Friday, May 22, 2009

Losing Kyle

My name is Marie Parker and I am the VP of the Kyle David Miller Foundation. I’ve known Christine since she was pregnant with Kyle. My current role with the Foundation is taking care of the merchandise. I helped design and order the shirts, bracelets, magnets and Kyle’s Kindness Card. I’m also the one who mails out any new orders that come in.

We have been friends with the Miller Family for a very long time and our daughters are still, to this day, the best of friends. My husband Adam and I have Tanner (a girl) who is 9, Matthew is 7, and Morgan is 3.

Memorial weekend is always hard for me. I hate to travel on this weekend and for the last few years, we haven’t. But today, for the first time in years, my husband left this morning for a bachelor party in Rockport, TX. It’s an 11 hour drive across the state of Texas. I’m terrified he won’t make it back. I pray and pray and pray that he makes it back. It’s natural for me to be this way, especially this weekend. I’m aware of reality. I don’t have the attitude “Oh that won’t happen to us.” At least, not anymore.

I remember the day of the accident like it was yesterday. We were living in College Station, Texas. My husband had just graduated from A&M and we were packing up our apartment, loading it into the U-Haul and getting ready to say goodbye to Aggieland. It was a Friday morning when I called Christine. Our conversation went like this:

“Hey there, what are you guys up to?”
“Oh not much, we just got through having a late breakfast. We are about to go to the new rent house to show my dad where we’ll be living next year and then we are heading to San Antonio. How about you guys?”
“We are packing the last of our things now and will be heading out soon too.”
“Well call me when you get to San Antonio, we are going to go out on the lake on my dad’s boat, and you guys should join us.”
Ok sound great. Christine, guess what? I’m pregnant.”
“WHAT! No way! Oh my gosh! Congratulations, when did you find out?”
Then I hear Kevin in the background say “What? What happened?” Then Christine turns to him and says “Marie’s pregnant.” Kevin goes “Nu uh!”
“I just found out, crazy huh?”
“How do you guys feel?”
“Well it was definitely a surprise, but we are happy.”
“Oh my gosh! I still can’t believe it! I’m so happy for you! Well make sure you call me when you get into San Antonio, we want to hang out with you guys.”
“OK will do, talk to you later.”

Little did I know that just an hour or two later, the unthinkable would happen.

We must have just missed the accident. We made it all the way to San Antonio with our U-Haul and it wasn’t until the next morning that we found out. The Principle from Katie and Tanner’s school called me really early Saturday morning. She said she was watching the news the night before when she learned that a 3 year old Kyle Miller died in a car accident. She wanted to call and see if it was Kevin and Christine’s Kyle. I told her I hadn’t heard from them but that I would call them and find out and give her a call back. I was hoping that they would answer and say no, it must have been another Kyle Miller.

We didn’t get a hold of the Millers at first. Adam went online to read the College Station newspaper and came out of the bedroom in tears. He said it was true. The paper listed all their names, Kevin, Christine, Katie and Kyle. It was them. I was still hoping to get a phone call saying no, it wasn’t true. It must have been another Miller Family with the same names. It couldn’t have been them.

Christine called back a few minutes later. I couldn’t talk to her. I had Adam answer. He was in tears instantly. We wanted to go back to College Station to be with them, Adam told her we’d be there in 3 hours. Christine said “No, we are on our way down.”

I sometimes think “What if I wouldn’t have called her to tell her I’m pregnant? Would Kyle still be here?” I know that sounds silly but I felt like a new life was created and another was taken away. It just wasn’t fair.

We saw them a few days later at Kyle’s funeral. It was there that I learned that Christine’s Dad was right behind them following them in his car. He saw the whole thing right in front of him. It was there that I learned how the van rolled and rolled and rolled and how, when they came to a stop, they immediately flipped their heads around to see the kids. Christine saw Katie and she was fine. She thought “Oh thank God, they are OK.” But then turned back around more and didn’t see Kyle. “Where’s Kyle? Kyle’s gone!”

Losing Kyle was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through. Watching my best friend lose her child is unbearable. Watching Matthew grow up without his buddy is hard. Seeing him off to school and buying bigger clothes for him each year is tough. When we all get together and the kids are running around, there’s always a space where Kyle should be. Always a chair, a car seat, a pair of flip flops, a drink, a toy, that’s not there for Kyle and it’s unfair.

In College Station, we lived in the same apartment complex with the Millers. We saw them often, almost every day of the week. Matthew and Kyle used to like to play with Ninja Turtles. Birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Easter egg hunts, park play dates, dinner and school; we were with them everywhere for everything. Christine is the sister I never had; Kevin and Adam are like brothers.

I had no idea that our kids were in booster seat prematurely. My kids were in the same car seats as Katie and Kyle. We thought that was good enough. It wasn’t until Christine lost Kyle, did more research, and found extended harnessing car seats that we realized that there is something out there that’s safer. Tanner, my 9 year old, just outgrew her Britax Regent and is now in a booster seat again. I think of how I used to have Tanner, at such a tiny age of 4, in a booster seat and I shudder. I thank God each and every day for the knowledge he gave Christine and the strength he gave her to pass this information along to others.

I ask that you think of Kyle and the Miller Family during this tough time of year. I ask that you think of how much has come out of this little boy’s short 3 years. Think of how many kids are being saved everyday from his story. Think of your child and make sure you are educated on car seat safety. Please don’t think it can never happen to you, because it can.

Here is a letter I wrote to Kevin and Christine shortly after the accident. This sums up the life we had in College Station, Texas:

Kevin and Christine,

I miss all the times you guys would come over on weekends and we'd eat dinner and watch movies. We would send the kids upstairs and put on one of their favorite movies. Kyle and Matthew would always come downstairs for re-assurance that we were still there. We'd pause the movie we were watching and walk them back up. Sometimes we'd get frustrated, but now I would walk them back up 1,000 times if it meant that they could play again.

They loved to dress up and one of them would always end up naked, needing help with a costume. Tanner and Katie would of course laugh because little naked boys are just too funny! After finally getting them situated, we'd finish our movie and our popcorn.

By the end of the night, Kyle would sometimes fall asleep. Kevin would carry him to the car while you searched for socks and shoes and sippy cups. Katie and Tanner would whine because they didn't want to see each other go. And then the following night, we'd do it all over again.

I miss those times so much, when it was just the eight of us; four adults and four kids. Those weekends were such a great part of our lives and Adam and I will never forget them. Life will go on and we will have our movie nights again someday. This time with new little kids and new sippy cups and new pairs of shoes we'll have to search for. But until then, please know that every night we got to share with the four of you, was one of the best nights of our lives that we will never forget. We love you. -Parker Family

Marie Parker
VP Kyle David Miller Foundation

Katie, Kyle, Tanner and Matthew

Matthew and Kyle playing dress up

Katie, Kyle, Tanner and Matthew Halloween

Miller Family and Parker Family 2009:
Tanner, Morgan, Katie, Kobe, Matthew, and Kaleb