Max's 9th Birthday

Where the action always is, some great moments capturing Max and his squeaky voice.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 marks Max's 9th birthday.

I can't explain to those of you who have not lost a child how difficult it is to get beyond the loss. In fact, I don't ever try. Simply put: it's not the same as losing an adult. I find it particularly interesting how I think of Max every time I look at Hannah or Nicky. He is a part of them and they are a part of him, and will forever be intertwined. And the feeling of loss is compounded through them as I watch them grow, as I see their photos on the wall progress, as I see Max's stay the same. Forever 7. Through Hannah and Nic he is with us everyday. I am thankful for that. They smile, laugh and fight and I see Max there with them. It is bittersweet.

This weekend we were at a friends' house for a birthday party and their 9-yr-old son, a friend of Max's, said to me, "Nicky has Max's eyes." Thank you for sharing that with me. Thank you for seeing it, too.

I can't tell you where I am in spirit with one of my kids gone. I think I still float through the days, possibly avoiding it. Avoiding looking too long at any one photo. I think it's time for me to make a new pot of Tear Soup. I'm not sure I ever completed my first pot. I don't think I got the seasoning quite right.

For Max's birthday this year, we will be enjoying crab claws. A favorite of Max's even when he didn't like food. We're going to make some paper airplanes and fly them away on the strings of some orange balloons. We invite you take part - where ever you are - in this celebration of a brave child's life on what would've been his 9th birthday, and to remember all the kids with NB who are fighting the fight, or have earned their wings.

I concur and sign my name at the bottom of Andy's letter to Max (following). I miss my second child. We all miss him. I love you, Max. I remember, not long before you left us, asking if I could spoon with you while you fell asleep one night. You were terribly uncomfortable from all your meds and the cancer, but you needed some love, too. I will always remember lying next to you with the nightlight on, barely stroking your arm, and you falling asleep. You were so sweet, always. Happy Birthday in heaven. I bet God makes good cake.

This is easily one of my favorite Max illustrations. All the red? Chaser bullets. Don't forget to catch the shark with the gun.

(Andy here)
Dear Max,
Well, the big nine-r. Almost double digits. Old men like your dad often take a moment on their birthday to look back and take stock of their lives up to that point. Young dudes like yourself never slowed down enough to look back, instead you were always looking forward. But I can't help imagine what may have happened in your life during the 22 months since you left us. You definitely would have:
  • Lost your first tooth (finally)!
  • Started and finished 2nd grade.
  • Started and finished 3rd grade (maybe Mrs. Sturt would have become a 3rd grade teach at the same time!).
  • Convinced me to buy you a bunch of additional airplane models to hang from your ceiling (I know you know that we took some from your shelf and hung them in Nicky's room - he loves them as much as you do and now whispers in my ear on weekends if we can go to "the model store").
  • Watched every episode of Patton 360 with me on the History Channel.
  • Built some really awesome Lego creations with Hannah, Nicky, mommy and me.
  • Visited Legoland many times with Luke, or Jack, or some of your other friends.
  • Watched all the episodes of The Clone Wars with your brother and sister.
  • Continued to draw amazing pictures of whatever you thought was interesting.
  • Continued to observe the world around you with the precision and detail of a scientist.
  • Caught some more fish.
  • You likely would not have enjoyed all the snow at Lake Tahoe the past two Christmas's, but thanks for sending a bunch for Hannah and Nicky to enjoy.
  • Read Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
  • Ran around in the backyard naked with your brother and sister when it was warm out.
  • Attended KidsGames.
  • Started attending Sunday School regularly.
  • Continued to grow and start to become a fine young man from the fine young boy you already were.
There are so many things I would like to say to you Max. Maybe you can intercept my thoughts about you every day. Maybe when I say "hi" to your pictures on the wall or on the computer you can hear me. I hope so. I miss our conversations, I miss your questions. How much I ache to touch your almost porcelain-white skin again, hear your squeaky voice talk about battleships and WWII fighters again, see your smile.

I know you're in heaven right now. And even though I didn't teach you much about heaven before you died, I know you went there immediately. You were the purest person I'll ever know. There was not one malicious fiber in your being. Not a bad thought about anyone - you wanted everyone to be happy, to feel loved, to have fun.

Happy birthday my sweet boy! I will always love you. And I will see you again someday!



Reach 4 The Sky

Hannah boarding the bus to Camp Reach 4 The Sky

This morning I dropped Hannah off at her usual spot this time of year, to get on a bus and go to the local mountains for a week of sibling camp at Camp Reach 4 The Sky - staffed and attended exclusively by kids & young adults affected by their siblings' cancer. Hannah just adores this week away. And while we will miss her (usually around Thursday... don't tell her!), it is once again a bittersweet moment...

Max at Camp Reach 4 The Sky (day camp) in July 2008
This father's day was pretty busy. We were getting ready for Hannah's week away and Melissa was volunteering at our church's Kids Games that we attend every year. This year its only Nic attending, and he wasn't too excited about it either, but after day 1 (today) he's totally into it.

All this summer stuff brings back many memories of Max which is both great and tough to deal with. Lately, I think we've all be having a rough time of things, even if we don't recognize or admit to it. Nic especially, exhibits behaviors that really show how much he misses his big brother. He just latches on to older boys like nothing else. And it just tears your heart out to understand what's going on and see his "thirst" for that older boy relationship be quenched, albeit only temporarily.

We are making plans to celebrate Max's 9th birthday this June 30. May and June are rapidly becoming months I'd rather skip over, much like November and December are already. There are just so many opportunities to miss Max due to all the birthdays (Melissa, me, Max, then Hannah in mid-July), mother's day, father's day, end of school, etc. We are trying to turn Max's birthday into something of a tradition that we can replicate. Even though food was not big on Max's list of "likes" (he did have the g-tube for over a year), one special food that he liked to enjoy at times was crab. And so we will have crab for dinner every June 30. You can too if you'd like. And get claws... to play with.


Touch-A-Truck Blew the Doors OFF!

It's Monday and back to the grind. I'm in mop-up mode following a wildly successful event. We raised just about $29,000 for childhood cancer on Saturday, and most of it was through admissions and general donations at our lemonade stands, bake sale, cake walk, and through the efforts of our armed forces. (huh?, you say?) The Navy SEALS and Marine MARSCO units did a little fund raising on their own for us in the Camo-Area of Touch-a-Truck. They rock in so many ways. Here they've teamed up with a special Star Wars Unit... (Needless to say that everyone had a great time - even the big kids.)
We made some incredible new friends this year who we hope to take with us into the future of this event. Yes, the future. Saturday 's attendance was over 2500 by our estimates. This is up 5x - 6x times from last year. And from the response we've received thus far from attendees and participants, I see this event being bigger, Better, LOUDER every single year. Changes will, of course, have to be made to make sure it's as enjoyable in a larger format as it was this weekend, but I think with the dedicated people we have who are willing to help us, we can do it.I couldn't possibly end this post without photos of my kids at TAT. Here are Hannah (middle) and her two best friends, Jenna and Storm Trooper - and, yes, that is a sand-person peeking out of the back of the Deuce. Below is Nicky on top the armored HV playing with the 50mm gun. Atta Boy!

Max was certainly smiling down on all of us Saturday. Here's a photo of him... (on the dash)