2011 Taught Me 11 Things

On December 31, 2011, in personal, by Barbara Nixon

Kevin, James and I got cross tattoos in memory of Kyle in the fall of 2011

Of all the years I’ve lived through, 2011 does not rank up there as one of my favorite ones. If you know me, or “know me” virtually, you will probably be able to predict why. But I’ll get to that soon enough.

  1. Twitter is a lot of fun and a great distraction for me. I’ve even won multiple contests this year, ranging from gift cards to Daytona 500 tickets to attending the penultimate space shuttle launch. Even though many of my students thought Twitter was a total waste of time, I was able to show them how businesses use it to engage with their customers and retain their loyalty.
  2. Photos are critical to me. I take them as a form of relaxation and use them to document my life. However this Christmas morning, I took very few pictures. Since we were missing one of our family members, I guess I just didn’t want to remember much about Christmas 2011.
  3. I miss taking long walks in the mornings. I used the age and declining health of my dog Jasmine as an excuse not to get out there on my own during these last few months. That needs to stop, and I need to get back out there on my own. And that will also help me catch up on the myriad podcasts that I’ve failed to listen to lately.
  4. Though I was quite grateful that my university had the confidence in me to become the interim chair of my department this summer, I am beyond relieved to be primarily back in the college classroom only — with very few administrative/leadership duties — starting in 2012. Being with the students and helping them to learn and become energized about the field of public relations is where I belong.
  5. God’s time is NOT my time. My husband and I never once expected to get that horrific phone call from East Alabama Medical Center on September 29 letting us know that our oldest son Kyle had unexpectedly and inexplicably passed away overnight. (We are still awaiting final results from the medical examiner, but that’s another story.)
  6. Without social media, I am confident that I would have struggled much, much more with the death of my 22-year-old son. Oh, don’t get me wrong:  I am still trying to come to grips with why (and even how) Kyle passed away. However, the immense outpouring of support and prayers I received on Facebook and Twitter, many times from friends of Kyle who didn’t even know me before, helped me get through that horrible first week and beyond. It helped me to understand how many lives Kyle impacted, especially once he left home for college.
  7. Having multiple people pray out loud for me, all at the same time, is an incredibly powerful and moving thing. As a Presbyterian on an Assemblies of God (Pentacostal) campus, this method of prayer felt uncomfortable when I saw others doing it. Until they did it for ME this year. Wow. It brought tears to my eyes, and I felt an incredible sense of calm the handful of times Southeastern University students and faculty prayed over me this year.
  8. Virtual relationships are great, but…. nothing can take the (complete) place of spending time physically in the presence of people you love. I was able to spend time in July with Linda in Maine, and in December with Deb at St. Pete Beach. Even when we weren’t talking about anything important, it was fabulous to know that they were right there, with each of us ready to listen when the other wanted or needed to talk.
  9. If you want to become an organ donor — and for the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone would not want to — you will make things much easier for your family if you let them know your wishes. Of all the phone calls I had to deal with after Kyle died, the one I received from the Alabama Organ Center was the easiest one to deal with. I knew that Kyle wanted to donate his organs, so my conversation about his wishes required no thinking. And he was able to help more than 100 people in need.
  10. Auburn University is an amazing institution. My husband and I both graduated from Auburn in the ’80s,and I went back there to teach briefly two times. We’ve often joked that we bleed orange and blue. Our oldest son was accepted to Auburn in the late ’90s. He was a graduating senior this fall. And the folks at Auburn were in constant contact with us after his death, making sure things were taken care of. Among the things they did for us were:
    • calling us several times a day during those first few, horrible days
    • writing a front-page article in The Plainsman about Kyle’s life
    • sending us a framed and matted Certificate of Attendance
    • honoring Kyle in a flag ceremony at Samford Hall, then displaying the flag with a plaque in the Student Act, then sending us both of them
    • awarding Kyle a posthumous Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
    • allowing our son James to walk across the stage at the Fall 2011 Commencement, to accept Kyle’s diploma

  11. Our children are an incredible source of strength for me, more than I ever realized. From 12-year-old Kat playing “Amazing Grace” on her flute at Kyle’s memorial services in Auburn and Lakeland, to 13-year-old Sam giving me those gangly over-the-top-of-my-shoulders hugs, to 22-year-old James confidently living on his own now here in Lakeland, I never realized how much strength I drew from them. And I need to remember to let them know it more often than I do.
So, those are 11 of the things that 2011 taught me. There are more, but many of them are too personal to post here online.

PS: The Bible verse in my tattoo at the top of this page is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” This verse is especially poignant because it was the verse of the day sent to Kevin’s Android phone on September 29; Kevin read that verse just before calling the hospital to learn that Kyle had passed away suddenly. With this tattoo, I get the strong feeling that Kyle’s hand is on my shoulder. It’s comforting.


4 Responses to 2011 Taught Me 11 Things

  1. […] the third tattoo is probably the most significant of all; it’s a memorial tattoo for Kyle, who passed away unexpectedly in 2011 as a graduating senior at Auburn University. Kyle had a cross tattoo on his arm, and my husband, center son James and I all determined to get […]

  2. I count myself as one of those new ‘virtual’ friends…but if we ever meet IRL, you’ll probably NOT have to remind me that I owe you a hug 🙂 Blessings to your entire family!

  3. Ann Dettlaff says:

    Thanks Barbara for sharing these profound insights that you had to find out through the hardships of your year. We will forever remember Kyle and the impact he has had in our lives! We love and miss you and your family so much!

  4. Carolyn Nettles says:

    Barbara, thank you for sharing 2011 Taught Me 11 Things