Eternally Thriving - Remembering Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico

“As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them” – Proverb

As perpetrated by a seemingly loving family man, the tragedy that struck the small town of Frederick, Colorado on August 13, 2018, remains one of the most heinous and unfathomable acts of domestic violence in United States history. Prior to this date, Chris Watts, the once loving husband to Shanann, and father to their two beautiful daughters, Bella and Celeste, and their unborn son, Nico, seemed like your typical everyday guy. He had it all: a commendable job, a loving family and a gorgeous home. Indeed, Chris had what many men only dream of having; only to strip it all away in a matter of minutes. 

I am not going to lay out the specifics of how Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico lost their innocent lives; that's known information documented in a variety of endless sources in the rare event you haven't heard about it. Afterall, this unspeakable incident gained worldwide notoriety as people across the globe attempted to comprehend how such acts could even occur.  It has left the indelible questions of how and why Chris committed what he did.  As a rubik’s cube in disguise, perhaps, we will never pinpoint an exact understanding of what led him to remove the lives of his wife and three children from the world. 

One of the reasons why this case remains in peoples' psyche even after two years is because of the yearning to understand it. Individuals, like myself, can't seem to get enough of researching and dissecting it bit by bit. Sheer evil bestowed itself at the Watts' residence at 2825 Saratoga Trail in an idyllic neighborhood, replete with attractive homes, friendly neighbors and community parks. Society’s consistent focus on the tragedy is maybe its own way of keeping the legacies and playful memories of Shanann and her children in our hearts.

Although done out of a need to comprehend and fathom what went on in Chris’s mind, the videos showcasing conspiracy theories and alleged paranormal activity in the Watts' home need to stop.  In this case, these videos keep alive the vicious betrayal and slaughtering of his immediate family and may pollute the actuality of the case further with erroneous information.  Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico have gone through more than enough brutality, so let them rest in their divine haven beyond the stars.  While we can’t deny that these unspeakable acts occurred, we should instead focus on the vibrant legacies and wonderful memories of Shanann, her girls and unborn son.  We should focus on the unconditional love people have for them and that which they have for others.  We should focus on the ways we can honor them in our individual lives.

What shatters the heart is the solid trust Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico had for Chris.  They had the ultimate faith in him as a husband and father only to be brutally betrayed.  It’s absolutely disgusting that a mother and her children died at the hands of someone they knew, loved and considered heroic.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t deny the fear, horror and confusion they experienced in the early morning hours of August 13, 2018.  What can precipitate healing is knowing that they landed in the eternally benevolent lap of God. I have to trust that the greater good that infuses our cosmos graciously took their hands and walked with them to their everlasting sanctuary of endless harmony, love and peace.

I am writing this written ensemble out of an incessant cathartic need to grieve and allow healing to take place; not only for myself, but for my fellow humans. Perhaps, it’s my own individual way of providing closure to an event that has permeated my consciousness for over two years.  Although I didn’t know Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico, I feel as though I have befriended them by watching the scores of adorable, happy and loving home videos.  A mother’s love for her offspring is one of the most beautiful aspects of being human and this radiates through all of Shanann’s videos and social media posts about Bella, Celeste and Nico.  They were the light of her life; in turn, she was the light of theirs.

Even though I was aware of the tragedy when it happened two years ago, my emotions and contemplations of it resurfaced about two weeks ago.  I am not sure why this is but there must be some reasoning for it; I will leave it at that without over-analyzing why.  With this said, I do want to share an interesting component to this editorial expose.  At around 12:30 am on January 10, 2021, I awakened with a powerful force to start writing.  I knew at some point that I was going to write about this, but I didn’t know exactly when.  Fast-forward to approximately 2:45 pm on the same day, I learned that today is Shanann’s heavenly 37th birthday.  I stopped and reflected on this discovery for a moment as I knew there was a message in this somehow. 

The voice of my heart is reminding me of what a birthday signifies: a dawn of a new life and an origin of something beautiful and pure.  Maybe that is Shanann’s and/or the universe’s message that she and her children have found a new beginning, one where the betrayal, pain and suffering are overshadowed by prosperity, vibrancy and limitless sunshine.  I am sharing this as a way to potentially help others heal, like myself, who’ve been emotionally affected by this tragedy. 

Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico were (and are) blessings to the world.  They each made their own contributions to society and offered their own individual teachings to humanity.  We must honor and remember them for that.  Although not physically with us any longer, their legacies are eternal.  Shanann – she gave us a new understanding of what it’s truly like to thrive and succeed.  Her shining personality, devotion to her work and family and concern for others have left a permanent mark on those who knew her and those who learned about her after she transitioned to the stars.  Bella – her kind heart and angelic-like giving to others, natural motherhood instincts and extreme sensitivity beyond her years have taught all of us so much about compassion and appreciating others.  Celeste – her gregarious, outgoing nature, smiles that would instantaneously dissolve a tear and humorous personality have reminded us to not take life so seriously and live in the moment. Nico – thriving in mommy’s tummy, soon to be ready to tackle on the world with innocence and purity.

Honorable mentions go to Nickole Atkinson, CSI agent Tammy Lee, Special Agent Graham Coder and Colorado law enforcement for their courage, care and professionalism.  A fellow LeVel “Thrive” colleague, Nickole was (and is, eternally) dear friends with Shanann. Her rapidly swift actions in notifying the police of her friend's disappearance and her meticulous observations made it that much easier for detectives to silence the lies and bring forward the truth.  Nicole exemplifies the duties of what it’s like to be a “best friend.” The first and second detective interviews with Chris, along with his polygraph test, should be displayed in every law enforcement training course.  The calculated handling of the interviews was absolutely stellar and demonstrated a psychological breakdown of the perpetrator’s motives.

Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico are alive in the universe, as well as within our hearts and memories.  For reasons we aren’t permitted to understand, they were all called home before their prime years on earth.  They are not suffering; it’s the loved ones left behind that still feel the grief, heartache and pain.  They each have divine roles now; you better believe that they are offering guidance and love from beyond the ethers.  Their love can be felt at any moment of the day or night; in fact, it’s always here as it’s entered the heart of humanity.

I do believe in an afterlife and have had some profound encounters and communications with spirit.  It’s quite naïve to think that our life in the mortal realm is the only one we experience.  We emanate to this world from previous lives and exit it while we journey on to the next.  It’s hard to understand what exactly it entails, but it’s another world that allows our souls to evolve and thrive.  Remember that with physical death, the body and only the body ceases to function.  An individual’s soul and unique energetic essence remains and finds its way into the cosmos.  When you think about that, know that Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico are only physically absent.  Their shining souls have infused within us and all around us – in the air we breathe, the sunlight we see, the moonlight that replaces darkness, the trees blowing in the wind, the sparkles on the sea and the love we feel, etc.  Remember, to live your days and shine light Shanann, be brave like Bella, be carefree like Celeste and be noble like Nico and hold each of them in your heart for eternity.

Nicole Strickland

“When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them but to live with the love they left behind.” Anonymous

Published in History and Places