Deja Shoe

I had one of those déjà vu moments – déjà shoe actually – because I looked down at my shoes and had a fleeting thought that they had been exactly there before. Have you ever had one of those? They can feel so real and some would say that they are; there are spiritual and esoteric theories about the phenomena. Déjà vu has hit me over the years and I refuse to waste a lot of mental energy on the theory of it. After all, I only have so many synapses firing. If I try to analyze every thought of a previous thought that might or might not have been an actual thought, I would get stuck inside an internal Inception vortex from which I would never recover. I think of those moments as brain farts and move on.


Only at this particular moment, I knew for certain that I had been exactly in that spot. And I knew precisely when.



Science has various explanations for déjà vu. Besides my vaunted brain fart theory, this is the one to which I subscribe:


I would dumb that down for you, but when a statement uses the word parahippocampal, there is no dumbing down.


I love my new job. I love feeling like I am daily making a difference in the fight against childhood cancer – the mission I was given by Kylie. I work with an incredibly dedicated team who are great at what they do and all passionately devoted to the cause. They made me feel perfectly welcome from the day I started and not just because they needed me to lift heavy things and reach the high places. I have been there only four months, but in some ways, it’s like I’ve been there much longer.

And sometimes, I get to meet the kids and families who are in the middle of the fight. I see hope, fear, and angst in their faces as if it is written in indelible ink. I read them as only one who has lived their story can. Whenever I have the opportunity, I love being able to serve as I was served. I am always careful to not reveal my story because all I want to serve up is hope and encouragement.

This was what I was doing when I experienced my déjà shoe. I was serving when I realized I was standing in the very place where exactly two years prior, a huddle of doctors told me that Kylie’s cancer had spread beyond hope of treatment. I couldn’t look up at them anymore, I could only look down at my shoes. I will never forget that place. Four days later, she would be dead.


One might ask why… why would I put myself in a position to relive my pain and loss every day? I have gotten that question a few times and my answer is simple. I am a simple man, after all (ergo the brain fart theory). I reply that being at home is no easier – I drown in loss there, too.  In fact, I have found no place to take my shoes where I am free. I can run but I cannot hide.


So, there I stood, looking at my shoes – wondering about the fact that two years ago I hated this view and now I love it. And I hate that I love it.


I awoke from my shoe reverie because a mother with deep creases of story written on her face needed me. We talked briefly. She smiled through a battle-weary fog. I returned her smile as I was taught by my girl and hope the encounter recharged her.



And somewhere in heaven, a little girl smiled down because she had led my shoes to exactly where they were supposed to be.



February 13, 2017 – 2 years gone today and missed every minute.

Source for science stuff: Deja Vu : Scientifically Explained | MEDCHROME

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.”