50 Balloons: A Guest Post by London Kahler

Renaye Kahler (my brother Dave’s wife) died on Oct 28, 2009 from a short illness with cancer.  Her funeral was Nov 2, 2009.  London, my daughter who is age 12 (who refers to Dave as “Uncle Ernie”), wrote the following on the eve of her Aunt’s funeral.

BalloonsWe humans are so ignorant. In our minds our relatives will never die. Those we love will never leave us. We take for granted every moment we have with our loved ones. I am no exception.

I never expected Aunt Renaye to get cancer; none of us did. It was tough for everyone. I don’t even know what Uncle Ernie and my cousins Brianna and Jeremy were thinking, but it was really hard for me.

I’m a sensitive person and I cry when I’m upset, over big things and little things. I often cried myself to sleep after we found out she was going to die. It was terrible not knowing when and this made me more upset.

It was about twenty-five days till her 50th birthday. “Let’s bring her two balloons every day,” my mom said. “Let’s celebrate every day we have.”

So we did. We brought Aunt Renaye balloons every day.

I enjoyed talking with her. I loved seeing her smile when I told her about funny or exciting things that had happened at school or at home. But it was so painful to see her so weak. She had lost all her hair because of the chemo and her skin was slowly turning yellow because her liver was failing. But her eyes were bright and alert. She was fighting.

One day when we came over, Aunt Renaye was sleeping. Soft music was playing while someone rubbed sweet smelling oil on her hands. It was the last time I saw her. A day later she died.

The next day at school was stressful. I was scatter-brained and seemed to forget everything. My stomach churned uneasily every second of the day. In my mind I knew she was gone but my heart refused to believe so. My friends asked what was wrong, but I lied and told them that nothing was wrong. I was just too sad and confused to tell them about something I hardly understood myself.

I reached the point where it didn’t feel right for me to be happy. I just couldn’t do it. Mom told me that she felt the same way. “I just tell myself that it’s what Renaye would have wanted, for us to keep living our lives and be happy.” I told myself that too, and it worked. I could finally smile again.

That Sunday was the visitation at the funeral home. I was grateful that Mom didn’t tell me until it was forty-five minutes before we had to leave. The news ruined the rest of my day after that. I held back tears until we entered the chapel. Once I saw the casket I lost it. She was dead. She was really dead. I finally got it.

We came up to Uncle Ernie and he gave me a big hug. “It’s just a shell. She’s gone to a better place,” he said. I knew he was talking about Renaye.

I cried through the slide show of family photos and I finally decided that I just wanted to go home. As we were leaving we ran into Uncle Ernie again. He and Mom got to talking about the balloons that we brought over.

“I’ve ordered 50 latex balloons to release at the funeral,” Mom said.

“Can I bring my shotgun?” Uncle Ernie asked.

Mom smiled. “I don’t care what you do, David,” she said. “Renaye would be laughing her head off. ”

I laughed silently to myself as I imagined 50 balloons bursting in the air, Uncle Ernie with his gun below, and Aunt Renaye laughing and smiling beside him.

Fifty balloons were released at the burial in honor of Renaye’s 50th birthday which  would have been twelve days from now on Nov 14th. London’s “50 Balloons” story was also passed out to those in attendance.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

31 Responses to 50 Balloons: A Guest Post by London Kahler

  1. Marilyn August November 3, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    Dear Rick and family,
    I can hardly write for the tears in my eyes. May you and your family have grace and ease during this time and always. You already know you are blessed with an amazing daughter,wife and family Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    At a more appropiate time, I would like to schedule a phone meeting.
    Much Peace,

  2. Tom Simmons November 3, 2009 at 7:35 am #


    My deepest sympathies to you, David, and your families.


  3. Eric Jacobsen November 3, 2009 at 7:36 am #

    Awesome article. Best wishes to David, London, and the entire family.

  4. Sonya Britt November 3, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds like you have a very bright daughter!

  5. Jim Boensch November 3, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    Beautiful, Rick. You must be very proud.

  6. Andrea White November 3, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    A very moving story. Thanks for sharing. My best wishes to Uncle Ernie, the children and all who loved Renaye.

  7. Betty Anderson November 3, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Wow. That was very moving. I sure feel bad about Renaye. I remember her as a pretty little girl when we were all growing up in Presho, and their farm was just a few miles from ours. I went to country school with Billy and Rolly. Renee was younger but she came once in a while to “visit” school. More recently, when her mother lived next door to my mother at Holiday Hills, I came to believe that Renee was a saint. She was such a loving and caring daughter…she must have been an awesome wife and mother too. We came to say good-bye to her at the visitation on Sunday and enjoyed the slide show so much. Anyway, London’s story is awesome. My sympathy to you and your family, Rick.

  8. Carol Nowak November 3, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Rick – I read of your sister in laws passing this past week. First let me extend my sympathy to you and your family and then to let me tell you – you have an amazing daughter with such heartfelt feelings for such a young person. I know you must be so proud.

  9. Joanne November 3, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    London wrote well about something we all have to face: the death of a loved one. Thank you for sharing this article with us.

  10. Richard Miller November 3, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Our deepest sympathies to David and family and to you and yours Rick. What a wonderful story by your daughter – you are proud I know – it will help get you through this tough time.
    Our prayers are with you all.

    Dick and Bonnie Miller

  11. Duncan Hannay-Robertson November 3, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Rick – A very touching story. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Duncan

  12. Pam Kassner November 3, 2009 at 10:08 am #

    First, I can’t believe that was written by a 12-year-old, but it is Rick’s daughter so of course she has a talent for words.

    Sending lots of love, hugs, prayers, and yes, laughter to your family.

    You are all in my thoughts.

  13. Ron Wilkinson November 3, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    Dear Rick and family,
    Your daughter, London has given us a gift in being honest with her emotions and how life can be sometimes. Thank her please. I would have enjoyed helping David shoot those balloons.

    Take Care,

  14. Amy Champeau November 3, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Dear Rick, London and family:
    I am, as others have also written, sorry for your loss. I am grateful, though, for London’s wisdom. There is so much that is uncertain in life that we can forget how fragile it all is. I appreciate this reminder to seize every moment and to love fully without holding back.
    Amy Champeau

  15. Amy Loftus November 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    Wow, Rick. I hope somewhere in the sadness you can feel encouraged that you have an amazing daughter. I can’t help but think you’re doing very well at your most important job..being a Dad.
    I wish you and your family peace at this troubling time.
    Lots of Love,

  16. Chris Lyding November 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm #


    I met you several months ago in Phoenix at an FPA conference here. You were one of the speakers and I’ve been a subscriber to your site since then.
    Please accept my condolences for the loss of your beloved sister-in-law. Your daughter’s words are beautiful and will surely help her and your entire family in the healing process (though do we ever fully heal from such a loss?). My family has been dealing with similar losses in our family as well as those of close friends. Thank you to your daughter for sharing her feelings and to you for posting it.

  17. Bobbie Munroe November 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Dear Rick,
    It seems that London not only looks like you, she has your wisdom…and at such an early age. It was delightful to meet your family last weekend. Know that I’m thinking of all of you during this sad time.

  18. Bryan Lee November 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Rick you’re family is amazing – so very glad I got to spend time with all of you this weekend.

    Peace and blessing,

  19. Fran Hatfield November 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    London has captured our hearts; it is confusing for a child when someone is so sick and then dies. London is wise beyond her years!
    Thank you for posting her letter, she wrote what I have been feeling for months. I love the balloon idea; a friend of mine (who was at the funeral) saw them in the store buying them and decided they were going to release them at the burial. We all share the sadness of the loss of Renaye; our office will never be the same without her happy, smiling face.
    Love from Dick and Fran Hatfield

  20. Amy Mullen November 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    That was so beautifully written, London. Thank you for sharing your grieving process with us. It can really help others who are grieving to know that they are not alone in all the weird and confusing feelings they are having. I know when I lost my father in a bicycle accident 5 years ago, it really helped to know that others had experienced similar feelings as I was feeling when they lost loved ones of their own. I had all kinds of different feelings from anger, to sadness, to wanting to forget everything, to wanting to celebrate and remember everything. I hope that you find that sharing your feelings helps you too. Thank you for this and although I only briefly met you when you gave me a treat at the Naz conference, my thoughts are with you and your family. Big hugs! Amy

  21. Tom gartner November 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this Rick.

  22. Saundra November 3, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    love to you and your family.

  23. Mike Miller November 3, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    Rick – Our condolences to you and your family. London reminds us of a very important lesson.

  24. Mike Haubrich November 4, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    Thanks for sharing your loss and this really touching message from London. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet your family and share the experience of your community at Naz.

    My hugs, love and quiet thoughts are with you and family for those empty times when Renaye’s absence is overwhelming.

  25. Brenda Peterson November 4, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    It is always hard for us to accept the passing of a loved one no matter how much we prepare ourselves. For London to be able to express her emotions so eloquently at such a young age is an amazing testimony to the love that obviously runs deep in your family.

    May God grace your family with peace during the difficult days ahead.

    Brenda (Hatfield) Peterson

  26. George Saiger November 4, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    My condolences, Rick, to you and your family. I look forward to meeting you.

  27. Michele Powers November 4, 2009 at 9:10 am #


    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. London captured the story perfectly with her words. I still enjoy reading your articles and especially enjoyed this one although I am truly sorry about the loss of Renaye.

  28. Janet Tyler Johnson November 4, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Rick: What special children you have. They are truly amazing. And it looks like London may have inherited a talent for writing??? Her story is so touching and so filled with wisdom.

    I pray that your family finds comfort during this difficult time.

  29. John Culberson November 4, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Rick and all,
    I knew Renaye and all the Dolly family when I taught at Lyman High in 1971-73. Rolly was one of my first seniors and Renaye was in grade school but rode my bus when I drove as a sub. She was a little doll. Such a wonderful family and all so talented. My thoughts go out to all of you. London’s missive is so touching and it filled me with many memories of the past. I share your loss.

  30. Gloria Hauser November 4, 2009 at 3:31 pm #


    I was very sorry to hear about Renaye and understand what a difficult time this has been for the Kahler family. Quite often during times like this it is the children that help remind us of the love that surrounds us.

    It seems London was able to convey that with her letter.

    Please extend my condolences to Dave and the rest of your family.


  31. Cyrus Ott October 11, 2010 at 2:24 am #

    Best article,thank you for sharing this!