We are pleased to announce the arrival of our ReesSpecht Life 6″ x  6″ weatherproof car magnets!  Now you can let the world know you are one of Rees’ pieces 🙂  Below is a picture of the magnet on the back of our cars to give you a sense of scale:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can order your magnets right here on ReesSpechtLife.com!  Magnets sell invidually for $6.00 plus shipping, and orders of 2 or more are $5.00/magnet with FREE shipping.  International orders are subject to a small shipping fee added at checkout.  All proceeds from the sales of magnets go directly into our scholarship fund.  As always, thank you for your support!  We look forward to seeing Rees’ pieces out on the road!

[wpsc_products product_id=’1236′]








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I am worried…  Now for those of you reading who know me personally, you know that those words are almost alien to me.  If there is one thing that served to define me for most of my life it would be the fact that I do not worry about pretty much anything.  Bills?  They will get paid.  Paperwork? It will get done.  My weight?  I will lose it.  Regardless of just about any situation that life throws at me, I generally approach it with the same attitude:  I will get done what needs to get done when it absolutely must be done, and if as long as it doesn’t kill me I will not worry about it.  Up until the past sixteen months, there are few other times in my life where I did not approach life with this attitude.

My father used to complain to me that I never seemed to have  a sense of urgency about anything; admonishing me for having two speeds – slow and stop.  My father was right, I very rarely had a sense of urgency about anything.  This is certainly true for me at work.  The amazing secretaries we have at school all know that if there is a deadline for paperwork or other related duties I will most assuredly meet it, and by meet it I mean literally.  Not a second before.  In fact, a running joke I have with one of our secretaries is that my paperwork is guaranteed “fresh”, as it always represents the most up to date and recent activity on my part.  Ever since I was thirteen, I really never sweated the small stuff – and that is for good reason.

I was granted the gift of perspective on my thirteenth birthday.  For weeks leading up that day I had begun to develop symptoms that progressively worsened day after day.  What started as slightly blurred vision and a stiff neck burgeoned into me going cross eyed and blind in one eye with an incapacitating headache that was almost more than I could handle.  The night of my thirteenth birthday my father realized something was seriously wrong with me and he took me to the hospital.  When I arrived at the hospital the Doctors feared the worst.  I remember being oblivious to my parent’s demeanor as the Doctor said something to them in hushed tones that I was not meant to hear.  Later on I found out that the first doctor informed my parents that I was displaying the classic symptoms of an aggressive brain tumor that only a CT scan could confirm.

To this day I can remember the pings and whirs that CT scanner made as it took pictures of my brain.  I remember wondering what was going on, frustrated at the unknown, yet not worried.  Whatever was going to happen was going to happen.  There was nothing I could do about it.  Honestly, the pain was so bad I almost welcomed death as a reprieve.   The CT scan revealed nothing  (my brain was there, though my wife still argues the veracity of that claim), no growths,  no tumors,  no cancer.  New suspects emerged such as meningitis, but my symptoms did not match the classic definitions of a meningeal infection.  It was then that the Neurologist I owe my eyesight and probably life to, told my parents that he thought it may be a rare disease called Pseudo Tumor Cerebri.  My symptoms matched, but my demographic did not.  This was a disease found more often in women than men, and very rarely in children.  It was more common in obese people, but at the time I was not terribly overweight.  Regardless, he wanted to test me and the only way to do it was a spinal tap to measure my cerebrospinal fluid pressure.

My pressure was literally off the charts.   Normal pressure for someone my age was between 7 and 14 cm of H2O .  My doctor did not expect the pressure I had as apparently my pressure was so high it exceeded the markings on the reservoir of the needle.  My brain was literally being crushed by the very fluid meant to protect and cushion it.  I do not remember that first lumbar puncture – but I distinctly remember the next one several days later.  I guess the pain was so bad on the first one that I just did not feel the spinal tap at all.  That was not the case with the second.  My screams were so loud I recall my mother leaving the room, sobbing as she walked down the hallway trying to escape her helplessness to mitigate my pain.  I never screamed for another spinal tap after that.  I think it was the shock more than anything else…

After seeing countless more specialists, and dozens of spinal taps later, the disease was finally kept in check and I slowly returned to “normal” life.  I missed half of my seventh grade year and apparently rumors spread throughout my school that I had died.  Ironically, quite the opposite happened.  My brush with death at that age gave my thirteen year old self a dose of perspective that most teenagers never get.  Realizing how close I came to losing, at the very least, my eyesight – and at worst my life granted me a realization that life is tenuous and requires attention to the important things.  It was through this experience that I really came to recognize how futile it is to worry about things out of my control and to just take life as it is and embrace the good in it.  From that moment of my life I refused to “sweat the small stuff” and the me that never worried about anything was born.

I would not trade that experience for anything.  Although it cost me the eyesight in my right eye, I was granted a deeper vision of what is important in life.  My worries went by the wayside and I basically just took everything in stride.  That way of thinking defined me right up until Rees died.  Things changed after Rees died.  I think my own personal brush with, and escape from, death actually gave me a sense of invulnerability that was totally shattered on October 27th, 2012.  Rees’ death was a reminder of just how fragile life is.  I could have been Rees 25 years ago, with my Mother experiencing the pain I now do.  Instead, I survived only to see my son die from a completely preventable accident.  Was I so nonchalant about death that I never stopped to make sure that my friend was watching him?  If I had more worry in my life would I have checked to make sure Craig was doing what I asked him to do?  Was I too relaxed with life that I believed no harm could come to my family just because I managed to beat death?  Was I not worried enough??

I honestly do not know the answer to that question.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Regardless of that question, I can longer say that I do not worry.  Just as my brush with my own demise granted me one perspective on life, the loss of my son finds me faced with a new perspective grounded in the worry of experiencing even more loss.  I worry about my daughters all the time now.  I worry about my wife.  I worry.  Even things that should grant me happiness are now causes for worry:  I constantly worry that I will not succeed with ReesSpecht Life.  My worry makes me feel like I will allow Rees to die again if I cannot grow this movement into something that can meet my vision for it.  I want to provide scholarships for deserving students all over, not just in our local school.  I want people to be kinder to each other, if only a little bit, because my son’s spirit helped inspire them to.  I worry that the children’s book I wrote will not sell and that I will take it as a referendum on what people think about my little boy and what we are trying to do in his name.  I worry that I will not be able to continue to burn the candle at both ends and that either the foundation will suffer, or my students will.  I worry that I am giving too much time to ReesSpecht Life and not enough time to my wife or my little girls – even though they constantly assure me that I am not.  I worry about an unknown future where I have to make a decision between teaching or running the foundation full time.  I worry.

The very last words  I ever said to Samantha in front of Rees were “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”.  I wish I could take my own advice now.  I used to not sweat the small stuff, but now I find that I am obsessed with it.  There are so many hopes that I have for the future and my worry that they will not come to pass makes the little things I used to not sweat seem like insurmountable obstacles to success.  Every fundraiser we do, every post I make on facebook, I worry that people will just lose interest and move on.   Maybe before Rees died I did not worry enough, but now I find myself on the other side of the spectrum.  Hopefully, one day, I will find the balance.  Until that day comes I will continue to move forward as we have – trying to make this world a better place one Rees’ piece at a time.

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I miss my little boy.  The fact that I write that should come as no surprise to anyone, but my reason for writing that may…  You see there are times where I do not miss Rees.  – now before you stop reading and turn off your computer in disgust, bear with me. –  There are times where I forget that Rees is gone.  Times where my life is just as it ever was and my days are completely indiscernible from the days prior to his death.  These times are few and far between, yet I have noticed their duration apparently burgeons on a daily basis.  With each passing day I notice the constant pain that followed immediately after Rees’ passing seems to yield, ever so slightly, to a peace that no longer seems alien to me.  Unfortunately, that peace comes at a price…  All of the sudden, out of nowhere, I am reminded that Rees is gone and I feel that pain all over again and I find myself missing my little man.  It’s a pain that is indescribable and immeasurable.  Every time it happens, I lose my little boy all over again.  Every single time.

Nothing that I described is out of the ordinary for a parent that loses a child.  I know this pain will be a lifelong one, and I realize that what I am going through now is all a part of the grieving process, whose very job it is to ensure that I can go on functioning and be a productive member of society.  Even though I am aware of the process that grieving entails, I find it quite perplexing.  The whole process seems paradoxical in that its designed to heal you by taking things from you…  In the beginning of the process  you find yourself holding on to everything about your lost loved one’s life in a mad scramble reminiscent of someone trying to save a family heirloom from a fire.   Your brain overloads trying to process everything that person was in a vain hope to place it all in a safe location so that you may recall it at a later date.  As the days pass you start to wonder if you are already forgetting parts of their life with you as you face little moments where you accept the fact they are no longer here.  As time continues its inevitable march you stop worrying about holding onto those little things mostly because you start to fear you are forgetting the bigger picture.  Meanwhile, at the same time you find yourself going a greater amount of time without remembering or thinking about your loved one’s absence.  Before you know it, your life sets into a new routine in which that person is simply no longer a major part of your daily life, you accept it,  and  you enter what many call “The new normal”.

I hate the “New Normal”.  For me, it means that my life is in a place where I am supposed to be able to function as I used to, and for the most part I do.  The “new normal” is the place where your friends and family want you to be so that they no longer have to worry is he ok?  When the new normal is reached I think most people assume your life is back on track and you are ready to move forward and all is well.  The kid gloves come off and people expect that you are good to go.  This is really the hardest time in the entire process.  It is the time where the inner you wants to scream “NO!  I AM NOT OK!”, with the outer you belying any such notion.  It’s the time you find yourself crying for no reason in moments of solitude, and often times faking a smile to insulate those you care about from your pain.  I often refer to this phenonomenon as “the hidden me” – as almost no one knows that you are going through it at the time.  The end result of the “new normal” is that, in reality, a new YOU is made…

There definitely is a new me that came into existence on October 27th, 2012.  This new me is less brash, confident and social.  The new me has fears the old me would have laughed off as needless worries.  Recent events in my life which should elicit utter joy, have instead filled me a dread fueled by my knowledge that life can change in a nanosecond – and not everything can be fixed.  To my old self, the new me living in this “new normal” would appear to be a gross aberration of what I once was: broken and not quite “right”.  It’s like a shattered porcelain doll that once glued back together takes up the same physical space and form yet always feels broken due to all the cracks in its visage.  I often wonder how much my cracks are showing to those around me…

Not everything about the new me is a negative change however.  The events that transpired after Rees’ passing, both good and bad, placed me on the course I find myself on today.  I knew early on in this process that Samantha and I needed to do something positive lest we be consumed by our grief and despair.  I had the guidance of those who lost children before me to help steer my course and give me guidance.  I was aware of the challenges and keen to avoid the pitfalls.  It seems that, almost universally, parents who lose a child either transcend the loss with something positive or they fall into the abyss and never recover.  It is almost as if there is literally no middle ground in this situation.  The loss either allows you to magnify your virtues or your vices, never anything in-between.  I knew the course I had to follow and I believe that path was set by Rees.

I used to suffer from terrible night-terrors for years.  Night after night I would awaken from my sleep with an overwhelming fear of the presence of something “else” that was in the room watching me.  I never could place my finger on what it was, but in my stupefied state I seemed to have an awareness of it that faded when true consciousness returned to me.  Sam used to ask me what it was, and I never could explain it – almost like it was something that was just at the edge of my recollection.  Regardless of what the presence was (Sam used to joke it was the aliens from my homeworld that wanted me back), the feeling I got from it was always the same:  I did not succeed in what I was supposed to do and my time was nearing an end.  Often times I would awaken so startled from this experience I would jump out of bed and turn the lights on screaming unintelligibly back at “it”.  Sam would always calm me down and ease me back to sleep.  Of and on this happened for more than 10 years.

It all stopped a week after Rees died.  The last night terror I had was that night.  As I recall it started the same way, but this time there was a difference.  There was no nebulous presence, it was clear this time who it was: Rees.  He wasn’t my 22 month old Rees though, it was his spirit, his essence – his soul that was talking to me.  I remember seeing lights darting across my bedroom ceiling like electrical signals zipping across a circuit board.  I never saw Rees, I just “heard” him and saw these lights.  I remember reaching my hands up towards the ceiling at them, and I recall the message loud and clear:  “You know your path now, you know what you have to do.”  The commotion woke Sam up and she grabbed my outstretched arms and put them down.  She started talking me down like she always did, but this time I was calm.  This time I was at peace.  I told her what I saw, and that what we had talked about in regards to ReesSpecht life was the path we needed to follow and Rees wanted us to.  She never questioned it and though I know those lights and his voice was not there in the room for her to see, it was for me.  I don’t care if my brain was making all of that up – it was real to me and it was an affirmation of what we were about to do.

I am not a religous man.  I was raised Catholic but I do not practice any religion at all anymore.  I admit that at one point in my life I was a devout Atheist.  I did not believe in anything greater than that which I could observe.  That all started to change after my father passed away (Read Goodbye to see why).  Whatever doubt I had about something greater than me has since vaporized in the wake of Rees’ passing.  Too many things have occurred that I can not write off as merely coincidence.  I believe that Rees was put here by a higher power to change our lives.  I truly, deeply believe it.  I don’t care if people think I am crazy for that thought.  I believe it, it’s what drives my wife and I to do what we do, and in the end  that is all that matters.

A couple of weeks ago we received a really horrible message from someone who accused me of trying to capitalize off of Rees’ death.  She admonished my wife and I for doing what we do merely for a little boy “Who toddled off and drowned”.  To her, our loss was nothing compared to the loss that others have gone through and we seemingly had no right to do what we were doing because we simply did not experience the magnitude of loss that she apparently thought we needed to start something like this.  To her, and anyone else who would question why we are doing this, my answer is simple:  We believe it is what we need to do.  I believe in ReesSpecht Life and the kindness it promotes without any sense of doubt whatsoever because I feel there is something higher telling me this is what I was meant to do.  I don’t have anything empirical that backs this up, but then again that is precisely what faith is all about.  I may have my doubts about whether or not we will achieve our goals, but that is healthy.  Doubt fuels the fire of success.  Without doubt there would be nothing to strive for, because all would guaranteed.  My new normal has me in a place where I am a changed man with doubt; the difference is that doubt is countered by a faith a I never had before.  I miss my little boy… but I thank him every night for the faith he gave me that we can make this a better world, one Rees’  Piece at a time.

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