I've really been struggling to muster the courage and the heart to face this post. For those who don't know, my sweet little sister passed away a little over two weeks ago of heart failure resulting from a battle with a severe back infection. We have been completely devastated, to say the least. Sensing my struggle, my dad offered to write this post. I will be forever grateful for the strength he gives to me and our entire family - always, but especially during times of crisis. I will also be forever grateful that I am able to be Kaycee's big sis and to know that our family is eternal.
Today is day seventeen since that awful day that our sweet daughter Kaycee died. The emotions and thoughts I have experienced since that day literally test the limits of human endurance. And I am “only” her father; I cannot comprehend Nancy’s unique experience of being Kaycee’s mother, or Andrew’s experience as her husband, or Kyle’s, Ashley’s, and Eric’s as her siblings. Laney and Jack are too young to understand, but their loss of their mother is the most lasting and profound.
Our test is one of humility and gratitude. We may pray to a loving Heavenly Father often throughout our lives, but how can we have gratitude when our prayers are not answered, and we face the aftermath of a tragedy? Is enduring to the end a process of hanging on by our fingernails and barely surviving the pains and sorrows of life? Can we choose to be grateful for all those people we are close to, and all that we have, or are we overwhelmed with what could have been, and all that Kaycee will miss in this life? And all that we will miss with her absence?
Losing a child in her prime is among the most difficult experiences in life. Losing a child who was beginning to turn out to be who she really is, that is a unique tragedy. There were many times in prior years we thought Kaycee could be a day away from leaving us, but her progress over the past 18 months was remarkable. She and Andrew were given this amazing gift of Laney in June, and another amazing gift of a hopeful future for their little family. To have that lifetime of hope erased in an hour is a cruel turn that leaves a hole in our hearts that will never fully heal.
But the sun rose again this morning. Laney, Jack, and Andrew woke up and started a new day. So did each person who knew and loved Kaycee. God gave us the gift of life, the gift of this earth, the gift of our family, literally all that we have. If we are truly grateful for these gifts, can we be angry and ungrateful when one of these precious gifts is taken away? How long will it take for us to turn back to God in gratitude and trust that all is well, all is as it should be, when every human sense and emotion feels that nothing is well, nothing is as it should be?
We have experienced the miracle of Dustin’s survival from that terrible accident, and the restoration of his vision. Are we only grateful when the outcome is an affirmative answer to our prayers? When our faith is rewarded by a miracle? Or can we be equally grateful to our Father in Heaven when all of our obedience and prayers are not rewarded by a desired outcome?
Since Dustin’s accident, there have been many who have not believed in those miracles we have experienced, but have explained those outcomes as rare physical recoveries or very good fortune. There have been many who have experienced their own hardship and tragedy, and are angry that Dustin and Ashley dare to believe that God chose to grant those miracles to Dustin, and withheld miracles from others. There are many who are tortured by the unfairness of life itself, and agonize over not being rewarded for years of obedience and dedication to doing the right things.
Fairness in this life is a human expectation. God has an eternal plan, and that plan is the same for all of us, no matter what happens in this life. There is no more fair plan than that, and our challenge is to not only survive the inequities and brutal hardships of life, but to truly endure with a spirit of faith, hope, and gratitude. We have that choice, whether we are blessed with miracles, or when we are faced with tragedies, as we all will be.
I miss my sweet Kaycee, and I adore her great qualities. My life will not be the same without her, and there are moments that sadness overwhelms me. I wish she were still here, and I can’t yet accept that she is not. The void that she leaves for my hopes and dreams for her, Andrew, Jack and Laney is indescribable.
But I know she is enveloped by the eternal love of her Father in Heaven, the deep love of my mother and others who have passed before. I also know we will not only see her again, but be with her forever. There is comfort in this knowledge, but our wounds are so fresh that the comfort is not yet nearly enough to offset the pain.
The only path to recovery is one of renewed hope and gratitude for all we have. There is an amazing future for Jack, Laney, and Andrew. That future will take hard work and faith that we are only expected to do the best we can do. Our commitment to doing the right things has not changed. Our perspective and priorities have not changed. And the eternal promises we have will never change.
We will continue to be approached by people who express their empathy by saying they don’t know how we can possibly cope with such a tragedy, even saying they would not be able to get out of bed or move forward. We understand these expressions, but we will get out of bed and move forward, because we have amazing family and friends, and we have a loving God and Savior who will help us when we are at our weakest points. We have so much to be grateful for, so much to live our lives for, so many great days ahead.
We will learn to be inspired and lifted by Kaycee’s tragedy, the same way we were inspired and lifted by Dustin’s miracles. We will learn to be grateful and hopeful again. A day at a time.