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Around The Bluhmin’ Town: Remembering Kayla

Judy Bluhm~ 2/25/2015

Do you know who you are? Psychologists claim that “finding out who we really are” can be a lifelong journey. Who you thought you were as a teenager transforms by the time you are in your mid-twenties and by middle age you might just begin to know yourself. Gee, I guess if you are lucky, by the time you retire, you will have a pretty good idea of what you like, what you value, who you are, where and how you want to live your life.  People change ideas, careers, partners, homes, beliefs, and world views as they become more seasoned. Evidently, time is the answer to self-discovery. Unless you are a woman named Kayla Mueller.

Kayla seemed to know from an early age that she would devote her life to helping the poor, sick, suffering, and disadvantaged. To be so clear on your purpose, so committed to your mission and completely devoted to providing aid and caring to the needy of the world is quite remarkable. America grieves for Kayla because she represented the best part of humanity. The pop culture we live in easily sweeps young people into self-absorption and an obsession to share every mundane moment on social media. Money, fame, and attention have too often replaced character, faith, and self-esteem. And then we are given the gift of a woman named Kayla to remind us of everything that is good in humanity, by believing and working tirelessly so that the world can be a better place.

Kayla was our sister, daughter, friend, and hometown girl who set out to change the world. She changed me, and probably you. And just about everyone she touched, which were people in several continents and countries. That it all ended so badly is hard to get out of our minds. The agony that her parents and family have experienced these past eighteen months is simply unimaginable. The strength of Kayla’s resolve and character are beyond our comprehension. If we read her letter written in captivity, it seems not possible that someone at such a tender age could pen such wisdom. It seems as though Kayla knew exactly who she was. A rare gift.

Is there ice cream in heaven? My friend’s son was killed in Iraq on Mother’s Day several years ago. She carried around the last letter that she received from her son and in it he wrote, “I would gladly die for my country. But I prefer not to. I like ice cream too much. lol.” My friend keeps a gallon of her son’s favorite ice cream in the freezer. She is not sure why, but she knows that when he came home on leave that was the first thing he wanted. A big bowl of rocky road. And so the ice cream stays quietly awaiting a homecoming that will never happen. Perhaps in some small way, keeping up a tradition mends a broken heart.

Are you there, God? Just asking because we have some serious problems down here and we need some help! ISIS is a group of evil barbarians killing the innocents and we have lost too many! Decent, caring, honorable people are getting murdered! Yes, ministers and priests around town (and all of America) had a lot of comforting to do these past Sundays. And in whispers in the pews, the faithful are left to ponder the “bigger questions” of life, loss and tragedy. So we pray.

And then there are the words from Kayla. “Even in prison I can be free.” Or, “I have no fear.” Her resolve is almost astonishing. How did a woman so young become so strong? We must look to her parents and loving family who obviously instilled a great deal of courage and faith in a child who grew up to accomplish so much. There will be lingering unanswered questions (mostly from politicians, leaders, reporters, and the bunch) about exactly what happened to Kayla. Well, that is par for the course when there is a tragedy of this magnitude, but we will not let that chatter detract us from one commonly held truth. Kayla was taken from us much too soon and her life’s work serves as an inspiration.

Last week, we lit a candle. We will continue to let the light of Kayla and her selfless work for the down-trodden remind us of the goodness in the world. In the midst of troubles, she found a way to “be free” while imprisoned. It gives hope to those of us who have problems that overwhelm us, or illness that feels like conquering us, or problems that seem to be beating us. The freedom is in the mind and the spirit. No matter what, we have the choice to form our own inner sanctuary.

America is a nation of givers and we are a State of doers. So in the spirit of Kayla, we will carry on and feed a hungry child, comfort the sick, rescue an animal, help with the less fortunate, donate our time, energy, money, and skills to pay it forward to those in need.  We remember Kayla.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in the Anthem area. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at