Well, this week has been one that has pretty much just snuck up on us grief-wise and basically pulled the rug out from underneath us. This past Sunday, March 13, was NCAA Selection Sunday and that has always been a big day in our of ‘Love God, Family, & Kentucky Wildcat Basketball.’ Back several years ago on Selection Sunday, Jeff began making a poster-size foam board of that year’s NCAA March Madness bracket. Our tradition is after he finishes making the March Madness Bracket Board, I write all 64/68 teams names in and we put the Bracket Board on the mantle of our fireplace where it stays throughout that year’s March Madness. As each team wins, I write their name on the Bracket Board, and, as a family, we then sit around looking at the board, reliving the games, and, of course, talking about which teams we think will win their upcoming games. It has always been such a FUN Combs family tradition.
One year, back several years ago, Kailen asked me if she could write all the teams names on the Bracket Board that year. After talking to her Daddy and him giving the okay for us to ‘break our tradition,’ Kailen wrote all the teams names on the board and continued writing them throughout all of March Madness. I will never forget how excited she was to get to do that and what pride she took in using her best handwriting for each name on the board. And, yes, the board looked MUCH better that year as she used her best artistic printing for every team’s name. So, this past Sunday, when Jeff began drawing this year’s Bracket Board, the reality of not having Kailen with us for this year’s March Madness hit us pretty hard.
Then, this past Monday, March 14, was mine and Jeff’s 29th wedding anniversary and our first anniversary without Kailen here to be the first to text/call/wish us Happy Anniversary. That’s one of the things Kailen loved to do–be the first person to wish you happy birthday, happy anniversary, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc., etc., etc. Kailen LOVED to celebrate LIFE–from the big things to the everyday things. And, she had such a special way of bringing even MORE life to whatever was going on in life, so much so, that, now without her being here with us, we are all left with such a void in all of our lives. This is something we, as Kailen’s family, are experiencing, but, it is also something I have been hearing from several of Kailen’s friends.
Next came this past Tuesday, March 15, which marked 6 months, to the day, of life here on this earth without Kailen Olivia Mae. Six months! Half a year! How can this be? Oh, how LONG these past six months have felt and how time and life is continuing to move on. Wow, just writing that last sentence seems so cold and so harsh and so wrong. One of the many difficult things Jeff and I have faced in these past six months has been living life with the incredible juxtaposition of having one child who’s already made it to her TRUE HOME and two children still here on this earth with us. To those of you who haven’t had to say ‘see you soon’ to one of your children, you may not be able to feel the true angst in that last statement. It is honestly one of the most difficult parts of this journey we are currently walking and something all parents who find themselves in a similar place as us struggle with. One blogger posed a question that went something like this: ‘How am I to be a good parent to all of my children–both those here with me and those who have gone on before me?’ That question resonated with me and put words to the struggle I had been feeling as I was trying to do just that–be a good parent to my children who are still here with me and be a good parent to my child who has gone on before me. I can’t say I have an answer as to how you do that, but, I can say that, for us, everything in life has some of a ‘bittersweet’ taste to it. Yes, there are very SWEET things that have happened in these past six months and we have celebrated, as best we can, each and every one of those things. The only words I have been able to come up concerning the bittersweet part is: “The sweet things in life are no less sweet; however, the bitter part is no less bitter because Kailen’s not here to celebrate those sweet things with us.” I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone, but, it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. Life just has a bittersweetness to it that we have never experienced before and we are learning how to do life with that bittersweet part.
So, now it’s Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, and the first basketball games of this year’s NCAA March Madness will be played. Yes, we have our 2016 March Madness Bracket board on our mantle, and, yes, I will write each team’s name on the board after each game is played, and, yes, we will talk about the wins and and the losses as we look at the board, and, yes, we will GREATLY miss our Wildcat-lovin’ Kailen throughout every game of this first March Madness not having her here with us to cheer on our Kentucky Wildcats. GO BIG BLUE!