Grief is as individual as a snowflake



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.

Thank you,

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.


14 thoughts on “Grief is as individual as a snowflake

  1. This is beautiful, I don’t know you or your family but I have been reading your blog for a month or two and my heart goes out to you and your family. You have touched my heart. As a mother of two young boys I could not imagine losing one, but only God knows your time on earth. Your daughter was a beautiful soul from what I have read. You are a stronge women , and I’m sure those 3 angels are smiling down and giving you the strength to go forward..God bless you..

  2. Your strength and hope reassures my faith every time I read your blog. Thank you for sharing and being such a strong woman, mother and friend to everyone in your life and all of us on the Internet that have never met you but are inspired by you. Sky was an amazing girl and is looking down on us all.

  3. I don’t know you but I am very impressed with the attitude of forgiveness you display at such a terrible and devastating time. I can tell you are an amazing person with a heart of gold. My prayers go out to all of the families affected and you are truly a reminder that all things can be forgiven. I truly needed to hear this today as I am struggling with forgiveness with something on a much smaller scale and it really put things in perspective. God bless you! Time for me to embrace forgiveness as well!

  4. You are truly a beacon of light in all this darkness. You show so much love and forgiveness, Sky must so proud of you! God is using you in such a beautiful way. I continue to pray for you and your family:)

  5. A beautiful letter. Your daughter reminds me of my son who also wanted to protect his friends. It frustrated me too. I think your daughter is smiling down on you and is so proud of how you handled the situation. Love to you … Karen …Matt’s mom

  6. It’s just shows how strong of a woman you are, I don’t have kids, but I couldn’t imagine what you went thru. You definitely have a story that needs to be told and shared. You will help others going thru the same thing that you re-live everyday. Again thanks for sharing your story. You are amazing to say the least!!

  7. Thank you for doing what Sky would have wanted you to do. Tate will never be the same but I hope as you said that he can live the life Sky will not get to. When my brother was a senior in high school many year ago 4 classmates were in a car accident and 3 were killed and 1 survived. The survivor struggled everday of his life until he ended it because he could not take it anymore. I am not saying that this will happen to Tate but he needs all the support he can get. I wish the best for you Tate….and think of what Sky would want you to do!!! Thoughts and prayers for all of you.

  8. Beautiful. Just beautiful! Your ongoing Faith and Strength is SO amazing to me! You are always in my prayers!

  9. So beautifully written. I have followed your story from day 1 and I pray for you and your family often. You are thought about by people who don’t even know you and I am in tears after reading this. You sure are a very strong person to forgive Tate and look for the good in people, that’s hard to do I’m sure. You’re a good person and it shows. I hope your days get a little bit easier as the time passes….she is always with you. Xoxo

  10. You are the strongest woman I know. I whole heartedly agree with every word. Those words brought me to my knees. Even though Jul isn’t biologically mine, she taught me at a young age how to be a mom. She prepared me for her sister. I was so blessed to have her for the time I did. God bless you for being the AMAZING person you are!! Thank you for this blog that makes me laugh, sob, reflect, & realize that I am not alone.

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