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The healing came rushing in

June 22, 2015

It all started at Easter dinner. We live hundreds of miles away from our parents and siblings; so we have created our own version of family. “Bloom where you are planted” is somewhat of a driving force behind our merry band of friends we call family. After celebrating the wonder and amazement of the significance of our Savior’s resurrection, we began what always happens at our table – swapping stories. Our dear friend shared the story of the man who saved his life as a child and how he as an adult he still maintains a relationship with him. The flint was sparked.

Later, Sawyer asked if we would mind if he invited the first responders from the bus crash to his graduation. ALL. OF. THEM. There was something like thirty units that responded; so the number of people had to have been in the hundreds. Without batting an eyelash, I told him, “Absolutely, but you will have to understand that they may not be able to attend.” He was okay with that uncertainty. We set out to find the addresses, while he penned a note explaining who he was and how he was doing. He also included a copy of a scholarship essay that he wrote defining a hero. Here is an excerpt from his closing.

“Hero isn’t a word I use lightly.  The men and women who bravely serve our country now and in the past have earned that distinction. Standing next to them, are the men and women who show up to help others in their darkest hours. Although, most of these individuals would never consider what they have done as extraordinary, to me, their selfless actions are truly what defines a hero.”  (used by permission from Sawyer Stevens)

We really left it at that and went on enjoying the final days of school for all of our children and preparing for his graduation day. When a mysterious letter arrived on official Minnesota Department of the Highway Patrol stationary, my first thought was someone was getting a ticket. Then when I saw the Boy Wonder’s name on it, my thoughts shifted to . . . he better NOT be getting a ticket. I could not have been more shocked when he opened this correspondence. The State Captain congratulated Sawyer on his hard work and achievements, let him know that some troopers would be in attendance at his celebration, and asked him a favor in return: be an honored guest at the upcoming trooper academy graduation.

Sawyer was speechless. I simply cried. My parents had the same reactions as I did while my husband was in Sawyer’s camp. What an honor! A few more letters like that trickled in, but in all honesty, we had no idea how much that simple gesture would mean to others or even to ourselves.

We had worked for weeks prepping our backyard, because (I will be honest) I had a vision of what I wanted it to be. In one word: SPECTACULAR for my son. What I didn’t know was I was dreaming small, and that God had much BIGGER plans.

First, we asked some very dear friends to help serve and even a few more simply volunteered. Everyone saying it was an honor to be asked. We are blessed. For their love and tireless love, we are thankful. Next, my parents came a week early to simply jump in and help. Considering my dad was just a couple weeks away from retiring, this was a huge sacrifice. Next, the other side of our family from North Dakota stepped in and started helping with final preparations. Blessings upon blessings! Then, in the final hours, people all over were praying because as I have mentioned before, I simply felt cheated that we didn’t have this experience with Reed. Grief is an ugly beast, but God’s grace is so much bigger.

Commencement went very well, but our party was looking doomed by the weather. All the hours spent grooming the yard, all the plans made, all the preparations completed were about to be undone by deluge of rain. And rain it did.

I was sad and disappointed, but again, God had much bigger dreams. We eventually made the call to move to our alternative location, our church. Moving all the supplies was a gargantuan task, made lighter by many hands. About an hour before the party was to start, I learned that Sawyer’s letter which had made its way to the news media was going to be featured that night. THAT. NIGHT!

Conducting the interview right before the party began complicated things a bit, and we were overwhelmed to see the number of people who were already waiting in line. Thank goodness we have amazing, take-charge, selfless friends who just took charge of the whole evening. Caught up in some type of time warp, I think I had talked to over a hundred people and thought this party must be close to over, when I realized that only a half hour had lapsed.

Cousins embrace with the long line of folks waiting to see the graduate.

Cousins embrace with the long line of folks waiting to see the graduate.

At one point in the evening, we were completely surprised by the arrival of two great aunts and several cousins who had been keeping their arrival a complete surprise. Sister says that the unbridled laughter that erupted from me, upon seeing them was the best part of the party.

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Classmates, friends, neighbors, a few teachers, church family, fellow Scouts, 4Hers, and Special Olympians, and first responders just kept filing in. It was overwhelming, but in a good way. Just like every Reed’s Run, I think I got about three bites of food in the entire evening. Thanking each one for coming, and of course, hugging as many as I could was simple incredible.

At one point in the evening, I stepped back and simply observed all the love that filled that room. I had to will myself not to let the tears come pouring out. People wouldn’t understand. The message would be misread. They weren’t tears of sadness. No, honestly they were healing tears of joy! I didn’t expect it, but a flood of soothing healing for my heart came pouring in. A tragedy had intertwined our lives, but tonight we stood together in celebration.  Only God could have dreamed that was possible!

All those came in love and support of a pretty amazing young man. That alone was enough to bring tears of joy. It is a beautiful gift to be loved. Many of those in attendance would have shown up two years earlier for Reed’s graduation had he lived beyond the seventh grade, and many had come over the years to Reed’s Run. But this celebration was different. Tonight was pure bliss, nothing bittersweet. Our boy didn’t merely live, he was thriving and touching the lives of many. My Boy Wonder’s small and very sweet gesture provided healing not only for me, but most likely did the same for the last group of people to see Reed alive.

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One Easter table conversation, divinely appointed, led to one tiny note which had God-sized dreams written all over it, and for that I am incredibly awed and humbled.

Here is the link to the story about Sawyer’s gesture.  A special thanks to Nina Moini and the WCCO news team for this link.

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/05/16/survivor-of-2008-school-bus-accident-graduates-as-valedictorian/

One Comment
  1. Awesome story! You both did great on “the big screen.” And I may or may not have shed a tear or two. 🙂

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