Kelly’s Gone

Two words. That’s all it took for the persistent, gnawing fear that had been lurking in the depths of my mind to materialize suddenly. One phone call and the two words muttered from my  fiancé’s unnerved voice: “It’s Kelly.”



My little sister, Kelly, came into my life in 1991, when I was four years old. She was a beautiful baby, a full head of jet black hair and brown eyes like saucers; gigantic and inquisitive. As the youngest child born to my parents, she was adored from the moment she entered our family, with three older siblings to dote on her. Our fierce four consisted of my sister Crystal the eldest; Kelly, the youngest; and my brother John and myself sharing the title of “middle child.” Close in age, being born less than two years apart, we were each other’s everything.

Were. It’s things like speaking of my siblings in the past tense, that hit hardest. Like taking a bullet. We were four once. But now merely three, forever altered.

Kelly and I shared a close bond, one that was rooted in our vastly different personalities and profound sense of trust. Kelly appeared to be timid and nervous on the surface. But there was an indescribable depth to her that few were able to fathom. She trusted very few things in life, but her unwavering trust in me was the responsibility that I happily took on. I encouraged her intuitive and instinctive behaviors, which were unparalleled to anything I had ever seen before. All her life, her trust in me was one that persisted, even as she descended into darkness.

We were inseparable, and the love I had for her was almost maternal. Losing her meant losing a piece of myself. The day I got that phone call, a piece of me died too.



It was the summer of 2015, and I was planning my wedding. She and my other sister were to share the role of maid of honor. Her last of her many relapses broke me before it took her life. I regrettably went a route I hadn’t traveled before – I shut her out. I told her that she wasn’t to be my maid of honor, or even a guest at my wedding if she wasn’t clean.

Kelly did not make it to the wedding.

This choice, I was never able to make it prior. Before I had my daughter.

The end began when I told Kelly, who was at the time living with me, my now husband, and daughter, that she couldn’t stay with us any longer. After her longest span of staying clean in her six year drug battle, she threw in the towel. Our connection made it easy for me to know when she was using.

Kelly was dangerously skilled in the art of hiding her drug use, often going months before losing control and being revealed. She would fool and manipulate all-apart from me. When Kelly would give up, I would feel it. I would feel strength leave my body, and I can’t explain it in any other way.

I believe Kelly and I were linked in this life and every life prior, souls that were bound as fate intended. It’s easy to label a drug addict selfish, or manipulative. But Kelly would have given her life for mine in an instant. There are very few things I am sure of, but that is one of them. The all-consuming pain was felt, as a needle’s venom slowly stole her away. I have no doubt she could feel my pain too, every time she allowed the poison to circulate and destroy all in its path. Kelly was so much more than a drug addict. Those six months were the last moments I shared with my sister. Despite my entrusted responsibility, I had turned my back on her, and she all but insisted that I do it. She had relapsed yet again, after six clean months. Six months with my sister, where I had a tiny bit of hope. Though small, I held on to it for dear life.

Until I couldn’t.

Kelly then moved to California and was in yet another treatment facility, battling an addiction beyond any level she’s had in the past. She purposely took herself out of my life, and my daughter’s. Her intention was to spare us more disappointment. I don’t think it was her intention to die, but I can’t deny the fact that she took that risk every time. Every time she felt as though her agony was too much to bear, every time she thought she didn’t have a choice. Every time, she knowingly risked leaving me. Every day I wish she hadn’t. Occasionally I thought perhaps knowing these risks myself, I’d be prepared for what inevitably happened.

Like her, I was wrong.

I could tell of all the sad tales, such as her many near-death overdoses, places I’ve retrieved her from, things she’s done, things done to her, people I blamed, people blaming her, miles I have driven, states I have own, and lengths I have run- hoping to save my sister. But what are these but irrelevant stories, to the saddest tale of all. Every one of those times I saved my sister, oered me nothing but time. Just more time to love her. More time to fear. Only to not have been able to save her in the end.

My Kelly was just… different. Unaware of how special she was, and bursting with potential and intelligence beyond her years. She needed time to grow and experience the world around her in order to fully process her thoughts and curiosities. But her intellect only caused her young mind anxiety. I would tell her, this burden will lift as she grows. I told her I’d be beside her while racking up life’s experiences to apply to her overwhelming knowledge. I said I would be there to help piece her troubled thoughts together to form an understanding. I promised her she would be all the more wiser as an adult. That she would one day, with me in her corner, reach her full potential.

I was a fool to promise what I couldn’t deliver.

Kelly only lived to age 24.

Hidden within the years before she left, remain her childhood questions. I’m left, and not permitted to know why, she failed to seek answers. Why did she leave these questions to burn a hole inside her mind? Instead of answers, Kelly eased her pain by signing over her life to a poisonous snake, disguised as a friend– oering her relief and comfort. Kelly made a deal. To rest her mind, while it blurred slowly to blank, by her offered escape: heroin.

I held Kelly’s hand in her final moments.

I watched life leave her… My baby sister.

And then, I took her home and laid her to rest. In her maid of honor dress.

Eternally, she sleeps; with a permanent question mark to share in her casket.

Both incomplete.

Jessica Wheeler

Avatar photoJessica Wheeler is an accomplished writer residing in Branford, Connecticut. Her creative passion began at a young age, with a history of writing music and lyrics, as well as singing vocals. Previously having worked in the medical field, Jessica changed course to raise her children while dealing with overwhelming grief and PTSD acquired after losing multiple loved ones in a short span of time. Returning to writing was a comforting outlet for Jessica, and she has become a top-rated poet and author on Her writing often explores themes of loss, grief, and resilience in the face of life's challenges.

14 comment on “Kelly’s Gone

  • Taylor
    May 19, 2023 | 1:16 am

    Jess, this was so beautifully written. The way you speak about your sister I feel as though I knew her myself. You can tell she was so incredibly loved and cherished, you and your family gave her every little thing she could have ever needed and even though her life was short, she was so incredibly lucky to have you and your family. I can never image the pain of losing a sister, and I can’t even being to try to feel the pain you all had to and still experience.. I truly do believe she is always with you – watching over all of you, especially the babies. I’m so sorry for your loss each and every day

    Loss is a terrible experience and there is no one I wish it upon, always here for you

  • Bianca Gambardella
    May 19, 2023 | 1:23 am

    Jessica, this was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I ever read. You’re a special sister and now she’s in heaven and at peace and watching over you because your love for you will never die. Live your best life that’s the best thing you can do for her. Love you my little friend and miss you. I miss us all in the same neighborhood watching out for each other.

  • Samantha Parlato
    May 19, 2023 | 2:47 am

    The bond you four shared was remarkable, watching you all grow up it was so clearly visible how much you all cared for one another.
    Your story touched my heart and brought me back to the day I heard the news of Kelly’s passing. My heart broke for your family, the unimaginable happened to your family and it could have broken the bond the rest of you have. I am happy to see the bond you share is stronger than ever. Your growing families bring light to dark shadows, know that you are loved beyond measure and we will always be here for you if you are ever in need.

  • Anon
    May 19, 2023 | 6:06 am

    I don’t know you personally, but the way you described your sister and your paths you’ve weaved has stricken me to the heart. I have siblings I haven’t seen for years somewhere out there battling addiction, and my heart holds on to hear of my siblings’ passing all the time. I can’t even imagine once that becomes the reality. Kelly is a beautiful soul and I truly believe her spirit is still in every single person she’s touched.

  • Carolyn carofano
    May 19, 2023 | 12:18 pm

    Dear sweet Jessica, I think of you so often. Your writing on Kelly is superb. Full of raw emotions , honesty, integrity , and pure love. You were always a good writer! Keep writing, keep feeling . Sending you my love and hugs. Mrs Carofano

  • Cindy
    May 19, 2023 | 1:14 pm

    This is beautifully sad, pulling on my heart. To me Kelly had a tragedy she just could not overcome. To numb her heart and mind, that escape. Now she is at peace, finally. Thank you for this beautiful story. Cara I love you.

  • June Earley
    May 20, 2023 | 1:33 am

    I can’t find words. This is so Beautifully written. So Powerful I Love you

  • Greta B.
    May 20, 2023 | 8:40 pm

    Perfectly said
    I think at this time in society the stigma for addicts is so different from what it used to be. By now, we either are addicts, in recovery or now, and most know a family member or friends who have struggled and found recovery or past the point or return. My fiancé and boyfriend of 9 years had 5 years clean and then used just one more time like many and had the same fate or your dear sister. I remember when the news was shared and my heart was broken for you. It was hard to not see the bond you and your siblings had with Kelly.

  • Kristen Fradiani
    May 21, 2023 | 1:06 am

    Chills. Beautifully written. ❤️

  • Brittany Torello
    May 21, 2023 | 1:04 pm

    I feel lucky to have known both you and Kelly- I was able to first hand see the dynamic between you two. Even through your written words, you can get a sense of the relationship you two share. Kelly was your biggest supporter of your artistic ability and I know, even now, you are making her so proud

  • Lisa Aitro
    May 23, 2023 | 7:40 pm

    Absolutely beautiful written Jess! Thinking of you and your family always ❤️

  • Nicole Delmonaco
    May 23, 2023 | 8:17 pm

    Jess, this was written so beautiful. Your story reminded me of my relationship with my sister Christa, I also lost a piece of myself when losing her. Sending you all my love

  • Kat
    June 3, 2023 | 7:21 am

    Being in recovery myself I’ve read many thoughts, struggles, fears and hopes from loved ones of addicts who only want to understand addiction and why the person they love can’t “just quit”. Why the love for their family or children isn’t stronger than the pull from the drug is. And I being the addict and sober 4 years as of 5-22-19 I still do not know that answer myself. What I do know is family and friends of addicts have it just as hard trying figure it out. Your story has so much depth, passion, love. I see your desire to reach someone who needs these words, who is looking for answers themselves and I hope they find them. I’ve learned that this disease of addiction can be such a lonely place but it can also be a journey of self acceptance, healing, power, fixing whatever it is that has broken. And to do that we NEED people, all types of people. Other addicts who have sobriety, we need that addict fresh out of detox, we need people who aren’t addicts, we need family and friends people to love us till we can love ourselves and people who can teach us what it is we need to learn so we stop going to a substance for an answer that we will never find there. The broken, battered, abused 110lbs of woman who dragged my butt into detox 4 years ago is one of the strongest versions of myself I have. And I’m so grateful for her because if she didn’t find that strength to try “one more time” to get sober, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve buried far too many good people who lost their way. People who wanted this so so badly they just couldn’t find it. And I hold onto hope knowing that our statistics may not be great 1 in 10 but because we are the statistic we can change the numbers but we can’t give up and we need each other to do it. I hold out hope that one day sobriety will rise and the addict will fall. I appreciate your raw feelings and your beautiful story of Kelly I thank you for sharing and inspiring me to share my words with you… AICTWC=alone I can’t together WE can ✌️

  • Jessica Wheeler
    September 14, 2023 | 1:05 pm

    Thank you so much for these comments. I’m so sorry for my delayed response.

    Your kindness is deeply inspiring and a testament to the power of hope.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for your kind words for Kelly. It means the world.


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