Tonight, I attended a memorial service for Kylee. I piled into the car with my parents, sister and my friend Becca and we made the three and a half hour-long drive from Orlando to Fort Myers through the pouring rain.
This past Wednesday night on St. Patrick’s Day, after my last student had left, I received a voicemail from my mom telling me that Kylee had passed during an emergency Caesarean section.
She was 8 months pregnant.
The baby survived but Kylee did not.
The details became clear over the next couple of days. Due to her pregnancy, abnormal high pressure brought on something called preeclampsia, which caused a stroke and hemorrhage in her brain. Even as I am typing this, I have to look up “hemorrhage” in the dictionary because I don’t know how to type out that word.
I’ve never had to.
She collapsed at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning and never woke up. They performed the C-section to save the baby, but by noon, she was vented. By 6 p.m., she was pronounced dead.
I learned today that typically, both mother and child do not survive once eclampsia sets in. So Caleb, newborn and new to this world, is a miracle.
I rarely got to spend consistent time with Kylee since I first met her when I was a freshman in high school, but everytime I ever spoke with her, hung out with her, or even saw her in passing, she made me feel like I was important. Like I mattered. And more than that, she was keenly interested in whatever Christ happened to be doing in my life in that moment, in that season. Every conversation was genuine, every “How are you?” was pregnant with compassion and true interest.
Kylee had the piercingly beautiful gift of discernment, and she was a perpetual encourager. She was never afraid to speak truth out of conviction. Her genuineness and deep passion immediately disarmed any defensive or critical voice.
I remember seeing her unexpectedly a couple of years ago, while visiting a friend at a church out of town. At the time, I had been going through a particularly difficult personal time. Kylee had known about this and when she saw me, she immediately approached me and embraced me without any words. She sat with me on the front pew and let me simply talk and sob and she sobbed with me. I don’t even remember any exact words that she said, I just remember feeling more hopeful and comforted in her presence and empathy.
This is how I remember her. She loved to dance (girl could bust a move!), she loved her friends, she loved her husband and her children so well. My heart was perhaps most heavy today when I looked at the faces of the hundreds of people who gathered in this sanctuary to celebrate Kylee’s life. I was willing to be they all had a similar story to mine.
Matt shared some journal entries, notes that they had written to each other within the past month.
It made me realize that I want a marriage like this:
I grieve for Matt, left without his lover and life partner to raise four children by himself. I grieve for Seth, Lydia and Sarai, who deal with the wounds of loss and separation at so young of an age.
And I grieve for Caleb, who never met his mother. He will never know the Kylee that we knew, so full of grace and warmth and encouragement.
But I know that Kylee herself even entrusted her children and her marriage to God with an unrelenting and deep surrender. Where other people might be bound by fear of loss or losing control, Kylee seemed to have this natural, unconditional trust in Him that profoundly colored every conversation, every relationship she had.
And that is truly the power of Christ working itself out in the life of someone on a soul-stirring, intertwining level. Kylee herself would say that such an ability and deep unrelenting pursuit of truth and God did not come from her, but Christ in her.
I know in death and in memory, we often overidealize those we have loved and lost. Perhaps that is what is happening even now, but part of me knows that an entire throng of people would beg to differ. I know I have rarely found someone who, as Becca put it tonight, could so beautifully walk the tension between brokenness and grace, fallenness and freedom. Kylee was one of those rare souls, even in the moments where she admits a loss of hope, or long droughts of faith. The memory of her echoing words “the church is still His bride” often fell upon my hardened, cynical soul likes drops of rain, whenever I wanted to flee and abandon that bride.
This death has drawn my attention to the people in my life. I think of porch nights and road trips and photographs. I think of sitting across from you, over breakfast, dinner, lunch, coffee. I think of parties and spontaneity and glasses of red wine. I think of texts and emails and phone calls. I think of a hug around the neck, a light touch on the shoulder. I think of difficult conversations, infuriating conversations, grateful conversations. I think of the furious, the unexpected, the emotional, the poignant, the simple, the day-to-day.
I realize how beautiful, powerful and compelling one life becomes when surrendered completely to Christ.
That is the legacy Kylee left behind, and that is the kind of path I want to walk in.
I see your glory for a moment and I’ve got to squint my eyes.
Miss you, Smiley Kylee. Yours is a bright light.