As February 24, 2016 is winding down, I wanted to share our day with everyone. First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for us over these past few days. Your prayers, texts, phone calls, emails, flowers, coffees, stories, and messages have strengthened us as we’ve walked through Kailen’s first birthday without her here with us.
We were blessed today to be able to spend the entire day together as a family–and what a blessing that was! This morning began with our son, Jarrod, surprising us by going out and buying coffee and breakfast for all of us to start our day. What we didn’t know when Jarrod walked in this morning was that he had been up all night last night. When we asked him why he was up all night and he said he just couldn’t stop thinking about Kailen and wishing she were here. While that initially surprised us, it also reminded us of the way grief affects siblings in much the same way it affects parents. Jeff and I had been having great difficulty sleeping for several nights previously but finally did sleep fairly well last night–although most probably because of sheer exhaustion. Throughout the rest of the morning, we had a couple of friends stop by who gave us some encouragement and special gifts which we dearly loved.
For a late lunch, we went to one of our family’s favorite little cafes down by the Ohio River here in Oldham County. This is a place we have been to several times with Kailen and it was always one of her favorite places to go to when she was home with us. As is our usual practice, we ate a delicious lunch at the cafe then spent some time walking through the shop looking at all the unique gifts. Earlier in the week, we had decided we were going to buy something special from the shop to keep in our home as a momento of this day. As we looked, we each found what we felt were just the right things and then we headed down to the Ohio River.
Before we left the house for the afternoon, each of us took a few minutes to sit down and write some things we wanted to say to Kailen on strips of paper then attached the strips to helium-filled birthday balloons. Once we were at the river, we got out and one-at-a-time released our balloons with notes attached and watched them float toward the sky. Before we left, we did our best to make it through our traditional ‘Combs Family Birthday Song’ because we knew Kailen would want us to sing to her as we have every year before. On our way home, we drove by Kailen’s grave then came home to one of our most favorite meals prepared for us by some very dear friends.
To end our day, we all sat down and watched the movie, ‘Little Women.’ During Kailen’s last days, she had talked about this movie to Kristen and me. I hadn’t seen this movie in several years but I knew I wanted to watch it again at some special time and today felt like that day. There were some parts of the movie that were hard to watch because they hit so close to home with where we have been walking these past few months but watching it together seemed to be the perfect ending to the day.
In looking back, we are all still amazed at how Kailen’s birthday did what it did to us and we couldn’t seem to stop it. We found the days leading up to today were much more difficult than today actually turned out to be. Yes, we shed tears but we also shared memories that helped us all smile through the tears. And, by having something planned to do today that Kailen loved, we were able to focus more on Kailen than on our pain. It felt like we did something positive that gave February 24, 2016 special meaning because it is–and will always be–a beautiful day for a beautiful daughter. Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing of Kailen Olivia Mae Combs Taylor.