5 Years Later…
June 26th. The night before this heartbreaking day, MiKayla and I left to begin driving to our destination. We both worked Monday and then left shortly after we had gotten home. We wanted to drive as much of the trip the night before as we were able to because we had an early hike planned for the next morning. MiKayla and I had a lot of fun catching up and laughing and sharing on most of our trip there. After a couple hours of driving, I was talking to MiKayla about PK and whatever I said triggered something in MiKayla. I watched as my daughter withdrew. I knew suddenly she was really feeling her grief and was retreating emotionally. We had a quiet portion of our drive as this was unfolding. Our quietness continued as we stopped to eat. As a mom of two grieving girls, I am continually trying to balance giving my daughters the space that they need in their grief while simultaneously attempting to create a safe space where they can express and work through their grief. Our quietness continued even after we ordered. I would pause and search my daughter’s eyes and face, and then I would continue in the quietness and would try to give her some more time. After awhile I looked at her and asked, “What am I able to do for you as your mom in these moments that will help you?” The tears begin to pour heavy and fast down my girl’s beautiful face. Part of me felt relief… I knew she was holding back the tears for a long time. When she lets her tears flow then I know that she has let go of some of that emotional control that she tries to maintain. I told her that I wanted her to feel free to feel her grief and express it when it was there. MiKayla said, “I am feeling it right now.” We sat at the table, and my baby girl cried as I rubbed her arm. We were quiet as she cried. There were no words needed. As she said, she was feeling her grief right then.
I had spent many days leading up to June 26th in tears. It is difficult to describe the emotional and mental build up that leads up to this day when my 18 year old son was instantly killed in a car accident. In what seemed like a blink, my son was gone from life on this earth for forever. It is still incomprehensible. The first anniversary after his death, the girls and I were home. As many of you know, my husband of 18 years had been killed in a work related accident and had died 22 months before my son died. The girls and I had so much emotional work to do, and our hearts felt broken as we felt the pain of our losses. As we approached the second anniversary of my son’s death, I told the girls that I wanted us to start going somewhere beautiful on that heartbreaking day. We have been together every year since then until this year. This 5th anniversary would be our first time when the three of us were not together as Kylee was still on her mission trip in South Africa. It was difficult for me to think of missing Kylee on this day as well. (Each of our days is shared on my blog and are entitled, 2 years later, 3 years later, etc. ) There is one for each year with the exception of the first.
As MiKayla and I begin to eat and talk then we shifted again to different topics after MiKayla had her cry. We drove the rest of the way that night to the hotel that we planned to stay in and tried to get to sleep early as we wanted to leave our hotel at 5 am. As I am many nights, I was restless throughout the night. I fell asleep for a couple of hours and was back awake. I was looking forward to where MiKayla and I would be going the next day, but nothing in me looks forward to June 26th. Somehow, my heart and mind replay this day. At times, even though it is 5 years later, I still feel in shock. I was able to get some more sleep before it was time to get up. MiKayla and I knew that we would probably be driving at least for another hour, but we wanted to be hiking by 6 am. I had read that the hike was estimated to take at least one hour to get to our destination. Our garmin had another plan. Our garmin informed us that we had arrived in a place where we could tell was not accurate. I tried to reprogram again, but we were out in the middle of the wilderness without a good signal. As we headed in the direction that I thought was accurate, I spotted a farmer who was walking along the road. He was friendly and helpful. He gave the two lost girls directions and sent us in the right direction. Eventually when we had a signal for a few moments, we were able to reenter a different name that our destination was called and compare it with the farmer’s directions. We were excited to see that we were headed in the correct direction although we now had added an additional hour of driving time. MiKayla and I had a good drive that morning as we alternated between visiting and reflecting.
When we arrived at our destination, we found the trail sign. We grabbed some water bottles from the cooler and our phones to take pictures and headed on to the trail. The trail was beautiful as we climbed up and down the inclines and were surrounded by beautiful trees and views. We encountered two signs on the trail that warned us of dangerous cliffs as we hiked towards our target. MiKayla and I most definitely had times on the trail where we were wondering how much longer. I loved to watch MiKayla as she would take pictures of wildflowers and rock formations along our path. She was noticing and capturing so much beauty. We crossed streams that were dry. MiKayla exclaimed, “This part of our day is our lower body workout!” MiKayla and I enjoyed our time together as we hiked along the path, gazed out over the ledges, and finally reached our destination. The featured picture on this blog shows a view of MiKayla on the crag from both angles. MiKayla was in our victory pose with her arms and hands stretched out towards the sky. The girls and I like that pose, and that is how Kylee posed on Pike’s Peak at the 2 year anniversary of my only son’s death. As you can imagine, the pose from the view of the crag that is darker is facing the sun, but MiKayla and I still liked the picture and all of it’s beauty. We also loved the other view that shows the color brilliance and absolute beauty of our location. We had once again found a beautiful spot to reflect and exhale as we rode the waves of grief throughout our morning.
We met a wonderful couple that had journeyed to the crag who were just lovely people. They were friendly and caring from the first hello. As MiKayla and I begin our hike back, we shared with each other how thankful that we were to have been in such a beautiful spot. I must admit this northern girl was really starting to feel the heat and humidity as we hiked back along the path. MiKayla and I still enjoyed our hike even though we were feeling the heat and continued to take pictures in attempts of capturing the beauty that we were experiencing. MiKayla and I loved our beautiful hike and were thankful for our morning adventure. We loaded back up to begin driving again and were headed to one of my favorite rivers to canoe for the afternoon.
The girls and I have discussed previously how time on the water whether it is the ocean, lake, river, waterfall, etc. is a place of peace for us all. I talked with MiKayla about how special it was that each year we have managed to incorporate some time on or by the water into this painful day. As MiKayla and I climbed into our canoe to paddle several miles down the river, then we had come prepared with lots of water to stay hydrated. The river was peaceful and beautiful. We passed several groups that were kayaking and canoeing. MiKayla and I both wanted to canoe down the river together but wanted to keep some space from the other groups. MiKayla had me smiling often as she would scope out the river to see who was coming or who we needed to pass to regain our solitude and peace. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon. It was hot and humid, but MiKayla and I loved our time canoeing and were thankful to be together. Both of us were missing our Kylee girl a lot. I kept hoping that we would hear from Kylee on this day but had not verbalized my hope to MiKayla. I had no idea if we would. MiKayla and I were not too far along in our drive when we received a video call on Facebook messenger. IT WAS KYLEE!!!!!!!
Tears immediately filled my eyes. MiKayla and I were driving up quite high and rounding a curve so I had to find a safe place to pull over with my hazards on in order for us to keep our signal. Kylee shared quite a bit with us on that call. She shared how she was trying to make herself cry the night before to try to have her big cry before the day started. She thought that maybe that would help her to just go through the day. She said that she ended up sharing with her team what the day was and how she lost her brother on this day. MiKayla let Kylee know about her big cry that happened when we were eating from the night before. Kylee shared about how much love and support that she felt throughout the day from her team and her leaders. Kylee shared about how she had told her story several different times on her mission trip and how she is going to continue to work on being open about what has happened in her life and how difficult that it has been to lose her dad and brother. She wants to share how God has been helping her. MiKayla and I had our heads leaned together as we listened to our Kylee girl. Many tears poured down my face. I was so thankful that even though we were half way across the world from each other that on this day that broke my heart that my girls and I could still find a way to connect and share our hearts for a little while. Kylee looked great, and it was such a blessing to be able to hear her voice and to see her face. I had told MiKayla before we received our call that our countdown to Kylee was down to three days. MiKayla and I both shared with each other how we felt that we would be in tears when we were reunited with our Kylee. Kylee girl, we cannot wait! We have missed you so much this month, but we are both so happy for your trip and for all the ways that you have grown and all that you have experienced.
How are the Kirk ladies five years later? We are continuing to grow and make steps in our coping. We still feel pain… we are just learning how to live with it. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for each and every blessing… we grieve for what we still wish that we could experience in our lives with PK and Kirk. We love each other fiercely and are so thankful for each one who continues to stand with us, and pray with us, and reach out to us. On this day, my heart was so touched by those who reached out to us and shared their love with us… who heard our pain and responded… who shared their love and comfort with us. Thank you to each and every one of you that so graciously reaches out to us and blesses us with His love from above. We are forever grateful. As you look at the pictures on this blog and see the beauty, please also notice that Mikayla’s arms are raised in victory. My girls are true overcomers… I could not be more proud of them or thankful for them. They amaze me.
To my PK… I love and miss you with all of my heart. I still cannot believe that I have been five years without you now my sweet boy. I carry you with me in my heart and mind wherever I am… my gratitude and grief both run endlessly deep.. your sisters and I will continue to persevere and to do our best… we hope to honor you by making our lives great. I love you with my whole heart my sweet boy. I choose you every time to be my boy. Every time.
“Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith… It is the price of love.” Author Unknown