A friend of mine sent this image to me and it made me stop and think. This couldn’t be truer for my life. Keeping it raw and real to the past few years…
2016 Changed Me.
In 2016, there were a lot of hospital stays, both at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and St. Cloud. For a period of my life the Mayo was my second home. It’s a beautiful city by the way! Has cute shops and restaurants down town. The most amazing Scheel’s! However the restaurants close at 10… seriously one night all I wanted was something quick and everything was closed. LOL. I spent almost every morning/afternoon at Starbucks or Caribou. I needed to get out of those 4 little walls… man one can go crazy. Can’t imagine how Kyle felt having to lay in the same bed for weeks at a time. Spending that much time together – (just the two of us most the time) you have a lot of conversations. Both good and bad. Conversations about the past, the future and current battles. I wish I could remember some of them, but a lot of it seems like a blur. However it really made our love for one another grow. I never realized how many days we spent in the hospital because it was just our life, my calculations tell me we spent more than a third of the year in a hospital in 2016, from Mexico to Rochester to St. Cloud. I am forever grateful for those days together. Towards the end of 2016 the reality of where things were headed started to set in. The fact that I realized I was planning Kyle’s last Christmas and Birthday put a huge lump in my throat however I had to make it special. Planning events I am passionate about and love to do but planning end of life events is something no one can really help or prepare you for.
In 2016 is really when I started to grieve. I became angry, sad and heartbroken to think that I was going to have to live life without my best friend by my side. It changed me for the simple fact that I knew I needed to continue to be strong for Kyle and for friends and family. I needed to work through my grief before everyone else.
2017 Broke me.
You know the song live like you are dying? I feel like that was our life. Our conversations became centered around last wishes. Kyle is such an easy going person he really didn’t have any wishes. He just wanted his pain to go away. If you lived in our house, you would understand. The amount of work it took for him to get off the couch, was incredible. The daily things that we all take for granted, it was devastating to wake up and watch this on a daily basis. The strong guy that I married was literally struggling every day. As Kyle’s days grew shorter, I began to break as well. Although I had grieved a lot before he had passed, the days after were just as hard. I think the hardest thing for me, was going to bed and waking up alone. Those of you that are married, truly treasure every moment with your spouse. After someone passes you are left with their memory everywhere. All of their things are still in your house, pictures, tooth brushes, cologne, clothes etc. The thought of coming in and throwing that all away for me was like throwing away my 12 year relationship. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about things that I have gotten rid of. It doesn’t seem right. It seems as if you are beginning to erase them from your life. Even though they are just “things” and possessions, I will forever keep a piece of Kyle in my home.
I learned that grief may change shape but it never truly goes away. There are still moments that take my breath away and bring me to tears. There are also moments that make me laugh and smile. There will always be a part of my heart that hurts and loves Kyle. Grief doesn’t go away it, it’s not for others to judge and there is no right or wrong way. Grief is your own walk, on your own time. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!
2018 Opened my eyes.
2018 I was focused on getting INDY up and running. Reality is sometimes it was running me. I was so focused on getting a thriving nonprofit out there to the world because it was Kyle’s passion. However, I lost the focus on myself and my health. I don’t regret it. I just recognize that I need to work on balance. I am such an all-in, balls to the walls type of girl that I have to remember to slow down. I often find myself stopping and thinking, “Kyle would so be yelling at me right now to slow down and take care of myself.” (Honestly though he was the one who constantly was like no, you are doing nothing but sitting on the couch today.) I never realized that he really was the one who made me “just relax” once in a while. In 2018, it opened my eyes to relationships – both old and new. Its funny how life changes. People change. Friendships change. However I am a firm believer that God puts people in your life at the exact right time. Whether it is for a short amount of time or a long time, his hand is always working. I have many moments and stories that attest to this throughout 2018. I encourage all of you to be open to these moments because they can be missed.
This year opened my eyes to so many things. New Beginnings. Not where I pictured my life but I am not angry about it either. I accept that our plans are not always what we envision. I have learned that our life is made up of many chapters. Some I would like to forget but I have seen why they occurred later down the road.
2019 I’m Coming Back.
I’m working on myself, building up my confidence to be the person I want the world to know and see. Some of you may think I am crazy but we all have things to work on. I am far from perfect. At times, I feel like I am far from having my life together but that’s okay. I’m excited for the goals I have in 2019 and I am excited to see where life takes me.
Thank you to each and every one of you. I am beyond grateful for all the help from so many friends, family and even strangers. It truly takes an army to help people through life changes like this. I share this with the world in hopes that it can help some of you reading this. No matter what the battle is that you are facing, you have the strength to fight it. I promise you. There are days of doubt and days of defeat. TRUST and BELIEVE in YOURSELF.
LOVE & HUGS ~ Kayla Strand
My husband comes from a large extended family, so it is not unusual for us to be at some kind of celebration: a wedding, a birthday party...just about any occasion that involves shenanigans and laughter. This particular story takes place at a graduation party. I was playing with my daughter, Loretta, in the soft green grass and admiring her chunky 1 year old thighs in bright pink flamingo leggings. It wasn’t long before a beautiful pregnant woman came and joined Loretta and I. Melissa was married to my husband’s cousin and expecting their 3rd child. I love seeing pregnant mamas and their round bellies. I especially love seeing a mama like Mel, because I know it took a lot of courage for her to be growing their family. You see, Mel and her husband, Royce, lost their first born son, Levi, at birth. The story will break your heart. But this little family continued to grow and inspired us all to never give up. Mel was the only one who knew the gender of their 3rd baby who was growing in her tummy that summer. But the way she watched Loretta and made several comments about her Baby Gap pink flamingo attire, I just knew she was having a girl. Sure enough, the next summer, I received this note from Mel:
“Hi Kate! I had to share this pic even though it's terrible cause she doesn't hold still!!! I bought this after Etta was wearing it at Becky’s grad party last summer!! Letty is such a chunk she almost didn't get to wear it!!”
At the time, I didn’t realize what great mountain Mel was climbing when she wrote me that message. Earlier that spring, she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The prognosis was not good. But life continued and her children were growing and she was dressing her daughter in adorable, happy, pink flamingo outfits.
8 short months after I received this photo of Letty, Mel went to be with Jesus in heaven. When I read the opening line of her obituary, “Melissa Marie DeYaeger, age 37, of Royalton, passed away with dignity and grace...” I remembered the heart + angel wing tattoo she had on her upper back in memory of her son, Levi. As scared as any mother and wife would be to leave her family behind, I couldn’t help but think of how peaceful she also must have felt to be going to see her son up in heaven.
When the INDY Foundation approached me to create a t-shirt design in Melissa's honor, I found my self in my studio painting this heart. I had a photo of Mel’s tattoo in front of me as I created it and could not get the word “grace” out of my mind. Ephesians 2: 8-9 reads “For it is by grace you have been saved.”
So friends, whatever trials you are going through in this life, take a deep breath, envision pink flamingos and remember that grace wins.
XOXO ~ Kate Fischer
Little Fisch Designs