SLEEPY EYE — In the hierarchy of horrors that can befell a parent, nothing tops the tragic loss of a child.
Imagine a mother who has suffered the loss of a child that was her kindred spirit, endured unfathomable grief, picked herself up and pulled her life back together again to a point where she could finally function daily without being crippled by ... absence. Only to have it all happen again.
Welcome to the horror of Deb Hadley's life.
First she lost Kaylie, 24, a beautiful and popular school teacher who was on the verge of getting married and starting a new life. An epileptic seizure last June caused her to stop breathing. She was found by her friends. Hadley got the news over the phone, late at night, en route from a conference in the Twin Cities.
Nine months later — the time it takes to carry a child — she lost her 20-year-old son. Tyler, one of the four boys killed in a crash on an icy road March 7 in Sleepy Eye, had been by his mother's side as the family sorted through the grief of Kaylie's death. He'd tattooed the Serenity Prayer over his heart — "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change ..." It's the prayer that helped him come to grips with the loss of his sister, and at the same time Hadley had Kaylie's name tattooed on her wrist.
How does she go on? In many ways, she doesn't really know. But she does know this:
"If my kids could come back, I'd want them to see someone who is not disgruntled and miserable," Hadley said, wiping tears from her cheek with one hand, holding her son's St. Christopher medal with the other.
Saturday a benefit will be held in Sleepy Eye. It began as an effort to honor Kaylie's life, with proceeds going to the Epilepsy Foundation and for scholarships at Martin County West (where Kaylie taught), Sleepy Eye Public School (which both Kaylie and Tyler attended), and Sleepy Eye St. Mary's School (the parish that both Kaylie and Tyler belonged to). The event also will recognize the other boys killed in the March 7 crash: John Mangen, Payton Adams and Caleb Quesenberry.