Julian’s girlfriend Khloe Elizabeth Retelle | b. 6.30.2010 – d.7.1.2011

Last week was a week of great loss and sadness.  Julian’s girlfriend Khloe Elizabeth Retelle passed away unexpectedly on July 1.

We knew Khloe from the Morning Traveler’s playgroup, a group of families who have experiences with Down syndrome.  We come together once a month on a Saturday in Andover , Mass. to play, share stories, talk, catch up and just have a good time.

Khloe’s mom Ayla had her when she was relatively young – in her early 20s.  She knew about Khloe’s diagnosis prenatally.  She knew having Khloe meant a whole new world for her and Brian, and she jumped right in.  She supported the Buddy Walk and numerous other activities in the Down syndrome community.

She religiously attended Morning Traveler’s playgroup and quickly stole everyone’s hearts.  When I met Ayla and Khloe at group, they were the most beautiful girls I had ever seen, so I was naturally drawn to them.   Khloe is only 25 days younger than Julian, and  Khloe soon became Julian’s little girlfriend.  Here is a video of them together at playgroup:

Julian liked to touch Khloe and bug her. She would quickly bat his hand and then usually wiggle away somewhere because she was a mover and a shaker.

With her fabulous bows and different outfits that her mom lovingly picked out for her, she just shone with beauty.  Ayla and I quickly became facebook friends, and although we didn’t hang out outside of playgroup, we kept up with each other’s lives and chatted on facebook and responded to each other’s posts and such. I would eagerly await to see photos of Khloe in my news stream.  Each day she would be wearing a different outfit and have yet another cute grin on her face.

One of the lastest posts, just before her first birthday was of her standing up against the couch in a cute little black and white dress.  She was getting to be such a big girl!



Last week it truly hit home how much Ayla and Khloe mean to me.  I have been struggling to understand why this has happened, and have been deeply grieving Khloe’s loss of her precious life.

I wasn’t able to attend Khloe’s wake because of travel complications coming back from my grandfather’s funeral in Indiana.  I wish I could have seen her and touched her one last time.  I told Ayla right after Khloe passed that I want to just hold her again. I can feel her little tiny body still in my arms.  Ayla responded “me too.”  When I think about what Ayla and her family must be going through – to lose a baby and then have to try to somehow move on with your life, it is unthinkable.  It breaks my heart. I can only imagine how they must be feeling right now.

While I was in Indiana spending time with my family celebrating the life of my grandpa who passed away at 96, I was having a really tough time because all I could think about was Khloe.  I would cry in the middle of the night.  My friend Melanie (who also has a daughter Gracie with Down syndrome who is 3.5 years old) called me to see how I was doing.  She and I both cried together.  We have lost someone dear to our hearts, someone who had such promise and such a loving family.

On Wednesday night the 6th, I returned from Indiana and the very next day was Khloe’s funeral.  As I was driving up there, Julian was crying harder than he has cried in a long time. He almost never cries.  ”I know, sweetie, I know,”  I said to him.

We arrived and I was so happy to see Melanie. It was the most beautiful day. The sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky.  Khloe’s ceremony was in a beauitful stone church in the middle of West Parish Garden Cemetary in Andover, Mass.

As Melanie and I walked in together,  it was packed and at first we had to sit separately.  I desperately wanted her close to me.  Thankfully it turned out that some people shuffled around and we could be next to each other.

I sat there, trying to breathe. Taking in the sights of the many, many people crowded into the church, the blue and red and yellow lights shimmering through the stained glass, the dark wooden pews and the mood within the room – which I would describe as sadness but also a level of brightness to the room, because Ayla had requested that everyone wear pink or purple to Khloe’s funeral.  She knew her baby wouldn’t want it any other way.

The ceremony began.  I lost it as I saw Ayla, Brian and family come in holding the tiny white final resting place for Khloe.  Again, I tried to take deep breaths in and out.  Melanie and I held hands and took turns handing each other tissues.  To start the ceremony, Ayla and Brian chose to play their favorite song that would help put Khloe to sleep.  This was very emotional.  You could almost feel Khloe’s presence in the church as everyone listened and remembered.

Never Grow Up lyrics
Songwriter: Swift, Taylor

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it’s so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter ’cause you’re dreaming
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light

To you, everything’s funny
You got nothing to regret
I’d give all I have, honey
If you could stay like that

Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
It could stay this simple

I won’t let nobody hurt you
Won’t let no one break your heart
No, no one will desert you
Just try to never grow up, never grow up

You’re in the car on the way to the movies
And you’re mortified your mom’s dropping you off
At 14, there’s just so much you can’t do
And you can’t wait to move out someday and call your own shots

But don’t make her drop you off around the block
Remember that she’s getting older, too
And don’t lose the way that you dance around
In your PJs getting ready for school

Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
It could stay this simple

No one’s ever burned you
Nothing’s ever left you scarred
And even though you want to
Just try to never grow up

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room
Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home
Remember the footsteps, remember the words said
And all your little brother’s favorite songs

I just realized everything I have
Is someday gonna be gone

So here I am in my new apartment
In a big city, they just dropped me off
It’s so much colder than I thought it would be
So I tuck myself in and turn my night light on

Wish I’d never grown up
I wish I’d never grown up

Oh, I don’t wanna grow up, wish I’d never grown up
Could still be little
Oh, I don’t wanna grow up, wish I’d never grown up
It could still be simple

Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
It could stay this simple

Won’t let nobody hurt you
Won’t let no one break your heart
And even through to you want to
Please try to never grow up

Don’t you ever grow up
(Never grow up)
Just never grow up

*********************
Morning Travelers has a group on Facebook and Melanie put together a gorgeous summary of the funeral:

Khloe’s funeral was extremely sad and, at the same time, quite beautiful. The pastor was amazing. The service was held in a beautiful little garden chapel on the cemetery grounds. The pastor asked people to get up and share something about Ayla, Brian and Khloe with the rest of the group. Gretchen Mather got up (with Julian) and tearfully explained how much she loves Khloe and Ayla and how much optimism and love they shared with her and Julian. Ayla gasped audibly when she saw Julian and asked if she could please hold him. As she held him Ayla introduced Julian to the crowd as Khloe’s boyfriend (which had everyone laughing through their tears). I got up and shared what our community means to us; how Down syndrome is a diagnosis but it is our children that have shown us how to appreciate the beauty in the world. I our amazing support network and how every human being is dealing with some issue – babies are born and people die, it’s life. But, with love, we all have each other.

The Pastor said we all have disabilities and that Khloe’s were just more visible to others. He asked us if we believed we were bodies with souls or souls with bodies. Then he talked about restraint and how Khloe hated to be restrained – in her car seat or getting her diaper changed. He said it helped him to think that maybe Khloe’s body was too much of a restraint for the big and beautiful soul she is. He talked about celebrating life – all life. Then he had Ayla and Brian get up and turn around to look around the room. He asked them to look into all of our eyes and know the love and support they have around them. It was quite beautiful. The love in that room was amazing.

He ended the ceremony with this prayer: “We thank you for grace in times of joy and in times of struggle.”

He also asked that friends and family take the time to email or call Ayla and Brian over the next few days to share with them some memory they have of Khloe.

♥ to all of you and thank you for being there not just every third Saturday of the month but always.

********

After the funeral, everyone in the church walked along a winding road underneath the overhanging trees, stepping between the shadows of light and dark.   I noticed the colors on everyone’s dresses as we were walking.  Ayla was wearing a summery white dress with pink and yellow on it.  She and Brian held each other tight.  We arrived to Khloe’s final resting place.  I noticed the sign “Angel’s Corner.” It was a little alcove perfect to hold Khloe tight.

After the pastor said his final words, we all went up and placed a single pink flower onto Khloe’s eternal crib – I think they were all carnations, but perhaps a few other types of flowers too. All I know is that they were long stemmed and perfect for the occasion.  There was a tiny little bench that Ayla and Brian sat on.  Then Brian got up and let Ayla have some moments with Khloe, surrounded by the love from all of those who loved and will forever love Khloe.   I remember walking back to the church, and looking back at Ayla lying next to Khloe.  It was hard to walk away, but I knew Ayla needed those moments together with her daughter. And that the celebration of Khloe’s life that Ayla had planned afterwards would be truly that – a beautiful day to remember Khloe.

Ayla said that she wants to continue to come to Morning Traveler’s playgroup, and I can’t wait to continue to keep her within our arms, holding her and Khloe tight, just like a mother holds her child.

Below I have posted a few memories that everyone in the Morning Traveler’s group has of Khloe:

Khloe was a beam of sunshine and almost never missed a playgroup. Last month she was sitting up on her own! Mom Ayla is a great mom, and jumped right into playgroup with her gentle and kind ways. This year they did the Children’s Hospital NStar Walk. They have many Morning Traveler friends.  - Sharon Randall

We have not stopped thinking about Khloe and her family since we heard of her being called to heaven. We are constantly sending our prayers to her family, and feel this loss deeply as a part of this special community. – Karen Burtnett

I came across this poem and wanted to share:”The death of a baby is like a stone cast into the stillness of a quiet pool;the concentric ripples of despair sweep out in all directions,affecting many, many people.”  (De Frain, 1991) – Kathy Healy Norton

Ayla, Liam and I only met you and Khloe one time at MT, but I remember what a sweet and beautiful little girl she was and thinking how blessed she was to have such a caring and loving mommy. Hugs from us to you,  Kelly Schultz

Khloe and Ayla have been such a positive addition to our group. I know that I couldn’t get enough of that cute little face. We’ve all feared the loss of our kids and are always there if you need to talk. Love always. – Kerry Hennessey Gendron

I don’t get to playgroup nearly as often as I would like but I was lucky enough to meet Ayla and Khloe at the Sweetheart Dance. Khloe was so beautiful and sweet and Ayla was so bubbly and easy to talk to that I felt very happy and blessed to have spent the afternoon with them. – Barbara Knight Didona

I wish I had a chance to meet Khloe, Natalie and I have planned to go to playgroup this month, sending lots of love from Michelle & Natalie. “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more elequently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love. ”
(Washington Irving) – Michelle Langlois

We met Ayla and Khloe for the first time at the Sweetheart Dance back in March. I was in the back room taking portraits of families. Ayla and Khloe came in to have their picture taken and I couldn’t get over the smile and eyes on Khloe. What a beauty. Afterwards my wife and I commented to each other about how beautiful that little baby girl was. Her smile is something I will always remember. I only got a few pictures of them, but her beautiful little smile shows up in all its glory. -Kyle Gendron

My daughter Meggie *loves* babies!! Every month, she makes her way through playgroup and asks to hold each baby. Most moms and dads are reluctant (with good reason) to hand their infant over to a 5-year-old. At the Sweetheart Dance in March Meggie spotted Khloe, made a bee-line for her, and asked to hold her. Ayla generously let Meggie “hold” 9-month-old Khloe and we took a picture. You can see Ayla in the sidelines, doing most of the holding while Meggie gently embraces Khloe. Meggie was overjoyed and bragged to everyone for days that she got to hold “a real baby in a party dress.”Meggie keeps a copy of this picture in her photo album. We often have the album with us and Meggie loves to flip through the pages and tell stories about the people pictured. When she comes to the photo of Khloe, she gently kisses the photo and says, “I love baby Khloe.” It always melts my heart.  -Kathy Healy Norton

We met Ayla and Khloe for the first time at the Sweetheart Dance back in March. I was in the back room taking portraits of families. Ayla and Khloe came in to have their picture taken and I couldn’t get over the smile and eyes on Khloe. What a beauty. Afterwards my wife and I commented to each other about how beautiful that little baby girl was. Her smile is something I will always remember. I only got a few pictures of them, but her beautiful little smile shows up in all its glory. -Kyle Gendron

My angel Khloe, why did you have to leave us? I miss you and love you. The last time I saw you I had to rush to get to group, and you stayed with your mommyAyla Elizabeth Lebel late so we could have some cuddle time together. It was YOU and your beautiful eyes and smile that I was coming to see. The group will not be the same without you now. I will always remember you. Always. – Gretchen Mather

Khloe, You are a ray of shining light. I look forward to being with you tomorrow. We will be strong for you, Ayla Elizabeth Lebel and family. Why will I not be able to hold you again? These questions we will never know the answer to…we just have to hold each other and grieve your passing together and celebrate the short time you touched our lives. You will always be in our hearts. – Gretchen Mather

**********************

Khloe Elizabeth Retelle, 1, of Methuen, became an angel Friday, July 1, 2011 at
home. Khloe was born in Boston, June 30, 2010 to her loving and devoted
parents, Brian Retelle and Ayla Lebel. She also leaves her maternal
grandparents, Michele Gagnon of Epping, NH, Sylvain Lebel of Pelham, NH and her step grandmother, Christine Roy of Pelham, NH, her paternal grandparents, Peter and Lee Retelle of Andover, MA, her 2 cousins, Sabrina Pooler and Alexander Downing, her aunts and uncles, Lindsey and Riki Retelle, Ashley, Alyssa and Zachary Lebel, Evan Pooler and Keith Downing. Also her great-grandparents Roger Gagnon, Gerard and Noleen Lebel, Marilyn Bousquet, Phyllis “Gigi” Henderson, Albie and Evelyn Retelle and many many close friends that she thought of as family. The family has requested that all people who come to the services of Khloe, wear pink and purple. The calling hours will be held Wednesday, July 6, 2011 from 4-8p.m. at the Cataudella Funeral Home, 126 Pleasant Valley St., Methuen, with the funeral services and burial to be held Thursday at 11a.m. at the Chapel within the West Parish Garden Cemetery, 129 Reservation Rd., Andover, MA. Please meet the family directly at the Cemetery Chapel on Thursday at 11a.m. Donations in memory of Khloe may be directed to the Down ’s Syndrome Clinic, C/O Boston Childrens Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA 02115

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7 Responses to Julian’s girlfriend Khloe Elizabeth Retelle | b. 6.30.2010 – d.7.1.2011

  1. Ilisa Ailts says:

    This is heartbreaking and leaves me feeling as though there are no guarantees in life and I cannot imagine the heartbreak for sweet Khloe’s family and friends – you included.

  2. michele Bealer says:

    Tears…I resisted at first but had to succumb as I read about the funeral, I just cannot imagine…

    Gretchen you have such a beautiful voice! My heart goes out to you and your mom, and to Ayla and Brian as well. I’m so happy for all of you that you are clearly surrounded by so much love and care to carry you through such a difficult time.

  3. Anna Theurer says:

    Tears. My heart is just breaking for her family. Your post is a beautiful tribute to little Khloe’s all too short of a life and to her family. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.

  4. Kim Legendre says:

    What a wonderful tribute to Angel Khloe……she was so fortunate to have touched so many lives and so many are fortunate to have been touched by her life. My prayers are with her and her family <3

  5. Gretchen, You did a beautiful job with this difficult moment in our lives — thanks.

  6. Qadoshyah says:

    So sad. You have me in tears :( .

  7. nancy ziesman says:

    I have a gorgeous grandson, Sawyer, who has down syndrome. He has brought so much joy to our lives, as he is more perfect than we could have ever imagined. I cannot fathom what it would be like to lose him. My heart goes out to this family in their incredible loss.

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