Today would have been your 42nd birthday if your life had not ended so tragically. We miss you. Last evening we had a sort of pre-birthday party for you. Your wife, parents, siblings, aunt, uncles, nephew, and cousins were here, along with a few special friends–Todd and Benny and Jeff. Kerri sent her good wishes, as did Linda and Laura.
Remember the sky lantern you sent up for Robby after his death? We did the same for you. There were eleven of them, all white. One got stuck in a tree–Steffie thought you would find that funny. It harmlessly burned itself out. There was the slightest north wind, and we watched them as they (finally) went out of sight. Then we gathered in the house to share memories. They were good ones.
Todd brought the fishing lure on which you had painted the words “NOT TODD’S”. He said it was reverse psychology for the fish, dreamed up after you both commented, “You think they know it’s us?” during a particularly unproductive fishing trip. There were a lot of fishing stories. Remember when, as a child, your cousin Dale hooked you just above the left eye? It took a trip to the ER to get the hook out. That’s the time the prospect of a tetanus shot resulted in a near tantrum from you. I pulled you around the corner and told you that those were my coworkers and threatened to “give you up for adoption” if you didn’t settle down. You took the shot without further protest. (I really wouldn’t have given you away, you know.)
There were turkey hunting and deer hunting stories. Dale shared the failed turkey hunting trip which climaxed with a wild turkey almost flying into your truck as you left the hunt. He said you were (not mildly) upset.
Todd and Benny brought childhood pictures of you and Todd–playing in the mud, sharing camping trips, and, of course, fishing. And I recalled how Joseph, at a young age, always wanted to hear “Daniel Stories”. He was enthralled by the recounting of the infamous three-wheeler crash you and Todd survived. (Todd with a broken arm and you with right lower leg fractured through the growth plate). Then, there was the time you and Louie were dunking the basketball with the aid of a folding chair in the school gym. That spiral fracture of your left arm made for another “don’t do this” story.
We miss you, son. Mostly we are sorry that none of us realized how truly tormented you were by the darkness that had overtaken you. We wish we could have saved you somehow. We work to move forward, living life as best we can, but always remembering you, trying to focus on the good times. And, we are comforted by the knowledge that you are now in the eternal light of heaven, at peace, in the best place you could ever be.
And, I have to say, we have learned from you. Learned to be more sensitive to the darkness that attacks so many in these troubled times. Todd said he used to share text message Bible verses daily with a select few, but now they go to his entire contact list–he doesn’t want to “leave anyone out”. He said he feels a new urgency to reach other friends who are struggling in the same way you were– before it’s too late for them and their families. Losing you has strengthened our faith–for it is the only way to survive a loss like this.
So, Happy Birthday, Son, and I love you, more than you know,