Learn more about this AMAZING girl, her health battle and how you can help! We’ll add all tweets with the #teamKCT hashtag so that you can follow Kailen!
I promised a major book announcement today, and here it is!
Official publication day for Even if you don’t: February 10th, 2018 (Amazon and other retailers)
Official book cover reveal: December 9th, 2017 (on social media)
Wanna see the cover design 2 weeks early? Sign up for my newsletter!
There are several ways to sign up:
- On my home page at http://www.bryanctaylor.com
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Thank you so much for your support! I can’t wait to share more of this journey with you.
In His Grip,
Happy Thursday, TeamKCT!
Just wanted to take a moment to remind you that I’ll be making my weekly post at Bryan C. Taylor Blog. This week’s post tells the story of my grief journey’s first milestone moment – the moment my old life became new.
(Hint: it happened at my and Kailen’s favorite place in Rochester, Minnesota!)
Also, stay tuned for a major book announcement! I have big news to share, and I’ll be going public with it THIS UPCOMING SUNDAY, November 12th.
Don’t miss it!
In His Grip,
It’s Bryan. I know it’s been awhile since we last connected, but I promise I haven’t been sitting idle. Though I’m certainly still walking through the undulating torrents of my own grief journey, I’ve initiated a project I pray will give hope and encouragement to other grieving hearts all over the world.
My blog, which I call Confessions of a Widower, has garnered nearly 30,000 views in its first three weeks – a poignant testament to the reality that pain is universal. In the blog, I explore various grief-related topics in an attempt to answer one of humanity’s toughest questions:
How do I live life like a fairytale, when it feels more like a tragedy?
Kailen had a beautiful, indomitable spirit unlike any person I’ve ever known. Which is why I’ve distilled all the lessons she taught me, all the love we shared, and all the life we lived into a book. I’ve titled it Even if you don’t, a phrase that Kailen lived out with awe-inspiring faith and courage.
You can read my blog here: Bryan C. Taylor Blog
To receive exclusive offers and book updates, sign up for my monthly newsletter! There are 3 ways to sign up:
1) On my website: Bryan C. Taylor, Author
2) Using the form embedded at the end of each blog post: Bryan C. Taylor Blog
3) On my Facebook Author Page: Bryan C. Taylor Facebook Author Page
4) On the Facebook Book Page: ‘Even if you don’t’ Book Page
I try to publish a new post every Thursday night! I’m honored to share my struggle with you! And as I always say at the end of each post, if you find it helpful or meaningful, please share it with others that might need it.
The book is set to publish on Amazon in February 2018! I will be posting updates on my blog, and as I mentioned before, my monthly newsletter will have both the latest updates and exclusive offers related to the book.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this quote from Kailen. It epitomizes her immutable faith and forms the foundational tenets of the book you’ll read in February!
“Even if God didn’t do all of these miracles, I knew I was going to be better off for believing. Even if He didn’t, God would still have a plan. Even if He didn’t, I was still going to believe, and ask, and expect miracles.”
My prayers are with you, TeamKCT. And as Kailen and I said so many times – thank you for your incredible support!
I can’t wait to share our story with you in February.
In His Grip,
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.
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…
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!