Kyla McCullough

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Miss Her

The sadness I have in my heart is overwhelming and constant. I woke up this morning without that feeling, thinking I was going to have a good day... seeing it's my birthday. Kora made me breakfast, an Eggo and a piece of toast. I hugged her as the three of us (Kora, Bree, and I) shared it. My parents called and sang me the usual birthday song with my dad in his Donald Duck voice, which is always a favorite in my family. It wasn't long, however, when I started feeling very sad... beyond measure.

The fist birthday I had after Kyla went to heaven, was only three weeks after her passing. I couldn't believe that I was supposed to be happy to be turning another year old... another birthday... another cake... it just didn't seem like it was necessary in life anymore. What did it matter that I was getting older? My daughter wouldn't be. I wouldn't be witnessing her grow and become a young woman. Why? Nothing made sense. The other birthday's leading to today's, came and left... all the while trying to be happy on the day of my birthday. After all, isn't that the day TO BE happy? The one day you should live in the moment, the one you should keep the tears back?

Not today... I can't seem to hold them back. I miss Kyla so much I can't breath, my throat is closed and it takes concentrating breathing to open it again. A big party has been planned for tonight, balloons have been ordered, and cake has been made. Now that the day is here, I wonder once again what the big deal is.

I was 19 when I got Kyla and I was 26 when I lost her.

I miss her.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Relay For Life - 2008

It has been almost two months now since we, along with many of our closest supporters, fought cancer for a day by walking around a track for 24 straight hours (taking turns with teammates, of course) at the Relay For Life event. Two days after Bret and I got back from a week in New York we were off to Clackamas Community College to participate in the event...wouldn't miss it! Lisa brought this relay to our attention last year, but the timing of last year's relay did not work well with the timing of Kyla's benefit dinner & auction. However this year, Bret and I were really wanting to do it, so we organized a team with seventeen adults, and thirteen children. We all set up tents and canopy's...and even a little swimming pool for the kids. As it turned out, this was a good thing because it was 100 degrees outside that day. Bret and I contacted a woman we know (thanks Velvet!) who makes T-Shirts, and after we designed them we put in the order the night before we left for our trip to New York. Talk about cutting things close! :)

Relay For Life - 2008

The morning we left for the track, we were packing our car up when we ran into our neighbor. We said very casually, "How ya doin'?" His wife had been sick with breast cancer, but we haven't heard how she was doing lately. Our neighbor responded with his head down, "Well, did you hear that Debbie passed?" WHAM... the sadness was overwhelming for me, I stood there listening to him talk about his grief and seeing the wear on his face. I have noticed from those who are in heavy grief their face shows it...mine did for a long time and when I look at photos of myself I can still see it. It makes you ragged. I looked at him as we were about to part ways with him and said, "We will light a candle for her tonight, and I pray you will be healed." I could barely get the words out, as he could barely say thank you.

The relay started and we were all having a lot of fun. The heat of the day didn't seem too bad, and everyone told stories, and laughed with each other. As the evening turned cooler and darker, we realized it was time to make our bags for the luminary ceremony. One by one our team came back with a bag...some dedicated to Kyla...some dedicated to a grandpa or a friend. Bret and I made one for Debbie. I was taking photos of all the bags that were dedicated by our team when I heard a little girl say, "Mom, look at all these bags for someone named Kyla" The mom agreed as they were walking by looking and reading all the bags... it made me proud and I thought, "Good for you Kyla!"

When we all gathered at the stage to listen to people speak about their loved ones who have inspired them to walk against cancer I was weaving in and out of the crowd looking for one person... my sweet Kora-Lynn. I made my way through several people when all of a sudden I saw Kora doing the same and when we made eye contact it was like we were a magnet with each other. She ran into me as I fell on the ground. Some of Kyla's friends who were a part of our group wanted to go up on the stage and talk about Kyla. Mind you, they are nine and ten and they will be before a few hundred people. They asked Kora if she wanted to go up with them...Kora said no at first but then she said yes. A bit of time passed and there were Alyssa and McKenna speaking about their friend who passed away when she was seven, but that she was a really good friend. And my sweet Kora standing there so brave, said hi to the crowd. I teared up a bit from seeing all those girls have the strength to do that. Kora came down from the stage and made her way to me, and collapsed into my arms crying so hard she could not catch her breath. I picked her up and walked her back to our camp. Kora was devastated all over again, that her sister is not here with her... and I all I could do was hold her.

Our team ended up being one of a few teams to have someone on the track every single hour in the 24 hours that the relay took place. We were also one of the few teams who had matching shirts, with necklaces to go with them. And when the last lap of the relay was announced I was looking around for Kora... I couldn't find her anywhere. I even asked to those around me, "Do you know where Kora went?" No one knew. I looked ahead of me... then I looked further... and that's when I saw her. She was a few feet in front of the hundreds who were walking in this massive herd. She was leading us... all by herself... Kora was walking for her sister!

For a look at some of the photos from our day at the Relay For Life event, click here.

We would highly suggest that any of you that can take part in a Relay For Life event, do so...not only is it a great fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, but it also is an amazing experience to see so many cancer survivors, hear people talk about what (or who) inspired them to walk at the event, to see the luminary bags lit around the track in honor of those we have lost to cancer, and to strengthen relationships with those around you. For more information on the Oregon City Relay For Life, visit http://www.ocrelay.org.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Am I Going To Die, Mom?

Today marks the the third anniversary of Kyla's heavenly birth. I am feeling very frustrated seeing it's only been three years, when it feels like a lifetime. I can't imagine what it will be like on the 10th anniversary or even the 20th. I woke up today looking out the window and the weather sums up what I am feeling inside. Cloudy, gloomy, and grey...but with the chance of clearness and possible sunshine as the day goes on.

Kyla

When Kyla was three weeks into her illness, we went to a church league softball game and there was a young boy who came up to Kyla and I. He said that he's heard of what is wrong with Kyla and that he was sorry to hear about it, because they know of a boy who had a brain tumor and he died. So he was sorry to hear that she had a brain tumor... and asked if she was going to die. Kyla looked at him with a very classic Kyla look as if to tell him to get the hell out of her way, and why would he even come up to her and say these things. He cocked his head back as he looked up at me but there was no comfort here... I had the same look for him.

I had never talked about Kyla dying...with Kyla. To me that wasn't an option, she was going to beat this tumor because that's what she did best. She was a fighter and never backed down to anything, why would this be any different? Why would she choose to lose now? It wasn't going to happen...it just wasn't.

When we came home from the ball game Kyla was tired, so she laid down on the bottom bunk in Kora's room. It had become her bed which was a good thing for Kora... she liked having Kyla for a roommate. As I was doing some house work I heard Kyla faintly call for me. I walked a bit faster then I normally would for my other children. They were healthy and although they need me too, when they call me it's usually for a glass of water. I open the door as I see her lying down with her forearm against her forehead. I asked her if she was having a headache... she just shook her head "No".

I sat next to her on the bed... I was rubbing her legs when I asked, "Are you thinking about what that boy said at the game today?" She shook her head, "Yes".

My heart sinks and my breathing becomes shallow, I slowly slide down off the bed so I am on the floor with the bed to my back. I am leaned against it, while Kyla takes her arm off of her head and brings it down around my shoulder and her hand rests across my chest on my heart.

I take a deep breath as I hear her ask, "Am I going to die, mom?"

I close my eyes as I start to feel them tear up. "Well, Kyla... we are all going to die. The thing we all wonder is when are we going to die? Some die right at birth, some die when they are old and have lived a long life."

She says with her voice quivering, "And some die when they are little kids... like me?"

I can barely speak by this point as I clear my throat, "Well, yeah... sometimes God decides that He want's you back before you are quite ready. Or should I say before those around you are ready. I think that when someone dies they are ready... no matter what is happening and how they are dying... I think they are ready."

We sit in silence for a long time before she speaks again, "What is heaven like?"

My thoughts race, and I feel like I should have paid more attention in religion class in high school. I say, "I think heaven is a wonderful and safe place. I think heaven is a place where there is no sadness, and you have sun to your face every morning when you wake up. I think there is snow on Christmas morning, and bigger fireworks than anyone here on earth has seen, on the Fourth of July! I think there is no pain..."

Kyla interrupts me and says, "And no brain tumors."

"Yes no brian tumors... definitely no brain tumors!"

I turn my head back at her and smile as she returns one to me.

I continue while I straighten my body so I am facing her, "And Kyla... I believe that if you want to have lunch with a lion you could have lunch with a lion sitting right beside you." She smiles even bigger, "Really?"

"Sure, you could...or a monkey, or a giraffe, or..."

"A chameleon?"

"Yes that too. Kyla, never be afraid of death. I know that is easier said then done, and I know I am saying this without a brain tumor in my head. And I know that you are the one who has to be the strong one here. I know you are the one who is facing this... not me. I hope you know that I am so very proud of you for all the things you have done in your life. You have been such a joy for me to have, and I really want you to know that heaven is a great place. Jesus died on the cross for you and for me... it is pretty flattering to be so special that God wants you back. But you listen to me... you keep fighting okay? Daddy and I will too, but we can't fight the same way you can. Fight for as long as you can, but when you are tired you let us know. We will follow your lead. Okay?"

"Okay mom."

We give each other a big hug and I kiss her more-than-normal chubby cheek. I start to walk out of the room when Kyla says, "Mom?"

I turn towards her, "Yeah Kyla?"

"I love you."