Reece’s 14th Birthday

Reece on Election Day, 2008 (20 months old)

It has been another year. Another trip around the sun, as they say. For so many years, I have not done a birthday post for Reece. Last year was the first year in quite some time. Some years, it hasn’t made sense. Lately, however, I think it makes a great deal of sense. March 24 is such a good day around our house, that at this point, writing a bit about him makes perfect sense. I just re-read that sentence and, if I was a person other than me, my last statement would seem counterintuitive and not remotely convincing. If I hadn’t walked in my own shoes, knowing what I know, I would think I was trying to convince myself it was a good day.

I’m currently slogging my way through a paper on Romans 8 and that text, in combination with a year of immense suffering for people, worldwide, brings to mind hope. We truly need hope–not the shallow, wish-filled kind, but the real anticipation of what is truly to come. We set our minds on things beyond our immediate circumstances and “suffer well” as we allow the Spirit to work through our lives, living eternally-focused, yet still in the present. This is evidenced by our hope. One of the greatest gifts given to me was witnessing Reece who, in the midst of a terminal illness, suffered well. One evening, not long before he passed away and riddled with so many side effects he could barely walk, eat, or keep his body warm, he was lying on our couch, cocooned in blankets, watching us get ready to eat dinner. He was too tired, frail, and lacking in appetite to make it to the table with us. We decided to pray over the meal and asked Reece if he’d like to join in. Without skipping a beat or waiting for us to pray along, Reece, from across the room, practically yodeled the “Johnny Appleseed” prayer song. He turned his head up to the sky like a dog howling at the moon and started in, “Ooooohhhhh–the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord…” and we all just sat at the table and cried, trying to keep up with him and not deter his singing by our tears. In reality, we knew he was not well and the energy it took for him to sing as emphatically as he did could only find its source in hope beyond his immediate circumstances. He was praying and worshipping in a way that had nothing to do with what was immediately in front of him and everything to do with what he hoped for–and there was no mistaking it. He was praising God. When I am tempted to throw in the towel on the day or give up in discouragement, I have this gem of a memory, along with many others from Reece’s life, stored in the treasure box of my heart. And I thank God for this pure witness of faith and hope through Reece’s suffering, gifted to me in the midst of a desperate situation.

Truly, March 24 is one of my absolute favorite days of the year, because we slow down and we celebrate Reece. In ways that are nearly inexplicable, Reece’s day is truly March 24…we don’t punt a birthday party to the weekend or invite a bunch of kids over to help tear open gifts. We don’t do gifts and parties. We do cake and memories. And since I am the only person in my immediate household who remembers him, it basically is me relaying those memories. The kids love talking about him…and we all love cake. Reece loves birthday cake. He and I used to talk about how our favorite dessert is birthday cake. We love Reece. And while it isn’t always an easy day, March 24 is always a good day.

Happy Birthday, Reece. I love you.