My precious red-headed daughter…..I can’t believe it’s been 1 year ago today since you left the earth and entered the gates of Heaven. There are so many questions I want to ask you. What is Heaven really like? Are you happy? Do you really work in a bakery in Heaven just like Ashley has told me? When will I ever see you again? There have been many days when I’ve kept expecting you to come running through the front door and say, “Mom! I’m home! I didn’t die. I just ran away to Paris for a little while. You know I have always wanted to go to France. It is beautiful over there. But, now I’m glad I am home.” If you came through the front door right now I would hold you and never let you go. However, I know that I have to at least acknowledge the reality; even if I really don’t want to accept it.
Your sisters are growing up so fast. Allison has blossomed into a beautiful young lady. Her hair continues to turn redder all the time. And, it eventually may be as red as your hair one day. Ashley manages to hit growth spurts just about every couple of months. She is getting so tall and is absolutely adorable. I’m always worried that Ashley will never have concrete memories of you. So, I ask her all the time, “Do you remember Kayla? Please don’t ever forget her.” And, she always tells me, “Mommy, I remember Kayla and I could never forget her.” They miss you so much. Allison is really needing you right now to guide and advise her about life. She always looked up to you, even when the two of you were arguing. Before you died, she would not make a step or decision about anything until she saw what you would do first. She does not have your guidance anymore and sometimes it can be very difficult for her. I try to be there for her however I can. But, I am not her big sister. Allison has now taken on the role of the oldest sister to Ashley. It can be a pretty overwhelming job for her at times. But, I want you to know that she is an incredible, kind, considerate, gracious and loving sister to Ashley. They do have their moments of sibling rivalry. But, overall, they are absolutely there for each other 100%. I know you would be so proud of them both.
One year…..Time is a funny thing; part of me feels like it has flown by. Another part of me feels like it has stood still. And, what’s left of me feels like it has been years since I last saw your face. People say that “time heals all wounds.” But, I don’t think these people have had a child pass away. How can more time make me feel any better about your death? And, I know I should be happy that you are now in a much better place with no sadness, fear or cancer. But, the selfish part of me wants you here with us. I would give just about anything right now to have a good mother/daughter argument with you. And, after it was over I would hug you for hours until it was time to have the next argument.
The one thing that cannot be taken away are the memories of you. And, your high school proved it! I now know that you attended the best high school in the world! I thought that all of the recognition you were given from your friends, classmates and teachers at graduation was beyond moving and touching. However, they recently had a special memorial for you that was one of the most beautiful and compassionate things that has ever been done in your honor. The principal, assistant principal, teachers, friends and family held a School Locker Sealing Ceremony with your old school locker. We were each invited to put something memorable into your locker which would then be sealed…forever and never to be used again. There was also a plaque placed on the locker door which said, “This Locker is forever sealed September 1, 2011, in loving memory of our student Kayla Jones who died September 22, 2010.” I was asked to submit a quote or saying for the plaque. Allison and I decided to go through each one of your journals until we found what we think you would have said. We found a meaningful bible verse you had written down which was included on the plaque, “God will uphold you even if and when you stumble; just don’t let go of His hand. Psalm 37:23 & 24.” A pretty powerful verse that I now refer to quite often when I am having a tough day…..like today……Friends and family placed pictures, flowers and other memorable items into your locker. There was a podium where the principal and teachers said many kind and thoughtful words about you. Through the tears and sadness, your mother actually got up and spoke and you know I am not a fan of public speaking. And, I’m not really sure what I said either. But, I just knew I was going to say something even if it was tearful and difficult to get through. I found my courage and strength through you on that memorable day………….
Now that it’s been 1 year, what do I do now? There is so much I would like to do, but, you know me; I am a pro at procrastination. A few months ago, I started writing a book about your journey with cancer. I am so thankful for all of that journaling I did which is helping me to write this book. Maybe I’ll have it published one day…….Maybe this book could help another mom out there that has just lost her teen daughter to leukemia and doesn’t know what to do with all the pain and heartache……Maybe I’ll just write it and pass it onto my grandchildren one day…..Although, I recently developed writer’s block, but, I will start back again soon. Allison, Ashley and I also want to start a foundation in your name and memory. There is a lot of work involved, but, we feel very passionate about it. Your foundation would specifically help the kids diagnosed with leukemia and their families that are seeking long-term treatment. We want to provide them with care packages of their favorite things and/or anything that can take their minds off of cancer even if it is just for a moment. There are so many foundations for cancer research and finding a cure. However, you know that there are kids in treatment right now at the exact same hospital where you lived and died that want just a moment of happiness. It’s going to be so difficult to enter the doors of that hospital again and to see another child with no hair, wearing a surgical mask to protect them from germs and attached to an IV pole. And, not because I would feel uncomfortable and trying not to stare. But, it is because those are my last memories of you.
I’ve been spreading the word about September being National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I still can’t believe you passed away during this month of awareness. And, everywhere I look the only color I see is pink for breast cancer. I understand how horrific breast cancer can be. However, I want to see more GOLD which is not one of my favorite colors, but, it represents childhood cancer. Every time I see something in gold or orange (the color for leukemia) I think of you. I can not and will not look at these colors the same ever again. I even put a gold bow on our mail box, but, I don’t think that anyone really knows what it means.
I don’t want to end this letter to you. I don’t want to say good-bye. I don’t want to be strong like I am told I am so many times. The truth is my heart continues to ache daily due to the piece of it that is now gone forever. You are that piece of my heart that is missing. And, I know I won’t get that piece back until it is my time to be with you again.
They say that you really don’t know what love is until you have a child of your own, which is such a true and accurate statement. But, I have also learned that when your child dies the love for them only gets stronger. The bond between us can never be broken. I love and miss you so much.
Thank you for the orange butterfly that you sent my way the other day. Please tell Jessi and Ava that their mother’s love and miss them dearly.
With all of my love,