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Real Life

Real life: A mum's heartbreaking tribute to her deceased daughter

You were destined to make the world a better place, and that’s exactly what you did.

By As told to Take 5

Jo Deppeler, 50, from Hastings, Vic, shared her letter of love to her beloved daughter Kayla.

Dear Kayla,
From the moment you were placed in my arms, I knew you were special.
Your deep brown eyes looked into mine and I realised I'd never truly known a love like this.
My heart felt like it could burst.
In the blink of an eye you were a toddler with a mess of curls.
You ran into preschool with a big smile on your face, hungry for knowledge.
When your sister Phoebe came along, you became her best friend and fierce protector.
I'll always remember the day you had to choose a word to spell and describe its meaning in front of your class and their parents.
You kept your word secret from me until the big day.
Your peers spelt 'mum' and 'dad', but when it was your turn, you stood up in your bright yellow dress and announced the word "intestine", spelling it perfectly.
Kayla as a bright little girl. (Image: Supplied)
"It looks like a wiggly worm in your belly," you said proudly.
I was so impressed.
That was just the beginning of what your mind could do.
You weren't just smart – you were kind and empathetic, too.
One day, after the Black Saturday bushfires, I took you and Phoebe to see the impact it had.
As I drove along the blackened road, you yelled at me to stop the car.
I pulled over hastily, thinking you were car sick.
Instead, you bolted over to a tree and wrapped your arms around its burnt trunk, crying for its pain.But even though you were happy, a dark cloud hung over us.
Your father and I had a troubled relationship and eventually parted ways.
Then, it was just you, Phoebe and me against the world.
Eventually, I met a beautiful man named Russell, who you and your sister quickly called Dad.
He loved you both to bits, and was stoked to become your father figure.
As you got older, you decided you wanted to be a surgeon to save lives.
You were well on your way, becoming the dux of your class with scholarships to high school and university.
But school wasn't always easy in our small town; bullies targeted you for your beautiful coffee-coloured skin.
Me and Russell. He loved being your dad. (Image: Supplied)
They'd call you names, but you always kept your head held high.
It never stopped you from participating in community service programs to help your future career in medicine.
At 17, you confided in me that you loved your best friend, Annabelle.
"We love her, too! She's fantastic," I replied casually.
"No, I'm in love with her," you reiterated.
I'd always had an inkling that you were gay, but I felt honoured that you were comfortable enough to tell me.
"Whatever makes you happy," I said, hugging you.
You started dating Annabelle and it was beautiful to watch you find love.
You started your pre-medicine course at uni and just a few months later, as you drove to work, you saw a young boy on his bike get hit by a car.
His head hit the ground and you raced over to help, but it was too late.
He died in your arms.
You (right) and your sister Phoebe. (Image: Supplied)
"I've failed him, Mum," you told me later, sobbing into my chest.
After that, you became withdrawn and darkness covered your bright light. You deferred uni because it had become too painful to relive that experience.
You got a job in a call centre for the Department of Human Services and thrived, becoming a team leader and mentor to your colleagues.When your relationship with Annabelle fizzled out, you transferred offices and moved from our little town to Melbourne, where Phoebe
was living.
It was only two hours away, but I missed you like crazy.
Soon after, I went to visit you both. It was a perfectly sunny day so we went out for lunch.
Of course, the chatter between us was non-stop."I think I'm an angel," you said, interrupting your sister like always.
"I think I was sent here to help people, but you just can't see my wings yet."
Phoebe and I agreed, you'd already taught us so much.
You smiled, and went back to your lunch.
After two months in Melbourne, you quit your job and Phoebe started to worry.
"I think she's depressed," she told me over the phone.
She went to your apartment to check on you and found you unconscious.
She called triple 0 and you pulled through. Thank God.
You were such an empathetic woman. (Image: Supplied)
I raced to your side.
When you came to, you were admitted into an in-patient program for three weeks to help you work through your depression.
"I can't believe I tried to end it," you whispered to me, terrified. "It just doesn't make sense."
I begged you to come home with me, but you wanted to stay in Melbourne.
"I'll never do it again, Mum," you promised.
You sounded so sincere that I believed you.
A few weeks later, Phoebe and I went to pick you up for another lunch we'd planned, but your housemate said she'd heard you leave at 4am that morning.
We were confused.
You'd been so excited to see us and hated early mornings. Why would you leave?
We found your phone in your room and called your friends, who said you'd left your bag and wallet at their house the night before.
My heart dropped.
I called the police and your face appeared all over the news. We appealed to the public, asking if anyone had seen you.
We'd always told each other everything, Kayla.
I thought perhaps you were embarrassed about us fussing over you and were hiding for a while.
We were all so close. (Image: Supplied)
After searching for six days, Missing Persons detectives visited me.
"I'm so sorry, Jo," the officer began. "We found Kayla's body."
I fell to the floor, until Russell wrapped his arms around me.
I've never felt a pain like it.
Instead of a miserable funeral, we celebrated the incredible person you were.
Physically, you're gone but to this day, I can feel you in my heart, and I know you're watching over me.
You once said you were an angel without wings.
Now, I think I know what you really meant.
You've finally grown your wings, my darling.
Kayla, I'm so proud of you and so incredibly sorry we couldn't help you.
I hope you're dancing in the sky and singing in the angels' choir, finally at peace.
You will always be my angel.

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