I remember standing in the wings during my high school production of Little Women and shedding a tear when Jo and Beth said the lines: “When you were first born, not an hour old, I told Marmee, ‘Beth is mine!’”
My favorite memory has always been the day you were born. Maybe that day has always been so infinitely dear to me because you’re the only sister I remember welcoming into the world. In fact, I recently found the birthday card I made for you that first day, which read: “Dear Kylie, How do you like the world? Love, Meredith.” When I remember that day, it’s not just a faded memory of child May May that I tease myself about (as you know I so often do). It is one of the memories that I can relive most vividly. I genuinely feel the six-year-old excitement, so simple and pure and all consuming, when I stumbled out of bed to find Grandmama and Grandaddy in the living room. I recall the way my heart leapt for joy when they told me that I had a new sister, and she decided to come a day early. I can hear the pitter patter of my bare feet across the kitchen floor when the first thing I did when I heard the news was run as fast as I could to the kindergarten calendar in order to make sure to move your “Happy Birthday” sticker to the appropriate date. I feel that same pride I felt when Kendall and Jenna got bored at the hospital (understandably so, at 4 years old and 18 months), and I got to stay with you while Grandmama and Grandaddy drove them home. I felt so much pride that day: I was the big sister. I was the one who stayed. Mommy and Daddy even let me help to choose your middle name. I don’t think my little heart knew what to do with how much joy I felt holding you for the first time, and knowing that I was going to help take care of you, that I got to watch you grow, and help you learn, and be your friend. I know exactly what Jo meant when she said, “Beth is mine!” On that very first day, even at the age of 6, I claimed: “Kylie is mine!”
Jo went on: “Everyone has someone special in the world, and I have you, my sweet Beth.”
We had that conversation daily. Every day, even sometimes more than once a day, I made sure to tell you, “I love you more than anything in the world, do you know that?” and you always said “Yes, and I love you most.” You always jumped to most so we wouldn’t have to go back and forth with the “more’s.” And I always looked up to how you wouldn’t say, “I love you more than anything in the world” back to me. It wasn’t that you didn’t love me enough to make such drastic statements, it was that you had your priorities straight, and even though you loved me so very much, I know that you didn’t want to say you loved me more than God or the rest of the family. You were so sincere. And I sincerely meant to make a statement that drastic, but your heart was just too whole to make comparisons. Your love didn’t need to measure up to anything else. There was more than enough to go around.
I still whisper to myself almost daily that I love you more than anything in the world. And then I say a prayer that God will pass along my message.
I distinctly remember feeling a tear roll down my cheek when Jo and Beth proceeded to sing their last duet, and the thought triumphantly marched through my mind: “I could never bear to lose my Beth.”
I don’t know why God decided that my plan for us was wrong. My plan for us was perfect in my mind: I would get to hear you sing so many more songs and watch you draw so many more beautiful pictures. Even though we’re older now, we’d have time for a few more games of Barbie dolls and Disney Princess dress up. We would someday get to be in a show together. You would be my maid of honor. I’d get to see which of your innumerable talents you turned into an enormously successful career. When I had children someday, I’d watch you be the “Awesomest Aunt Kylie,” a title that you always predicted you would get to be. I wanted to see you share your abundant love, your overflowing joy, your contagious laughter, and your genuine heart with so many people as we grew old, forever best friends. There was nothing bad in my plan. There was no cancer. There was no sorrow. There was no loss.
I don’t know why God’s plan didn’t show itself to be more like mine. I often have trouble reconciling how to feel about the path He has put us on. And when I grieve or fear or doubt, I remember your sweet voice boldly declaring that if God decided to give you cancer, then “He must have big plans for me.”
He had a big plan for you. My heart aches to say that in that plan there has been cancer. There has been sorrow. There has been loss. But I want you to know how incredibly proud of you I have always been, and still am. I want you to know that despite the cancer, the sorrow, and the loss, I did get to see part of my plan in action: your abundant love, your overflowing joy, your contagious laughter, and your genuine heart, all shared so purposefully with so many people. God has used and continues to use you and your story in incredibly powerful ways.
Everyday I hope to live a little bit more like you. I’ve learned so many lessons from you, both in your 13 years with me and since, but I think the most profound lessons you’ve given to me are the sincere gratitude of knowing that you are in a perfect place where there is no cancer, sorrow, or loss, and the deep thankfulness that comes with the promise that someday I’ll get to join you.
I love you more than anything in the world, my sweet Kylie!