When I was 17 years old, I delay enlisted into the Air Force. I had known at a very young age that I wanted a life devoted to the service of others. I was the oldest of four and already knew what sacrifice was or at least I thought I did. I enjoyed my time in the Air Force and short stint in law enforcement, but chose a different path because I felt I was too optimistic and in law enforcement you were always waiting for someone to make a mistake. Instead, I chose to go to college and work as a paralegal. Divorced young, I learned sacrifice as a parent. I was a single parent for 16 years. Sometimes I worked two jobs and went to college full time. I had aspirations of going to law school and making a real impact in the world. Then, two months shy of my Bachelor’s degree, I received the call no parent ever wants to receive. My beautiful daughter was struck by a car while riding her bicycle on the sidewalk at 11 years old. She wasn’t wearing her helmet and suffered a traumatic brain injury. For the next several years, every spare moment was spent on trying to get KyLee back together again.

Initially, physical therapy for the displaced hips. Then there was vision therapy for the loss of tracking, remedial schooling for the 5 years of math and reading that had been lost, but the one therapy that has never seen an end was psychological. Every therapy known to man from cognitive behavioral to light therapy for PTSD. Just when it seemed like things were going to stabilize the hospitalizations began. The first was for cutting or self-harm, the next for an eating disorder, both of which I would prefer over any of the stints in rehabilitation for drug use. Multiple treatment centers of various kinds. More overdoses than either of us can count. Then the birth of the oldest grandson, two more would follow. I thought for sure you would stay sober, but I was wrong. The next big blow was schizoaffective disorder, a diagnosis you received at just 25 years old. Seven missing posters later, I feel like I may never get my KyLee back again.

Dear KyLee,

I want you know exactly how much I love you. You have been so special, so precious to me since the moment you opened your eyes. I knew my life would never be the same. I prayed, oh how I prayed for you. I wanted so badly to have a little girl. My mom would tell me when I was a teenager “Charla, I hope you have a daughter just like you,” and KyLee you did not disappoint. I couldn’t have been prouder.

We were inseparable for almost 12 years. We went on so many adventures from train rides to Sea World to Disneyland at Christmas. Then one trauma after another struck. Slowly my little girl was almost unrecognizable. However, mama can always see you the real you. I am so sorry that the last few years have really taken a toll on our relationship. Please know that if I would have any indication as to the abuse you were enduring behind closed doors with your boyfriend, I would have definitely intervened. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back and it is not your fault.

I know that you do not care for the medication that you are required to take, but it is the only way a glimpse of you can still be here. All three boys miss you terribly and argue over whose house is going to be bigger to make room for mama to leave the hospital and come live with them. One of the harder conversations I had with your youngest is, why is mommy not getting better? My reply was “honey I do not know the answer, but someday when I go to heaven, I am going to ask God”. I refuse to give up hope, although I admittedly experience some days where it is easier to see than others.

If I could really have you hear one thing it would be this — I would gladly take your place. If there was a way to trade places with you, I would. You see I love you that much. I want nothing more than for you to experience the joy that I have… to see your boys grow up and to be part of their life. To live a life where you’re not trying to be invisible and avoid the world. Honey, the world is an amazing place. Think about some of the adventures we went on when you were younger. I would love for you to have those same experiences with your boys. They would do anything to see you again. They are some of the most forgiving people you will ever know. They are so young and would do anything to have,to  hold, and love on their mama. It is so precious, just like you. With my last breath I will pray for you. I pray for you to come back to us. I pray for a happy, healthy, and a loving life. I pray someday you will love yourself as much as we love you. I pray for healing. I also pray that you will see yourself as the beautiful woman you are and the amazing mother you can be.