Happy 23rd Birthday Katelyn!

Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins,
Today would have been your 23rd birthday. We still celebrate you. We still honor the beauty that you were….are. We still cry some days as we miss you but we quite often smile at funny memories.
Just this week I was laughing to myself about the time you were demonstrating to Dad and I how you would swim if you had no legs. You had just completed a bout of chemo and had no hair. We affectionately called you Q-ball because your head was so white. You were in a swimming pool demonstrating how you would swim with no legs but you were sinking. Your name suddenly became the “Sinking Q-ball”. We were doubled over with laughter. We have so many memories like that, filled with laughter.
We have begun to settle into life without you here but still imagine how you would react to certain things, such as the birth of your new nephew, Bryan. You would have gobbled him up! He has so many chubby little rolls and is well on his way to being the same size as his daddy. Your other nieces and nephew have grown so much. Paige and Arryanna had a particularly hard time with accepting that you won’t be around to hang out with them any longer. Josh did too but he was young enough to move on a bit easier.
Some things happened this week that made me think of the day you had your first surgery. You had only been out of surgery a few hours, enough time for the major anesthesia to start wearing off. You were in a lot of pain. A nurse came in and started turning you over. I thought she was kind of rough but kept silent, trying to be a good mom and allow you to find your own bold voice. As soon as she left you looked at me and started crying and said, “Mom, she hurt me so much. She was SO rough”. I said, “I thought she was pretty rough but I was waiting for you to say something.” I got up and made a b-line to the nurses station and made it clear that that nurse was to never touch you again. I quietly came back and sat by you while you were sleeping. You woke up later and said, “Mom, thank you for making the bad nurse go away.” You were 18 but it was as if you were 3 again and asking me to hold you during a thunder storm.

Thunderstorms use to terrify you. When you were around 12 or 13 years old we had one of the largest storms I had ever experienced. You were trembling because you were so afraid. We could feel the house rattling and creaking from the wind and the lightening. I retold the story of how I use to be terribly afraid of thunder storms but how I had learned to love them. They are beautiful.
I asked your permission to take you outside into the thunderstorm. You cowered at the thought and clung to me. I told you that I would wrap you in a blanket and you could sit on my lap in your dad’s truck. You agreed. You clung to me with every clap of thunder and would bury your face in my chest and under your blanket. I reminded you that I would hold you tight but encouraged you to look up and see the beautiful show before us. We were sitting in the middle of incredible flashes of lightening and loud crashes of thunder happening all around us. The light show was spectacular and massive. The lightening looked like a neon net in every direction. We tried to count seconds before we heard the thunder but we couldn’t count fast enough because we were literally in the middle of the storm.
As we sat together I encouraged you to lift your head and watch the splendor. You slowly loosened your clenched fists and started to relax, your head started peaking out from under the blanket. You started looking for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects. Before I knew it you were beside me in the truck seat instead of on me. Rain was pelting the roof of the truck so hard that it was hard to hear each other speak. I told you to close your eyes and listen to the beauty of it’s sound. It was incredible. That was the last time I recall you ever being afraid in a thunder storm. You learned to appreciate its beauty.

Your death has been like a tremendous storm to our family. We have run to The Father for comfort. He provides comfort like no other but you know this. You were very familiar with His comfort. There have been times that we have cowered under the blankets and clenched our fists in fear and some of the family those fists were clenched in anger but not for long. The storm has felt spectacular and massive. We have begun to look for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects.
Our heads are peaking out from under the blankets and viewing the beauty in the storm. All three of your brothers and your sister and sister-in-loves have amazed me with their strength. Vulnerability and humility are beautiful gifts that they share openly. I love that about them. Grandparents are healing and overcoming. Your sweet husband has remarried, just as you had hoped he would. I believe he is very happy. That makes my heart happy too.
We have learned that joy does not always displace grief but often parallels it. It’s like a beautiful melody that wouldn’t be as rich without the low and the high octaves being played at the same time. These are things learned in a storm. We have the freedom to cry because we miss you and because we are grateful for where you are while we are remembering how incredible you are. It is not unusual to feel all of these things in unison. That is when the comforting, faith-filled melodies resound and sway us back and forth in the arms of The Father. He lulls us with His peace.
No matter how large and loud the storm is the comfort of the Father always rings louder and larger. No matter the condition of our heart He is ready to receive us as we are and pour grace over us so we may walk away with much more than we invested in our own healing. We can come to Him as a vagabond, whipped and empty and walk away as a King. His mercy amazes me and makes me desire even more of Him. His generosity brings me to my knees in adoration of Him. He always exceeds my expectations and I had BIG expectations!
His word is true. Romans 5:3-4 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

A new hope has risen up in us. We are still wobbly kneed at times but walking in new fruit that wasn’t there before. More than ever we rely on His mercies and grace. More than ever we are learning to receive from Him instead of relying on those strong Leavitt tendencies that were simply not strong enough to endure this storm. The roots of our faith have grown deeper and wider simply by His grace. I know of no other god than is so merciful and generous. I know of no other god willing to take the sting out of death and replace it with such victories.
You would have loved sitting and listening to this story. Now, I imagine your sweet, contemplative and patient smile that use to melt my heart. It still does.
We love you and miss you. We celebrate you today! Happy 23rd birthday, Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins!