My memory is sputtering. A few things I vividly remember and some come back when I’m reminded or when I see a picture. I fear I am forgetting more and more with every passing day; a fact that scares me greatly since I’ve lost Kylie. I don’t want to forget a thing about her. I want to remember the sound of her voice, the peal of her laughter, and the smell of her head after a bath. I yearn to hold those things in storage for instant recall when my heart aches and the separation seems greatest.
One thing, though. One thing I will never forget.
It was the summer of 2015 and Kylie was in the midst of some of the harshest treatment she would endure. The chemo gave her mouth sores that ranged throughout her digestive tract and made eating nearly impossible. She was also plagued with violent nausea that added to her discomfort. It was rough.
There was a trend going around Twitter at the time. Alicia Keys began a movement by asking the question, “Why are you here?” and people responded. The goal was to have people identify causes that stirred them to action and all over Twitter we saw #wearehere posts.
It’s a daunting question, really. Why are you here? Have we asked ourselves that enough?
I asked Kylie.
At first, she balked. “I’m only twelve. I don’t know.”
But I wouldn’t let her off the hook. I suggested that she was here to encourage others, to help them get through their hard time. Or maybe she was here to be the voice of children with cancer so that we could break through the funding gap. And then, I had it…
“You’re here to show people that you can still smile, even when life stinks.”
I remember her reaction as if it were yesterday. Kylie was instantly repulsed by my suggestion, but not at all in the way I expected. And this is a peek into the window of her soul – what made her so special. She was so quick to point out:
“Daddy, life doesn’t stink. It’s just not fair sometimes.”
Life doesn’t stink.
Are you sure? I’m sitting in this broken life wondering how I got here… How I went from four children at our dinner table to three. How I celebrated your sixteenth birthday without you. How I’ll never get to teach you to drive, see you graduate, perform on stage, or walk you down the aisle. Are you sure life doesn’t stink, baby?
Yet when I reread that paragraph, I noticed something very important. Something I think Kylie figured out in twelve years that is still lost on me at fifty. There is a proliferation of “I’s”. My stinky life is all about me and what I am missing. What I want. How I feel. I… I… I…
Is it possible that life doesn’t stink regardless of our circumstanced IF and only if we figure out that we are NOT here to waste it on ourselves? How did Kylie inherently know that at twelve?
In the Life Doesn’t Stink category, over the past few weeks, we got a few little Godwinks in the form of pictures of Kylie we had never seen. Her sister completely “stumbled” upon one and others were shared by friends.
That doesn’t stink!
We have also been blown away by friends and many strangers as we sought to redeem the day. A week before her birthday, we asked people to celebrate Kylie’s Sweet $16 by donating $16 to childhood cancer research. We started the fundraiser with a goal of $3200. That line was crossed in one day. So we doubled the goal and passed that two days later. Between what was donated online and checks people sent, we raised a little over $14,000!
That most certainly doesn’t stink!
Does life stink or can it stink at times? I don’t know. Maybe, just maybe in a few years I’ll get it. I’ll be able to know like Kylie did that life is meant to be lived unselfishly and it truly doesn’t stink… it just isn’t fair sometimes.