Without Nicole, a year later.

What’s on my mind? I’ll tell you.

On this day, one year ago, we lost a woman of grace, beauty, compassion and wisdom. It’s when we are faced with extreme adversity, that our true nature shows. In Nicole Marchand, this was a burst of light, a positive perspective and a never-give-up attitude. She didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, or carry her burden. She shared only her optimism, her determination, and the most delightful of all, her humour. I remember this day so vividly last year, and thinking forward at how surreal it would be on the same date this year. Here we are.

Since the day she left us, I’ve never stopped thinking about Nicole. Her grace, her giant heart. In the months before her passing, she and I shared long conversations about love, our philosophies on life, as well as her pain and experience with cancer. I cherish my messages from her not only because they are so beautifully and thoughtfully written, but also because they demonstrate her care, her attentiveness and her wisdom. It means the world that she would spend her precious moments crafting words that would reach my soul. I know that Nicole has touched so many of us in a way that has changed us forever. I’ll always carry her with me.. she repositioned my mind. Really, she reminded me – quite directly – to have faith in myself.

It took me a little while to stand up after Nicole’s passing. In desperation, I painted all the canvases in my apartment white. I sat still. The world moved around me in slow motion. I forgot to live. I knew I couldn’t keep doing that, though. Nicole had so few days in this world, and even in intense pain, she stood up and lived the shit out of the days she had.

I’d like to share some of Nicole’s thoughts to me, incase it helps any of you – or perhaps just to hear some of her words in your feed again. She’s always supported me, always cheered me on. She just gets life. In the past year, I’ve embraced myself as she once reminded me I could, at a time when I really needed to hear it.

Nicole’s advice on my life crisis:

“I think the most brilliant people are the ones that are never willing to settle. You have a drive that most people can only dream of! Which is why you’ve gotten to where you are today!

You’re not running away from anything, you’re seeking new opportunities to make your life better! To learn, grow, meet new people and experience life! Most people don’t have the balls to actually pursue their dreams. And not only do you try, but you succeed!

When people refer to climbing ladders and all that other bull it often refers to money. But that’s never been your goal. It’s just about pursuing what you’re passionate about. I remember being in your bedroom when we were probably 16 and just being blown away by all of your artwork, poems, everything on the walls, etc. I remember thinking this was a girl that doesn’t sleep! You don’t turn off! You’re not happy unless you’re moving, improving and getting to the next level. That’s something that you should be proud of!”


On the subject of being 30 (heartbreakingly young to lose Nicole):

“My favourite part of your messages was when you said you weren’t willing to conform to what other people expect of you! You shouldn’t feel you have to in any way! And as for being 30, you are still SO young! Like crazy young. No one should have their shit together by now.”


Some perfect wisdom on life and happiness:

“One of my fav commercials right now is all about how different people are approaching life these days and doing it on their own terms. I can’t even remember the product. Maybe financial planning or something. But the whole idea is that you may get married, or not, you could skip the kids, retire, then travel or adopt, etc. I find a lot of that structured stigma of having to do things by society’s standards is slowly diminishing. Being barefoot and pregnant in your early 20’s isn’t for everyone and doesn’t make you happy. And some people won’t find true love (if at all) until they’re old and grey. Make life what you want it to be, just be happy.”


When I asked her how she felt when she looked at the intimate portraits she had taken shortly before her passing:

“Powerful, happy… And more importantly the strength and love between Derek and I.

The bond we share and what we’ve been through. They capture how this has made us better and more in love. Often it tears people apart. This has brought us closer together. I couldn’t do this without him. Most people should never have to experience what we have in the past two years then people do in their entire lives but it’s just made us stronger and more in love.”


There were other conversations about the pain and struggle as well, but Nicole wouldn’t want those messages shared. It has taught me that even when things are dire, we are clouded by sadness or pain – we are fortunate to be here. There is so much in this world to be grateful for, and we should live each day we have for the beauty that it holds. Breathe in and feel the air. Appreciate normalcy. Enjoy the little things. Take risks and try what scares us. We only have one life, and we don’t know how long it will be. Love the people around you. Listen. Create things. Live passionately, wherever you are.

Thinking of you, Lesley and Derek. Sending love and warmth to you both.

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