My Heavenly Father blessed me with five amazing children, each uniquely wonderful, and each talented and gifted in their own special way. I love them all more than words can express. On this day one year ago my middle son entered his heavenly home, and I’d like to share a bit about him from his mom’s perspective. But, first a little about my other four precious blessings.
Kimberly, our first born, was the sweetest little girl with the biggest mommy heart I’ve ever seen. When she was with a group of children playing together and she would see one she thought wasn’t being included, or even being paid enough attention, she would leave the group and talk with the excluded child until she could get him or her to join the group in play. It was an amazing thing to see a very young child, four or five years old, do such a thing. She was always a very chatty, happy, social child, and grew to be the same into her teens and young adulthood. She is now an awesome mother of three little girls, and is still the sweetest little thing! She teaches preschool at a Christian daycare/preschool in our area.
Our oldest son, Joseph, was always a tough guy, trying to never let anything bother him, but as a young child, rarely succeeding! He was very shy as a small child, and he was, and still is, by far our strongest and most athletic child. He was a daddy’s boy from the start. At 6 days old, I tried for the umpteenth time to get him to go to sleep, unsuccessfully. Completely exhausted and utterly frustrated, I handed him to Dan and asked him to try to get him to sleep. Dan put him up on his shoulder and Joe snuggled down in and went right to sleep. From then on, Dan was the one to put him to bed, as he preferred his dad over me. As Joe progressed through his early childhood it became more apparent that he was definitely a little ornery! He was always an antagonizer of his older sister and instigator with his younger brother, Izzy; but a protector of all of his younger siblings. He has followed his dad into the business of construction and is a natural at it.
Timothy, our youngest son, was the shiest child I’ve ever known. He struggled to look people in the eye as a tiny infant, and clung to either Dan or I whenever anyone unknown was around, oftentimes hiding behind our legs if he wasn’t in our arms. He was a natural at all things academia, and loved playing video games. He still loves playing video games! As a child, he was our shortest boy, and was oftentimes picked on by his older brothers. But, as he approached his late teens, he shot up to a few inches over six feet and made his brothers look short! I always told his older brothers (when they were young) that one day that would happen and they should act accordingly! But, children don’t ever believe those kinds of things! Timothy also followed his dad into the business of construction and does very well at it.
Elizabeth, our youngest child, was everyone’s little darling from the day we brought her home from the hospital. I remember Kim being ecstatic over finally getting a sister, Joe walking around with her on his hip talking baby talk to her, Izzy wanting to do the same, and Timmy calling her “WizBeff”. She was and is a very sweet, but fiery daughter; our little red-head! She also is a natural at all things academia, but not so interested in computer/video games. She is a lover of literature and reads all the time. As a junior high student, she asked me once if she could get The Complete Works of Shakespeare while we were at the library. We did, and to my astonishment, she read quite a bit of it and loved it. She is our only child still living at home, has graduated from our local community college, and is going on to get her degree in English Lit. at the University of Kansas. She also teaches preschool at a nearby preschool/daycare.
We are more than blessed by the amazing family God entrusted us with. I have spent the past 12 months grieving the loss of our middle son. But, recently I have begun to see, again, the amazing blessings God has bestowed on me, and I am so thankful. With the one year anniversary of our son’s death upon us, I’d like to share some of my memories and impressions of our middle son. He was an amazing person and I miss him more than I can say.
Izzy was our only child that wasn’t “planned”. Well, he was planned, I guess, in that we were not actively trying to prevent pregnancy at that time! I got pregnant with him when Joe was only 9 months old, and Kim was three years old. Surprise! We were delighted, but a little overwhelmed, too. My pregnancy with him was different from all the others. He was by far the most active baby in utero; he hated it when I would lie on my back – it felt like he would do somersaults until I moved to my side or stood up. He was three weeks overdue, while my other four were all two weeks overdue. He was born 45 minutes before Easter Sunday, and was the most beautiful blond baby I’ve ever seen. After he was born and the placenta delivered, our doctor held up his umbilical cord to show us that there was a perfect knot in the middle of it. He looked a bit freaked out as he showed it to us, and I didn’t understand why for several days after. I cried when I realized what could’ve happened to our baby in utero with a knot tied in his cord. But, he was perfectly healthy, and we were perfectly happy.
The first year of Izzy’s life is somewhat of a blur in my memory, as I had a just-turned four year old and a 19 month old when we brought him home from the hospital. With two babies in diapers and a very chatty four year old, I was exhausted and overwhelmed quite a bit of the time, but I was also blissfully happy. Izzy was a good sleeper, even though 19 mo. old Joe was not, so I wasn’t too terribly sleep deprived. He was always a very happy little guy, with a smile that could make the grouchiest person smile back at him! He had such a happy-go-lucky personality and was very charming. Physically, I always thought of him as “wiry”. Joe was like a miniature tank; he weighed as much as Kim by the time he was a year old and Kim was three and a half. Izzy was our smallest boy, and remained that way through adulthood. (Tim, our youngest son, told me recently that Izzy would introduce him to his friends as, “my bigger little brother”. What a precious memory.) Izzy had an infectious laugh that always reminded me of Woody Woodpecker.
One of my favorite memories of Izzy when he was a small child, was a day when the four of us, myself, Kim, Joe and Izzy, were sitting in a circle on their bedroom floor talking about what they all wanted to be when they grew up. I think Izzy was 2 or 3 years old at the time. Kim said, in her sweet little girl voice, “I wanna be a mommy, just like you.”; Joe said, in his mickey-mouse voice, “I wanna be a daddy, just like daddy.”; but, little Izzy said, “I wanna be a motorcycle man!”. I can still hear him saying that. It was the cutest thing that gave me the biggest fright! How could my beautiful little toddler even know what that meant?
A lot of my memories of Izzy include Joe, because they were pretty inseparable when they were growing up. Joe was usually the one coming up with a plan he knew might get them in some kind of trouble, and Izzy was either sent to scope out the parents’ whereabouts, or was the victim of said plan. When they were about 3 and 4 years old, we added an upstairs to our little 2 bedroom home, making it a five-bedroom home that would better accommodate our soon-to-be family of six. We moved Joe and Izzy to the bedroom at the top of the stairs. The living room was at the bottom of the stairs, with the sofa facing the stairs. Many nights, for a few weeks after we moved them up there, soon after we put them to bed, we would see Izzy’s little feet tiptoeing down the stairs, then his little face peek around the wall where the banister began, checking to see if we were in bed yet. We would sternly tell him to get his behind back in bed, and he was always crestfallen and acted like he couldn’t understand why we were talking to HIM like that! We didn’t understand his reaction until Dan snuck up the stairs to listen to them after we put them to bed one night and overheard Joe telling Izzy to get up and go see if Mom and Dad were on the couch! Poor Izzy! He just wanted to stay in bed and not get yelled at! (That’s probably not entirely true, but since Izzy is not here to admit to anything, that is how I will remember it!)
Another favorite memory is the time Izzy came downstairs to ask me if he could borrow one of Dad’s belts. I can still hear him saying it in his sweet little high-pitched voice. “One of Dad’s belts? Why?”, I asked. “We’re going to bungee jump off the top bunk of our bunk beds!”, he told me. Ha! I don’t think so! Probably another one of Joe’s wild ideas! But, who knows who really came up with that one! Another time Joe, in typical Joe fashion, decided to try out something he probably learned about in one of our science classes, a lever. He put a log in the driveway, then laid a board across the log. He then placed another log on the end of the board that was on the ground and told Izzy to jump on the end of the board that was in the air. Again, poor Izzy. He almost had to have stitches in his nose over that one! A nurse friend of ours came out and looked at it and decided a butterfly bandage for a few days would hold it together well enough to keep us from having to go get stitches……again. That poor kid had to have stitches three or four times before he was five years old. The first time was when Dan took him for a ride on a 4-wheeler that belonged to a friend of ours. The 4-wheeler was in good working condition, except that the brakes didn’t work when it was in neutral. Our friend, on one 4-wheeler, and Dan, with Izzy in front of him between his legs, were out riding around in a hilly, wooded area around the Lake of the Ozarks when they decided to stop for a minute on the side of a hill. When they started to go again, Dan had the 4-wheeler in neutral instead of Drive, like he thought. He began to role backwards, and realizing the brakes didn’t work in neutral, he turned the beast to try to get it to slow down. Unbeknownst to him, there was a barbwire fence a few feet away in the direction he was turning and rolling back towards. They ran into it and scraped along it until they came to a stop. Dan was shredded by it. I’ll never forget him riding up with that freaked out look on his face and far less clothing on than he had when he left! The barbs literally shredded his shorts, his undies, his socks and some of his t-shirt off on his right side. He protected Izzy between his legs, but one barb got through and left a short, but deep, gouge on his little leg that had to be stitched. Dan’s wounds were all superficial, but the abundance of them made them pretty impressive!
The next round of stitches were caused by me. I’d put the boys down for naps, Joe on his bed and Izzy on our bed, since it was counter-productive to put them both in their own bunk beds for naps! I decided I’d clean out the attic while they slept. We had pull-down stairs to the attic in our utility room at the time, and the bedrooms were just off the utility room, so I thought I’d be able to hear them if they needed me. There was a large pile of dirty clothes on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, and I was tossing empty paint cans down onto them from the attic. Izzy’s curiosity got the best of him and he got up and came to the utility room to see what I was doing. Just as I tossed a can down, he looked up. The can caught him right on his lip, and we made another trip to the doctor’s office for another round of stitches! The next round was caused by himself as he was spinning around in the living room and fell into the wood-burning stove and split his forehead open. Poor lil’ guy! Four rounds of stitches before he was five years old! It was certainly never boring with him around!
With his desire to be the “motorcycle man” announced, and our realization of his tendency toward dare-devilishness, we began to be aware of the constant need to watch out for him. But, he was always a bit of a conundrum to us. He started talking about being a Blue Angels pilot around 4 or 5 years of age, and he wanted to ride motorcycles, fly airplanes and jump off the top bunk of his bunk beds. But, he squeezed his eyes shut from terror when we drove over the “5-mile bridge” in KC; and he absolutely refused to ride the Ferris Wheel at our local amusement park. When we went to St. Louis for a mini-vacation when he was about 7 years old, we had what turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of our times with him, at least in regards to his fear of heights. We all, except Izzy, were looking forward to going up in the Gateway Arch while we were in St. Louis. But, Izzy kept telling us he didn’t want to go up in it. I think this particular trip was the first time I decided to point out to him the confusing discrepancies he exhibited when it came to his desire to fly airplanes, but couldn’t stand to drive over bridges or ride tall rides or, now, go up in the Arch with us. I even told him the story my dad had told me about a man who flew his twin-engine plane right through the Arch, thinking that would heighten his curiosity enough to forget his fear and decide he could go up with us. It didn’t. In fact, we went from him telling us he didn’t want to, to whining that he didn’t want to, to crying and begging us to not make him. But, we were adamant that we were all going to make the trip to the top of the Arch together. The day we had scheduled to go up arrived and Izzy was a big ball of anxiety, still asking us to not make him go up to the top of the Arch with the rest of the family. We gently, but firmly, kept repeating to him that we were ALL going to go up in the Arch, and he would be just fine. By the time we got to the entrance to the Arch, he was begging! We ignored it, to some extent, and went about buying tickets and getting in line to wait our turn to go up. There was a metal detector we all had to go through, and I remember Joe and Izzy having to go through it more than once, as they had their pockets full of Hot Wheels cars and various other metal objects! That memory always makes me smile. You gotta have Hot Wheels cars in your pockets, just in case! Anyway, I remember Izzy looking from Dan to me and back to Dan, searching for a crack in our resolve to make him go up with us. Finding none, he went from begging, to whining, to crying, to sitting on the floor with his arms and legs wrapped around Dan’s legs and loudly crying to, “PLEASE, DON’T MAKE ME DO IT!”. The memory of it still makes me laugh! By this time, other people in line were looking at Dan and I like we were some kind of crazy abusive parents, Timmy and Beth, our youngest two, started to cry, and Joe got tears in his eyes! Ha! Poor Kimberly, our pre-teen, was probably dying of embarrassment! But, we managed to get to the door of the space-capsule looking thing and ride to the top without too many more tears. Of course, as soon as we got up there, and were able to get him to walk to the edge and look out, he loved it! We all loved it, and went up more than once to enjoy it without all the drama!
We took that awesome St. Louis vacation trip shortly after we moved from our lake-side home in a small rural community in Kansas, to a suburban neighborhood in Kansas City, MO. It was quite the move for our small-town homeschooling family, and caused us a bit of culture shock! But, we loved it. We lived in a neighborhood with several other families with children our children’s ages nearby. The small town we moved from was rather closed minded about our homeschooling, so the more open-minded atmosphere in KC was a welcome change. There was a Catholic family with 8 or 9 children that attended one of the Catholic schools nearby, a couple of families with children who went to the public school, a family that sent their daughter to private school, and then us – the homeschoolers. We seemed to fit right in, and our kids quickly made friends. We usually had a yard full of children, as I was the only stay-at-home mom in the neighborhood, and I love to bake; so not only did we have new “toys” for everyone, we usually had fresh baked cookies!
The youngest child in the Catholic family down the street was a beautiful dark-haired, blue-eyed girl the same age as Izzy, named Kathleen. She and Izzy quickly became best buds and played together almost daily. Izzy was such a beautiful child, and had an incredibly charismatic and charming personality to go along with his handsome face; he was also a bit of a ladies man! I thought he was developing a crush on Kathleen soon after they met, but I knew he was one day when I overheard a conversation they had. Several of the older neighborhood kids were playing basketball in our driveway with our older kids, and Izzy, Kathleen and a couple of other younger kids were standing off to the side of the driveway chatting about what they were going to do when they grew up. Izzy was kind of facing away from Kathleen, and I heard her say she was going to marry the president of the United States when she grew up. Izzy’s head whirled around and he had a look of complete astonishment on his face when he said, “What? I’m not going to be the president! I’m going to be a Blue Angels Pilot!” Oh, my beautiful, sweet, charming, gullible boy. How I loved him so. I miss him so much.
God is good. Life can be hard; but I’ve had more blessings and fun times than hard times. I’m so thankful for all the happy times. And, I’m thankful for presence of the Lord through all of the hard times. God is, indeed, good.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:10-12