The morning of December 28 started like any other day for Katii and Kyle Bishop. Katii, a mother of four, sipped on her morning coffee and got her three daughters ready for a girls’ day spent with their aunt. Katii’s daughters: Norah, Hannah and Jude sat in the hall of their home wearing matching outfits that they received for Christmas.
The girls did not realize that their day was going to consist of the surprise of trying on their flower girl dresses for their aunt’s wedding and Frappuccino’s from Starbucks—a treat they only receive on their birthdays.
Katii was going through the routine of her workday when she received a call that would change her life forever.
Katii’s three daughters had been in an accident.
With the low hum of helicopters overhead, Katii knew that it wasn’t just a fender bender.
Katii’s mind immediately went to her worst fears as she held Norah’s hand in the back of the ambulance.
The EMT’s wouldn’t let Katii see her other two daughters. One daughter was being flown to Vanderbilt University Hospital and the other daughter was in such serious condition that they couldn’t fly her out.
• • •
Katii paced in the waiting room at the medical center as a chaplain came in to speak to her. Although she has never been in a situation like this, Katii knows that a chaplain doesn’t bring good news.
“I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to pray about it. I just wanted to see my kid,” Katii said.
Katii prepared herself for the worst as doctors came in to the quiet room to speak with her.Norah had sustained serious injuries, Hannah was in critical condition and Jude was listed in extremely critical condition.
Katii rushed back and forth from room to room as each daughter underwent various surgeries, fitting in a few hours here and there to rest. The doctors worked to get Jude stabilized but prepared Katii before each surgery warning her it could be the last time she saw her.
“I saw my baby die a couple times,” Katii said.
In recovery, Katii sat on the edge of Jude’s bed with Jude’s dad, Matt, and talked to her.
“When you get out of here, if you make it ,sis, we’re going to have parties every day so you hang on in there, OK?” Matt asked.
Jude squeezed their hands and her eyes fluttered. Katii was afraid that if she couldn’t keep Jude conscious then she would die.
The next few days would be some of the hardest Katii had ever known. Hannah had suffered a stroke.
Jude was placed in a medically induced coma and the doctors could not detect any brain activity. Family and friends rushed to the hospital because they knew what was looming.
On January 2, at 12:31 a.m. Jude was pronounced dead while Katii held her hand.
• • •
Time doesn’t really exist for Katii anymore. She just floats through the world, untethered. Katii and Kyle spent months running back and forth from the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, to their home in Bowling Green.
And while all that’s going on, she’s trying to figure out what life looks like without Jude.
Katii would never be able to brush Jude’s curls out of her face or hear her in the other room playing with her sisters.
Although she was experiencing grief of her own, Katii couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose a sister. Yet this was the reality her children were facing. Katii and Kyle had to tell Jude’s siblings that she did not make it, all while Hannah was still in recovery and could not fully grasp what was going on.
Taking her health into consideration, Katii and Kyle waited to tell Hannah that her sister had died.
The hospital room was quiet and sterile as Katii carefully began to ask Hannah questions like, “Do you know about heaven and angels?”
She knew in her mind that there was no right way to deliver this kind of news.
The day had finally come for Hannah to be released. After spending 61 days in the hospital, Hannah was strapped into her car seat, the first time she had been in a car since the accident.
With the help of her family, Hannah would have to re-learn how to do even the simplest tasks, like tying her shoes.
The Bishop’s had planned to move houses before the accident. Now, the move has turned bittersweet. All the memories she has of Jude are being left behind, the crayon marks on the walls, the chipped paint on the rail Jude used to slide down.
Even with new houses and Hannah back home walking, Katii feels like she’s missing a huge part of her. Each day is different for Katii though.
Katii finds unique ways everyday to preserve Jude’s memory because she is afraid that if she doesn’t it will be gone forever.
Katii feels that losing Jude has affected Norah more so than the other kids. Norah, Jude’s “twin” is learning to live without her and feels completely lost.
She doesn’t normally like to talk about her feelings but has opened up since the accident, even if what she says is heartbreaking.
“I want to be dead so I can see Jude,” Norah said.
Katii was unsure of what to do.
“You don’t want to be dead,” Katii said.
Katii has had to have conversations that she never thought she would have. Like explaining to her youngest, Graves, why Jude wouldn’t be joining them at the dinner table as he set a small photo of her next to him where she would normally sit.
However, Katii finds moments of peace amidst the tragic circumstances. Seeing Jude’s kindergarten class release purple balloons, Jude’s favorite color, in honor of her birthday was a sweet reminder of the legacy Jude has left.
Jude’s spirit finds ways to remind Katii. These signs are what keeps her going. Sometimes the signs are obvious, like during a recent vacation to Florida Katii saw a mermaid sitting on a donut, two of Jude’s favorite things.
Other times, the signs are more subtle, like the feeling she gets when she visits Jude’s grave. The way Katii sees it, that’s where Jude is.
“I want to be there all the time,” Katii said. “If I could put a tent out there, I would live there.”
She realizes though that she can’t dwell on these moments for too long. She must be strong for everyone.
“If I wasn’t strong, our entire family would fall apart,” Katii said. “I can’t get stuck in a dark place. No matter how selfish I want to be, I can’t do it.”
It’s the advice that one person gave her, though, that has stuck with her during this entire journey. Take it day by day. Live each day, wake up the next day and then start over. That’s part of what keeps her going in life after Jude.
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