Sunday, March 17, 2013

To my son, on your 3rd birthday...

My dear little Levi;

I struggle even putting words to page as tears fill my eyes. It’s a special day today. It’s hard to believe that you are already three years old. It’s hard to believe because I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. Your short time here on this earth has defined so much about me that I don’t remember what it was like without you. Your little life has defined for me the true meaning of fear, the true nature of love, the true feeling of being broken, the true essence of faith. You are a treasure and a blessing to me, your mommy, and your big sister.

There was a time this past year when, in the dim light of the morning on the way to work, I was pleading with God to continue to protect you. You see, at that same time you were strapped in your car seat with your mom heading to Indianapolis for a checkup. No matter how many times we take you for these visits, no matter how well you do, how much you’ve grown since the last visit, how many times we hear the ‘all clear’ update from the doctor, these days fill me with dread. Utter, bottomless, consuming dread. Mornings like this one will always find me pleading with God. During this trip, with tears in my eyes, I was trying to explain to God how much I love you, a feeble attempt to use words to describe the permanent residence you hold in my heart and daily thoughts. In my attempts to paint a picture for God, I told him that I’d do anything for you. I clenched my teeth and told him I would die for you. Then, in the following silent moment of withdrawn breath, God whispered to me, “I ALREADY DID.” Remember this, my son. Remember that your daddy will fight anything that opposes you, any threat that rises, any menace you might face. Your daddy would die for you. But you are protected by someone greater than me, someone who already has. Keep your eyes on this One, as He will not let you down, He will never change, He will be the one who has my back while we both keep close watch over you. He’s the one who can save you, not me.

I love you. Thank you for your personality, for your crooked grin, your quick laugh. Thank you for making swords out of sticks, for throwing rocks, for splashing in puddles. Thank you for singing songs, wrestling on the floor, and whispering your nighttime prayers. Thank you for playing cars with me, for watching cartoons with me, for eating breakfast with me before anyone else is up. I hope you have a great birthday; just please be patient with me if my hugs are a little tighter today and my eyes well up from time to time. Happy birthday.


Monday, February 4, 2013

An anniversary...

Everything stops. No matter where you are when you hear it, everything stops. It’s evident in the way the phone drops from your grasp, the way your chair sinks through the floor, the way the room begins its maddening spin. Voices change to buzzing, the room temperature rises, and your grip on control loosens. People blend to backdrops, textures lose their meaning, and details oddly focus. Everything stops the moment you hear that your child has cancer.

In this exhausting moment of brief eternity, all that is not your child fades to virtual non-existence. From that moment on, the ache and longing for your child trumps all else in your world.

Eventually, at some point in the future, these things that once faded in an instant will start to reappear. The stack of bills on the kitchen counter gets harder to ignore, the gas gauge on your car slams to empty faster than it used to, the late night fast food runs begin to add up. Birthday and Christmas gifts that once were a joy to buy become secondary; easy to forget if the advertisements would just let you. You begin to realize that the background struggles that had become merely scenery are still there and just as important. It’s at this point you realize that you need help.

Today is a special day, and this day is dedicated to those of you who recognized when our family reached this point. This day is the one year anniversary of Levi coming home from the hospital after months shut in a room hooked to IVs as they delivered their devastating yet lifesaving cocktails of medicines. And this day would not be possible without those of you who bought the gas cards, wrote the checks, joined the bone marrow registries, brought the meals, held us while we cried, kept watch in the hospital, mowed our lawn, bought our kids a swingset, provided presents for Christmas morning, and, most importantly, boldy approached the throne of our Father in heaven asking Him to spare Levi’s life.

To be honest, it is difficult sometimes to think that our little one is at home, happy and healthy, living the life of an almost three year old boy. It’s difficult because we continue to follow and pray for other little ones that are fighting their own battles. There are so many stories that we try to keep up on, and so many more that we find out about each week. We rejoice when test results come back clear, when little ones are able to come home, when similar anniversaries are celebrated. But the reality of sickness and the world in which we live is that not all stories end this way. Our hearts have been broken by the news over the last few months of little ones who didn’t make it; the brave fights waged from frail bodies and the intense love of their families weren’t enough to defeat the evil of cancer and sickness. We rest in the knowledge that the pain for these little ones has stopped, although the world is a colder, harsher, more painful place for the families they have left behind.

If you, our dear family and friends, would like to do something to honor Levi and his anniversary of victory, please seek these families out. They’re not hard to find. Please listen to the radio for benefits and fundraisers, check the prayer request list on your church bulletin, ask your pastor or contact your local community funds. Contact charities like the Gift of Hope, who is set up to minister specifically to families like ours. The reality of battles like Levi’s is that they are long, exhausting, drawn-out, and demoralizing. They wreak havoc on finances, relationships, and mental health. There is always an overwhelming outpouring of support in the beginning, when the adrenaline is flowing and people want to be involved. But the truth is that this level of support is needed throughout the fight, not just at the outset. When you find a family to help, commit to helping for the long run. You may find yourself helping for weeks, months, even years. But that is what is needed. If it wasn’t for people who were willing to help, support, and pray over the long run, I shudder to think what would be left of my family today. Be a warrior for the next family now, and do so to honor our little one and his battle.

We love you, each and every one of you. We miss you too, as we met so many along the way and haven’t been able to keep in touch with everyone. But know that we have asked God to bless you, and that we count you as family. As you pray tonight, thank God for the miracles He has performed in Levi's life. We thank Him daily that our little hero is still with us. Pray also for those that are still fighting. And pray for direction on how God can use you in the next battle.

I leave you within this passage:

Matthew 25:35-40 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We love you all,
Michael, Stephanie, Caylee, and Little Levi