I sit here today, September 15, 2016, the day that marks one year since my daughter, sister, and friend, Kailen Olivia Mae Combs Taylor, at 25 1/2 years of age, took her final breath of life here on this earth and began, as C.S. Lewis writes, “…the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Those words have brought us great comfort as they have played and replayed over and over in our minds throughout this past year. And, thank you, Pastor Tim, for choosing to end Kailen’s Celebration of Life service last September 19th with those exact words.
One of the first things I have to say is that, as Kailen’s mom, I have thanked the Lord so many times during this past year for entrusting me and blessing me to be her mama for her 25 1/2 years of life on this earth. And, it goes without saying, but I know I did nothing to deserve the honor of being Kailen’s mama…absolutely nothing. It was truly just a gift from God to have Kailen as my daughter. Such joy, peace, laughter, love, life, and spunk Kailen brought to every single day of life. Even through all of the pain she endured and the questions she had in this life, I watched Kailen choose each of those things over and over again.
Kailen came into this world fighting a battle. She was born at 36 weeks, weighing 6 lbs. 8 3/4 oz., 20″ long looking like a beautiful, dark-haired, healthy baby girl. However, shortly after her birth, she began having trouble breathing. The doctors chose to put her under an oxygen hood and keep her in a higher level nursery for her first night to keep a closer watch on her. After getting basically no sleep the night before Kailen was born due to being in labor, I was completely exhausted; however, around 1:00 a.m. I found myself awake and decided to call the nursery to check on Kailen. When the nurse answered the phone, I began asking her how Kailen was doing as I was hearing a baby crying in the background. I stopped mid-sentence and asked the nurse, “Is that Kailen crying?” to which she replied, “Yes.” She went on to tell me they had tried to comfort her but nothing they did seemed to make any difference. So, I told the nurse I would be right down.
As I walked into the nursery, Kailen was still crying just as hard. I walked over to her and placed my right hand over her chest as I wrapped my left hand around her left leg ,and, within minutes, her crying stopped. The nurses were amazed and said, “I guess she just needed her mama’s touch.” I was just grateful she had stopped crying and gone back to sleep.
Over the next few hours, I tried several times to gently take my hands off of Kailen, but, every single time my hands began to just barely pull away from her skin, she began squirming and fussing. So, for the next few hours, I sat there with my hands in that exact position as I prayed for my baby girl. Finally, around 4:00 a.m. I asked one of the nurses to call my husband and ask him to come to the hospital. Jeff got there within the hour, and, after showing him the position his hands needed to be in so Kailen wouldn’t cry, his hands replaced mine and I went back to my room to get a little sleep.
Jeff stayed with Kailen, keeping his hands in the position I had shown him, for a couple more hours. Around 7:00 a.m., the doctors decided to do a few x-rays to check and see what Kailen’s lungs looked like. When they looked at the x-ray’s, they discovered her left lung had collapsed during the night. (No wonder she was crying so hard!) Soon the doctors from the children’s hospital came and told Jeff that Kailen needed to be taken downtown to Kosair Children’s Hospital, but before they took her they were going to make a small incision between her ribs on her left side and insert a chest tube which would cause her left lung to reinflate. They said she would then be taken by “baby buggy,” a.k.a. ambulance, but they would bring her by my room before leaving with her. Jeff then had to come to my room to wake me up and tell me the news.
Shortly after Jeff woke me up and told me what had happened, they brought Kailen into my room. She was in an incubator, on a respirator, had an IV in her head, and a chest tube in her side, and, we, of course, were a mess. Jeff and I walked over to the incubator and they told us we could reach our hands through the two holes in the sides of the incubator, to be able to touch her. So we did. The doctors told us that Kailen had three good things going for her: 1) She’s a good birth weight, 2) She’s a girl–girls are fighters as newborns, and, 3) She’s got a temper. They said, “When we gave Kailen the injection to numb her before we made the incision for the chest tube, she began holding her breath.” They went on to explain to us that holding your breath is not a normal newborn reflex and that her holding her breath showed she had a temper and was a fighter. Before the doctors left my room and with our hands still reaching through the holes into the incubator, Jeff and I prayed over our sweet newborn daughter and thanked the Lord for this precious gift.
Thus began the life of Kailen Olivia Mae. And, I’d like to say the health stories for Kailen only get better from there, but, unfortunately, there are more stories. I won’t tell you all of those stories just yet. I’ll save those for later posts or, maybe, for her book. But, I have to tell you, as much of a fighter to live as Kailen Olivia Mae was, she was even more of a fighter to keep her eyes on Jesus no matter the storm, no matter the pain, no matter the cost. We watched her time and time again choose what James 1 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” And, though Kailen Olivia Mae was only given to us for 25 1/2 years, she left here on September 15, 2015 “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Praise Jesus.
My prayer for myself and for all who were touched by Kailen’s life is that we will all live our lives in such a way that, when we come to the end of our lives here on this earth, others will say about us what we say about Kailen: Kailen Olivia Mae sure did this life the right way.
I love you, Kailen Olivia! I miss you more than words could ever say! And…I can’t wait to spend eternity worshiping Jesus with you! I’m listening for your drumming…