We had the wonderful opportunity of celebrating Kylee’s 21st birthday this weekend on Saturday. My wonderful parents were here from North Dakota to celebrate with Kylee, MiKayla, and I, and we had a great time celebrating Kylee!! Turning 21 is a milestone that lots of young adults look forward to, and Kylee has definitely been anticipating this birthday. A couple of weeks ago, Kylee shared with me that she was feeling sad knowing that her dad and brother were not going to be here for her birthday celebration. Kylee’s dad and my husband died 6 years ago from a work related accident. Kylee’s brother and my only son died 4 years ago instantly in a car accident. The deaths occurred 22 months apart, and we are continuing to process our grief and work on healing and living our lives the best that we are able.
As Kylee’s mom, I have been doing a lot of reminiscing as we approached Kylee’s 21st birthday. It is so fun for me to think of the wonderful young woman that Kylee is and to think of all of the different things that have shaped Kylee into who she is. My husband and I were so excited when Kylee arrived. We had a son 15 1/2 months earlier, and Kylee and PK were born so close together that their strong bond formulated almost instantaneously. Kirk and I had difficulty finding a girl’s name that we both liked, and my parents who were both teachers gave us two names that we both liked. We chose both of the names that my parents had given to us, “Kylee Markelle.”
I knew that my son would be going through a major adjustment once our new baby arrived; therefore, I started trying to prepare him by telling him all of the things that they baby would love to see him do. I would tell him, “PK, the new baby is going to love seeing you shoot the ball and dribble the ball.” “PK, the new baby is going to love to see you run fast.” Kylee and I have laughed about this many times these last years. We laugh because we know that her brother took me literally at his young age and believed that Kylee arrived to cheer him on. Even when he was in his teenage years, then PK was still wanting Kylee to watch him. Kylee would watch him as a brand new baby, and it did not take long for this beautiful new little girl to smile and laugh whenever PK would show her his tricks. Kylee was full of energy and determination and was walking by the age of 8 months old. We believe that she started walking so early because she wanted to join in on all of the fun with her big brother.
Kylee also had to be the brave one. PK had many things that he was scared of and would send Kylee out ahead of him to check things out. He would say, “Kyee go.” Whether it was the long, dark hallway in our home or the swinging bridge at the waterpark in the kids’ section, Kylee would get sent out ahead to make sure that everything was safe for PK. Kylee wouldn’t show fear at all and would proudly step out in front of PK to lead the way on whatever adventure that they were on. They did everything together and were so close. Many times people thought that PK and Kylee were twins because they were so close in age.
Kylee was not quite 3 1/2 years old when MiKayla was born. Kylee was definitely excited to add a sister to her group and quickly tried to become a little mommy to her baby sister. Kylee would want to show MiKayla how to sing, to color, and to run fast. Kylee has been such an excellent role model to MiKayla. Kylee and MiKayla are so close. I know that they have become so much closer through all of the trauma that they have had to endure. They were 11 and 14 when their daddy died, and they were 13 and 16 when their big brother died 22 months later. The closeness that they share is amazing. I am truly blessed when I watch them interact and am so thankful they have each other. There is always so much joy and laughter when the three of us are together. I am ever thankful for the closeness that these two special sisters have.
Kylee began her early years playing mostly with her brother and our friend Joshua who was approximately 8 1/2 months younger than Kylee. Because of this, Kylee was used to wrestling and running and playing lots of things aggressively. I still get the giggles when I think of one of Kylee’s first all girl birthday parties that she attended. It was a swimming pool party, and my elementary age Kylee was very excited. However, because Kylee girl was used to playing with PK and Joshua then she started trying to wrestle and dunk some of the other girls in the pool. I could tell immediately that some of the other girls were truly upset by how aggressively that Kylee was playing. I brought Kylee over by me and tried to explain to her that she needed to learn to play like her new friends liked to play even if it was different than her brother and her buddy Joshua.
Kylee was active in the AWANA program, and she thrived in that environment. When Kylee was in fourth grade then there were lots of activities that she wanted to be involved in. PK was getting a lot of attention from pee wee basketball and football, and I wanted to make sure that Kylee was excited about her activities and felt good about what she was in. At one point in fourth grade Kylee had four different activities going on at once. Soccer, clogging, cheerleading, and show choir were all happening at the same time, and Kylee girl had me literally running her all over our small community. However, I distinctly remember a moment after Kylee sang at a show choir event and she had a solo. After her solo was done then I was congratulating her, and she flashed me the biggest smile and said, “I’m your star mom!” I remember thinking, “My goal is being met.” I wanted Kylee to feel confident in her talents and gifts and not feel that she was living in her brother’s shadow. I had other parents telling me that I was crazy to allow her to be in so many events at once, but I remember thinking after that moment that Kylee was finding her own way. i wanted that for my daughter. Of course, we definitely did not participate usually in four events for one child in a season; however, that season I let Kylee experiment with these different activities to see which ones that she liked the best and wanted to continue in.
Kylee was excited when she got to junior high and was playing school team sports for her school and was in volleyball and basketball. Kylee also did one year of throwing in track in junior high and then stopped until she was in high school. Kylee was going into her freshman year when her daddy died in August. At this time, she was also getting a brand new basketball coach. I remember going to find him at an event and introduced myself. I wanted him to know that Kylee had just lost her daddy; however, I was happy to hear that she had already told him. I was happy that Kylee felt safe to share that with her new coach and that he would have an awareness of what events were occurring in her life. Kylee became very close to her basketball coach through the years, and I believe that he was able to be a positive male role model in her life. Her volleyball coach and assistant basketball coach has also played a special role in Kylee’s life. Ashley has a very encouraging, sweet spirit and has provided Kylee with many moments of support, care, and concern. Kylee has had wonderful teachers that have encouraged her and motivated her. Kylee’s friends and the parents of her friends have added such a loving and strong support system for her. Kylee has lots of wonderful family members including my parents, Nana, my sister, and all of the rest of our family that have provided her with the love and support that she has and continues to need as she has traveled this grief journey at such a young and fragile age.
Kylee’s relationship with her daddy was special from the moment it began. Kylee could look at her daddy and he would break out into the biggest grin. They shared their love of independence and times for quiet and solitude. They also shared their sense of humor and could immediately make each other laugh. I had so much fun watching the relationship that they had. My heart hurts for my Kylee girl that she has had these years without her daddy and her big bro, but, oh how amazed I am at how she has and continues to shine.
Kylee was the salutatorian of her high school class. Kylee was all conference and all state in basketball, all conference in volleyball, and placed in the top 10 at the state track meet for discuss. Kylee was actively involved in a variety of clubs and leadership positions throughout her years of high school. I share these things because I am amazed that Kylee accomplished these things while grieving the deaths of her daddy and brother. She was truly living with no excuses and no regrets.
As a college student, she is working hard on her grades and was on the dean’s list for three of her four completed semesters. Kylee is also on the track team at her university and continues to beat her personal records throughout the year. Kylee has been active in her faith in a Christian organization on campus and is now serving in a leadership role this year as a junior. I have watched her mature and grow. I see her showing compassion for others and strength of character and a strong determination to live by her values. I watch her as she continues to find joy and thankfulness in the midst of her pain. The other night she shared with me that one of her desires was to laugh until she cried because she was laughing so hard. What a great goal I thought. She proudly shared with me this weekend that she and her sister shared this moment this past week and that Kylee laughed until she cried. How wonderful.
As her mom, I truly celebrate each of her 21 years and look forward to all that are to come. I can’t wait to see the amazing things that this courageous young lady does in her life. Her determination and work ethic are difficult to beat. I have seen these characteristics shine through in so many areas of her life. I see her finding joy in the moments that she experiences and in the people that she loves. She makes her sister and I laugh so much. She continues to grow and mature emotionally. This past summer when she was home living with us she shared that she felt like we needed to have more appointed times for sharing our feelings between her sister, her, and I. I can’t explain as her mom how thankful I was that she felt the freedom and the desire to share this with me.
Wow. As I look back on my Kylee’s 21 years then my heart is filled with so many things. I am so thankful for this incredible young woman that she has grown to be. I am so excited to see what God continues to do in her and through her. I continue to hurt for the pain that she has and continues to live with. I am ever thankful for each person who has been and continues to be such a loving, encouraging support to my first girl. As Kylee’s mom, I thank each one of you that has been and continues to be a special support to my Kylee girl.
To my Kylee girl… you amaze me. I am so proud of the incredible young woman that you are. I would choose you every time to be my first girl. I can’t wait to see and to be a part of all of the wonderful things that you do in your life. You are a priceless gift in mine! I celebrate you and every moment of every one of these 21 years with you. I love you with my whole heart. I will be cheering you on every step of your journey my sweetheart!! Happy 21st my special Kylee girl!!