Six years ago today… this mother lost her son, this wife lost her husband, and these children plus my son lost their father. Six years ago today… we were all in a state of shock. Suddenly, we were without Kirk.
As I think back to my time in trauma with my husband after the accident, there are images that are so clear: the pain that he was in, the uncertainty in his eyes, the questions that he asked, the helplessness that he felt, and the joy that would come into his eyes when our children would walk into the room to see him each day. I still look back at those four days in disbelief. Everything happened so quickly. Wednesday, August 10, 2011, he had his accident and was immediately paralyzed from the chest down. Sunday, August 14, 2011, he died in pre-op. It is so unreal that any of it even happened. But it did. It all happened.
As I reflect back on these past six years, my heart is full of so many conflicting, painful emotions. Someone asked me one time what was the hardest thing about my husband dying. I don’t know if I can really identify one thing as there are so many things that are so difficult and so painful. I am able to share that one of the things that breaks my heart the most is to watch my children being forced to live without their daddy. PK was 16, Kylee was 14, and MiKayla was 11 when their daddy died. They have all grieved so differently for their daddy. It is so sad for me to see all of the moments that they are missing with their dad and all of the moments that he is missing with them.
Last week when the girls and I were talking, Kylee said, “It is so sad to now have completed two summer jobs, and my dad and my brother weren’t around for either.” The way Kylee is feeling hurts. She still wants her dad and brother in her life. This is normal in grieving. The longing that you feel as you wish that you still had your loved ones who have died here with you hurts. It is real pain. It is a normal part of grief. This longing is one of the many faces of grief. I have watched Kylee have two very successful summers working two completely different jobs. I have watched her shine in each position and learn a lot. Even though she is shining and exceling, then the loss is still a part of her. That is normal. It is good that she is able to identify it and express it. Of course, she wishes that her dad and her brother were still here with us. I am thankful that she feels the freedom to share it with her sister and I.
Each time we have a special moment then we wish our guys were there. A truth in my life that saddens my heart so much is that when Kirk was still alive, and the kids were doing something great or monumental, then I could look into his eyes and see the exact joy that I was feeling. He had the same love and pride in our children that I did… I miss that so much. I miss so much being able to celebrate our children with him. I miss seeing that love and pride in his eyes. He has had to miss so many moments these last 6 years. My heart wishes that he would have been able to be a part of all of these incredible moments.
I not only miss it for him and wish that he was able to see each of these moments.. my heart misses that connection for me. There is no one else that I will ever be able to share that with here on this earth. They are our children, and my heart grieves that he is not here to share and to celebrate these moments with me. I also miss it desperately for my children. I missed it for my dear PK for those 22 months until he was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 18. My heart grieved that his dad was no longer with him.
My heart grieves for my two daughters… all of the moments that they wish their daddy was a part of. How they would love to jump into those big, strong arms again and to be wrapped up in their daddy’s love. How they wish he was here to be a part of their life. How I wish that they still had him with them. This is normal. This is what another face of grief looks like.
Recently when I was traveling I was sitting beside a 4 year old girl and her daddy. They played games and giggled. He gave her some soda and winked at me and said, “This is why her mom does not like us to sit together.” She drank her soda quickly and giggled some more. I truly loved watching their interaction. There was so much love and joy between this father and daughter. They were playing tic tac toe. They were cuddled up when she was sleepy. They were giggling when they were hiding from her mom. The love and connection that they shared was so evident. It was so wonderful.
Watching this father and daughter interact took me back to watching Kirk with each of our girls. I have laughed so many times at the contrast that I experienced with Kirk as a dad from when our son was born to when our daughter was born. I remember correcting PK, and Kirk would chime in, “Boy, listen to your mama!” I remember correcting Kylee, and Kirk would look at her with these big eyes and say, “What’s mommy doing to daddy’s girl?” I remember thinking “WHAT!!” LOL. I sure laugh about it now, but I was in absolute shock that I was experiencing such a contrast to how he was with his son and his two daughters. MiKayla would get the same reaction from her daddy. These two girls could just simply look at their daddy, and his whole face would break out into the biggest grin. He found much joy and pride in our son also, but the discipline and approach was amusingly different. Perhaps my son was not appreciative of the differences, but I can truly look back on the differences and laugh about it with my two daughters.
Both girls could look at their daddy and laugh, and no matter what was happening with their dad then suddenly their daddy would be smiling and laughing in a way that was so much fun. I would tease him endlessly, “Wow Kirk! These two girls have you absolutely wrapped around their fingers.” He would just smile. He loved being a dad. It was so much fun to share with him in all of these moments.
As I watched this little girl interact with her daddy then my heart was truly thankful for every moment that my daughters had with their dad. I was thankful for the 11 1/2 years that MiKayla had with her daddy and for the almost 15 years that Kylee had with her daddy. As thankful as my heart was, my heart still grieves and wishes that my two daughters still had their daddy with them. I see the longing in my daughters’ eyes when they watch other girls interact with their dads. I know they wish just as Kylee articulated so well last week that they wish that he was not missing out on their lives. How they wish that their dad was still right here with them. How I wish the same for them.
This is another one of the many faces of grief. The extreme longing for that person to still be with us. We long for the person who has died to still be sharing in all of life’s experiences with us. It is normal to have that longing. It is good to have people that we can be honest and real with and to have the freedom to express that longing to. The harsh reality of grief is that longing will not be fulfilled on this earth; however, as we honestly express what is in our hearts and what our grief is, then hopefully we will find ways to still find hope, joy, and peace in the midst of our pain.
I remember sitting with my husband’s mom after he had died. We had just moved into a house the exact day of his accident. He had not stayed one night in the house with us. I remember his mom looking around and wondering aloud, “I just don’t understand why. Why wasn’t he able to be here and share in this?” I remember just sitting there with her in silence and listening. I had no words to say. I was wondering the same thing. As she would speak the words, then my heart would ask the same question. None of it made any sense. His children were just 16, 14, and 11. He still had so much left to experience. None of it made sense. That is another face of grief… the wondering. The WHY question. When someone in our life dies and is removed from our life, then we wonder why. I sat with his mom and listened to her questions, and I had the same questions in my heart and my mind for myself and for my children. I did not understand the why.
I don’t believe that I will understand the why. I seek the peace that passes understanding. I do not understand the why; therefore, I seek peace in the midst of my not understanding. The why question is a normal part of grief. It surely scares some people away. When someone begins to ask why this happened, then some people show on their faces that they need to exit the conversation. Some people try to give an answer. When I hear someone wonder “Why?” then I am not surprised or upset. I think that is a normal part of grief. I just sit with them and let them ask the question. It is an understandable question in the midst of loss and grief. On our individual journeys then hopefully each of us will find that peace that passes understanding… even in the midst of our whys.
Today as I look at my daughters then my heart is filled with joy and thankfulness. As their mom, one of my true hopes for them is that they will see that each time that they do something great in their lives that they are honoring their dad and their brother. My hope is that they will truly be able to celebrate life. My hope is that they will know deep in their hearts that they are their daddy’s legacy. My hope is that even though their hearts hurt and as they long for their dad, that they will still find peace that passes understanding in the midst of their pain and hurt. I hope so many things for my two daughters. I hope for healing, love, joy, and peace.
Six years ago today, this mother lost her son, this wife lost her husband, and these children plus my son lost their daddy. Six years ago today broke our hearts. Prayerfully, the days in between these years, and the days that continue to follow each year will be filled with us doing our best and trying to live with no excuses, no regrets. May each great thing that gets accomplished honor those we have lost.
“We thought of you in love today, but that is nothing new. We thought about you yesterday and days before that, too. We think of you in silence, we often speak your name. Now all we have is memories and your picture in a frame. Your memory is our keepsake, with which we’ll never part. God has you in His keeping, we have you in our hearts.” Author unknown