In a just a little while, at 5:00 p.m. one year ago today, on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 marks the homegoing of our daughter, Kailen Olivia Mae, who went home to be with Jesus. Right now, she is completely healed and all her questions have been answered simply from looking into the face of Jesus. She is victorious, she earned her crown, and, like so many who have gone before us, Kailen is more alive today than she ever was. She is experiencing the real world as it was meant to be the first time around and, I will have to say, I am very curious as to what she now knows.
In the meantime, we, as her family, have been working hard at trying to grieve well. To be open and transparent with you, it has been painful and hard work but we are moving forward and experiencing healing little by little. I liken it to riding a bicycle up hill. As long as you are peddling, it is moving forward. There is no coasting and you won’t get there unless you keep peddling. I won’t candy coat it either, sometimes the hill feels like climbing a church steeple but we have still kept on moving.
During the past few years of grieving (yes we became students of this process before September 15, 2015) we have listened to countless hours of sermons on grieving properly and read many words on many pages about the experiences of other pilgrims who have walked down this path. I have found it to be encouraging to hear from others who have been there, to know that I am normal and not losing my mind. I say that because, along with the grief of losing a close loved one also comes the fog and fatigue. At first, I considered my day successful if I got out of bed on time and remembered to brush my teeth. Eight hours of sleep felt more like going to bed at 3:00 a.m. And, unfortunately, the fog doesn’t burn off; it sticks around and some days is quite thick. I remember one time I got dressed and went to work and, when I got out of my vehicle, I noticed I was still wearing my house shoes. Another time, I paid for gas at the gas station and then drove off with an empty tank and never even noticed.
During this period of working through our grief, we have learned many good and interesting things. As you know, the more a person learns about life the more we learn we don’t know. I think one of the good things that comes from grieving purposefully is the introspection that takes place. You get a bigger perspective on who God really is and a reminder that “…it is not about me.” This all belongs to God; I am simply a steward of everything in my life, including my life. I haven’t earned anything. There are no self-made men. The problem with being a self-made “man” is that he worships his creator. Outside of the Life of the Son of God who lives inside me, there is nothing. It all belongs to Him and He gives me the very breath I take each moment. When I have the right perspective that God is God and I am not, then I operate from a grateful heart and thank God for everything because it is all His. It’s not about me. When my heart is grateful it makes lots of room for God and when my heart is full of the things of God there is very little room for myself.
Another interesting fact we have learned is that when you lose a close loved one you want to remember them. You want their memory to stay alive. You want their life and works and pain and suffering and absence to mean something. I now understand why so many foundations exist and I also know that people who have lost a close loved one appreciate hearing people mention their loved one’s name and tell stories and good things about them. I personally love to talk about Kailen and love to hear people say her name and the good things about her. I can talk about her at the drop of a hat and, if necessary, drop the hat myself. I love to see her picture and thank the Lord, as the poet William Wordsworth once said, for “…the sad times that bring sweet memories to mind.”
Having said that, let me tell you just a little ‘bout my daughter, Kailen. As a young lady she would start praying in the last quarter of each year about what her purpose and theme would be for the upcoming “New Year.” She would also create an image or painting to represent the theme and have subpoints for each month with action items. In other words, she purposefully and intentionally did life even as a youngster. One of our parenting mottos was to teach our children, “to do life and not have life do them.” As you can tell, I was proud about how Kailen approached life with a passion to live purposefully.
Another thing about Kailen that was so irresistibly attractive was that her walk with the Lord was not Jesus plus something in order to feel good about herself and to feel complete. Her personal significance was based on a walk with Jesus alone. She knew who she was in Christ, both in her heart and in her head, and it showed. Terminal cancer did not define Kailen’s life, it illuminated it. Her circle of influence was large because so many were attracted to the Life of the Son of God who lived inside her. As deep calls out to deep, the spirit man in each of us is attracted to the holiness and righteousness of the spirit man in others. Obviously, Kailen was not perfect, but, she let her light shine and we all loved her for it.
One last proud father story I’ll share today is Kailen’s giftedness to write. Her style was special because it was a personal, first person perspective which articulated the many feelings that swirl when you try to do life and not have life do you. Back when she was in Middle School, one of her standardized tests included a writing piece. She did so well on the writing that she scored one of the highest scores ever recorded in Oldham County Middle School. She even received a letter from the White House congratulating her on the quality of her writing abilities. Boy, did that make me proud! I have personally benefited and been blessed by her many written words she has left behind. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the gift of Kailen’s words.
As I come to a conclusion, I have heard it said that you have no idea how tough temptation is until you live a life that purposes to resist it. As I mentioned earlier, Kailen was not perfect and we should only compare ourselves to Christ, not others lest we puff ourselves up. However, as her father, I think she did a spectacular job at running the race and finished strong. According to God, Kailen did not leave this earth one minute too soon; she was right on time and accomplished God’s purposes.
Lastly, I will speak to Kailen and say, I love you, Kailen Olivia Mae. You are dearly missed by us all and I am very proud of you. I’ll see you as soon as my purposes in Christ are complete. Until then, I will continue to look forward to that day.