Thursday, September 29, 2016

Since I was a very young child, my idea of entering heaven began with me walking down the street I grew up on. I envisioned a beautiful light at the end of the street, felt the love and beauty awaiting me, and then my glimpse of heaven would end, feeling as though my mind had processed all it could handle in that moment. I had that vision into my adulthood, until the morning everything changed.

I spent much of my childhood at my grandparents' house and property, learning to swim in the river, water ski, fish, take care of and love animals, and appreciate the importance of family. After I became a mother, I naturally wanted my children to have the same enriching experiences, and they did.

Fast forward about 25 years. Both of my grandparents have passed away, my youngest daughter is married and my oldest daughter is engaged but still living at home. We get a call from my aunt and uncle (who have always lived next door to my grandparents), asking if we'd be interested in buying the property of dreams and memories. From that phone call to the day we closed was approximately six weeks!

We left the only home my girls had ever known and moved into a little slice of heaven on earth. Our street has only six houses, dead ends into a preserve, golf course in the front, river in the back. My oldest daughter, Kady, loved everything about being here and didn't want to ever leave. After she was married, she stopped by at least four days a week to eat dinner with us, spent many of her weekends playing in and on her beloved river, brought her friends and co-workers here, and helped me plan and host many large family gatherings. We discussed, strategized and fantasized about ways for us all to live together forever.

Back to my view of heaven. If you drive down our street in the morning towards our house and look through the Spanish moss, you'll see a brilliant, bright light. It's the sun reflecting off the river like millions of dancing diamonds. Shortly after Kady died, I saw that very familiar sight through my newly acquired grief lenses and was instantly overcome by the beauty surrounding me. I stopped my car on the street and sobbed. I sobbed in the anguish of missing my daughter. I sobbed for all the hopes and dreams that were stolen from her, from us.  But I also sobbed with gratitude, fully understanding that I was experiencing a gift directly from the hand of God, because in that very moment I was overwhelmed with the comfort and peace that passes all understanding. I sat there for a while, continuing to feel the full weight of my grief but also being comforted in knowing that nothing takes God by surprise.

I will never be able to make sense from the nonsense of losing my beautiful, vibrant daughter to Triple Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer at the age of 30 but, thankfully, I don't have to. The ending to my story has already been written and, when it's all revealed to me on the other side, it will make beautiful, perfect sense in that brilliant light with dancing diamonds, where Kady will greet me.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My daughter, Kady, was one of those people for whom music was something you listened to because someone else happened to be enjoying it or her cheer routine required it. She never asked for or owned a cd or radio until she was in a serious relationship with a d.j., of all things! After Kady was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had the opportunity to attend a weekend retreat hosted by Women Rock for the Cure. One of the unexpected highlights for her became the privilege of hearing The Climb performed by its co-creator, Jessi Alexander. She came back from that retreat profoundly moved in ways that only another cancer fighter could fully grasp. To say that the combination of camaraderie, music and mischievous fun was life-changing for her is an understatement. Her excitement and enthusiasm while telling me about the weekend was like having my giddy teenage girl back, even if for a moment. 
Because she was so moved by The Climb I began listening to it intently, hoping to connect to it as she had, but it wasn't speaking to me in any meaningful way. Truth be told, the first time I really  listened to the lyrics I took exception to the words, "Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side" because, as a seasoned Christian woman who thought her faith and walk with the Lord was far superior to my own child's, I thought it's ALL about what's there waiting for us on the other side and actually took offense at the implication. Kady helped my narrow-minded thinking with that, though. She said, "Mom, what's waiting on the other side is mine no matter what. The life I've been given and the choices I make with it is my climb and the only part of me that will be remembered and last." In that one conversation, my precious daughter taught me a valuable life lesson about not judging anyone else's walk with the Lord. Just because it doesn't look like mine doesn't mean it's not meaningful or impactful.
Your climb was beautiful, my sweet girl, and the impact of your life will be remembered and celebrated. The Climb was beautifully performed at Kady's Celebration of Life service by her talented friend, Jenny Weaver. 

"The Climb"

I can almost see it.
That dream I'm dreaming, but
There's a voice inside my head saying
You'll never reach it
Every step I'm takin'
Every move I make
Feels lost with no direction,
My faith is shakin'
But I, I gotta keep tryin'
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No I'm not breaking
I may not know it, but
These are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep goin',
And I, I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on, 'cause

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb


There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb

Yeah, yeah yeah

Keep on movin'
Keep climbin'
Keep the faith baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa, whoa, oh.

Monday, January 18, 2016

I just found this blog by Mark Myers and I don't think there's a greater truth to be told about losing your child. I'm so grateful for folks who have the gift of expressing the cries of our hearts when we can't do it for ourselves.

Our Greatest Fear

By Mark Myers

What is your greatest fear? What is it for you – that thing that gives you shudders just to think of it? Thunderstorms? Dogs, snakes, spiders? Heights or maybe confined places? Perhaps it is something psychological like public speaking, failure, or being alone. Most of us are afraid of death. Everyone has something they fear in varying degrees – even Chuck Norris.

Your list of fears might be long or it might be short.

While I don’t love snakes, I know my greatest fear is being eaten by a shark. What are the odds, right? I go to the beach one week out of the year and stay in the surf. Oh, I wade out and play. But I always I keep a wary eye on the horizon and make sure there is at least one person bobbing between me and the deep blue. I call him chum and he is my harbinger. When the shark pack pulls him under, I figure I’ll have enough warning to swim to safety.

As a child of the seventies, I blame Jaws. Sharks didn’t exist for me before then. I am not sure if I had yet visited a beach when I saw the movie. In my young mind, the Florida coast became full of twenty-five foot man-eaters that could beach themselves for the right meal. A boy doesn’t just get over that. Yes, sharks are my biggest fear.

At least, they used to be my greatest fear.

As grieving parents, my wife and I are now living out the greatest fear of many – the fear of losing a child. Except when at the beach, I am an eternal optimist. I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen to us. This sort of thing happens to other people and we are the type who rally to support them. Even when Kylie was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis hovered at 30%, I didn’t waiver in my belief that we would win. I wish I could take my chances with a shark instead because I can avoid saltwater and remove any possibility of attack. Unfortunately, we fell on the wrong side of the percentage and the resulting grief is much like a shark. It is cold, unpredictable, and unrelenting at times. It uses triggers, but doesn’t require them. It sets traps, lies in wait, and springs at inopportune and random times. Losing a child is something to be feared.

At one point, we sat down and listed the things we lost when Kylie died. We lost joy, sweetness, hugs, our peacemaker. We lost patience, enthusiasm, and energy. Our artist is gone. A lovely soprano and incredible actress has left the stage. We no longer have an affiliation with our beloved school – it was stripped from us early. We lost potential… seemingly unlimited potential. We lost a great deal – yet I find I don’t fear most types of loss much anymore.

In fact, I don’t think I fear much of anything. I still have a healthy respect for the killers of the deep, but even death has a strange allure because my baby will be waiting there.

You know what I do fear?

I fear you’ll forget her.
I fear that her image will get fuzzy and fade away.

And that is what I believe is the greatest fear of anyone who has lost a child: that he or she will be forgotten. We fear that because their lives were cut short, they won’t matter enough for anyone to remember. Our children didn’t live to accomplish what they were supposed to accomplish – the things that would make them memorable. So how will the world ever mark their short time here on earth?

That is why so many foundations and charities are created in children’s names. It is why songs, poems, and books are written in their honor. In the great search for the meaning of a life cut short, we parents yearn for another soul to share our mission to remember.

Do you remember Kylie? Do you have another friend who has lost a child? I can’t speak for them, but I love hearing stories about her – things I didn’t know before. Not only does it tell me that she was special to that person. It lets me know that someone else is helping to keep her flame from being extinguished… that I’m not alone in this awful vacuum. I just want to know that even though she left her potential unfulfilled, her life mattered.

So here is my point and my charge. If you know a bereaved parent, tell them you remember. It doesn’t have to be much. Just something that will let them know they aren’t the lone bearer of the candle.

Someone saw a play recently and went out of their way to tell me, “Kylie would have loved that!” I later saw a friend of hers who told me how Kylie had made up a pretend brother in the second grade. Both were small gestures, yet meant the world to me. They know… They remember… she’s with them too. Her life had meaning to more than just me because here memory remains clear to someone else.

Our fears may not be the same, but we all fear something. You can quite possibly allay another’s greatest fear today by assuring them their child will not be forgotten. It may not seem like much, but it may keep them above water for one more day.

And we all should stay above the tide because I know what is lurking down below…

Thursday, January 14, 2016

This beautiful article has touched my heart and soul more deeply than anything else I've read since losing Kady. I am a very visual person and I saw and felt each image in my heart and soul. I hope these words offer the same comfort and peace that they've given me. The author gave me permission to reprint.


By Connie Rodenbeck

If I asked you to draw a picture of love, how would you start? Would you be traditional and draw a heart? Would you draw a hand, reaching out to touch another? Would you draw the face of the person you have lost? 
We can't draw love. It is not finite. It has no borders. 

If I could not escape the assignment to draw this vital, indescribable, intangible entity called love, I could only do it with colors. I would first paint a bold stroke of blue. Then I would dip my brush in yellow and blend it in. On the other side of the blue I would place a bold stroke of red, then step back to view my creation. The canvas would still show splashes of blue and yellow and red, but look in between! My new rainbow would hold not just three colors. Green and purple would glisten in the center of each combination. 

What does that have to do with love, you ask? It defines it. Where one color touches another, a change occurs. When we take the risk to love and be loved, we are changed. A part of one soul blends with a part of another soul, and they are both eternally different. We are able to take from each other, and in the process, something is created that enriches all who surround us.

This is why we grieve loss. The part of us that changed cannot go back to being just blue or yellow or red. Yet we feel lost and unsupported without that person who contributed to the change. Our world is not the same. Sometimes it feels like someone has turned us into a 200 piece puzzle and filed off the edges of each so that we no longer fit together perfectly.

But love isn't finite. It doesn't change because we can no longer reach over and touch the other person. Loving didn't just overlay one color on another, it blended them. That forever-altered part of each of us holds onto the memories, as well as the strength and growth that came from our relationship. This is what sustains us.

We didn't have to take the risk to love. We could have protected our hearts and stayed blue or yellow or red. But then we would have lost far more than all we grieve for now. We could have avoided the pain, but like country singer Garth Brooks tells us, we would have missed the dance.

As we continue on the journey of moving through grief, take time to celebrate the rainbow that love created in your life. Remember the laughter, joy, struggles and dances that we have had the privilege of sharing. Let that love bear fruit by caring for the others our lives touch. Continue to risk adding colors to the rainbow.

We are the lucky ones. We were blessed to be a part of the lives of these precious people who will dwell in our hearts forever.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

 Life without Kady is so different. Her absence in my life has profoundly affected how I think, react, parent, feel, love, even cook. Holidays are less joyous without her infusion of anticipation and child-like excitement. I miss her with every beat of my heart, every second of every day. However, there is still so much to be grateful for. Of all the mysteries and uncertainties in life, something I am sure of is that our loved ones in heaven would never want us to miss a single opportunity to acknowledge the blessings in our lives, and there are so many. My heart is no less broken than it was the day my precious child died, but my spirit compels me to stay in constant communion with the Lord, and it is His presence that brings me peace, healing and the eternal perspective that my brokenness craves. So each time I look at her stocking this year I won't dwell on her absence, but I'll choose to remember all the joy and beautiful memories she gave me for 30 years - and remember to thank God for the bounty of blessings I still have.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Kady Haynes Beauty For Ashes Project is honored to be participating in Tampa's recognition of Children's Grief Awareness Day on November 14, 2015 at Waterworks Park. We are raising our two grandchildren (neither of which were Kady's) and our 8-year-old is still profoundly saddened and confused a year and a half after Kady's death. She was such a big and important part of his life and, just like the rest of us, he's navigating through this journey of what life looks like without her.

Check out the great things they do for families at Children's Grief Awareness Day.