Friday night was MiKayla’s high school graduation. Sometimes as a mom, you spend a lot of time preparing for something or an event in your child’s life, and it still seems to catch you by surprise. At times, as I watched the graduation on Friday night, it was sometimes so surprising that my baby girl was graduating. MiKayla and I had been talking about graduation a lot and were working hard on preparing for it. I was feeling much thankfulness that MiKayla was going to be able to graduate as her sister did. This gratitude runs very deep being my only son was not able to be at his graduation.
We had been emotionally preparing for it for a long time. MiKayla has loved living in the community where we live. MiKayla has adored the friends that she has had by her side for all of these years. MiKayla has been so thankful for all of the special families that have surrounded her and have loved her through all of the different life stages and through the heartbreaking trauma that she has had to endure.
Last fall, when someone would ask MiKayla about graduating then she would literally walk out of the room. It was not something that she was looking forward to. MiKayla truly loved so much about where she was that she was not desiring it to end. Also, due to all of the tragedy that she had experienced due to the deaths of her dad from a work related accident in August 2011 and of her 18 year old brother being instantly killed in a car accident in June 2013, then MiKayla felt like she had experienced enough truly difficult change, and she was not wanting other changes to continue in her life. It has been such a blessing to watch MiKayla grow so much emotionally this past year and to watch her transformation as she begin to excitedly embrace the idea of transitioning to college. As I watched her Friday night, there were so many emotions in my heart as most parents have as they watch their baby graduate. Gratitude was woven throughout each emotion.
As I sat and listened at the graduation, my mind replayed through the years so many memories. At one moment, I was remembering this precious new baby girl that I was holding in my arms as she begin her journey in our family. Next, I could see her as a toddler hopping across our kitchen floor with the most beautiful smile in the world. My mind wandered to when she began kindergarten and her precious friends that she begin building relationships with at such a young age. I remember her kindergarten graduation and the way she looked in her yellow dress and precious smile. She was so nervous and so proud all at the same time. I could picture her through her elementary years as she continued to grow and excel. She loved learning and spending time with her friends. She loved clogging and playing soccer. She was so excited when she was old enough to play basketball when she started the fourth grade. Everything seemed to be going just as it should.
Suddenly, right before her 6th grade year, she was shaken to her core as a little 11 year old girl suddenly without her daddy. Her strong daddy who adored her since the day she was born was gone way before he should have been. This beautiful little girl now had to go through the rest of her years without her daddy. Oh how she missed him. Oh how painful it was for an 11 year old girl to sort through. As much as she missed him, she continued to do all that she could to excel in all areas. She traveled through 6th and 7th grade and was giving her all as she fought so many fears and the reality of death that she should have not had to face so young. One month after she finished 7th grade, then her big brother was killed. Now, not only did she have to cope and adjust to not having her daddy but now also her big brother. My heart was broken for her and for her sister. Grief has now been such a part of our hearts. As much as she now missed both her daddy and her brother, I watched her continue to give her best in all areas… in school, in sports, in her friendships. Honestly, I was amazed at this girl.
Throughout the last two years of junior high and then high school, I watched her excel and give her all. Despite her pain, I watched her continue to love and find joy. Despite her fear, I watched her continue to push herself and to do her best in every area. Oh MiKayla Anne, I could not be more proud of you and love you more. You are an overcomer. You are such an incredible young lady. I praise God every day that I am able to be your mom… thank you for being one of my three best gifts in my entire life. I would choose you every time to be my baby girl.
My mind shifted back to Kylee’s graduation. I remember feeling so many of the same emotions about my Kylee girl and still continue to. I was so amazed at all of the honors that Kylee earned and accomplished despite all of the pain and heartache that she had to push through after losing her daddy and brother. I remember watching Kylee give her speech at her own graduation and just feeling amazed by her. I remember watching Kylee receive her diploma and feeling so happy for her at all that she accomplished. I remember watching Kylee move her tassel as she showed the completion of their high school careers. I remember the worry I felt for her venturing off on her own after just losing her brother two years before and her daddy four years before. I remember watching her determination as she took each step. I celebrate her incredible years of college and of all that Kylee has accomplished. I celebrate all of her growth and have been amazed at the spiritual and emotional growth that I have seen in her especially in this past year as she completed her junior year at college.
My mind returned to PK’s graduation. The graduation in May 2014 is where they placed an empty chair with flowers in the very spot where PK should have been sitting. I remember sitting through that graduation still in disbelief that my only son was dead and that he was not there for his high school graduation. I remember staring at that empty chair. I remember feeling so much thankfulness that someone had the thoughtfulness to place that chair where he should have been. It meant so much to my heart that someone recognized that he should have been there. However, my heart still could not even believe that he was not. The pain and grief that I experienced at his high school graduation that I attended without him was heartache beyond description. I also remember being surrounded in love by friends and a community that have been a blessing beyond words to my girls and I.
This graduation season, I have stared at many pictures of PK’s friends graduating from college. Grief screams in my heart in pain. Oh how I miss my boy and wonder every day what he would have been doing, where he would have attended… so many questions, so many hopes deferred, so much pain… how I wish I was celebrating his college graduation this season also. You are loved and missed every day of my life PK and always will be.
My thoughts have been so much on my husband as well. He missed all three of the graduations. Honestly, I was happy for him that he missed PK’s and did not have to stare at that empty chair where our boy should have sat. I can’t imagine the heartbreak that he would have experienced at the death of his only son. My heart grieved for him that he missed Kylee’s graduation. I can just picture the pride and joy that he would have felt during it. Of course during graduation season, there are many preparations in getting ready for the event and as the time when our family and friends approached. I had a dream several days before MiKayla’s graduation about Kirk. In my dream, he was telling me that he was going to grill for our family and friends when they were here for MiKayla’s graduation. I remember from my dream that he was so excited. I remember being so glad in my dream that he was going to grill. Anyone that ever had the blessing of eating the food that he grilled loved it!! I also remember waking up from that dream and the waves of grief felt like they were going to consume me as the cold, harsh reality of his death was staring me in my face yet once again. How I grieved that he was missing his baby girl’s graduation. How proud he would have been at all of her accomplishments and the success that she has experienced in every area. My heart hurt for him that he missed these milestones, and oh how my heart hurts for my two incredible daughters that they do not have their daddy and big brother in these incredible moments of their lives.
As the time came when they called MiKayla’s name and as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, the gratitude and joy that was flooding me was so wonderful. How thankful I am that despite our pain and loss, that my two daughters and I can truly celebrate their moments and accomplishments. How thankful I am for the family members that came to stand with us and to celebrate MiKayla. How thankful I am for my parents and for my brother who came to celebrate MiKayla’s graduation with us. How thankful I am for my husband’s two brothers who came to her graduation and for his mom who was there with us to celebrate. I know that they were there on behalf of her son and of their brother… I know that they were representing him to MiKayla. How thankful I am for my sisters-in-laws, nephews, and nieces who were there to show MiKayla their love and support. Their presence gave her a priceless gift as they carry a part of him with them. This is a priceless gift for my two daughters and somehow makes their daddy feel just a little bit closer.
Graduation night and the next day brought a few more members of my husband’s family who came to celebrate with MiKayla. We were so thankful for his sister and another brother and more nieces and nephews who came!! We also had a few dear family friends who came over to celebrate with us. We are so thankful for each one who came to celebrate with us. We are so thankful for each family member and friend who has stood with us through the years and who has continued to pray with us and love us. We praise God for each one of you.
Even though MiKayla was sleepy, the joy that she was feeling was still evident. She was ready for her graduation. She had to overcome so much in her life. MiKayla is one incredible young lady who continues to bring so much joy and love to her sister and I, to our family, and to all of our dear friends and community members.
You did it baby girl! You have had to walk through so much trauma and yet you chose to give your best in every area of your life. You have truly honored your daddy and your brother by giving your best in every area. I could not be more proud. I celebrate you and your graduation. I know deep within my heart that God has continued to heal you and to prepare you! I believe with every part of me that you are going to do so awesome as you enter college and start this new, exciting season of your life!! I am so thankful that you got to graduate!! I am so thankful that you get to go to college!!
I believe that you will continue to shine in all areas of your life!! I could not be more proud to be your mom!! I could not love you more!! You are ready baby girl, and you are truly destined for greatness!! I believe in you with every part of me!! Keep being courageous!! Keep using all of those talents and gifts!! Keep shining!! Know that you are loved and believed in beyond words!! Congratulations baby girl!!
“Your talents are God’s gift to you. What you do with them are your gifts back to God.” Leo Buscaglia