June 20, 2018. This day would have been Kirk’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. As I reflect back on the years we had together and the almost 7 years that the kids and I have had without him, then my heart is filled once again with a mixture of grief and gratitude.
I clearly remember when we started dating. He took me out to dinner the first time we went out. He had driven us to a town that was about an hour north of us. I asked him if we could stop by a department store that was there as I had money for a coat that I wanted to stop and buy. I already had in mind what kind of coat that I wanted so I knew that it would be quick. We were in and out of the store in just a very short time. Kirk shared with me on a later date how relieved he was. He said when I asked to go to the store that he was not looking forward to it at all, but he wanted to take me there being I wanted to go. Much to his delight, he learned that I do not love to shop at all and that I fit the stereo type that has been used through the years to describe male shoppers. The stereo type compares a male shopper to a hunter as he looks for his prey, captures his prey, and then leaves. This is exactly the kind of shopper that I am. I do not enjoy browsing, and Kirk shared that he was thrilled to learn that about me and how relieved he was at the quickness of that part of our date. We had a fun night and spent a lot of time talking throughout the dinner.
Kirk and I had met at our place of work. I was coming from Minnesota, and he came from the southern part of our state. Kirk and I were both excited to work with kids who were experiencing difficulties in their lives and both had a strong belief that there was hope for each child. I remember how he would stand or sit outside of my classroom when I was teaching. He was definitely the “strong, quiet” type and at first did not say too much to me. He later teased me when we were dating that he did not think that I was interested in him as he felt like I was not that friendly. He would laugh and laugh about that as he teased me. I remember laughing with him and describing how busy I was during that time as I was living with some of our girls that had come to where we worked, and I was full time teaching. I was super busy and evidently was missing some of what he was trying to initiate with me.
After we started dating we would spend a lot of our days off traveling down to his mom’s home where we would play with his adorable nieces and nephews and then he would always want to drive through one of the larger cities that had his favorite Chinese buffets. These were such happy times as I look back on them. I remember having so many talks on our drives there and back. As I got to know his family members, then there were some of Kirk’s siblings who would try to warn me of how he did not like to talk. They would tell me that he would not speak to anyone at all for maybe several days. I remember laughing when they were telling me these things as I did not know that part of Kirk. When we we dated he would talk to me for hours. I don’t think I honestly believed it.
When we got engaged, I was so excited to become a wife and to build a family. I was so excited that I was going to marry a man who had the same love and belief in kids who were in crisis that I did. Because we were an interracial couple, then we did go through some difficulties with others that I shared in my blog “Grieving Racial Division” that I posted on November 6, 2017. Despite the struggles that some others were having with our upcoming interracial marriage, my heart was filled with hope and joy. Our wedding was to be held in a beautiful glass chapel that was located in the woods of the northwestern part of our state. I had always loved the outdoors and when I had visited this beautiful chapel then I believed this was the spot. With my true love of the outdoors then getting married in this beautiful place just seemed perfect.
I remember that day 25 years ago. I remember the joy that I felt. I remember the peace that my heart was flooded with. I remember looking into Kirk’s eyes and feeling so loved as we pledged our forevers to one another. It was a beautiful ceremony where we spent time praising God for putting us together, were married by his brother Alonza, and felt the love of some of our dearest friends and family as they prayed for us as we started our marriage. It was a beautiful day, and I remember all of the joy that I felt. We had rented a cabin in the area for our honeymoon. Kirk had went to check it out before the wedding. I remember him contacting me and saying that he changed cabins and that he was not staying in a treehouse. I remember giggling so much as he recalled his visit to where they said we were staying. He showed me during that next week, and they really were putting us in a treehouse so I was glad that he had it changed. We had lots of laughs about the mixup.
I remember the first two years of our marriage and when it was just us. We were happy to be together and like any marriage as we continued to learn more about each other, then we both had to grow and give and to try to build our marriage. His family’s warning about the no talking sure began to show up, and I teased him a lot about that. I would tell him that he teased me while we were dating with all of the hours and hours of conversations that did not seem to continue after we were married. He would smile and talk about how he used all of his words up at work.
After we had been married two years then our beautiful baby boy arrived. We were both so excited about PK. After going through almost 24 hours of labor then I had to have a C section. After I was able to leave the hospital, I was not able to do much at all that first week due to the C section, and I remember I was home alone with PK while Kirk was at work. I remember throughout the days how he would find time to call me. Kirk would call and ask, “What’s PK doing?” The pride he had in his son was so clear and such a blessing. He marveled at everything that our son did and everything that he learned. Oh how he loved his son. It was such a joyful time for both of us. 15 1/2 months later, our first daughter Kylee arrived. Kirk was just as amazed by her. As close as PK and Kylee were in age, we definitely felt like we had twins. When I was getting my masters, then Kirk would have a night or two of babysitting a week. We had a gated front porch in the house that we lived in, and I remember how Kirk would have the kids playing in there like it was a huge playpen.
After I finished my master’s, then MiKayla was to arrive next. When MiKayla came, PK was 4 1/2 and Kylee was 3. We both loved being parents. We were just as amazed by our baby girl MiKayla as we were by PK and Kylee. The pride that I saw in Kirk in his children was one of my greatest joys with him. How I miss being able to share all of this with him these last seven years and in all of the moments to come. We enjoyed all of the seasons that our kids participated in. We loved watching PK play tee-ball, machine pitch, and then moving his way up to the higher leagues of baseball. We loved watching him play football and basketball as he got older. We loved watching his adventurous and curious personality. We loved watching the girls clog and play soccer. We loved watching them play basketball as they got into the upper elementary ages. We loved watching the girls grow and learn and how individual they each were. We had fierce love for each of our children and such a strong belief in each of them. We loved being parents. We loved watching our kids grow and learn. We were blessed to be able to travel with them and show them different places and experience different things with them.
I loved the pride that I saw in Kirk in our children. There is really nothing like the shared pride and protectiveness that parents have for their children. The joy that we found in our children was the greatest joy of our lives. The bond that we shared with that was by far our strongest. As our kids continued to grow and change, then so did Kirk and I and so did our marriage. I remember June 20 2011. We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. I had no idea that this would be our last anniversary. How would one know what awful events were about to unfold.
On August 10th, 2011 when I was told of Kirk’s accident then the fear that came upon me is difficult to put into words. What I was first told was that he was being air-vacced and that he was hurt. I was not told very many details. I grabbed the kids and we left for the trauma center that was about 2 hours away. I remember the uncertainty that I felt as I drove our children. I remember trying to reassure them even though I really did not understand myself what was going on. I did not understand how our lives were changed forever. I did not understand that my husband was only going to live a few more days. When we arrived at the trauma unit then they let me see him just for a short time. It was only at that time that I was truly able to understand the gravity of what had happened to him. When I was there with him, then I realized that my husband could no longer move from the chest down. The pain that he was in was excruciating. It broke my heart with every wince, moan, and sound of pain. Kirk had such a high pain tolerance. I knew that he was in unbelievable pain. My heart was broken. He looked into my eyes and asked, “What is God trying to tell me?” I just remember my eyes filling with tears and telling him that it was not God. The emotional pain that I felt seeing my husband lay there in such pain and helplessness is beyond words. My kids were only able to see their dad that night for a few moments in the hallway. They went home with their uncle Alonza that night. We were told that we were not going to be able to be with him that night. We had to wait until the next day after they finished all of their assessments and testings. I went to load up on stuff from home during that time of when they said I could not see him. I remember grabbing stuff from all over the house frantically and then driving back. I thought I was moving in for a long time. I did not realize how short the time was that I had left with him.
Those last days that we had with Kirk were filled with many things. The nurses were so kind to me and let me stay with him in intensive care throughout the days and nights even though I was not supposed to. The kids were able to come and see their dad every day. His family was all there with us. I still remember talking to him as they wheeled him away to surgery on August 14th. I had no idea that would be the last time that I saw my husband alive. On that Sunday morning when they called me frantically to come and see him, I remember running through the hospital. I remember reaching him and seeing that there was no response. He did not move. He did not breathe. He did not speak. He was gone. I knew he was gone. I was in such shock. How could this strong man in my life that I had been married to for 18 years be laying here dead? How could my children now be fatherless? I asked the nurses to get his family so that they could come and say goodbye. I remember sitting down in a chair and feeling that the world was spinning. I felt so dizzy and that I was going to pass out. I remember just looking at him in complete disbelief.
When we said our vows 25 years ago, I never imagined that I only had 18 years with my husband. I thought that my husband would be with me for years to come. I thought we would raise our children together. I thought we would share in all of life’s seasons that were still to come. My heart is filled with such grief and gratitude. I miss so much how he loved me and how he loved our children. I miss his strength. I miss the joy that he had in our children. I miss so much about this strong man. I am ever grateful for all that he was in my life and in the life of our children. I will ever be grateful to him as he gave me the three best gifts of my entire life… PK, Kylee, and MiKayla.
I cannot believe that you have been gone for almost 7 years Kirk. I have grieved all that you have missed and most especially in the lives of our children. There is only one thing that I have been glad that you missed and that was the death of our PK on June 26, 2013. I am so glad that you did not have to experience the pain of his death and his absence from our lives… I know it would have broken your heart as it has mine. This pain from our son’s death is the worst pain that I have ever known. I am glad that you missed that.
I am thankful for each moment that we had with you and for our 18 years of marriage that produced the three most incredible people ever. I close my eyes and imagine the joy and pride that you would feel now as you watched our two incredible daughters… tears pour down my face as I imagine it. We are thankful for each moment we had with you… we love you Kirk.
“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” Dr. Robert Holden