I wonder if ants have names or can tell each other apart. When they form their lines and begin marching, do they have a predetermined order or destination? They always seem to have a purpose. If you have ever put your foot in their way to stop their progress, you will know that they don’t stand still, rub their chins disconcertedly, or hold an impromptu meeting to vote on a direction. No, they turn right or left and keep moving as if it had been their plan all along.

Sometimes, you just have to move to avoid being still.

* * * * *

When Kylie’s radiation treatment started in Charlotte, she and her mother (along with her grandparents) drove up every Monday and returned on Friday. We all three knew it was the best option – likewise we knew the separation would be hard. The worst part about being a parent of a cancer patient is being a spectator to their suffering. When her chemo was here at least I could watch, hold, and support. During those four days every week, the separation was more brutal than I ever imagined.

I needed a project and one presented itself. Kylie informed us that when her leg worked again, she wanted to take stage dancing lessons. This gave me an idea to finish a room in the basement with a raised dance floor so that she could practice. We had acquired a pool table long ago that could share the space, so construction began.


I love building. The work occupied my time and my mind while Kylie was gone. When they arrived home for the weekends, I would shut the doors and she never knew. I started to get so excited about the impending surprise.


Then a giant foot slammed down and changed our direction. Unlike a line of ants changing direction, our line stopped completely. Kylie died. She wouldn’t need a 12’ by 12’ dance floor because she attained a celestial ballroom of unlimited proportions.

Construction halted on the room. I stopped moving.

* * * * *

I’m a little dense, but at some point a few months later it dawned on me that one of Kylie’s sisters is a dancer and could profit from the space. I started thinking that if I would build it for Kylie, I should build it for JB – I am no less her daddy. With that in mind, I started moving again. I didn’t “move on” – I will never move on. But I did start moving.


The room went from a tap studio to a ballet studio where JB could practice.

IMG_2185  IMG_2193  IMG_2241

The room got repurposed.

IMG_2426  IMG_2429

It certainly has a Kylie flair with the yellow but its purpose is ballet (and occasionally billiards).

* * * * *

There are some very special things in this room I would like to share:

A show poster from Newsies (Stephanie Styles) that she got to see and six from our Broadway trip after her death


A painting done by Paige O’Hara (The voice of Belle) for Kylie.
Posters from shows she and her sisters have been in.
Posters from shows she and her sisters have been in.


Art that was made for her and a couple of pieces she made.
Art that was made for her and a couple of pieces she made.
Autographs from Aladdin and Sense & Sensibility (Megan McGinnis)
Autographs from the Aladdin leads and the cast of Sense & Sensibility (Megan McGinnis)


Signed picture from her class and framed article from Beta magazine
Signed picture from her class and my article from Beta Magazine


And the piece de resistance: 


The costume made for her to wear in Aladdin – given to us by the amazing people at Disney Theatrical

I love this room! It simply breathes Kylie. But it now serves a different purpose than its original intent.

Like the room, I’ve been repurposed. I thought my life was headed one way until the foot slammed down and pushed me in another direction. Ants may have contingencies and predetermined directions, but I don’t. I admit that I don’t know exactly where this repurposed life is going. I do know that moving again feels so much better than standing still contemplating my loss.

You might have noticed some changes in my blog as it has joined my new direction. Before the foot came down, most of what I did was an (often meager) attempt at humor. The foot changes everything, I will never be the same. While I certainly still see humor in life and will share it, I have now experienced my portion of tears and when I have openly reflected on my sorrow it seems to have resonated with others. There are so many hurting people out there. Don’t worry, I won’t quit doing dumb things that make people laugh – I’ve got to stick to what I do best.

The question is, can laughter and tears in generous portions coexist?


(ant photo credit to L. Church used under the Collective Commons)

31 thoughts on “Repurpose

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! The room space looks amazing and such a tribute! Praying Jenna dances with joy on her new dance floor!

  2. I do believe that laughter and tears can coexist. It is what keeps us moving forward. Every holiday season when the Christmas music starts to play I laught when a certain song hits the radio. When my son was small he thought that the song Feliz Navidad was ” Release Scotty Whatt”. We would ask him what Scotty did to need to be released. It is those memories that keep us with laughter and tears together. May your family enjoy your beautiful room. The only thing missing is a bunch of yellow roses for Kylie’s performance!

    1. Yes, I love that! Kylie thought “Young Man” from YMCA was “Nutmeg”. We laugh about that all the time. If we are making something that requires Nutmeg, a Village People dance-a-thin breaks out! Such treasures.

  3. Mark – what a very special post! You have breathed life into yourself, Kylie and your family and home – in actions, words and pictures – and made it loving and intimate family living! And then you share it as only you can. I am wowed!

    Wowed and a little tearful – happy tears!

    Thank you!!

  4. Amazing …. I’m touched by your writing every time I read it. This room is so beautiful. Its walls bring continued life to Kylie’s spirit within your hearts and home…. may it bring you all laughter together amidst the tears…
    Yes Mark laughter and tears coexist together… sending all my love to you all today…. Katrina

  5. this is absolutely amazing, mark. what a tribute to k and to her sisters as well. yes, i do think you can have both laughter and tears in your life, sometimes it takes awhile to find a balance again.

  6. Beautiful room Mark! It’s funny I was just telling a friend today how I wish I had a spare room in our tiny house for Bianka and all her special things that breathe her spirit…hopefully one day and yes we, as bereaved parents, hold and will always hold for the rest of our lives, space for joy and laughter and space for sorrow and tears. It feels funny sometimes, heavy and exausting other times, but that is our life. I feel that we who experienced such a deep sorrow can experience joy and happiness at new deeper levels too as we do not take ine second of life for granted any more.

      1. No rush. Maybe never. Whatever. Bianka shared a room with her sister and won a little room makeover but lived only to see walls painted and some new furniture but never the finished room so I can relate to your sadness about Kylie not being to see and use her dance room. But room is done now and its beautiful and her sister loves it, just like I m sure JB likes your hard work and her dance floor. Hope to see you guys at CURE’s weekend in North GA on the 30th.

  7. Mark your family will always be in my heart along with my Kelly and Kylie. It is good to move forward so thankful that God has touched our hearts in a way that its possible to help others as they mourn and hurt. Its a cool thing that all the time you have been writing and sharing, many were benefiting from it. God never lets it be for naught. Those lights will for ever shine bright and lead many to Christ. Words never will or never can express my own loss or yours.

    In my prayers

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s