Gage, Teagan and Baby Kairee

Have you ever heard this quote?

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” L.R. Knost

As life happens, I’m trying to soak in and appreciate the amazing and navigate the awful. I’m trying to even care about the ordinary and the mundane and the routine. And I’ve promised myself to never get to point where I can’t see that through it all, it’s still breathtakingly beautiful.

My reality is, that I and my family have had to navigate a whole lot of awful lately.

I was six years old when my nephew, Gage was born. My sister is twelve years older than me, so I’ve been closer in age to her kids than her and I were. I remember being so excited to be an aunt. At six years old, the title of “Aunt Amber” made me smile and feel pretty dang special. Gage was really the first newborn baby I remember being around and I was pretty smitten. He was tiny and cute and I loved his dark hair and complexion. I don’t seem to remember a lot during our childhood, but I remember when he was a teenager onward. He worked for us for a time. Gage was always good to call, check in and keep in touch. He was a pretty quiet and laid back guy and had a fun sense of humor. Always in 49’er something or other. But my very favorite thing in Gage’s life was watching him become a husband and father. He got a bonus daughter when he and Jacque married and he loved that girl like she was his very own. I loved seeing him as a family man. He was so good at doing all the DIY projects his wife found for him and was a fun dad. And after some time, he got another sweet little girl.

When we lost Teagan, Gage was on his shift at work in another state and Jacque was really pregnant. They didn’t travel here for Teagan’s funeral, but after his funeral my sister came and asked if I had gotten the Marco Polo they sent. We sat and watched together as Gage and Jacque sent their condolences and told us how much they loved us and that they were sorry. Gage then went on to explain that for this baby that they were due with, Jacque had picked her first name and Gage was choosing a middle name. He said that she would be Kairee, but he hadn’t been able to come up with a middle name that they both liked and that now it made sense to him. He told me that they loved Teagan and wanted to honor him in their own way and that Kairee would be “Kairee Teagan”. Jacque shared that they hoped Kairee would have the same determination and big heart that Teagan had.

All I could do was cry. I know I didn’t do justice in expressing what it really meant to me. My broken heart was so happy. So happy that Teagan had made an impression positive enough that they would feel it an honor for their own child to have his name. Knowing that baby Kairee would carry on Teagan’s name was such a special thing to me. I just didn’t know then, that only a few weeks later it would have even more significance and meaning.

Baby Kairee came four weeks early. Her daddy made it back from his work out of state to be there with her and her sweet mama when she was born. But less than 48 hours later, Gage was taken home; his heavenly home. My own heart broke again. In my panic and hysterics in the moments after the call, all I could think of was my sister’s heart breaking like my own mama heart had broken six weeks prior. And Jacque. Sweet Jacque and those sweet girls. His girls. His family. I knew just how hard it is and I didn’t want them to experience it.

As I’ve thought of everything this past week, I won’t pretend to know, or understand or like any of it. It’s hard. It’s painful. So many are heartbroken and grieving and wondering how on earth the world is still turning as theirs falls apart. I feel like I should be able to tell them it gets better and you get through it. But I can only tell them I love them, I’m sorry this is part of their reality and I wish things were different. Death is so hard. When it’s premature or sudden or unexpected, it’s traumatic. It’s devastating. It’s not the natural order of how we view the cycle of life and death. I don’t know why. I don’t understand any of the unexpected losses of the past year. I just know it hurts and it’s a wicked roller coaster of a journey.

In all of this, I find gratitude in Gage’s life and example. In the great big hugs he gave and the funny, sometimes inappropriate TikToks he’d send me. Him giving me so much crap for my enormous herd of kids. From Gage, I learn to love my people, to love and cherish my spouse and to be a present parent. To be willing to work hard to take care of my family. To lighten up and to enjoy the journey. To tell the people I love, that I love them, and to reach out and stay in touch. I love you Gage. I sincerely hope you and Teagan get to raise a little havoc together. I hope you get to give each other one of those big hugs you were both so good at. I promise to do what I can to love and help your sweet wife and girls. To comfort them and your parents and siblings. I’ll probably even cheer the 49’ers on just for you too! You chose to honor Teagan in your way, and I’ll do what I can to honor you. Love you forever and I can’t wait for the day I get to hug you, Teagan and many others.

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