I spent more time thinking about this post than almost any other I’ve written, thus far. I wondered what I could possibly write about that would resonate with our amazing TSB readers and felt that my biggest struggle – anxiety – had already been chronicled here a number of times. So I was at a loss, to tell the truth, when it came time to share for this series.
And then, last night, our sweet baby niece passed away following an almost year long battle with brain cancer. She would have been just two years old in August.
Her name was Kayleigh and she was the loveliest little thing. My husband’s brother and his wife had longed for children together and Kayleigh was the youngest of their two daughters. Her big sister, Ashleigh, is a spunky, generous, insanely smart little girl and we had the privilege of visiting Virginia two weeks ago and getting to spend some time with them. It wasn’t an easy visit. Kayleigh was nearing the end – although we didn’t realize exactly how close it would be – and she had gone from being awake and responsive, smiling and playing with her sister, to just barely conscious and totally dependent again, unable to walk or move, in less than a month. Until we visited, we had never met Kayleigh. She was born just a few months before I got pregnant with Lucy and with a nine-hour drive between our families, it simply hadn’t happened yet. But we finally had the chance and it’s a visit I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Part of me feels like I don’t have a right to grieve. Yes, Kayleigh was my niece, but only through marriage. And I certainly haven’t had to face the pain of what her parents and my mother-in-law (who has been staying with them since Kayleigh’s initial diagnosis) endure on a daily basis. But the reality is that loss is never easy for anyone involved. And just because I never knew her as intimately as her mother and father doesn’t mean my heart is not shattered. They are not alone in their grief. None of us are. The world is full of people who have survived what seemed impossible to endure. Parents have buried their babies. Children have seen their parents slowly forget all they’ve known in life. Families have born loss after loss and, still, we go on. Because the joy of loving one another is greater than the pain of losing it all.
I wonder what purpose there could possibly be for a parent to lose a child. Or for a tiny little girl to struggle each day of her short life. It is incredibly difficult not knowing all the answers, but when I look at pictures of Kayleigh’s beautiful smile and see those big, bright Nunnery eyes looking back with joy, I am thankful that God allowed us to have that sweet girl, even for a short time. The world is a more precious place for having known her. And there can be no regret in that.