On this, your 15th anniversary of life in our world, I have things to say to you. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t surprise you, since you’ve been with me this long, so I’m going to launch right in.
Thing #1: Your life is not normal. It was very normal for awhile. Maybe even boringly normal. But at year 11, your life took a turn and you have lived every day since inside a fishbowl with sad faces looking in and sad voices asking, “So, how is your dad?” You have handled it brilliantly. Valiantly. Without complaint and nearly without a hitch. You’ve learned to respond to those questions with kindness, and without saying too much. You’ve learned to be in charge of things like mowing the lawn and hauling the garbage and scraping car windshields on frigid days. You’ve learned to use a feeding tube and a suction machine and you’ve faithfully learned to care for the dad who used to care for you (and still does – but in other ways.) This is big and impressive, but it is not normal. And in the midst of all the absolutely-not-normal circumstances, come absurdly normal things like Spanish tests and field trips and the way your mom forgets to give you lunch money for so many days in a row. Sometimes the normal and the abnormal intersect at the strangest points and everything feels incongruent and upside down to me…but not to you. You’ve learned to weather the waves as they roll in, you’ve learned to shift your weight and stay standing through it all. It is a great skill, but it is not normal.
Thing #2: Your life is not small. It is giant. You are an overwhelmingly abundant gift to me, to our family, to your dad. You are important to us in ways I can’t package into words well enough. I don’t know what I would do without you. Your smile is real and ready. Your heart is tender as the day is long. You’ve learned compassion in the crucible of suffering and you will be an enormous gift to a grieving world. Enormous.
Thing #3: You are only just beginning. You live in a home that is currently focused on endings. But you are at the very start of all you will become and experience and dream and create and achieve. The future stretches out wide in front of you, as big as the mountains that surround our city. You will launch and love just that big, because you are just beginning.
Thing #4: This is the big one. The most important one. You are not a victim. Your days have been planned with purpose by the God who loves you more than life. Our pain does not take Him by surprise and our struggles do not sideline His strategy. In fact, if we’ll let Him, I believe He will use the game-changing circumstances of life to work beyond our dreams. The pain in your life has made you strong and sensitive. It has made you one who will fight for justice and for the dream of His kingdom coming to our right-now, right-here world. You are not a victim.
Thing #5: Near to my heart is this last Thing. You are not fatherless. Sometimes throughout our journey, I’ve cried over the things you have not been able to experience with your dad, because I know how badly he’s wanted to be everything you need. Sometimes, I’ve tried to step in and be that or to send in a substitute, but then I realize: you don’t need us to be your substitute dad because you have a real dad who loves you beyond reason. He can’t take you golfing, but he can (and does) spend long hours praying for your destiny and not very many sons can say that. And you also have a Dad – the eternal One who shepherds your heart and directs your steps. You are not alone and will never be. Not ever. Because you are not fatherless.
So, on this big and beautiful day, I celebrate your life – the fifteen years that you’ve packed away and the decades that are to come. May His presence be your reward as you pursue Him with a vengeance.
I love you more than words and bacon,