imageWhen we get to a certain age we are told that the trappings of youth are nothing more than fantasy.  The belief in magic, fairies, monsters and Super heroes – things every child believes in at some point, ebb away with the steady flow of reality each passing year.  As we approach adulthood those innocent beliefs of childhood are replaced with the acceptance that “The real world” contains none of these things.  Magic:  merely an illusion.  Fairies: mythical creatures conjured by the human imagination – and existing only there.  Monsters: the only “real” ones are labels we place on the most abhorrent of humans.  Super heroes:  Colorful characters who wear their underwear on the outside who possess powers that are physically unattainable.  All of these things represent our desire for something more from a world that seems to take more than it gives as we age.  The older we get, the more we realize that reality can be rather mundane and dull  when compared to the future our innocent, youthful, selves imagined.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my cousins when I was about 8 or 9 years old, talking about Super Heroes.  I was on the precipice of the age in which I began to realize that they could not exist.  We talked, at length, over the improbability that a “real”  Super Hero could ever exist… yet through all of this, in brazen defiance of what I my 8 year old self knew to be true, I told her that I thought one day I was going to be a real life super hero.  I was convinced that somehow, some way, I would find a way to bend the laws of physics and I would become a Super hero that would change the world.  My 8 year old self truly believed that this was going to happen; to hell with reality!  I find it odd that I remember that conversation so vividly, yet here  I am, 30 years later, and I can still see my cousin laying next to me listening to me and agreeing with me.  I think the reason I remember it so well is because I never stopped believing it was possible…

I remember standing in the waiting room of the ER when the ambulance brought Rees in.  I was alone, pacing like an animal, waiting for Samantha to arrive.  The room felt like a prison that confined me within the walls of a nightmare from which I could not escape.  I remember thinking to myself that perhaps this was that moment… this was the time where I could break those laws and defy the space time continuum and reverse my chronological course.  I truly believed that if I concentrated hard enough I could will time itself to retreat and give myself the opportunity to save my little Rees.  I vividly recall tightening my face into a grimace and balling my fists so much that I could feel the blood rushing through my head.  I hoped, beyond reason, that the energy I released would tear the fabric of reality and restore my little boy.  If ever there was a time I could be a Super Hero, it was at that moment, at that time.  I screamed to muster as much “power” as I could and opened my eyes; hoping to find myself back in my driveway with a chance to tell my friend “I’ll watch him”… only to find myself still trapped in that room with the walls drawing ever closer.  All hope was gone.  My little boy wasn’t the only person to die that day, as my failure confirmed the death of the dreams of my 8 year old self.  I was human after all.  No miracles.  No magic.  No waking up from this nightmare.  Super heroes do not exist – they can’t, because if they did my little boy would be in my arms, alive and well.  Rees’ death killed my last vestige of childhood.  Wonder, hope, belief – all three, died with my little boy.  As coroner of my 8 year old self, and I must admit, I thoroughly examined it , and he was not only merely dead, he was really most sincerely dead. (Sorry, I needed a little levity here – apologies to L. Frank Baum)  With the coroners assessment I was sure that super heroes did not exist, and my world diminished that much more.

My world remains diminished, and always will to some degree due to the loss of Rees, but something happened tonight that resurrected my 8 year old self…  Tonight I saw the essence of my little boy displayed on a vehicle that would have made him jump with glee.  Rees is gone, yet his presence was tangible.  Looking at that truck, adorned with a symbol that represents what ReesSpecht Life is all about, put me in awe of the power of the human soul.  What I, and thousands of others witnessed, was an incredible display of kindness to a little boy none of the brave men and women of the Nesconset fire department ever met yet somehow he touched from beyond the void of death.  In fact, everyone who saw that truck pass tonight was touched, in some small way, by my little Richie.  The “R” on that truck was testament to the power of kindness that continues to permeate outwards from Rees’ spirit beyond corporeal plane.  The acts of kindness that Rees is inspiring can only be labeled as something super.  My little super-boy is an inspiration from beyond the grave – and if that is not the power of a super hero, I do not know what is.

I received a message tonight from a former student who called my wife and I an “inspiration”.  I told him that real inspiration comes from within… we all have it locked within us.  All we need is a key to unlock it.  My little boy was my key, and now, thanks to the selflessness of others, he can be for many, many others.  I can forgive my 8 year old self for thinking it was me that was going to grow up to be a super hero.  It turns out the real super hero was another Richie Specht who, through the super-powers of selflessness and kindness,  is changing the world in ways I could never have imagined while trapped in that ER prison.  There is nothing inspirational in what my wife and I are doing.  It turns out we are only the first pieces of a much larger key forged by a real super boy.  Super Heroes do exist.  I saw the proof tonight.  If you want to see his “powers”, just look at all the kindness his spirit is spreading and how he is changing this world one Rees’ piece at a time…

A Superboy...

A Superboy…

photo (2) There was a time when I was Santa Claus – or at least I played him,  for six years…  Back when I was in High School I was approached by my manager at the local drugstore I worked at and was asked to play Santa.  At first I thought it was insulting, thinking that my pudgy frame was her reasoning for asking me.  I remember thinking that I did not want to do it, after all how can someone who is only 17 and a Junior in High School pull off being Santa?  After mulling it over for about a day, I told my manager that I would do it and she was elated.  She immediately took me to the storage area and showed me the costume…  It looked exactly like what you would think a local drugstore’s 20 year old, bottom of the line, made in China Santa suit would look like.  I was taken aback when I saw it and told her there was no way I could do it.  The costume consisted of a felt red “jacket”, pants and a  black vinyl belt held together with staples and scotch tape.  The beard was literally made out of cotton, and had brown stains around the mouth from where the previous “Santa” had apparently enjoyed one of many smoke breaks.  The wig was made of the same cotton-like material and had the stains of 20 years worth of perspiration inside  it.  To say this costume was terrible was an understatement, but it was all I had to work with so I went with it.

I remember putting on the costume for the first time and walking out of the store room and entering the store.  I bellowed the heartiest and happiest “Ho Ho Ho’s” that I could – trying to mask my young voice with guttural growl that made me sound more like Batman than Santa.  I recall walking around and having people laugh at me due to the ridiculousness of the cheap costume.  At the same time I also recall parents commenting on my dedication to bellow out those hearty Ho Ho Ho’s and give it my best.  After some time I really started to get into the role and refined my “Santa Voice”, trading the growl for a trembling vibrato that seemed to hit the mark and matched my hearty Ho Ho Ho’s.  For the two days that I played him, I was Santa and I loved it – and so did everyone else.

My manager got so many positive comments about my Santa that she asked me to promise to do it again the next year, and I happily obliged – with some conditions.  Being the diva that I now was, I demanded upgrades to Santa’s suit, claiming that it would only help.  She told me the budget did not allow it, but she would see what she could do.  Some days later she told me that central office had agreed to get me a new wig and beard, but that was it.  I still had to deal with the costume.  The next christmas came and I played Santa again – this time a bit more convincingly with a beard and wig that was more like hair and less like the end of a cotton swab.  I continued to play Santa over the next few years, with each year finding the store making more improvements to the suit until it became the perfect suit.  Armed with a new suit, I really took hold of the role and I would walk up and down the strip mall and out to the road in front of our store and “let loose”.

I looked forward to playing Santa every year and it just felt so good to be dressed as someone that everyone loved.  The smiles I saw on children’s faces made the stifling heat of the costume easy to bear.  The gratitude from thankful Mom’s and Dad’s who appreciated my enthusiasm fueled me desire to be the best Santa I could be.  It was great, but the inevitable time where I had to hang up my Santa suit came two years after college when I started teaching.  I remember going back to the store that first year and seeing the “New” Santa and I was so upset.  Gone were the Ho Ho Ho’s from my iteration, replaced with unenthusiastic “Happy Holiday’s” and not much more.  It was disheartening to see the legacy I had built get torn down and thrown to the side.  I felt bad for the children who were expecting to see the Santa that was there for six years and were greeted instead with a seemingly soul-less Mecha-Santa.  I figured that would be the last time I ever played Santa and resigned myself to accepting that there are some things I just cannot control.  Oh well, I’ll never be Santa again, I thought, it was a good run.

993436_399900393476472_461191970_nIt turns out I was wrong.  I did get to play Santa again, but in a way that my 23 year old self would never have imagined…  Three months ago Samantha asked me if we could do something that would mark Rees’ third birthday and also do something for others.  Since we did not have Rees to shower with toys and playthings, she rationed that it would be great if we got some toys to donate to a local charity that needed them.  She asked around and found the Family Services League and was excited about the prospect of trying to help them with their annual “Project Toy”, toy drive.  She explained to me that we would collect some toys and give them to the league and that on Rees’ birthday we would help out with the distribution to the families who were in need of a little Christmas help.  Sam asked me to make up flyers, and I did, using our new logo I placed a sleigh with toys behind it and thus our Toy drive had an official image.

I never could have imagined the success we would have in this drive.  What started out as a simple request for people to donate toys at 1 of 2 locations quickly grew into three times as many drop off spots and multiple other “mini drops”.  When all was said and done, our “few” toys burgeoned into the thousands and we literally did not have enough space in our cars to deliver the toys…  (Santa’s magic bag would have been a big help!).  Needless to say, we got the help we needed and delivered the literal mound of toys three nights before the distribution and I was in awe of what the collective kindness of people.  I literally saw what the collective acts of individuals could do when we all work together towards a common goal and it was both inspiring and amazingly rewarding.  Every toy that was donated from ReesSpecht Life was donated because of the legacy of kindness of our little boy.  It is clear that Rees’ pieces are a force of good that will hopefully continue to grow and do more and more collective good.  It is clear that we are all making a difference, one little piece at a time.

1490793_10152138256011419_421270669_o1531767_10152138250691419_257125019_oTonight found me in a different position than three nights ago.  We were asked by the family service league to come and see how their toy distribution works – and we thought that Rees’ birthday was the ideal time to do it.  What better way to help us focus on the positive than to directly see the results of the kindness performed in his name?  While we were not there for long, I was in awe of the feeling of compassion and respect that permeated the family service league “Toyland” tonight.  Parents from all walks of life, who found themselves in the unfortunate position of not being able to provide their children now had the opportunity to provide a christmas for their children through the selflessness of strangers that they will never know or meet.  I saw first hand the grateful smiles of parents who reveled in finding that perfect gift that would make their children’s eyes light up with a sense of holiday wonder.  It was at that moment, in that singular place in time, that I realized that I only played Santa for those six years.  Tonight was my first time being “Santa” for real, and the feeling I derived from it is indescribable.  I watched my two daughters help the shopping parents find the perfect toys and I was in awe of their willingness to help others – and I reveled in thought that Rees was present, smiling down on all of us in that room.

We were told that the donation of toys we made was one of the largest, if not the largest, single donations they had ever received.  More importantly, I was told that because of the contribution of ReesSpecht Life, the family service league of Brookhaven would be able to get toys to all 1150 families in need plus all of the families on the stand by list.  On a night that could have been much more difficult and sad, I was able to revel in the kindness of strangers and happiness of those whose holiday dreams had been salvaged.  Instead of lamenting the loss of my little boy and grieving about his absence on what should have been his very happy 3rd birthday, I got to see what Santa see’s when he stealthily places those presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas eve.  I saw, in my mind’s eye, at least a thousand children’s smiles on Christmas morning – and one very special little boy looking down on them, smiling himself, knowing that he helped them in his own way.  Happy Birthday, and Merry Christmas little man.  You helped me be Santa again, only this time for real.  I love you more than words can express… keep cultivating that kindness from above.  You are making this world a better place, one little piece at a time.

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993436_399900393476472_461191970_nSanta’s elves have nothing on Rees’ pieces.  Tonight we dropped off hundreds and hundreds of toys to the Family Services League and filled up a room with toys that will make the Christmas of children who would have gone without this holiday season.  December 19th would have been Rees’ 3rd birthday, and many of the toys we delivered would have made his eyes light up with glee if he were here to see them.  The pain of not having our little boy with us, at what should be the happiest time of year,  is mitigated by the fact we know there will be so many smiles on all of the children who received toys because of the generosity of Rees’ pieces.  I am in awe of what the human spirit can accomplish, and I know that this world is filled with good and kind people; some just waiting for their chance to spread kindness to others.

Last year around this time I vowed that my son’s memory would help make this world a better place, one piece at time.  Every person who donated a toy, no matter how big or small, is affirming that vow I made.  I wish heaven had a direct line so that I could tell my little man how much I love him and miss him.  I wish I would have had the opportunity to see his eyes light up upon seeing his Christmas toys under the tree.  The hardest part of losing him is losing the things I never had, but dreamed would come.  Those dreams are no more, but his spirit remains.  Every child that opens a present this Christmas morning will have that light in their eye that I am sure Rees will see from heaven above.  My world was made a little more whole tonight – and it was done piece by piece.  Thank you all – this journey has only just begun and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.  The Holiday spirit is alive and well, helped along with a little Rees Specht for life…

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This past summer I was privileged with the opportunity to speak on behalf of ReesSpecht Life in front of over 400 incoming freshmen to the humanities college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SUNY Stony Brook).  During the presentation I recounted the story of what happened to Rees and the acts of kindness that lead to the genesis of ReesSpecht Life.  I discussed the tenants of what we are all about and after a hopefully uplifting, 40-50 minutes, I left them all with a challenge:  To change the world with acts of kindness.

Unless you were present for my presentation you might be thinking to yourself that I left these poor students with an unachievable goal.  After all, how could 400 17-18 year old’s be expected to change the world when they themselves are still relatively new to it and so few in number?  I recall seeing this very doubt echoed in their incredulous expressions and more than a couple of guffaws from the students who sat before me.  I used the following picture in the presentation:

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This image is the simplification of the process of paying it forward:  One person’s act of kindness has the potential to spread exponentially if each person in the chain does the same in turn I believe that some of the cynicism directed at my hope that we can change the world is the realization that, although this image looks so simple, the reality is that it does not function in this way.  One person’s act of kindness can surely spur others to kind acts of their own, but the chain is broken as soon as someone fails to act.  It is inevitable that some individual’s apathy and/or the entropy of daily life will ensure that the chain does not propagate in perpetuity… eventually the chain will break and the spread of kindness is halted.

One could conclude that doing what we do is then pointless:  The acts of kindness we hope to propagate are destined to stop and only the people in the chain before the weakest link benefit.  Apathy creeps in when people come to the realization that the best of our intentions, our hopes of  a changed world, are mitigated by the inaction of those who just don’t care enough to pass along the kindness.  It is only natural that these people ask themselves why should I bother, since I can’t possibly expect this to ACTUALLY change the world? 

The reason we try is simple:  It is worth it.  Change is never easy.  My Mother used to tell me over and over again that “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy to attain”.  The idea of promoting kindness is something that I often thought about before Rees died.  I often found myself dismayed at the primary focus we have here on our own needsEveryday our society is bombarded with messages about what we can do for ourselves.  I challenge you to find an advertisement that does not focus on something for you.  The message that this constant bombardment we get about doing things for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better through the aquisition of material things, is pervasive.

It’s not just the media and advertisement industry that promote this inflated sense of self importance and consumerism.  Right after 9/11, then President Bush, in an attempt to calm the collective nerves of our damaged national psyche, proposed that Americans return to their status quo: “People [should be] going about their daily lives, working and shopping and playing, worshiping at churches and synagogues and mosques, going to movies and to baseball games.”   I always felt like that was a lost opportunity:  Where was the plea to become more engaged in our communities?  Where was the request for civic pride and community awareness?  Don’t get me wrong, I do not fault President Bush, what he said was merely reflective of us as a Nation.   The President re-affirmed the idea that in America we need to do things for ourselves foremost.   We are too focused on ourselves – and I admit that I was just as guilty as just about every other American of this.

After Rees died, I saw the other side of America.  I saw the power of the collective good and how they were able to lift my family on their shoulders and carry us through our own, personal, superstorm.  Neighbors that I had never met came to my home, introduced themselves for the first time, and made us dinner.  Business owners like Bill Kelly of Kelly Brothers Landscaping donated their time and considerable resources to repair our physical world.  Past friends renewed their acquantince with me through a simple phone calls expressing their condolences.  The collective acts of kindness my family experienced kept us from teetering over into the abyss and helped lift us up to solid ground.  It was restorative.  It was comforting.  It was beautiful.  It was exceptional – and I wondered why?  Why are we surprised when a stranger does something nice for us?  Why is it when I pay for people and give them a ReesSpecht Life card that nine out of ten times they look at me with a befuddled expression and often ask me “What’s your angle?”.   After going through this ordeal, I think I know the answer:  Perspective.

The loss of a child is the ultimate perspective changer.  I have written several times about this already ( Here and Here).  My world view took a complete 180 after the loss of Rees.  From the moment I found him the reality of a forever changed world hit me like a freight train.  The loss of a child actively robs a parent of the future every single moment of their lives going forward.  I will always face a diminished life, no matter what I do, because Rees will never be a part of my physical world ever again.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do that can ever change that.  The hole created by his absence can never, ever be filled.  It seems so hopeless when I write, or think, that… and indeed that hopelessness filled me for quite some time after he died.  But like all wounds the acute pain of losing a child does ebb and give way to what I can only describe as a numbness – a desensitization, to the pain.  And like all wounds, the pain of losing a child heals better when attended to by others.

I would not be where I am today without the help of my family, friends and even complete strangers who carried Sam and I through the darkness and kept us at the precipice of the hole in our world that could have swallowed us.  I saw, firsthand, the light that humanity can shine on the darkness of loss.  Those people who touched our lives at that time provided the ultimate positive to counter-balance the negative in our world.   I witnessed the power that kindness wields over despair and its ability to restore that which was so badly damaged.  In fact, it was precisely what I witnessed in this time of despair that started ReesSpecht Life in the first place.  It dawned on me that if the acts of Kindness and generosity can lift someone who is already down, imagine what those acts could do for people who have not fallen?  What if instead of always trying to restore people to the status quo of existence, we raise the bar and lift everyone up to a higher place?  If my world could be re-calibrated from such an awful place through kindness, it only stands to reason that applying this positive force to those not suffering will only serve to lift us ALL up higher.  ReesSpecht Life is the culmination of my hypothesis that if we spread kindness to others, regardless of the situation, those people will pass it along because, like energy, kindness cannot be destroyed – only passed along.  The more kindness we spread, the more we lift ALL OF US up.

Any good hypothesis must be tested, and that brings me back to those students at Stony Brook.  Towards the end of my presentation to them, I tasked them with performing an act of kindness in Rees’ name.  We gave each of them a ReesSpecht Life card and sent them along their way.  My hope was, that at the very least, these students would leave the room with a slightly different perspective on the world and their ability to make it better.  I was happy to share my own perspective, and hoped that through my own experience they would pass along a little bit of kindness.  I found out later I was way off in my estimation.  The students at Stony Brook didn’t pass on a “little bit” of kindness, they literally passed on VOLUMES full of kindness…

About a month ago Sam and I were contacted by Erika Benhardt, the college advisor for the Undergradaute College of Human Development at Stony Brook,  and asked to come to a dinner with some of the other advisors and a select group of students who were at the presentations.  Sam and I were delighted to get another chance to meet with them and we figured we would hear about some of the acts of kindness that these students had performed.  I remember thinking about how awesome it was that I was able to motivate several of them to perform acts of kindness and could not wait for them to share.  When we arrived, I saw a group of about 20 or so students and advisors and I was ecstatic.  They were all so enthusiastic about being there and Sam and I were so thrilled to share that time with them.  Not long after we arrived they presented us with two wrapped gifts.  For the life of me I could not fathom what it was, and when Sam and I opened the gifts we could not believe our eyes:  Packaged neatly inside two extra large binders were notes, drawings,  and letters from almost ALL of the students that were at my presentations.  As I thumbed through them I was overcome with emotion at the notion that I literally had volumes full of stories about acts of kindness performed in Rees’ name.  Page after page of stories recounting acts, both big and small, whose genesis was the spirit of my little boy (click to read)

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If there was ever any doubt that what we are doing could change the world, I now have the empirical proof that we are.  Big things have small beginnings.  A year ago this time ReesSpecht Life was nothing more than a few hundred followers on a facebook page put together by a grieving father.  Today, we have over 12,000 followers and 113,000 unique visitors to our website.  We have distributed more than 25,000 ReesSpecht Life cards – and hopefully at least that many “acts” of kindness.  We have given out two Scholarships at Smithtown High School and are adding to more schools this year.  If anyone ever asks me if I believe that what we are doing is actually going to change the world, I can now reply with an affirmative:  “We are changing the world, one Rees’ piece at a time, and I have binders full of Kindness to prove it”.

 

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The following poem was written by a former student of mine.  I read this and was lost in its beauty and I just had to share it.  What a beautiful tribute to my little boy, and what we are trying to do.  I challenge you to read this without tearing up…

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Sparkle

It was not the thunder echoing through the rooms,
Nor the lightning flashing across the clouds, 
That shook me to the bone.

It was not the chilling air,
Nor the pictures of destruction of the television,
That brought tears to my eyes.

No.

It was the fact that I would never hold him in my arms again,
That caused my bones to shake.

It was the thought of never again seeing his beautiful face,
That brought tears to my eyes.

His beautiful blue eyes,
Like the water that stole him away from me,
Shining,
Glistening,
Sparkling,
Would never again steal away my anger,
Replacing it with peace.

His permanent smile,
Encouraging,
Hopeful,
Innocent,
Would never again wake me up in the mornings.

He is gone.

Yet,
In the beauty of the sunrise,
In the majestic rainbow after a storm,
He is still here.

When his life ended,
I was given a new one.

A life with which I will put his smile,
Encouraging,
Hopeful,
Innocent,
Onto the faces of others.

A life where I will make my neighbor’s eyes
Shine,
Glisten,
and Sparkle.

 

I hope that all is well… the thoughts and prayers of my family are with you and your family.

Sincerely,
Sam M.

Thank you, Sam.  You made our Hearts Sparkle with your Beautiful words…

captain reesSince Rees’ passing I have come to realize that there are no coincidences…

Today was a really rough day for me personally, and I was just not feeling the Halloween Spirit. Normally, I go all out for Halloween.  One of the many perks of being a Middle School Teacher is that I get to dress up for Halloween and act out like the big kid that I am.  Over the years my costumes have ranged from as simple as Fred Flinstone (whom I share more than a passing resemblance to) to my most complex one:  a full, home made, Optimus Prime Costume. Keeping with tradition,  this year I was supposed to be Captain America, and the girls purchased a Captain America shield for me to complete my costume.

As the day progressed I just never really got into the Halloween spirit, and as time to head out Trick or Treating came around my lack of enthusiasm sapped my will to don my Captain America Costume.  I figured since  I already had a Superman Shirt on (I wear a Superman S everyday since Rees died)  I was going out in that alone and it would be good enough.  The look on the Girls’ faces revealed their disappointment that I was not dressing up, so as a consolation, I grabbed the Captain America Shield at the last minute and said I was  “Super Soldier”.  The girls both glared at me with a skeptical eye, but dismissed it as Daddy being silly and the crisis was averted.

So we headed out, the whole family including all of the Grandparents, and we made up for the Halloween that did not happen for us last year.  I reveled in seeing my little girls go house to house, dressed as superheros, like their baby brother would have been.  Fleeting smiles faded to imperceptible grimaces as I imagined Rees joining his big sisters for the first time and what could have been… what should have been.

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We proceeded to go house to house for about an hour, and the girls scored quite a haul of candy that should fuel the next three weeks of sugar rushes.  Sam and I stayed back for the most part and merely kept a keen eye on them as they progressed door to door, asking politely for candy.  It was a nice family moment, the feelings of which eroded away my sour mood that marked the beginning of our trek.

Eventually, Lori started to grow tired and we began to make our way back home.  Abby and Lori both took inventory of their new-found candy treasures and their laughter and smiles served to fuel my soul.  For that brief moment, all was right in the world and I smiled.  It was at this time that I spotted another family making their way down the street.  I saw multiple children dressed as fairy tale princesses and various comic book heroes.  One hero stood out in particular:  Captain America.  A little boy, no older than maybe 5 or six was wearing a full Captain America Costume, with one glaring exception: his shield.  Without even thinking I approached the diminutive Super Soldier and asked him where his shield was?  His parents said he didn’t have one and I immediately removed my Captain America shield and gave it to him.  I told him Captain America can’t go far without his shield and wished the family well.  As I walked away I immediately thought to give them a ReesSpecht life card and realized that I had left my wallet in my car.  Oh well. I thought to myself, it’s the act that matters – Rees knows.  As we made our way home the thought that  I did not have ReesSpecht Life cards with me tugged at my brain like a child pulling their parent’s pant leg.

I really felt like I had missed an opportunity to share Rees’ message.  When we arrived home some 15 minutes later it was time for me to go pick up the pizza we had ordered earlier.  I grabbed a couple of ReesSpecht Life cards and decided that I was going to try and find Captain America’s family and give them the cards.  I drove around for about ten minutes before I spotted them, and when I did I immediately got out of my car and headed over to them.  My first thought was that these people are going to think I was some nutcase, or that I wanted my shield back.  I told them that I wanted to give them these cards when I gave their son the shield, but that I did not have any on me.  I politely asked them to pay the kindness forward and started to walk away.  It was then that Rees’ spirit intervened and the real trick and treat of this Halloween happened…

“Are you the father?” a woman asked.  I looked at this woman, who seemed vaguely familiar to me but I could not place her.  I replied that no, I was not the Boy’s father.  “No, the cards, Rees – are you Rees’ Father?” she said eyes wide open.  If this hadn’t happened to me before I would have been more surprised than I was, but with over 20,000 ReesSpecht Life cards out there, and 11,500 followers on facebook I am finding these moments are increasing in frequency.  I told her that I was indeed Rees’ father and what she said next sent a chill through me (rather apropos for halloween).  “I was the nurse in the ER on that day”, she tenderly said, “I was the one who wrapped him in the blanket and gave him to you”.  My whole world stopped right there.  I realized, in some ways, I was staring at the first Rees’ piece.  Her simple act of swaddling our little Boy so that we could hold him one last time was the ultimate gift in an untenable situation.  She gave us the gift of saying “Auf Wiedersehen” (I don’t believe in goodbye’s) and a last tender moment.  I immediately hugged this woman, whose name I forgot in the intensity of the moment, and thanked her.  I did not know what else to say.  She told me that what we were doing to honor him was “Beautiful” and I thanked her again and walked away, trying to hide my tears that just burst through the wall of my last reserves of will power.

I got in the car and immediately drove away, blubbering like a little child and thanking Rees out loud.  Again, he came to me when I needed it most.  Had I not forgotten the cards at home, or had I not had that nagging feeling to get them later this moment would never have happened.  Every time that doubt creeps into my mind, glimpses of Rees’ presence make themselves known.  In the past year I have seen too many signs, too many pieces of Rees to think that anything else could explain my experiences.  Today, of all days, when I faced a trial of life almost as difficult as losing Rees, he made himself known to me.  My gaze rarely needs to wander far to find Rees’ pieces – I find them everywhere now.  Prior to this past year I believed that every “amazing” or “unexplained” event we gave meaning to was merely a coincidence – a conformation bias we create to make ourselves feel better.  Rees’ pieces continue to prove otherwise:  I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…