So. Much. Love.

When I was a little girl, I loved to write letters. In between visits, my cousins and I would write back and forth to each other. During summer breaks, my closest friends and I would write to each other every few days; often making our own envelopes out of another sheet of paper. Sometimes we would fill them with confetti, which would cause quite a mess when opened! We would even look up the address to hotels and send letters to each other during family vacations. I remember excitedly checking the mail each day in anticipation of the arrival of a new letter addressed to me. There is just something so wonderful about receiving mail.

Although Jacob doesn’t know it yet, I’ve started (try) to pass along this love of letter writing to him. Each holiday, and every vacation, we send him a letter or post card. The letters usually have $1 in it and we share with him a few thoughts, words of wisdom or an event that occurred. We address it to him and mail it out – many times from our own mailbox. They are sealed and stored in a memory box for him to open sometime. We even did this when I was pregnant – addressed to “Baby”.

Where we live now, there aren’t mailboxes (in the typical sense) at each house but instead a large, metal mail box at the end of each road for all of the houses on that street. Typically, it takes a few days for us to check it because it isn’t right in front of our house. Since beginning this journey though, it has become a nightly tradition for us – something that I look forward to doing together. Jacob is strapped into his Radio-Flyer tricycle and we take a family walk to the mailbox together. Most days, that metal box is filled with a letter or a card or a package. Someone reaching out to send their love, their thoughts, their prayers or a surprise gift to let us know that they are thinking of us and that we are not alone in this journey.

Twice this week my husband returned from picking up little man with a gift for me; the first a gift basket filled with goodies from coworkers to remind me how strong I am and today an embroidered tote from daycare filled with goodies to keep me comfortable during treatment. This week, which is the hardest one for us, we have also been given a meal each night so we don’t have to cook.

And the list doesn’t end there – the calls, the texts, the fundraiser, the visits to see us, the prayers. So. Much. Love.

Writing this out, I can’t help but cry. I like to think that words come easy for me when writing but I don’t think I can properly express how much all of your kindness means to us. This is, by far, the most challenging, life-altering journey that we have ever been on and you have all done so much to help us through this. Each and every one of you. We are so humbled and so incredibly blessed with all of your love. There are so many different ways that one can demonstrate kindness, love and support…and I feel like we have seen every single possible way.

A dear friend said to me, “Our prayer is that this helps you and your family, even if it’s just a little.” Oh, but a little it is not. It is so much bigger than that.

Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Happy birthday, Mike

Mike

Most of us meet new people regularly. We interact with them in the grocery store, in daycare, at work or just walking down the street. Some of them become friends for a moment, others friends for a lifetime. A few leave marks on our lives and in our hearts that we will hold dear forever.

I first met Michael, Joe’s brother, when Joe moved to Florida in February 2004. I spent that summer in Florida, in between semesters, before moving down permanently. Joe’s car was a 5-speed and I had never driven one before. Joe tried to teach me but, frankly, it wasn’t going well. I needed to learn so that I would be able to drive myself around. One night, after an unsuccessful attempt at driving around the block, I was feeling a bit frustrated. Michael was off from work the next day and volunteered to teach me how to drive. I happily accepted.

Michael sat in the car with me and explained the mechanics of shifting and the purpose of the clutch. He also explained that each car was different and that it was important to feel the car and listen to it, to know when to shift gears. We practiced for a few hours and despite many stalls, I started the get the hang of it. The next day, we took the car out again and this time Michael told me to drive onto one of the busier roads in the neighborhood.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I asked, slightly terrified.

“You have to learn somehow. Eventually you need to drive on these roads, and it’s better to do it when there is someone in the car with you to help.”

I decided to take his advice and headed onto the main road. I did well at first but then, as I tried to turn, I stalled the car. I started to panic. There were cars behind me, waiting for me to get moving and what if I couldn’t get the car started again?! Despite my heart racing and the cars lining up behind me, Michael remained calm.

“Remember what we talked about. Remember what you learned.” He talked me through the steps of pressing in the clutch, holding the break and starting the car without being in gear. Once the car was running, I held the clutch and shifted into 1st. I slowly released the clutch while lightly pressing the gas and started to ease forward. I didn’t stall!

I made it home without stalling and was, quite frankly, proud of myself for being able to make it home. I was also very grateful to Mike, who stayed calm, had a ton of patience and a knack for teaching. I attribute my ability to drive a stick shift to him.

We lost Mike too early – today he would have been 31. I only had the pleasure of knowing him for a brief moment in time but I have many amazing, fun and priceless memories with him that I hold dear to my heart. He left a mark on all of the lives that he touched during his time with us.

Happy birthday, Mike. We miss you more with each passing day. We love you.Meg and Mike