Please, Don’t Make Me

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.”

34 thoughts on “Please, Don’t Make Me

  1. “Please, don’t make me choose.”
    “Please, don’t make me answer,”
    We are her – she is us.
    “No, baby. You’ll never miss anything again.”

      1. You wrote a post I had no words for. You went too deep for words. Just clicking “like” for that seems so inadequate. Copying a few lines was the (inadequate) best I could do.

  2. Mark- I didn’t realize Kylie died b4 her MAW trip. I’m SO sorry. I did know she died b4 getting to be on Broadway, just didn’t know that was part of her MAW trip. She reminds me of my prescious Lilli, wanting to include everyone. Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. Such sweet souls. I understand what u wrote about Kylie always being w/ y’all. We feel the same way. Of course, we would give anything to have our girls physically here.
    Love & hugs Kay

  3. I feel your pain in this post. I’m sorry that is never ending. She was so loved and love never dies. Thank you for bringing this to my reality.

    1. Yes. That is true. It is never ending. It took me a while to realize and accept the pain because without it, I wouldn’t have had the twelve years of her love. Not to self promote, but I wrote about it -

  4. You said that when you went to see “Newsies” that Kylie wasn’t feeling very well. Looking at her in the picture with her megawatt smile, you’d never know it. She is (I use present tense purposely) an amazing, inspiration to everyone who has the privilege of even the most remote association.

  5. A couple of years ago I went to a memorial service for a young man I barely knew (he was an in-law of my sister’s). He was killed on a mission trip in a car accident. As I listened to his family and friends share their stories of him, I thought to myself “I really wish I had known him”. I felt like I had missed a great opportunity to meet a very special person. I feel that same way when I read your stories of Kylie and your family. I saw the video about Kylie and Liza, too, and that made me feel the same way. I missed an opportunity to meet a very special person.

  6. I’m thinking of you, your family, and your beautiful Kylie as her anniversary approaches again. Thank you for sharing your feelings so well about how you all Love Kylie and keep her close by always. Love to you all this February ❤

  7. Beautiful writing and story of love Mark. Your daughter lives on through you all and I am proud to know her and spread her light.

    Thank you for all you do and all you say. You don’t have to inspire others to act and care, but you do.

    You and Kylie are real heroes and made of the kinda stuff that you can’t fake….

    Sending love from VA sir, I’m a better man having met you.

    1. Thank you for those kind words. Kylie is certainly a hero! I’ll be her sidekick. I assume this is John and feel the same way, better for knowing you, my friend.

  8. Oh Mark, I feel connected to a person, I met for a second at CUREFEST 2015, his loving family, and a girl with the most beautiful smile & heart! Your words touch deeply. I am forever sorry for your forever loss!

  9. All due respect, I don’t know how you do it, Mark. I’m taking Sarah to New York next month to see Hamilton (kid spent TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for tix) and it’s going to be the highlight of her life. Our children are our lives, our light, and losing one must be… I don’t have the words.
    All I know is this: If there is a Hereafter – and I’m sure there is – I hope to meet Kylie there someday. Hers is a magnificent soul, of this I’m certain.
    Her dad’s pretty cool too.

    1. Thanks Robert. My family bought tickets to see Hamilton when it comes here. It won’t be the same, but I know you will have a fantastic time. Memories are precious.

      1. I feel bad that my daughter has halved her bank account for one performance but she couldn’t be happier with her purchase.
        And in the end, that’s what counts, right?

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