Excerpt from Nikki McKibbin
Top 10, Season
The 2002 American Idols Live! tour was coming to an end. One of our last cities was Seattle, and as always, we were backstage after the performance mingling with fans at what is called a meet-and-greet. I don’t know why, but whenever there were little children at the meet-and-greets, they always gravitated toward me. Seattle was no different.
Tylee was the cutest little girl I’d ever seen, with her tan corduroy overalls and little bald head from her chemotherapy. Her big brother, Tre, and her mom were with her. She was only five years old and already a huge Idol fan.
From the minute she walked into the meet-and-greet room, she didn’t leave my side. She hugged me and kissed me as we drew pictures together. Whatever her disease was it had to be serious, but despite it, she was such a perky and happy little girl.
Although I’m usually tired by the time the meet-and-greets are done, I was sad when this one ended because I had to say good-bye to Tylee.
With the tour over, I headed back to Dallas and looked forward to spending some time just chilling and being with my four-year-old son, Tristen. I’d hardly seen him over the last three months.
Just as I was starting to settle in and get some semblance of normalcy back into my life, the phone rang.
“Nikki McKibbin, please.”
“That would be me.”
“This is the Make-A-Wish Foundation?. There is a little girl you met on the American Idols Live! tour who was just given a chance to make a wish. She said that her wish was to spend a day with you. Her name is Tylee, and we don’t know if you remember her, but we’d be very appreciative if you could make her wish come true.”
“Of course, I remember her,” I said. “How could I forget her? She was so adorable.”
“If you want to fulfill her wish, you need to get on a plane to Seattle tomorrow. She’s not expected to live through the weekend.”
She’s not expected to live through the weekend? I thought. No, that can’t be true!
My mom and grandma pitched in to help me get ready. On the way to the airport that Saturday morning, I stopped and bought pants that matched Tylee’s tan corduroy overalls.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation? set up our meeting in a hotel suite not far from Tylee?s hospital. I don’t know who was more exited when I walked in?her or me. Tylee’s mom, dad, brother, stepmom, and grandmother were all there.
I almost didn’t recognize Tylee when I saw her. Some of her hair had grown back, and she was all dressed up in the cutest little pink frilly dress. Pink must have been her favorite color since she also clutched a pink Beanie Baby teddy bear in her hand that she never put down.
“She carries it day and night,” her parents told me.
We talked and laughed and took lots of pictures and videos. We even ate hot dogs together. She showed me a little book she had made called Nikki Notes that contained the photos we had taken together at the meet-and-greet. She had me write in it.
After a while, Tylee wasn’t feeling well, so she took a nap, and her grandmother and I went shopping. I knew she loved Barbies and teddy bears, so I bought her a new Barbie comforter sleeping bag, Barbie pillow, and a teddy bear. I signed them all, “Tylee, I love you.”
When we got back to the hotel, she was awake and feeling a little better, so she sat on my lap and we went through her Nikki Notes again. At one point I gave her a little tickle and she laughed, so I gave her another tickle, and she jumped off my lap and we ran around the room playing tickle tag.
Her parents and grandparents were overwhelmed with emotion. They said they hadn’t seen Tylee have the strength to play like that for as long as they could remember. They said they felt like it was the best day of her life.
As we were saying our good-byes, Tylee went over to her mother and whispered something in her ear. Her mom blinked back her tears and said, “Oh course, honey, if that’s what you want to do.”
Tylee came over and gave me her pink teddy bear, the one she carried with her night and day.
The rain pounded the roof of my cab as I rode to catch my flight home.
Tylee lived a few more weeks.
(Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul: Stories from the Idols and their Fans that Open Your Heart and Make Your Soul Sing).