I have known Gaylene since middle-school. I always saw her house a place of comfort when things weren’t as good at my home. I thought she was Superwoman–and I still do. She works hard in every aspect of her life. She’s kind–generous–beautiful–healthy–and smart. She has this quality about her that can’t be explained, you just have to get to know her to understand. Not only is she amazing but she has raised 8 remarkable children to be exactly the same way.
“My truth, huh? The truth is that there is a lot more to my story than most people are aware of. Only those closest to me know about the trials that have helped shape who I am. People who have come into my life recently only know that I lost a daughter and unborn grandchild in a car accident 2 years ago. They know me because I am striving to keep her memory alive by creating a facebook group in her honor and setting up a memorial fund to pay forward the kindness and generosity that was shown to our family. Yeah, Kylee’s mom is how most people know me and I am honored to be my kids’ mom, but there is more to my story that I don’t think about sharing very often because I don’t like to dredge up the past and I don’t like people to feel sorry for me because the shit has shaped me into who I am now, and I LOVE who I am!
When I was 9 or 10, my grandfather had a stroke. After he was in rehab for a few months, he was able to come home with us. He was in a wheelchair because his legs were affected by the stroke and he was unable to walk more than a few steps. I took it upon myself to be his caregiver. I helped him eat until he was coordinated enough to do it mostly by himself, I made sure his med box was filled each Saturday night for the week ahead, I helped him with his exercises and I was the only one who could maneuver his wheelchair down our narrow hallway and into the bathroom. We became even closer than we were when I was a really small kid when he and I would walk to the drugstore and get a huge bag of penny candy. I think it was two years later when he had a heart attack and passed away. That was my first experience with the death of someone close to me.
About 10 months after I was married and two weeks before I was due with my first child, I lost both of my parents within hours of each other. My father was an alcoholic and in a moment of jealousy, he shot my mom in the head through a glass door with a sawed off shotgun. I was 19. I was at my in-laws. My sister who was 15, was at a friend’s house and my brother who was 13 was home in bed and heard the noise and walked out to find our mom on the floor in a pool of blood. She was dead on arrival to the hospital. My dad ran into the desert and was not found that night. The next morning I got a phone call telling me that my dad was found at one of his friend’s houses in his pickup with a hose running from the exhaust to the enclosed cab of the vehicle. He was also dead. The truth? I thought what a pathetic coward to so brutally murder our mother and take the easy way out by going to sleep. And that opinion stays with me today, even though I have found it within myself to meet him where he was at and forgive him…for my own peace of mind. My husband and I took my siblings into our home and did the best we could with the zero knowledge we had about raising grieving teenagers. If I could do it over again, I sure would change things. After that, I lost the rest of my grandparents, a great grandmother, and an uncle within about 10 years and finally, my daughter, Kylee, and her unborn baby. None of the other deaths, even though there were many, prepared me for the loss of a child. I remember asking “why” so many times. Why would God take such a beautiful, kind, driven soul who would have brought more good humans into the world? Why? Why would He take someone like Ky and leave a cruel person who kills or molests children? It made no sense to me! I was so angry and confused. But the biggest question I had was, “How am I going to live with a piece of my heart gone? How am I going to live the rest of my life feeling incomplete?” I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but every day I find myself getting up and continuing to live with the emptiness and longing to have her back, even though I know she’s better than okay. Even though I would not want to take her from where she’s at. Even though I would give anything to hear that giggle again and to watch her and Brandon as parents. I tried so many times to turn my back on my faith, but it’s what I kept coming back to because it felt right. I know I will see her again and get to meet my grandbaby. I still have times when I am angry and let God know it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe. If anything, it means that I do believe! I believe that I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father that allows me to say how I feel without being judged and knowing that there is someone who loves me unconditionally, no matter how mad I am.I have little assurances that Ky is watching over us all the time… pennies that appear in unconventional places, finding a necklace with angel wings in the middle of a parking lot, helping me pick out the exact same card for Brandon that he got her the year before for her birthday.
I guess the bottom line is that my truth is I believe everything happens to help us learn what we need in order to shape us into who we were meant to be. I have learned so much from all the challenges in my life. I have learned that life is short and we have no control, so it’s best to leave the judgement and negative energy outside of my head and heart. I have learned that I have a way of showing up for people who are struggling because I have felt some of it, too. I have learned that together, we can make it through anything and the reason I made it through this tragedy is because I have amazing children who lift me up and support me daily. Without them, I’m not so sure I could have survived. So, I continue to trudge through the emotional swamp and keep my soul open to anyone who needs me and honor my girl in the process.The truth is that life is a beautiful struggle.”