One thing I have learned about grief is that it is a continuous journey of healing with no finish line. Eight years ago today our family lost a brother, son, father, uncle and friend. I have been able to compartmentalize my grief over the years but certain days and events make me unravel and come apart. The memories of the horrific events of that day start to find their way out of the sealed box I keep locked up tight. I know that as painful as it is, I need to allow those memories to bubble to the surface. Part of managing grief is to learn to swim in them and not drown. To remember Kyle is incredibly painful because it reminds me of what I lost, what we all lost. Like a beautiful vase that our small family fit inside, on this day, it was violently shattered into a million shards of glass. I can remember looking around at our family and wondering how we could ever be pieced together again. We were all broken. Our pain was suffocating. I can remember hearing myself cry and not recognizing my own voice. As a mom, we lean toward fixing and keeping everyone together. My children always associated death with old age. Having to tell them their uncle had died and watching them try to process made my (already broken) mom heart bleed out. This was nothing I could fix.
After Kyle’s service, the world seemed to move on in what seemed like fast-forward while mine stood at a stand-still. I watched my parents go through the worst experience a parent could ever imagine and I watched my sister feel the void of a sibling like myself. We all know that Kyle loved to live life on the edge and but no one could have prepared us for the accident that would end his life. We all lost someone so important to us…especially this young woman who was 17 at the time. She lost her dad. My niece had just told me the week before Kyle’s accident at a family brunch how her dad was more like a best friend to her. That was Kyle. Not a mean bone in his body, maybe not always making the best decisions, but goodness down to his core. I mean we all have made poor choices, right? He was no different than the rest of us. Just trying to work through this life as best he could.
A few years ago, I decided to photograph several personal projects to help me process a few dark events in my life. The first was coping with a severe eating disorder in college and then coping with the loss of Kyle. My niece is featured above holding the helmet that Kyle was unfortunately not wearing eight years ago. The reflection is the memorial that I set up at the site of his accident as a reminder to everyone to please drive safely. The deserving title is “Missing my Dad”. A variation of this image was selected in a top 100 artist image competition for the National Association of Child Photographers (NAPCP) but this was my original vision and by far my preferred version of the image.
We are all moving forward and our vase again holds our now smaller family. It looks different and maybe not as beautiful with all the cracks but our glue is strong and is keeping us together. We will continue to try and cherish each day because we have the painful experience in knowing that tomorrow may be different. Year after year I look at and post the same pictures over and over. My favorites are the ones of us together as children and adults. Over time my memories will fade but at least I have these pictures to cherish and the album I made of them so that we can all take time to remember all the fun we had together and what an infectious smile Kyle had. His personality was truly contagious.
Today we will let our pain erupt from the volcano of grief. Today we will allow that compartment in our head to become unlocked. Tomorrow will be better. We love you Kyle. 2/26/1974 – 1/31/2016