Happy Memories Day, Reed!
Dear Reed – Today is your 20th birthday. I don’t know how or when it happened, but this is the first birthday since your passing that I didn’t feel like digging a hole and just lying there until the day was over. I really don’t believe that time heals anything, but I do believe that somehow my heart finally came to terms with what my head knew to be true. Please don’t misunderstand my words, I will miss you with every fiber of my being until the day that I get to see Jesus face-to-face and I get to hug you again. Can I change that? I will see Jesus face-to-face, and I know you will sneak up behind me with one of those great come-from-around-behind-hugs that you were so awesome at giving! Then after that, I am guessing you will introduce me to our babies, and we will have lots to catch up on.
Down here, things have been all sorts of extremes. We have had amazing times. But then, we have had some incredibly painful moments in recent days, but let me tell you something about your family, my sweet boy. We are tough. There are those who have meant to hurt us, but we have learned to forgive. And more importantly, we have learned to get back up. I think our family’s verses should be 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9
We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. (CEV)
So let me share a little bit about some of the toughness that will always be a part of our lives. We really know how to get up again because we know the end of the story (Love conquers evil), because it honors Jesus, and because we won’t let sadness rule our lives.
You know how Daddy always wanted us to march in his honor on Veteran’s Day. I know he was being silly, but I learned something very valuable this year about men like him, men of honor and integrity. What I have learned is that there is nothing worse than losing a man’s respect. It was a painful lesson for me to endure, but on the other side of it, I know there is nothing that he wouldn’t do for any of you children. Amazingly, God brought a complete stranger into our lives for a brief moment to acknowledge the honor that only another man could restore. Honor and respect are things our family will always value, and I remember how much they meant to you as well.
While you watch over three little Stevens there, we will watch over the three (although two are bigger than me) Stevens here.
You would be so proud of Sawyer and all that he has accomplished this year. I think you would have laughed at how much time he spent working hard on his studies and how much the tables have turned from the days he used to tell you to get your nose out of a book. You would have told him, “Well done, faithful sidekick” when he chose to invite all the first responders to his graduation party. Of all the things we have done since the day you died, that was one of the most healing things ever. It just felt perfectly right, and my heart (because of his actions) felt truly content. If we can’t really be superheroes, that night made me feel like we secretly had capes underneath our party clothes.
Erin joined the league of superheroes that we adore (organ and tissue donors). She chose to have a donor ligament instead of using her own in her recent knee surgery. We were so hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, because she would have to miss a whole year of basketball. Sadly, the worst scenario played out, and the donor tissue was needed. We were devastated and we thought she would be too. But this is where toughness and HONOR really sparkle like crazy. In the recovery room, we asked her if the doctor and nurses had told her which surgery was necessary. She told us she knew because she saw the clock and knew that it was five hours later. We thought she would cry and worry about basketball and ALL that she was missing. But your amazing sister did none of that. Nope! The very first thing she asked was if she could write her donor’s family and thank them for the gift of a lifetime and for giving her a second chance. I had to look away, Reed, because in that moment, my eyes poured out what my melted heart felt. In a year from now, on your birthday, she will be representing the great state of Minnesota as an athlete in the Transplant Games, and you better believe that she will be talking about you (her superhero) and her donor to every person she meets!
And Clo! Oh, Reed you would absolutely love her! She is just as much a fan of the underdog as you were. She loves superheroes as much as you and Sawyer ever have, and she has a flair for sarcasm, corny jokes, and just plain wit. This year one of her parent-teacher conferences, the teacher confessed she didn’t really have anything to say academically because she was doing great, but instead the teacher focused on how she would help others in the class. Again, melt my heart for a girl who has a heart just like yours. I wish that the two of you had more time to share together, because she misses you, and there are times that she grieves that she doesn’t really remember you. But I promise, we regularly tell her stories so that she will know the brother we all love and miss.
You share a birthday with a couple of my friends, just like you did in the picture below with an elderly neighbor. One of those friends wanted to check in and see if I was doing okay today. I told her the day was going well, and we were going to keep it that way if nothing else than by sheer determination and a WHOLE LOT OF GRACE. Then several other friends started referring to today as a day filled with happy memories. I really like that. So if it is okay with you, in heaven it will be “Happy Birthday” and here at home and in our hearts, it will be “Happy Memories Day”! Every day has a little bit of that, but today, your birthday, we remembered a lot of stories and shared a lot of memories of the boy who was the smiling sunshine of our world. No matter what we call it, today will always be very special to all of us.
Missing you always, but thankful for the grace that gives me the confidence to know I will see you again. Until that day, I will love you always.