Today, you are expecting to hear how much I miss her.
You’re expecting to hear how long and lonely a year has been.
You’re thinking I’ll tell you all of the things we’ve missed in 365 days and how the loss of her physical self, her voice, her love and her joy have left me hollow and without purpose.
All of those things are true. I feel every single one of them.
But instead…I want to tell you a story. Long as it may be, it feels important to say on this day. This horrible, awful, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking day.
This is a telling of the story I’d like to be known as “the truth” from this day forward. The truth about how Kate came to be ours, how her soul made a pact with God and how when she returned home to Heaven after her death, she remembered all of this and smiled.
My story, when I learn to believe it as the truth, will prove that our love…hers and mine…is bigger than Earth and the Heavens, the moon and stars, the greatest of greats…the biggest of the big…the deeper than deep. Every time I tell it as the truth, I will be reminded that her story had no alternate ending. Her life was lived for exactly as long as she planned and that what I did or did not do, or what I was able or not able to do, did not play a role in the end. God was in charge. Not me. Not her doctor. Not anyone.
This story starts long before she was born. Sometime around the time Daddy and I decided it would be a good idea to have a baby. Kate, never being one to butt her way to the front of the line, would be patient. She knew she was ours. It took some time – getting to the front of the line, but once she did, God knew it was to be her. That’s when negotiations of her soul’s “contract” began. She picked us…but in exchange for getting the mommy & daddy she wanted, her soul’s life here on Earth would be short. Why? Because she would have come to do what she needed to and would come to teach the lesson she had to offer. Being who she is, it would not take long. Meanwhile, Daddy and I waited and waited. Finally, on November 1, 2010 we found out she was with us. A few months down the line, we found out she was Kate and on June 5, 2011, she joined us here on Earth, completing our family. She was early. You see…while Kate wasn’t one to break through to the front of the line or break the rules, she did operate on her own pace and plan. And she was so excited to join our family that she just couldn’t wait. She gave us a little scare…coming so early, she wasn’t quite ready, and had to be taken extra special care of.
Kate’s life was beautiful but ordinary. She was a happy girl and loved beyond words. But soon it came time for the lesson. Whether it was hers to learn or hers to teach, I’m not certain. Kate was diagnosed with cancer on August 15, 2013 at the tender, sweet age of 2 years, 2 months and 10 days old. The next 25 months would be spent learning the lessons of unconditional love, selflessness, bravery beyond comprehension, faith and through it all…joy. Yes, the hardest months of our lives provided us with more JOY than we’d ever experienced before. Why? Well, mostly because we never knew what it really was before. We’d never been tested. Only when faced with challenges, fears and uncertainty watching our child suffer in the ways she did could we ever appreciate how fragile, beautiful and precious life really is. Only then could we find joy in the ordinary and gifts in the mundane.
I fell in love with Kate on an entirely new level during that time. I think my soul knew exactly what hers was to me. Its perfect mate. She was mine and I was hers. We spent that time hurting together, celebrating together and rejoicing together. In this story, Kate was always meant to beat cancer. She was always meant to win. THAT cancer was different than the OTHER cancer that would take her from us one year ago today.
After those 25 months, we celebrated. We rejoiced. We loved harder and stronger and longer. Her soul knew that in order to get us to the next chapter was to live FULLY in those moments. Four months of experiences…living the life she deserved to live. Pure bliss, I assure you.
In this story, God then whispered to her one night and reminded her of their pact. She had done it! She should be proud! She was nearing the end of her life here on Earth and soon it would be time to return home. Knowing how deeply I’d come to feeling happiness once more, she knew it could not be long and painful. She knew she would have to slip away quickly. And she knew she needed to celebrate the last of the holidays with me…ringing in the new year into 2016. And so she began to set the stage. Content to lounge in my lap for a few days, asking to sleep in bed with me a few nights before when she’d never done that in her life. Asking me at bath time one night if her leukemia was back. She was preparing me. I didn’t know it then, but I sure know it now. She wasn’t meant to be saved this time…so God quieted my mind. God let her doctors and her nurses kept us at bay. It would come soon enough, He’d told them. Let them have their snuggle time at home. Let her sleep with mommy, her sounds and her stars in mommy’s big bed one more time. Let her have her last days there…not in the hospital, where mommy can’t hold her…where she was afraid.
And so it would be. A different cancer returned. The same kind as before, but nothing like before. It was fast and quiet and stealthy. It slipped in undetected and at an alarming rate. It was over before it began and just like He’d promised, God let Katie go to sleep. She was awake enough to know we held her hands, and alert enough to hear me sing. But she felt no pain and had no knowledge of the whirlwind of life-sustaining efforts swirling on about her. You see, by then, she was already prepared.
Sitting on the floor outside of her room, and us not knowing her last moments were near, Kate sent Angel to be with us. She was dressed in white and smelled lovely. I didn’t see her face. My head was buried in my chest and hands, trying to fend off the reality of what was unfolding before me. As they worked to save Kate, Angel held my hands. They were cold but strong. As soon as it was over, Angel disappeared. But she held my hands in those moments when Kate was near, but standing on the other side of the veil. She had come to take my baby girl Home and back to where it all began. Kate was not afraid. She was at peace. She loved and was loved. SHE WAS LOVE.
When she awoke, the very first face she saw was that of God but she was not afraid. Instantly she knew and remembered Him and their agreement. She thanked him for mommy and daddy and He took her to her soul family – the group of people in Heaven who had gone before her, but whose lives were connected to ours.
Upon seeing how great of a job Kate did at teaching her lesson of unconditional love here on Earth, God and the angels realized she might have done TOO good a job. Daddy and Mommy were inconsolable and lost in their grief. So quickly in Heaven, she learned to send us messages and teach us about life after death. “Mommy I’m still here.”
When the day comes that I can tell this story…exactly as is…as fact…I know I will have healed as much as anyone can after losing something so profound. It has been a year and I am far from that place. But the loss of a child is the single most jarring, life-altering, life-threatening thing that can happen to a person. It was 4 years, 7 months and 7 days of pure Heaven on Earth for us. 4 years, 7 months and 7 days until she completed her mission and simply returned home. Home to love. Home to where she will wait for me with open arms having forgiven without a word and love as much as I loved her. No blame, no fear, no regret, no pain. Love, love and more love.
And then, and only then, I will be whole again.
Kate, I love you. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.