On Friday, August 10, Kolby turned 17. Seventeen.
As I had planned, we took balloons to the cemetery as our way to celebrate Kolby’s first heavenly birthday. It’s not what any of us ever wanted, not how we had ever imagined his seventeenth birthday party, but it is what it is.
And, it wasn’t so bad. It was filled with sorrow, sure. We hurt- absolutely.
We were also filled with hope. I saw a smile break across Brandi’s face, a smile that I haven’t saw since she was at my house on April 11- the day before Kolby died. I saw that smile on Friday and oh how absolutely beautiful it was. Something so amazing and moving happened as we were wrapping up the “party” and I knew I had to share.
Our little party wasn’t planned. I had briefly mentioned that we were going to take balloons to the cemetery in a previous post about our loss and I had told Brandi. To my surprise, our entire family came together to celebrate Kolby’s birthday. My mom purchased balloons and a helium kit. We all met at Brandi & Rocky’s house. When we pulled up and I saw so many people, my heart felt lighter. We were together.
It turns out, everyone had the same idea. We had all brought balloons to send up to Kolby! Instead of the 10 or so balloons I had planned, there was probably 50.
A storm was quickly approaching so we headed to the cemetery. We gathered around, sang happy birthday, wrote messages on our balloons, and then released them for Kolby. The balloons traveled straight to the storm and the red balloons all managed to stay near one another while the other colors scattered and mixed. Brandi had already told me that “99 Red Balloons” was one of Kolby’s favorite songs when he was younger.
The storm continued to approach and the sky was getting dark. We were all standing around Kolby’s grave. Brandi was bent down in front of it when she gasped and turned to me. As soon as she did, Justin gasped too and said something about a heart. He didn’t have to say it though, because we could all see it. Each and every one of us. We saw it.
In the middle of that dark, gray sky, a patch of white broke through in the shape of a perfect heart. A heart more perfect that any I could ever draw. Of course, we all fumbled for our cell phones wanting to capture the heart in a photo.
That moment wasn’t meant to be captured in a photograph though. It was meant to be captured and held in our hearts.
And it was. It is. It always will be.
In the midst of the storm, the storm that began on April 12, 2012 when we lost a gentle, kind-hearted 16 year old that lit up our lives, and the storm that was approaching as we celebrated his first heavenly birthday, we were given a sign.
An undeniable sign.
I have made my peace with Kolby’s death, but this heart was the final step for me.
As soon as the heart appeared, it disappeared. Within seconds, it had come and gone. When the heart faded and the sky darkened, the lightning began and we knew we had to leave. I feel like that was Kolby, sending us a sign and then telling up to pick up the pieces and move on. Maybe move on isn’t the right word, because that isn’t possible, but I know that he would want us to live. To truly live and find happiness.
Our family decided to go have dinner together. Now, Justin is a believer but he isn’t a very big talker when it comes to feelings. You can imagine my surprise when he turned to me and said “How can anyone see that and not believe in Heaven? If I ever had any doubt, it is completely gone now.” And he smiled, then he told me that he found peace in that moment with that single white heart drawn in the dark sky- he found his peace over Kolby’s death.
At dinner, the atmosphere was completely different. We weren’t just the family mourning the loss of a life cut short, we were happy and chatty and our smiles were genuine. We were a family that came together to celebrate a birthday even if the guest of honor wasn’t physically there.
He made his presence known in the shape of heart.
He was there.
In Loving Memory of
Kolby Jason Clayton
August 10, 1995 – April 12, 2012