad. What a beauty. Her giant doe eyes would melt our hearts and, of course, she would be Daddy’s little girl.

But in an instant, Isabel’s smile fades. And so did I. So did he. So did we.

Isabel, your death ended up breathing new life into my world. When you left my body, it magnified the hole that was already in my heart- that empty feeling that was so deeply ingrained in me when my mother attempted to end my life before it even started- just a pea in her pod. Starting as small as a dime, that hole slowly grew. With every hurtful word, the hole grew larger and larger. I tried everything I could to make her happy, to make her love me, and to take away the pain. No child should ever know that world. I lived to please. If only I did this or that, then she will love me. I was never good enough.

When I was 17, I met your father. I set aside my dreams of traveling the world. I wanted to be loved and accepted by this “Heavenly Father” that his church touted. I allowed the church to tell me what to believe and what to do. I lost my voice. I lost me. Over the years, I became a shadow of who I once was. If only I did this or that, then God will love me.

I was never good enough.

It was the same in my professional pursuits. I bought into the idea that if I sold my soul to the Man, I could buy my happiness. If only I did this or that, then the world will love me. I was never good enough. By 23, I had 3 homes, cars, money, a “perfect” marriage, and anything one could ask for. I had become the youngest individual to be named to Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40 list. I was a success. So naturally since I had it all, it was time to bring you into the world.

As briefly as you were with us, your impact has been monumental, even to this day. When I lost you, I began to question my way of living. What was I doing this all for? Am I happy? I started to peel back the layers of all the shit I hid behind. It was a long arduous process. And I got sucked back in many times along the way and encountered countless bumps along the road. We lost 4 more of your siblings over the years. Later we found out it was related to my undiagnosed Celiac Disease. And that Celiac Disease…that kicked my ass. It was THE BIG wake up call. It left me in pain and bed-ridden for months, unable to work. I had days and nights of questioning everything. If I died tomorrow, would I regret how I was living? Who am I really? What would I change? What would make me happy?

What would I be willing to give up for that happiness? What was I afraid of?

Oh shit was I petrified. But you know what Bella? You gave me the courage I needed to choose me, to choose happiness.

And I never looked back. Over the years, I have seen the most beautiful sights across the world, rode on the back of motorcycles in dangerous terrains, jumped out of planes, surfed waves that many men can only wish for, held orphans in my arms, swam in a waterfall in Thailand, played with a spare tire with the children of the Karen longneck tribe because that was the only toy they had, helped to start a healing center, supported humanitarian efforts, danced under the moon for 4 nights with hundreds of women, studied with wisdom keepers, taken risks, I’ve loved and been hurt, and made many, many mistakes along the way. Am I happy? I sure as hell I am. I live life now asking, “Will I regret not doing that?” With your help, I found the love of my life- M E . I discovered that I didn’t need to do anything to make anyone love me.

I just had to love and accept myself in all my perfect imperfections. No one could ever love me like I do. I am happy, whole, complete.

I also realized that I could never truly love anyone else until I loved myself. Until I became secure with who I am and what I stand for. Up until this point, I would just project my fears into these relationships. Not to say I am perfect though. I have my ups and downs. The hole has shrank back down to a dime but its still there. I don’t notice it very often anymore though.

Today started like any other. After getting ready, I put the final touches on my face. The red lipstick calls out to me. Red. It used to be my favorite color. The color of passion, of fire, of power, of love, of beauty, of grace. Red lipstick always makes me feel powerful. I need it. There is a lot going on in my mind and heart. There are these moments when something or someone pushes that certain button and the pain unleashes like a dam breaking. An inconsolable pain that nothing and no one can alleviate. All I can do is feel into it. I cry until I can’t cry anymore. I draw or write or dance. I do whatever it takes to take care of me and give myself permission to tell everyone indirectly to fuck off because I am done taking care of their needs right now. I’m done with the lack of reciprocity in this post-modern world. I get angry. I get angry at your Grandma, your Grandpa, the church, the people who have let me down, and all the men who have hurt me. I finally get selfish and shut the world out until I can feel all the pain in its entirety and let go. I’ve learned that if I don’t, it just gets bottled up and becomes toxic. It would bleed into all my interactions, my relationships, and my way of being.

I’m at lunch now and despite having amazing women around me, I’m not here- I’m lost somewhere between my thoughts and the flood of feelings. I’m barely able to tread and keep my head above water. And then it hits me. That is exactly what I need. I need to be in the water. To paddle against the forces of Mother Nature as her cold waves wash away the tears and heartache. I need to allow the crashing of the waves to drown out the voices in my head. So that’s what I do. For hours. I’m thinking a lot about death. Your death. Your siblings. My own near death experiences- in the womb, that one car accident when I was 15, that other time on the plane on the way to NYC, on December 21, 2012, and then in June 2013. The most recent one was the one time that I didn’t think I would survive. Who the hell goes through these things that many times? And then there were all the mini deaths. The ones that happened with each heart break or disappointment.

Lost. Lost in my head and then I pearl. I fight against the wave. I’m spinning out of control and exhausted. Then I am so depleted that I finally let the wave toss me to and fro. It was a big lesson. The ocean is teaching me about life. I can’t control what is happening and the more I fight against the waves the more tired I get without making any progress. The only way I could find my way up and out is by going with it, staying calm, grabbing my leash, and following it to my board where I can get to air and above the water. Its teaching me about gratitude- to really put everything into perspective and be grateful to be alive in that very moment.

Then I decide to drive. I drive with loud music pumping through the winding roads of Highway 1. The beat stirring something primal in me. I want to let out an ancient and collective cry for all women.

I don’t know where I am going but I end up at Twin Peaks. There I stand. No thoughts. No emotions. Just being present to the sun setting. The day is coming to an end. I know that after I get some much needed rest, a new day would begin. I give myself permission to be with whatever came up. If I didn’t want to give a fuck and just do me, it’s totally ok. I don’t need to feel guilty. The sun kisses the horizon and I see your face, smiling at me, Bella. In that moment, I know that everything was ok. I don’t know what lies ahead of me. But everything will work out exactly as it should.

It always does. It always will.

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