This Life...

In Memory of Kyle–An Elegant Mourning

KyleToday’s post is a repeat of one that I’ve done before, but I’m posting it again in memory of my nephew, Kyle Alexander, who died twelve years ago today.

Tim 01My buddy, Tim Moody (whom we lost two years ago), wrote some music after he first read this piece about Kyle and PJ. He named it An Elegant Mourning and it’s lovely. I like to imagine Kyle and Tim up in heaven making music together, because I’m certain God brings all his musician angels together now and then, and that heaven is frequently one big jam session. Please listen.

God bless you, Kyle and  you too, Timmie, and peace be with you today, my dear sister.

“We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss, the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.” —Sigmund Freud (1961)

Twelve years ago, my dear sister, PJ, lost her son, Kyle, to a terrible automobile accident. He was riding in the back seat with two other young men, and the driver, who was drunk, hit a tree—all three young men died, and the three others in the car were injured. The story of the accident and its aftermath is long and arduous, but the nutshell  version is that the citizens of the small town where PJ and her family lived were devastated. In one week, they attended three funerals for three good young men whose lives were cut short by one bad decision. And although the young woman who drove the car spent time in prison, she still suffers everyday, knowing her choices caused the deaths of her dear friends and left their families destroyed.

My sister, PJ, is a remarkable woman. I know she misses Kyle endlessly, that not a day goes by when he isn’t her first thought upon waking and the last when she lays her head on the pillow to go to sleep. She could have wallowed in her grief, spent months, even years, suffering the misery of losing her son and who would’ve blamed her? I remember the agony of our Son’s move across country—I miss him every day. Yet I know my pain isn’t even one one thousandth of the anguish PJ feels at the loss of her child. I didn’t really lose my child—I see him often and talk to him almost daily.

When people offer tired platitudes that it was God’s will for Kyle to die or that he’s in a better place or that it was his time to go to heaven, she bristles. “No,” she replies. “It wasn’t God’s will, it’s never God’s will for anyone to die, least of all a 22-year-old young man with his whole life ahead of him.” Or she says, “A better place is here with me and his family. He’s not in a better place,” and I see her anguish all over again—how much she misses him, how much she longs for him to be with her.

She could have been eternally angry and resentful of the young woman who was driving the car—how could she not be? Yet, she isn’t. Rather, she chose to forgive her, to visit her and help her while she was in prison, and to remain a friend to her to this day. I’m amazed. PJ tells the people who wonder at her graciousness, “It’s not graciousness. It’s what Kyle would expect of me. He had the biggest heart in the world. How could I do anything less?”

What makes her mourning elegant is her ability to forgive so completely—something I’m not at all sure I’m capable of doing. PJ’s love of her son shows in all she does for others, in how she gives of herself, and in how she keeps her son’s light burning bright—not as a shrine, but rather as a graceful memorial.


  • Deborah Cairns

    Nan, I have known your family for many, many years. Pam and I have been room mates, and friends. I remember meeting Kyle when he was just a babe. What a cute, sweet boy. I was so upset when Ceci called to tell me of the accident. You sister is truly an amazing Human Being…being kind, forgiving and giving to all. Kyle is missed, but his spirit lives on. Thanks for sharing this again.

    • Nan

      Hi, Deb! How wonderful to have you stop by the blog! I remember you well! Yup, PJ is my hero. I wish I was always gracious as she is. Come by again, okay? It was great to talk to you! Hugs!

    • Nan

      Thank you, Debbie. Kyle was a precious young man, but he lives on the spirit and strength of his parents and his brothers. He’s always with us.

  • Susan Courtney

    Thank you for sharing this. I didn’t know. Your sister is, indeed, a remarkable woman. To lose a child so suddenly and unexpectedly is like being sucker- punched in the gut. You go on, but the ache remains a long time.
    I’m sorry she was subjected to platitudes. People don’t know what to say when faced with the death of a child. That your sister was able to forgive the perpetrator of her son’s death speaks volumes about her character and the power of forgiveness.
    Blessings to PJ and you.

  • Carla Hampton

    What a beautiful tribut to your sister and nephew, Nan! We had a friend in our previous church who’s 16 year old son had a lump on his leg that they thought was a bug bite. He was diagnosed with cancer, went through all of the treatments but later died. I will never forget the grief his Mother, Father and sisters went through. Losing a child is a pain like no other pain. I have often thought that it must be like an amputation for a Mother because that child was an extension of her own body! It leaves a scar that never is removed. Your sister is right, It is not the will of God for anyone to die. Death is a product of living in a fallen world where all are vulnerable to the effects of sin and of each of our decisions! People think that what they do is their business but our decisions almost always affect someone else, don’t they? How tragic for your sister and your family! I know that she can’t possibly accept that he is in a better place because he is separated from her. Heaven holds so much mystery. There is a passage in the Bible where the apostle Paul says: ” I know a man who, fourteen years ago, was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I really don’t know if this took place in the body or out of it; only God knows. I also know that this man was hijacked into paradise—again, whether in or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard. This is the man I want to talk about.” I have always thought that this was an out of body type of experience that Paul had when he was beaten! It peaked my interest in ready about people who had “out of body,or near death experiences. I have read many of these books by various authors. Some of them I felt were were far off but one of the ones that I read that stuck with me was “Evidence of the after Life” it was written by a Doctor that did a survey of over 1000 people who claimed to have near death experiences. The majority of the people had stories that were very similar. They told of being met with a huge crowd of people who died before them right when they entered Paradise and of just how amazingly wonderful and beautiful it was there. They spoke of the overwhelming sense of love and joy there and None of them wanted to come back here. When my Dad died very suddenly in 2010 I remembered that book and Paul’s comments and I knew that my Dad was so extremely happy that if he were given a choice to come back, even though he felt love here, that it was nothing to what he experienced there!

    • Nan

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Carla–I’m always glad when people read my blog and are blessed by it or it rings true to them in some way. So glad you came by! And yes, my I know my sister misses Kyle every day, but her strength lies in her faith and in her love for her other sons and her abiding love for Kyle. Hugs, sweetie.

    • Nan

      I know, Liz, I’m always amazed at how strong she is about the whole event. I’m not sure I’d still be breathing if anything every happened to Son or Grandboy…I can only hope I’d be so strong and generous of spirit. Kyle’s sweet light shines through PJ every day. Thanks for coming by!!