June 26th. Six years ago today I lost my only son. Six years without you here with me my PK.
I knew going into this day that this year was going to be so different for me. For the first four years on this day, I always had both of my girls with me. The first year we were at home, and I wrote pages and pages as I relived each day leading up to my son’s death. It was quite honestly a miserable time. After that year, I decided that I was going to do something in nature with the girls on this day instead. We all love nature, and I decided that as we remembered PK on this day that absolutely broke my heart that we would also find beauty and gratitude in our day by exploring God’s creation. You can read about each year if you would like as they are all shared in this blog with the exception of the first year. (2 Years Later describes the girls and my adventure at Pike’s Peak. 3 Years Later describes the girls and my canoe trip down one of my favorite rivers. 4 Years Later describes the girls and my adventure in Minnesota’s beautiful northern woods. 5 Years Later describes MiKayla’s and my hike to one of the most beautiful crags and a canoe trip. The fifth year it was just MiKayla and I as Kylee was in Africa on a mission trip. We were thankful for Kylee’s video call that day.)
This year, six years later, was the first time that I would be spending the day that my son died alone. Both of my girls are on a trip to Asia which left me in such a different emotional state. I am very excited and thankful for my girls’ opportunities and can’t wait to have them back with me after this month. However, the preparation for me to spend this day alone was very different. I wanted to spend it in the beauty of God’s creation as has now become our tradition, yet I needed to think of it differently as it was just going to be me. As this day approached, my emotions continued to build. I try very hard to balance this day that I do not look forward to with the beauty and excitement of nature. However, many events and moments of that last week with my son replay in my heart and mind as I get closer to the day that I lost him. I do my best to celebrate his life in the days leading up to this day by sharing different videos, etc that I have of him on social media. Those are such priceless gifts that I have.
Monday night, I was awake almost the whole night. The tears were a steady stream. I was missing my PK so much. I was up watching videos that he had made… seeing him and listening to his voice. These are the best treasures that I will forever be thankful for. I was wide awake. I was trying to make myself go back to sleep multiple times as I still had to work on Tuesday. I know myself well enough to know that If I am tired and emotional, then it will most likely be even more difficult. I slept a little more before it was time to get up but not much. That day at work was a challenge. Tears continued to pour. I kept trying to complete my tasks and push through. Everything in me just wanted to leave and to start driving. Thankfully, I was able to complete my work tasks and get on the road.
Many, many times as I thought about this day, my mind would wander and I would tell God, “I can’t believe that I am having to do this day alone.” My heart just hurts. I feel so overwhelmed. Then I would sense God’s loving reminders:
“Kristi, you are not alone. I have not forgotten you. I am with you.”
I knew it was truth. I was still a roller coaster of emotions in spite of knowing this truth. Driving is often therapeutic for me. I knew that being I would be driving to somewhere beautiful on this night that would be an encouragement to my heart. My heart still felt so overwhelmed. I turned off the music and just had everything quiet. Everything was quiet except for my thoughts…Thank You God for PK. Thank you for every day that I had with him. I miss him so much Lord. My heart is overwhelmed. I am hurting.
As I prayed and drove, a praise song that I loved for many years and had been remade in 2004 by Stephen Hurd was on my heart. I pulled it up on YouTube and listened to it over and over again. These were some of the words that were resonating with my heart…
“When my heart is overwhelmed, my prayer is, lead me to The Rock. Lead me to The Rock that is higher than I, O Lord. Sometimes the weight of this whole world tries to slay me. But a strong tower from the enemy you have been for me. So I need to find our place, a special secret place, where I feel His warm embrace… You are my firm foundation, my salvation, my solid rock… Help me Lord… my solid rock… chief cornerstone… firm foundation… solid rock… my salvation… when I could have lost my mind… my solid rock… when my heart is overwhelmed Lord, lead me to The Rock that is higher than I….”
I sang that song for a lot of my trip. Sometimes when a song like that is on my heart then I sing it again and again and really try to press that message into my heart. It was a beautiful drive. The weather was beautiful, and I was looking forward to the place where I was going to watch the sunset that night. I had spotted online a beautiful place that overlooks a lake and is surrounded by hills and valleys. As I pulled in, I was instantly taken in by the beauty of where I was. I took many pictures of the beautiful scenery, and I will include one below along with the link to the song that I listened to many times. I did not think of the connection between the song and the place until I was standing there looking at the beautiful view and watching the sunset. The place where I was standing was called “Top of the rock”. I had just spent probably a third of my trip singing about being led to The Rock… my solid rock… and now I was standing at the place called Top of the rock. Amazing. As I stood there reflecting on that song, the beauty of this place, and my son, I took long, slow breaths. Every time I breathed in, I just tried to breathe in the peace that I continue to find and the beauty of where I was. I felt deep peace. I felt deep gratitude for every moment that I had with my son. I stood there for at least an hour taking pictures, watching the beauty, and trying to breathe in the peace and the beauty.
I was joined by some small kids that were racing around and trying to convince their parents that they could just slide down this “small mountain” that we were on. They were laughing and running around just as I watched my PK do with his sisters through the years. Every once in awhile they would stop and glance my way… I had tears running down my face as I was breathing in the peace and beauty so they were probably wondering what was wrong with me but were probably told not to ask. ? I was also joined by two beautiful butterflies that continually flew around me as I stood there breathing in the moment. After it was dark, I drove to where I was staying, and I took a long, hot bath and thanked God for giving me peace and beauty in that day as I prepared for my big day the next day.
The next morning, my plans changed as I came across a place called “Dogwood Canyon”. I had not heard of it nor had I been there, but that became the place where I was going for my hike. I drove to the canyon that morning and loaded up the water for my hike. As I was driving there, images would flash through my mind of all that had changed for me in the last almost 8 years. August 2011 was when my husband was killed in a work accident. Now today was the 6th anniversary of my only son’s death. He was 18 when he instantly was killed in a car crash. On the 4th of this month, he should have been turning 24, instead my son is forever 18. Sometimes, I still feel like I am in shock with all that has happened. I kept praying, “Lord, please help me and be with me today just like you were last night.”
As I begin my journey into the canyon, I was immediately in awe of the beauty that I was surrounded with. The trail was 3.9 miles to the end so after I got back to the truck then I would have completed 7.8 miles. I was pumping myself up! 🙂 It was humid, but the temperature was bearable for this northern baby.
The beauty of the canyon was incredible. Waterfalls were all along the trail including at the very end. I love waterfalls! Along the trail, I was able to walk along the stream the entire way. I have many beautiful pictures but will include two of my favorites.
I was thankful. God had blessed me with the perfect spot for today’s hike. I was also so thankful for the peace and gratitude that I was experiencing as I missed and longed for my boy. I knew that was a gift straight from God’s loving heart to me. At one point, I walked up to a beautiful chapel that I was able to walk through and sit on the small deck overlooking another beautiful waterfall. I opened up my Bible to Psalm 40: 1-3:
“I waited patiently for The Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a ROCK and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear The Lord and put their trust in Him.”
I love those verses, and they were wonderful to read again as I sat and gazed at the beauty that I was surrounded with. Yes, I do believe that God has heard my cry. I do believe that He has pulled me out of the pit where I have felt consumed with grief and pain. Even though my heart still hurts and longs for my son, I do believe that He has set my feet on The Rock. I was smiling as I sat there… talk about a theme of this year’s anniversary. There was the word rock again. He is my rock. He is with me during the storms that have caused real damage in my life, and yet He has continued to help me to stand. Thank You God. Thank You for helping me, loving me, and being with Me.
As I continued to hike through the canyon, I was definitely thinking of my girls. Kylee and MiKayla had video called me earlier that morning. It was a funny call because I was close to the lake and not in a place that had a good signal; therefore, they could barely hear me. However, I could see their beautiful faces and hear their voices so it helped me despite of the signal issues. They knew that it would help their mom so much to connect with them on this day that I lost my son and they lost their brother. Kylee left me another beautiful letter to read on this day that included:
“We are so excited to see you and tell you all about Asia! I hope this month has been good. We have been praying that it would be despite everything, because we know this is a hard month… …MiKayla and I are so proud of you… Let yourself do whatever you need to today… laugh, cry, yell, joke, or whatever you need…. just know that we support you and love you. We will see you before you know it…”
Beautiful loving words from my beautiful girl. Even though the girls weren’t with me, I could still picture what they would have been doing if they were. I would smile as I would see rocks that they would climb that were off the path, and places that they would want to explore that they would think would give them even a better picture. I am so thankful that they will be back home in a few days. I can’t wait to see them.
As I was on my way back to the beginning of the trail, I saw a family that I had passed on the way to the end of the trail. The dad looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “Wait! Do we have to walk all of the way back?” I just smiled and said yes. He immediately began yelling to his wife, “Hey honey. Did you hear what that lady said? We have to walk all of the way back!” I could not hold back the laughter. That was so funny to me. I kept wondering how in the world did he think that they were going to get back. Then his little girl looked up at him and said, “Daddy, what was that hiker laughing about?” And then I was really excited that I was identified as a hiker!! Yes!! 🙂 The joy in the little things. 🙂
PK, 6 years later. I love you just as much as I always have. I miss you for always. I carry you with me wherever I go as you will always be a part of my heart… a priceless gift in my life that will never be replaced. I thank God for every moment that I ever had with you my sweetheart. As I remember you this day in the beauty of God’s creation, please know that I love you with every part of me and as always PK, I would choose you every time to be my son. I love you forever…
(The link for the praise song that I was referring to is right after this.)