I’m not great at complimenting people. That’s an understatement. I suck at it. Just ask Tywana. My family of origin shows our affection by firing zingers at each other. I’m good at smart ass remarks. I tried to break that cycle with the girls, telling them I love them every night. Shayna would say “You don’t have to tell me you love me all the time.” But, I’m glad I did because I never wanted her to doubt how much I cherished her, even for one second.
When a sibling transitions, the child left behind has a particularly hard road. They see their parents devastated. The parents’ grief might make them feel like they aren’t enough to make the parents happy. In the case of Kayla and Shayna, best friends, I cannot imagine how Kayla must have felt when I made that phone call to her to tell her that her best friend, her biggest cheerleader, her soulmate had slipped away during the night. Kayla had to fly home on an emergency flight from South Carolina. I remember picking her up at the airport and the look on her face when our eyes met as she silently asked me “Did this happen?”. We stayed up late that night in the kitchen both trying to wrap our heads around this new life and I truly worried for her safety.
Fast forward three years. Kayla has blossomed into a young woman. She was 18 when Shayna passed. Kayla will be 22 in just a few weeks. She has a boyfriend, Gabe, that she met shortly after Shayna crossed over. Kayla went right back to school a few weeks after that dreadful day. She later changed majors realizing that she wasn’t passionate about what she was pursuing. In just a few weeks she’ll be finishing her last year of undergrad work.
I am so incredibly proud of Kayla’s strength in the face of this. To have gone back to school to continue her education, to carry on at all, is a monumental feat. I know it hasn’t been easy for her. Yet, she gets up every day and does what needs to be done. I see phenomenal strength in her, and it’s growing all the time. She still has that connection with Shayna but I know she misses her “little duck” being here with her to share her life. I love that we can still talk about Shayna. I love that Kayla still comes to visit us because I worried whether she’d want to be here where she and Shayna grew up together mainly since we’ve sort of turned the first floor into a shrine for Shayna. I thought she might be creeped out by all the pictures and the mementos, but she’s been very accepting.
Kayla has always been a gentle soul. Her personality reminds me of my cousin Joan, sweet and patient. She’s excellent with children. She has taken her first job taking care of kids- a part-time au pair, and the kids love her. She’s become more adventuresome, drawing inspiration from Shayna. She’s become more assertive. I see her confidence growing. She has already done great things, and I know she will do amazing things going forward.
I have been blessed to have two amazing girls and a partner to bring them through and to help raise them. Shayna would always want me to say that she was my favorite. But, I honestly cannot say either of them is. We had different relationships. Shayna was the one I’d toss a football with or play video games with for hours. Kayla and I share a love for the same music, old movies, and having late night deep conversations. The picture for htis post is from the Evanescence/Lindsey Stirling concert a few weeks ago. Kayla wasn’t a huge fan of either band, but she wanted to go with me and we had an amazing night. How many 57-year-old guys get to share a concert with their daughters?
Shayna has gone ahead where she guides us, ever part of our family. Kayla, Tywana, and I have to be here hands and feet here until we all meet again.