The finality of death is never really truly comprehended until you face it and stare down its gaping maw. When I peer down the abyss I see that my little boy is gone forever from the mortal plane and will never, ever grace me with his physical presence ever again. When I look around my home I see constant reminders of the life he lived for those brief 22 months. I moved the couch the other day only to find one of his little cars that he no doubt left behind to pursue some other grand adventure and never, ever will play with again. When I found it my initial reaction was to leave it there as it was something that connected him to me. I did not want to “clean it up” as that symbolically would mean I am removing him even more from my world. As time passes, finding pieces of him grows more and more rare yet those moments still arise, and when they do I am re-acquainted with that acute pain and recognition of his absence.
I recognized early on in this ordeal that the only way for my soul to survive this loss was to do something to honor his memory so that I, and my family, could keep his spirit alive for not just us but others as well. I wanted, selfishly in some respects, to create something that would keep more than just his memory with me. I endeavored to create something that would perpetuate his spirit for as long as I walk this Earth and in the process do something that would make an impact in other’s lives. ReesSpecht Life was born out of the dual dynamic of self-preservation and a need to help others as we were helped. ReesSpecht life is what mitigates those dark times when I find pieces of Rees with the hope that we can make a difference in this world in his name.
Our first step at making a difference occurred in April as we purchased meals for 3 families in our community that were dealing with their own significant losses. Sam and I could not help but feel Rees’ presence when we made that order. The next, and most financially significant goal we accomplished, was awarding our two $1000.00 scholarships in Rees’ name at our district’s two High Schools. I felt Rees’ spirit in that auditorium the night we awarded those scholarships, and I know that all of those present felt it too. That night I saw Rees making a difference in other’s lives from beyond the barrier of death and it elevated my soul to a new plane.
Our most recent attempt at making a difference is the first act that affirms what I wrote in my essay “Why?”(click link to read if you have not already). A month or so ago my wife was informed about a little girl named Julia who was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. This brave little girl had been in and out of hospitals for the past couple of years and has not yet conquered the cancer trying to claim her. When asked what she wanted the most she stated very simply: “a pen pal”. Upon hearing this my daughter Abigail, who is Julia’s age, immediately volunteered to be her pen pal. We then asked family members if there was anything else she required or wanted and we were told that there were special head coverings she preferred so we ordered them. Her family told us that due to the nature of her illness she had to limit her contact with others due to her compromised immune functioning.
A pen pal, it seems, was one way for little Julia to connect to someone outside of the medical personnel and immediate family members that attend to her on daily basis. Abigail was excited about the prospect of writing to Julia but lamented the fact she would not be able to meet with her until she was healthy. It was at that moment that my little girl had the idea of making the pen pal something more than pen and paper. She recognized that if it were impossible for others to visit with her directly, perhaps there was another way to talk to her and make contact: through Apple’s facetime on an iPad. I immediately asked Samantha if we could do this through the foundation and we purchased the iPad and a ReesSpecht Life case and waited until the time was right to give the gift to Julia and her family.
Sadly, Julia’s health has gone through more downs than ups recently and coordinating a meeting just was not feasible. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with Julia’s Mom, Erin trying to arrange a meeting so we could present this gift to her. Her strength and resolve to do whatever she could for her little girl resonated so strongly with me. She commented on how strong she thought my wife and I were for doing what we are doing in Rees’ name, but I told her it is she who is the strong one. What happened to Rees literally happened in an instant and our pain was acute. Julia’s mother has endured the torturous act of watching her little girl grapple with a disease that has a 50% chance of killing her and has remained steadfast in her determination to see her daughter get better. I understand all to well that perspective is a funny thing in these matters, and strength is merely an outsiders interpretation of how people survive in circumstances they never wish to find themselves in.
We sent the package to Julia yesterday, and she received her iPad today. Julia’s Mom texted my wife the picture you see attached. If ReesSpecht Life were to suddenly cease to exist from this moment on that picture will stay with me forever as a reminder that we accomplished what we set out to do: change the world. When I say change the world it is all a matter of perspective as the world we changed wasn’t the Earth as a whole, it was Julia’s. My little boy continues to grant me the gift of perspective and with this new found perspective I see things much differently than I used to. Looking at that picture I see my two smiles – one from a little girl who now can make contact with others where previously she could not, and the other from my little boy whose spirit made that possible. Our little boy’s life was brief, but in that picture I can see his legacy is eternal.
P.S. If you wish to support Julia in her fight against cancer you can follow her facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Julia/209083372495616