Life Doesn’t Stink

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.”

I am here

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!

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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.

 

 

 

Kylie Day

Today, Perimeter School will celebrate Kylie Day in honor of our baby. I’d like to share what her mother wrote to describe what Kylie Day represents:

 

Joy In Spite Of

Perimeter School was one of Kylie’s favorite places. She was less than a year old when her oldest sister started first grade. So, Kylie spent her entire life making carpool runs, attending poetry recitals, and watching play rehearsals (long before she was old enough to audition herself). She loved Perimeter School deeply, and Perimeter School loved her well. Our family is tremendously grateful to this precious school for honoring her on her birthday week with Kylie Day.

What is Kylie Day?

The ache of missing Kylie is with our family with every breath we take, and it will be until we are together once again. But that is not why we have Kylie Day. It’s not about Kylie’s death, but rather about how she lived her life. Kylie loved fiercely, and she radiated joy and sunshine. Truly, she was like that from the moment she was born. She was always smiling, and she searched for ways to make others smile, too.

Over the last several years, people have shared their Kylie stories with us – stories we had never heard before. They are snapshots of who she was, and they are priceless treasures to our family. One was about how Kylie went out of her way to befriend a student when she was new to the school. One was about how Kylie purposefully encouraged a younger ballerina who needed a boost. Another was how she sought to make a fellow cast-member feel welcome and comfortable during her first play. Almost all of them were about how Kylie sought out opportunities to spread joy.

Choosing Joy

During those 10 ½ months of horrific cancer treatment, joy was a quite a bit more elusive. Kylie was in tremendous pain. She couldn’t walk or eat. She was almost always terribly nauseous, and she constantly battled ghastly side effects from treatment. Nothing about her circumstances promoted joy. But Kylie knew a secret… joy – REAL joy – doesn’t depend on circumstances. It depends only on God. So with unwavering determination, Kylie held onto the joy she had in Christ, and she LOOKED for moments of joy IN SPITE OF her circumstances – for glimpses of light in the darkness of cancer. And she still found it most often by trying to share joy with others.

That’s what Kylie Day is all about – spreading joy and sharing a smile. It can be a little gesture. Sometimes those are the very best ways to brighten someone’s day. Kylie would be thrilled to know that through this day, she is still having a small part of bring joy to others.

While she was sick, we watched her extraordinary gift for joy with amazement. It was quite humbling to be taught by the one suffering, especially when she was only 12 years old. Often in my grief I struggle to find joy; but I had an astounding teacher, and I don’t want to forget the lesson she taught me.

Sometimes choosing joy is a daunting task. I will admit that right now I frequently find it utterly exhausting. Nevertheless, it is worth it. And when I fight for it – like Kylie did – and embrace it even when it is mixed with the hard and ugly of life in this broken world, I find that the process has drawn me closer to Jesus. It somehow reminds me of the deep and abiding joy waiting for us in our eternal home, and the smiling face that will be waiting for me when I get there.