September 21, 2014, Maureen and I stood with our kids at the altar of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL, outside of Chicago. It was a Sunday. We were renewing our vows from our wedding day, July 14, 1990, 24 years earlier, with the fruits of our love, our kids, by our side. Little did we know, that one month later, October 21, 2014, an entirely new chapter would start in lives. Following is an essay that Kyla wrote for one of her classes this week. It seems entirely fitting to share it on this 47th #powdereddonutday. It also seems appropriate to share a sneak peek at the logo for #pinkkids, but more on that later…
October 21, 2014. The day I lost my mother. The day my life changed forever. The day my family’s life changed forever. I was woken up that morning by my aunt, my mom’s sister, feeling part of myself missing, but at the same time, I was hopeful and excited that I would get to see my mom at lunch. The day went by a lot slower than usual days; I was continually looking at the clock, waiting for the class to be over, wanting lunch to come sooner, so I could give my mom a hug and tell her everything was going to be okay. After chapel, the Head of the Lower School at St. Andrew’s pulled me aside and asked me to come with him. Thoughts were racing through my head; my heart was racing; I was so excited to finally to go see my mom. All of those happy and excited emotions changed when I saw my little sister, Katelyn, in the middle school. I instantly knew something was wrong because she was not going to see my mom during lunch. I wasn’t going to see my mom at lunch. I knew what I was about to hear. Words no thirteen year old is supposed to hear from her father, “your mom is dead.” In that moment, I could not believe that this was going to be my new reality All I wanted to do was go see her. I was supposed to go see her. But I knew I could not, so all I did was cry, scream, throw things, hit stuff. I kept asking myself the same question, “how could this happen to me?” All I wanted to do was go see her. I did see her. That afternoon. But she was still. She was calm, but she was cold. In that moment when I walked into her room at Seton Hospital and saw her, it became a reality. She was really gone. My mom was no longer here. October 21, 2014 was the longest, most heartbreaking day of my entire life, and one that I never want to experience again. This new reality made me unique, but unique in a way that I wish I was not.
For months after my mother’s passing, I thought the only way I would be with her was on the volleyball court. When I stepped out onto the court, I felt my complete self. I could be who I wanted to be with my mom. This place of connection to my mom was blown away, disrupted, when I heard the words from my doctor, “if you want to walk when you are 40, I think you should take a step back from volleyball.” After hearing this, I not only thought I had lost a part of myself, but I felt like I was going to lose my mom more than I already had. I had to realize this was something bigger than myself, and that I could honor my mom not just on the volleyball court.
I am a completely different person now than the scared teenage girl that lost her mom three years and eleven months ago. On that day, I did not know what growing up without a mother would be like, except that it was going to be hard. Some days are easier than others, but every day is hard. Knowing that I will never be able to give her a hug, talk to her about my day, laugh with her, and so many other things, makes me miss her more. For many months after her passing, I would look at the front door to my house and just wait for her to walk through it. I would accidentally get an extra plate while setting the table, and then realize that there were only going to be four of us at the dinner table. I know now that we will never be five again. However, when you have something to believe in, something bigger, it sometimes is not as hard. I believe in something bigger, because my mom was larger than life to me. Everyday I hope that I can achieve as much as she could each day, as much as she would if she had more days. I strive to be the best person I can, even on the hard days, because that is what my mom would have done. Her death has made me realize just how precious this life really is. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We have today. We have today to be strong. I will be strong for you mom.