Today marks three years that you’ve been gone Jake. Gone from this earth, but not from our hearts.
I miss you every day. I see so many things I want to share with you, experience so much I want to tell you in a Sunday call, find so many reminders of you in my every day.
It feels like forever Jake, and it feels like yesterday. Some days I don’t know how to get to the next, and others I look back and somehow a year has passed.
God is my constant through it. He lets me rail at Him and He holds me when I’m done. He shows me His great love in so many ways, and how He holds your hand alongside mine. He listens when I ask for clarity, reason and purpose, and sometimes He answers. Today I asked Him to show me a memory I haven’t thought of for a while, and in reply, He gave me much.
He gave me green beans and salamanders, Jake. (smile.) Do you remember? It was the year you were three, and one of your favorite books was The Salamander Room. It was also the year your dad was at school, and it was just the two of us. One day I asked what you’d like for dinner, and you piped up with, “Green beans!” one of your all-time favorites, and then after another few seconds of thought, you said, “Green beans and …Salamanders!” You were so silly that year, and I laughed and laughed. It stuck, and for the next year or two or three, whenever you were asked, that was your answer. I loved it then, and it’s so sweet and silly to remember now. I can hear that throaty little boy voice you had, and picture that sometimes devilish little twinkle in your eyes as you looked up expectantly, waiting for the smile you sought and the laughter that makes life light and well and wonderful in the eyes of everyone, whether 3 or 33, 73 or 103.
Speaking of that devilish twinkle you’d get, do you remember how the Okinawa ladies would come and stroke your blond hair, wonder at your blue blue eyes, and then laugh at the double cowlick in the back, you and your brother both share? In their culture, that double cowlick was a sign of a little bit of naughtiness. They’d laugh and point and say, “Oh, little bit naughtysu, hai hai?”
You grew up to love those ladies. Living there twice, they got to know you as a kiddo, and then as a teenager too. How they loved you in return, and knew you’re character through and through. You were the first teenager they’d call to come and bag groceries at the Commissary with them, knowing you wouldn’t pocket the communal tips in the parking lot, as some of the teenagers were inclined to do. You were always respectful and kind, ever inquisitive, and loved trying out your Japanese skills with them, as you patiently let them practice their English skills with you. I’ll have to find that picture of you with them…
I was going through the Christmas album this week. Yes, the one I started putting together years ago, and no, haven’t finished yet. But the pictures are there and ready and the memories though poignant and tough, are wonderful to have and to hold. I showed Matt the picture of the ‘Year of the Power Ranger.’ Well, years! You and your brother wore those Power Ranger jammies until they couldn’t even be used for rags. You loved them! And to complete the picture and put on your true super powers, you’d raid my accessories, wrapping ‘power’ around you in headband scarves, super power gloves, belts of energy and broom stick swords of strength. You and your brother were a sight to behold, and it makes me laugh to picture and remember it even now.
I could go on and on Jake. In the beginning, I did. I had to. Most nights would find me wide awake in the middle of the night, furiously scribbling all I could remember, needing to capture it before it was gone, before time passed and I couldn’t remember anymore. Because time does that to us. Spreads layers upon the memories, until it’s hard to peel them back and see what’s underneath. It’s why I ask God to show me new ones, show me how to capture and hold them, even for a time.
I have to admit, for a while those memories, as important as they were to capture and remember, they also infuriated me Jake. Because, how could that be it? How could that be all I was allowed in this life? I wanted more, I wanted the ones we hadn’t yet made, the years and years worth that should have been ahead of us. It just made me angry and sad and completely undone… But one day we had company over and we were talking about you Jake. At one point in the conversation your brother said, “Tell the story mom, tell the Candyland story.” And it was in that moment I realized how important it is to do that; to tell the stories, to share the love and laughter, even when it comes with pain and anger. Cameron wasn’t even born yet when you learned how to cheat at Candyland Jake, but he’d heard the story, and wanted and needed to hear it again. To remember through me, as I’ve learned and remembered so much through him. It was a blessing, and one I’ve not forgotten.
I’m going to see him today. Cameron. I know you look out for him as you always have. I know some of his decisions must drive you crazy, as they do me too. But he’s trying hard to find his way, and you know him, he learns best by doing that in his own way. It’s hard to step back when my desire is to help and nurture, but I’m so thankful that he’s working hard, and that he has people in his life who love and support him. The tattoos keep coming- the ones he gets, the ones he gives, and the ones he gives himself! But he’s learning the art, and it’s an outlet for his intense creativity. For those brave enough to let their skin be his testing ground, he does very well and will continue to improve. But he needs you Jake. He needs the direction and guidance you always gave. Sometimes you did that in a kind word, but more often than not in a gut punch or some such thing. He loved you for both, and that will always be a boy/brother thing I just don’t get! But let him feel you close today Jake. He misses you so much. He needs his big brother in whatever ways he can get, and he looks up to you still, even as he has to look up these days to see you…
I know you wait for us Jake. Not in the pining sense as we do, because a) you’re not a pining girl like your mama and b) who could pine in Heaven? You’ve got Maggi and BoBo and grandmas and grandpas and friends and family and Jesus in your midst. There’s soccer dog ball to play, and hockey in the Heavens must be a sight to see. You always looked like you were flying on those hockey skates of yours…
Oh Jake. I just miss you so much. My heart yearns for your physical presence, and my arms ache to hold you again. It’s hard to wait. But there’s more to do and learn and give, I know. And I will.
I wish I could remember all the firsts and all the lasts, because maybe that would fill in all the in-betweens. But I’m thankful for the glimpses I get and that God gives. And no matter the pain in carrying your loss, the joy of being your mother will always and forever be greater. Because in the end, the love endures. Always.
It is my forever promise to you, until Heaven brings us close.
I love you Jake. I miss you so.