A poster came in the mail. It completed the basement wall where we’ve displayed posters from the musicals we saw in 2015 – both here and in New York. We had quite the season of theatre – tickets to eight shows!
We bought ten tickets to Newsies so Kylie could take her friends to the Fox for an end-of-treatment celebration. She didn’t feel great, but had a wonderful time at the show and was invited to go backstage with the cast afterwards. She had three sisters with her and three friends. We thought everyone was invited to go backstage but theatre management told me that only four were allowed. I pulled Kylie aside and told her the bad news.
She looked at me with utter panic in her eyes and said, “Please, don’t make me choose.”
The thought of disappointing anyone hurt her so badly.
We were just weeks away from her Make-A-Wish trip to New York City where she would appear in Aladdin and we would also take in five other shows. Of course, she never made it. She died the day after she should have been on stage.
I ask God about that sometimes. In the grand scheme of things – in God’s master plan by which we must abide, would a few weeks have mattered? Couldn’t she have gotten that trip that she dreamed of before she had to die?
Tuck Everlasting was one of her favorite books. They made a musical of it that opened here in Atlanta before being picked up and moving to Broadway. She was so excited!
Six tickets – a thirteenth birthday present.
A birthday that never came.
The unthinkable came instead and robbed us of that year and those that should have followed. When we found out her cancer had spread all over her poor body, she digested the news with such grace. I can’t imagine the thoughts swirling in her head. From the time we told her, she only wanted to be among those she loved. Her breathing became increasingly labored. I remember so much about those last days – words, touches, emotions. So hard, so terrible.
At some point, the thought hit her and she remembered her birthday.
“Am I going to miss Tuck?”
Her voice so weak… so strained. She focused her pleading eyes on me just like she had when confronted with the choice between friends and sisters.
“Please, don’t make me answer,” I thought with racing heart. “I’m daddy. I am supposed to be able to make things right.”
In that dark moment, I realized just how little control I actually have. I am powerless – a speck of dust. Please, don’t make me answer.
How does one respond to his dying daughter when he knows the truth? When the only option is disappointment.
“I hope not,” I said weakly. “I hope we all see it together.”
Five days after we buried Kylie, we went to the show. With her ticket, we invited a new friend – a man who had been responsible for much of the Broadway encouragement she received during her struggle. It was fitting to meet him in person for the first time that day. The show was bright, colorful, and beautiful. My wife and I held hands and cried throughout, knowing Kylie would have loved it.
I felt her there in a real way, just like I feel her presence when I see a yellow flower, play with her cat, or hear a favorite song. I hate that she missed it. But then… then a part of me realizes that she did see it. She saw it through my eyes, and her mother’s, and her sisters’. Kylie took it in from every angle because in a beautiful, spiritual way, we are eternally connected. We are her – she is us. We take her everywhere we go. As long as we walk this dusty plain, she sees what we see through the eyes of hearts that loved her.
“Am I going to miss Tuck?”
“No, baby. You’ll never miss anything again.”