Well I made it out of the month of May….the month that stood to test every emotion in my soul. I’m exhausted and broken, but I’m here. Thank you for the love, prayers and support.
I love this photo above of Tate, Sky, Joe & Alana. It shows what a sense of humor Skylar had (yes, that’s shrink wrap) and the love that she had for her friends.
Friday, May 30th we sat in a court room and Tate was sentenced for the accident. The day was nearly as difficult as the day we buried her, every emotion was dug up and we were all forced to relive that awful night. My legs were like rubber and I shook so badly that I thought for sure I was going to pass out. I knew whatever happened in court and whatever Tate was sentenced to, that God was in control; but I had to do my part and speak for Skylar and tell the judge where our family stood. I wrote about forgiveness a few weeks after the accident and I think from that posting many of you know where I stand. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have anger, it doesn’t mean that I don’t cry out to God and ask “WHY HER?!” and it doesn’t mean that I think actions go without punishment or consequences. However, it does mean that I was not put here to be judge or jury, that is what God is for. And for myself to be able to have ANY sense of normalcy without Skylar, I needed to forgive.
Here is my very personal and heartfelt letter that I read to the judge:
March 25, 1996…at the age of 21, I looked true love square in the face. Matt and I were both first time parents, young, in college and still trying to find our way. Skylar Lynn Kooken entered our world and filled our hearts…true love was born.
Over the next 6 ½ years Skylar would be joined by 3 siblings and she was forever known as “the big sis” — it was a role that she filled well.
Skylar was active in sports, plays, reading, and writing from a young age. She eventually outgrew her love of sports but never her love of reading and writing. She knew someday she wanted to do something with English or journalism. Sky had hopes of attending Ohio State University like her dad and myself or even Ohio University where so many of her friends were attending.
Sky’s love and devotion to her friends was unreal…..and that included her love and devotion to her little sister Lexy, at just 2 years apart they even shared many of the same friends. Sky would do anything for her friends and I mean anything. It may sound cliché or what you would think of any typical teenager but with Skylar it was different. I witnessed it with my own eyes, she wanted others to be happy and she would stand up for them if they needed it and she would protect them to the bitter end. Much to my frustration at times.
Sky was a typical teenager with typical teenage problems, fears, dreams and goals. She made mistakes but she also had a heart of gold and lived her life to the fullest. Sky left behind not only a devastated and shattered family but many, many devastated & shattered friends. I believe it’s impossible to have known Skylar and not to have been effected by her.
As her mother and speaking for myself, her dad & her siblings – our lives are forever void of a huge piece of our heart and soul. We will never heal and we will never recover, we are forever broken. Most of my days are spent dreaming of when I will get to see her again.
BUT…..and it’s a big but …. I know God does NOT make mistakes. I know that Skylar’s layover here was complete and she was needed on the other side. Sky continues to change lives every single day from her forever home. I do not understand God’s timing or God’s plan but I trust it. This is our temporary home……and Sky is waiting patiently for the rest of us to join her.
On behalf of Skylar’s dad, siblings, friends and myself we ask for the mercy of the court on your sentencing for Ryan Jesse Whitaker. Skylar loved Tate and as sure as if Skylar were standing in front of you herself she would ask for the same. Accidents happen and tragedies occur.
The biggest form of payment that Tate could give to me or our family is to make something of himself – live the life that Skylar no longer can. Talk to kids and his peers about what he has endured and the pain he has to live with daily and forever. Be a witness and a testament to God’s saving grace…b/c he was spared that day when 3 others were not. God isn’t finished with him on this earth and there is a reason. I ask that Tate’s time is not wasted in a detention center but instead that he is able to spend his time making a difference in the lives of others. We prefer that God be the judge and the jury.
Skylar & the Kooken Family
It took everything I had in me to get up on that stand and read this letter….especially with the media’s camera in my face. Such a personal and private grieving moment shared with the public, so unfair. But I did it and I know Skylar sat with me the entire time. In the end Tate was NOT sentenced to any time but was given house arrest, suspension of license, probation and a curfew. I know this judgement was not severe enough for many and that is understandable…those of us directly effected by this loss are allowed to feel however we want…..grief is an individual journey.
I chose to forgive for my own journey and because I know what Skylar would want for me to do. No amount of time behind bars and no amount of restitution will bring those angels back to us and no amount of punishment could affect Tate more than what he has to live with for the rest of his life, I can see the truth in that.
I have said it many times before, my goal is to focus on the life that Skylar lived, not on her death. Yes, I have many days and nights where I am haunted by the reality of her death and in those moments of weakness I am reminded that she will NEVER have another hard day again, no sadness and no pain. All 3 of them are in paradise. I’m jealous, so very jealous.
In her life, Skylar taught me to be a mom and in her death she has taught me to be a light.
I love you more sweet angel…….
2 corinthians 2:5-8 NIV
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.