Sitting in her backyard filled with everything from a Post Oak tree to roses, azaleas to Carolina jasmine, it is the purple and white pansies that catch the eye of Dona Tilley, mother of Kyle Tilley, 26, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident over the weekend.
She had planted purple and white pansies earlier because the color is Kyle’s favorite, not realizing then the meaning they would have for her now. And on Monday, she watched as two young girls planted more purple and white pansies to fill her sanctuary with the colors that mean the most to her right now.
“I sat in my back yard and watched them,” she said early Tuesday by telephone. “It’s beautiful. … My yard is the place to be.”
Dona Tilley and her husband as well as their two daughters have been amazed by the outpouring from Flower Mound residents, she said.
The pharmacist called, the dental hygienist called, even her husband’s doctor called, she said. “Who lives there (in a place where people would call)? Apparently, I do. We do.”
Friends also flew in from other states and stopped in from around the Wellington neighborhood where the Tilley family lives. Many others have called or left online messages for her, her husband Larry, or their two daughters, offering to do whatever is needed.
“They’ve been circling the wagons around me,” she said. “I can’t believe that people would do that for me. My community of Flower Mound has been like my family.”
At Flower Mound High School, where Dona Tilley works as a special education inclusion aide and where her son graduated as well as taught as a substitute teacher, staff donated days off for her to take. School officials started a Cards for Kyle effort to allow students to submit cards that will be delivered to Dona Tilley later. The high school also opened its gymnasium to allow students to share stories and memories with each other about their relationships with Kyle Tilley, a longtime swimming instructor who was working with the Lakeside Aquatic Club.
“It’s truly been a journey I didn’t expect,” she said. “I’ve just been so blessed.”
Though she is aware of the online outpouring, Dona Tilley says she hasn’t spent much time online or reading newspapers. Her focus has been on her own family and dealing with a tragedy she never anticipated would ever happen.
“I do not get to spend my life with my beautiful son … to see his life come to fruition,” she said. “For that to happen is the worst thing to happen.”
But she is surprised at how she has handled the loss of her son – a son she’d hoped to see grow older and start his own family.
Her strength comes from God, she says, and from the many wonderful people who have offered their love and support.
“It surprises me every day,” she says of her continued strength. “I think, ‘what does he have for me today in this horror.’”
One thing she knows is that she never wants to leave Flower Mound – a place that she now feels is more home than ever before. After growing up in California and living in North Carolina, the Tilley family settled in Flower Mound.
“It’s a good community,” she said. “But until now, I didn’t realize how good it is. … This is a special, special place.”
She hopes the young man who drove the vehicle that hit her son’s Jeep and the young man’s family realize that she holds no bitterness toward them.
“I know that young man is suffering and his family is suffering,” she said.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety records, Tilley was driving southbound on the right side of the Sam Rayburn Tollway when his Jeep was struck from behind by a Lexus driven by 19-year-old Wahid Malik of Carrollton. The report indicated Malik was traveling at a high rate of speed in the center lane when his vehicle moved to the right lane and struck Tilley’s vehicle. Tilley was killed instantly after his Jeep rolled.
“I do want people to know I have not had a moment of bitterness or malice,” Dona Tilley said. “It’s a gift so I can honor my son.”
Though it would be easy to be angry, she says, it’s not what her son would do.
“He loved everybody,” she said, adding that he enjoyed people and was down-to-earth with everyone.
Kyle Tilley, a youth swim coach at Lakeside Aquatic Club and 2006 graduate of Flower Mound High School, was active on swim teams both at the high school (from 2002-2006) and at Ouachita Baptist University (from 2006 to 2010) where he graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in business administration.
He previously coached at Wellington for the Sharks from 2008-2010 and served as head coach with the Bridlewood Torpedoes. According to the Lakeside Aquatic Club, Tilley began swimming at age 6 and joined the Lakeside Aquatic Club when he was in the eighth grade.
As she sits with friends in her garden sanctuary looking at the plentiful purple pansies, Dona Tilley thinks of what her son smelled like.
Laughing, she says he wasn’t a smelly kind of a guy, but maybe there’s a shirt doused with the smell of chlorine in his room.
When she finds it, she’ll find her son’s smell.