So I read through the book of Isaiah today for my seminary class and recalled that Reece came to accept Jesus when we were studying the book of Isaiah in BSF (he was three at the time). It prompted me to head out to the Like Olive Shoots blog to make sure I recalled the details correctly. Sure enough, there it was—the memory is just as lovely as the day it happened. I read through the blog post, which includes the parent tribute that Terry and I read at Reece’s memorial service. And as I read through it I was so struck by my kiddo and what an incredible life and testimony he has. I say with absolute joy that being his mother is one of the rare treasures in my life and the awesome reality that he is in Heaven can only be understood through the depth of grief that accompanies it. I’m reposting the parent tribute in case you’d like to read it.
Parent Tribute: Reece’s Faithstory
Reece has always had a heart for Jesus. He has a wonderful faithstory that speaks to his relationship with and love for God and God’s love and protection for him. Much like we, as his parents, have been covered by God’s grace, so has Reece. We look back at Reece’s life on earth and see God’s work. And, we have had the unique opportunity and privilege to see Reece’s life in its entirety. While we certainly would have not chosen the course that Reece was led down, we trust that God’s plan for him is perfect. We know that based on our personal reflections of his life and what we were able to witness, Reece has found much favor with the Lord, especially considering his last few months on earth. And while we never felt we should take the liberty to publicly share the part of his faithstory that we were able to observe, we believe it is important to tell others about Reece’s love for Jesus now that he is in Heaven with Him.
Reece spent time in many different churches between our home church here at Westwood, two different church preschools, and three different church bible study programs. All churches that housed these programs helped to nurture Reece’s love for the Lord. He knew at a young age that God and His church weren’t associated with any particular building. At just over a year of age, he would point at various churches—many that we had never been into or had any association with and happily say, “God’s house!” We began doing nightly devotionals with him and openly discussed God and Jesus. We also attended church with him.
When Reece turned two years old I began attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) with him. His faith and enthusiasm for God continued to grow through the BSF children’s program. I distinctly remember one particular week when lesson was on the Holy Spirit. Knowing that they had discussed this with him that day, we came home after study and I asked him if they had talked about the Holy Spirit. Reece said that they had and so I asked him what he thought the Holy Spirit is. Reece replied with a wide smile on his face, “It’s Jesus in my belly!”
Two days prior to his fourth birthday, we were driving to BSF. Somehow Reece began asking about “bad guys”—bad guys seemed to be an interesting topic for him at this stage of life. He eventually asked if bad guys go to Heaven. I told him that anyone who has Jesus in their heart goes to Heaven and that even Jesus loves the bad guys. He then asked how one goes about getting Jesus in their heart. I told him that you have to ask Jesus to come into your heart. I also told him that if he ever felt like he wanted to ask Jesus to come into his heart, he could tell me and we would pray the prayer together. As we pulled into the church parking lot, he said that he wanted to pray the prayer that very day! I was so excited for him, but I told him that we would wait to do it later in the day when Daddy got home—so we could do this as a family. As it happens, the lesson at BSF that day was from Isaiah 53, which is believed to be a reference to the ministry of Jesus. This must have been on his mind all day, because he made sure that afternoon that we didn’t forget about doing so. Later that evening, Reece prayed a prayer to ask Jesus to come into his heart. He prayed with such intensity and spirit aloud as he recited the words. His words were genuine; he was excited to have the Lord in his heart!
Reece loved singing songs about Jesus and often led us in prayer before meals. He loved singing the Johnny Appleseed meal blessing. Singing was his most apparent way he showed his love for the Lord. It was, however, difficult to get him to talk about any sort of lesson or learning. When asked about his day, he often times would sit quietly and suck his thumb. Despite his lack of desire to share many thoughts with us, God was working on his heart, and his love for Jesus was evident.
So while Reece wasn’t one to give much detail about his thoughts and activities, it was around the time that he asked Jesus to come into his heart that Reece would tell us that he was going to go to Heaven before us. He was quite matter-of-fact about it. The statements were not given in a way that suggested fear or worry. Often, these statements would come up while doing normal activities like playing with toys or driving in the car. At times he would ask what he would do if he got to Heaven before us. We would tell him that he would be with Jesus and that Jesus loves him even more than we do. He not only talked to us about this, but other family members as well. He only brought the topic up on an individual basis with each of us, so our experiences in witnessing him discuss his leaving us and going to Heaven was unique to each person, but shared the common theme that he would, in fact, go before us. Most of these discussions happened prior to Reece’s diagnosis. A few times, however, after Reece’s diagnosis, he definitively stated that he would be leaving us soon. We tried not to read too much into this, to maintain a hopeful outlook, and to assume that Reece would survive his transplant.
During Reece’s stay in the hospital, he was quite ill and did not talk and chatter in the same way that he did when he was healthy. However, we know based on what Reece said to us that God was working on his heart and preparing him for what was in store for him. For the months during his hospital stay, he was delighted to see people wearing their red “Team Reece” bracelets and he told us that anyone who wore one would get to go to Heaven with him. He never complained in the hospital; people who cared for him often remarked about how tolerant he was. How sweet and cute he was. We can tell you from what we witnessed that we would have never been able to handle what Reece did in such a tolerant and accepting fashion.
The week before Reece was readmitted for his final hospital stay, he, out of the blue, asked us about the believer’s prayer we prayed when he asked Jesus into his heart. He said he wanted to pray it again. We told him that he only had to pray it one time—that once Jesus is in your heart, He remains there. Reece seemed satisfied with that answer. Looking back, we believe that he was aware his time on earth would be ending soon.
We know that we have had only a glimpse into what Reece’s relationship is with God. But we are certain that Reece loved and continues to love God and Jesus and that he was at peace with going to Heaven. This is a peace and a faith that can only be gifted by God. Reece is a child who knows God’s love for him. What we were able to witness has provided us much comfort that the Lord was helping Reece to see His plan for his life, even through his toughest days. We are fortunate to have known and been present with Reece throughout his entire life and we cherish the unique opportunity we had with him to discuss Heaven. We are blessed to call Reece “son” and eagerly await hearing him fill in the details of his story, in his own words, when we see him again in Heaven.
We love you, Reece.