For many families, Father’s Day is spent celebrating with presents, meals and enjoying time together. However, for some families, the day can serve as a time to remember and honor the dads in their life whom they’ve lost. For Kylie Stewart and her two children Henley and Maverick, the holiday is a bittersweet mix of cherishing memories and mourning a life taken much too soon.
Mikhaill Stewart was a Navy Veteran, hockey player, and motorcycle enthusiast, but perhaps his best role in life was that of dad. As with many situations in life, Mikhaill always went above and beyond to ensure his family was taken care of and provided for. He placed the utmost importance on spending time with his children, and even after long, exhausting days of work, would devote time to one on one hockey lessons with Maverick, or Black Sabbath-accompanied motorcycle rides with Henley.
“Mikhaill was just an amazing dad,” says Kylie. “One of the things I admired the most was that when it came to being a parent, he didn’t look at children as ‘just kids.’ He always saw them and held them to their fullest potential.”
Last November, Mikhaill was struck by a deer while riding his motorcycle on his way to work the night shift at the Hanford Nuclear Site near their home in Richland, WA. Though he was wearing a helmet and was not speeding, the trauma from the accident was severe. Mikhaill died on November 7, 2018, at Kadlec Regional Medical Center.
Adjusting to life after losing her husband has been anything but easy, but Kylie does find solace in the fact that Mikhaill was able to become an organ donor. She often thinks about the recipients of his organs and the opportunities they have been provided because of her husband’s giving spirit.
“I find the most peace knowing that although my husband can’t physically be here with me, he continues to help others by giving the gift of a second chance at life,” Kylie says. “I could only imagine being on the other side of the spectrum. Being the family of that recipient, or the recipient, and getting that life changing phone call. How amazing that Mikhaill could give that to someone!”
For Kylie, it is important that her children understand the legacy their father left behind through donation. She realizes it is difficult for a 2 and 5-year-old to fully grasp, or to talk about at times, Kylie provides the space for her children to ask questions and to help them understand the breadth of their father’s gift. She hopes that this can continue to help in their healing process.
“When I told Henley that daddy was a hero and saved other people’s lives, I really think it shed so much light on all the heaviness she was holding,” Kylie remembers.
Today, Kylie seeks relief from her grief by sharing her story and educating others about organ, eye, and tissue donation. She hopes that her experience helps others learn more about the donation process, talk to their loved ones about their decision, and just not take any moment for granted. In particular, she would like her story to help children and young adults understand the donation process and help to dispel myths and misconceptions.
Kylie thanks LifeCenter Donation and Family Advocate, Lori Van Slyke, for supporting her and helping walk her through the donation process. The comfort and care she received at the hospital have inspired Kylie to share her experience. Knowing her husband lives on through others helps her maintain a closeness with him.
“Mike is very much still here with the kids and me. We all feel him every day and always laugh about the good times, and sometimes cry when we feel sad. We try to make the best out of this new life we were given by constantly talking about him and enjoying the good times we had.”
This Father’s Day, although Mikhaill isn’t here, Kylie and her kids will spend the day thinking of him. She hopes that there is another family out there celebrating with their dad because of his gift of life.
Mikhaill, Kylie, Henley, and Maverick