I’ve been asked more than once to write Kaylee Pickett’s story here on United, little Pickett…Pick…one of the flashier softball players on any field she takes, simply because she brings a style all her own to the game. And yet, the story I was asked to write has nothing to do with softball, not really. No, the story our readers have asked for time and again is one I decided to put on hold, “until softball is over and after graduation,” I told Pickett when we finally talked about it. It is a story that I knew would not be easy to tell and certainly not easy to write.
“But I think it will be good for me to tell it,” Kaylee choked out as we sat down today, her tears flowing freely as I offered to close up my computer and forget the entire thing.
So, taking a deep breath, she began.
“It was August 8 of last year, and I was in Snyder with my sister. We were shopping and hanging out when I received a phone call from a family friend that said that Dad was hurt.
I just turned the phone over to my sister who called her husband.”
As you would expect, Kaylee is still a little foggy when she tries to put a chronology to exactly how those first few minutes transpired.
“By then we knew it was a wreck that had happened near Kerrville. We had received another phone call, this one from my dad’s boss who was frantic…”
And here’s where the story is almost unbelievable. Charlie Pickett’s boss, Dale, and Charlie had apparently been traveling the same road in opposite directions, and the two had had a head-on collision. Although the two girls did not know it at the time, Charlie had been killed instantaneously.
“Dale was frantic. We were still confused and could not understand him, but we knew we had to get there. We filled up with gas and that was when we got the second call that told us that Dad was gone. As soon as we knew that dad was gone, our concerns went to Dale because we are very close to him, and thankfully he was not hurt.
“At that point there was no reason to go on so we stayed in Snyder and then came on to Comanche the next day, surrounding ourselves with family. Nothing was going to change whether we rushed down there or not so we didn’t.”
“For a week, I stayed by myself, still not encompassing what had happened. It was all too fast. The next Saturday we held a celebration of Dad’s life, with everyone who knew him. We held it at the park and surrounded ourselves to try to gather some closure…but there never really was much closure.”
And, again, if you have lost someone very, very close to you, you know that closure is just a word, not a reality or a place “to get to.”
And then Kaylee Pickett had to face it. Her senior year of high school was staring her in the face, and all of the things she had planned to share with her dad were not going to be. She had two choices. She could lock herself in her house and grieve, or she could try to face the world, grieving, of course, but standing strong. She chose the latter.
“The week after, I went to school to see my coaches. I knew I needed to find some sort of normalcy, I guess. Volleyball two-a-days had just started, and I went to see about managing the team to get me out of the house and to ease me back into day to day life.
“It helped so much to be around people that I had known so long. Had I not done that, it would have been much harder. I eventually would have gotten myself out, but that made it much easier…” she trailed off in search of yet another tissue.
And then, with a much stronger voice, Kaylee Pickett asserted, “But, if I had to pinpoint one thing that gave me the peace that I needed desperately, it would be going back to my church. They did not pressure me, just gave me the open arms that I needed right then. I took a week off to grieve with my family, but I just had to get back to my church people.”
Kaylee Pickett will never know how guilty I felt about asking my next question. I could barely choke out the words as the picture of my own daughter at her age floated in front of me.
“And then school started, and you had to look down your senior year road that I know you had planned to walk with your dad, at least in spots.”
“He would have been everywhere. My dad made a point to drive up here every time there was an event, every time I needed him, all the time. I didn’t want to think down the road too far. I had to think day by day. At the beginning it was easier because less senior activities were going on but as the time passed and as our days were packed, it was so much more real to look out there and not see his face.
“The first semester flew by and before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving and Christmas. I leaned on my sister a lot during the holidays. I still lean on her a lot. As soon as the second semester began and softball started, that was very, very difficult…extremely, extremely difficult,” she whispered.
“I spent a lot of time with my coach, during practice and after practice. The first couple of weeks, I would have to walk away from the field at times and take a breather. I spent a lot of time with our old softball coach too (Chelsea Heller). She’s one of my rocks, one of those people I can call whenever I need to, and she eased me back into the softball season too. I played a couple of pickup games with her team just to touch the field before I had to do it at home, and that helped me a lot.”
As hard as it was, Kaylee Pickett made it through the year. Her softball team had the most successful season the Maidens have had up to this point. Kaylee also graduated as the co-valedictorian of CHS, and she is headed to Lubbock Christian University in the fall. But where is she emotionally?
“It never gets easier. You hear people say that, but that’s not true. You just learn how to wake up in the morning, and roll out of bed, and do what you are supposed to do. You figure out how to live without him, but every day is just as hard as the day it happened, but being surrounded by my family and friends and knowing that God brings us through the turmoil is enough to bring me peace.”
And as for the others, those who are living the same life today, those who will be forced to live it tomorrow, what does she tell them?
“Find something to get you out of the house. Find something that you love and hold onto that. Don’t dwell on what they are going to miss. Remember what you had with them and hold on to that, but mostly surround yourself with something that you love. If you have that, it will make it easier to get up every day.
“If you can drag yourself out of bed, you know that you are going to get through another day.”
And while Kaylee Picket is way too young to have ever heard of Mary Tyler Moore, I find that I can’t get the comparison out of my head…
Yes, Kaylee, it may not always feel like it right now, but you’re gonna make it after all!