I will blog about my amazing experience in DC lobbying for childhood cancer. I will blog about Gideon's first experience at Camp Catch a Rainbow with all of the other children fighting cancer. I will blog about Brody's amazing seventh birthday... I will blog about it all, but first...
First I need to say that two amazing people lived two doors down from me when I first moved to Kalamazoo. We lived on a cozy Milwood street where every house seemed to breathe with its own character and charm. The houses had more stories than the people who owned them, there is no doubt about that. Old and thick tree trunks lined the road, and perennials from what seemed to have been planted a million years ago popped up huge and impressive in every garden. I loved it there. I loved that we closed down our street to have our own summer festival. I loved how everyone helped one another out.
My favorite neighbors, the Oudings, stood out above the rest. Katie ran her own daycare out of her home and I tried and tried to get Brody in as one of her charges, but the girl was TOOOOO popular. I was forever on a waiting list. It was no surprise as to the reason. She ran her daycare with a sweet calmness that seeped with learning and exploration. She loved those children and poured herself into them (she reminds me a lot of the boys' current daycare provider, thankfully).
Mike, her hubby, was into the same quirky movies I was into and it was beyond easy to talk to both Mike and Katie. When we had to move away, I think I cried about the house as well as leaving such an amazing street. A couple of months before the move, Katie introduced me to her "instant family" as she called it. She and Mike adopted three Liberian siblings: Christian, Blessing and Vic. Vic watched us guardedly, but it was obvious that this little honey had a ton of personality. Blessing smiled happily when she met Brody and me on our walk. Then there was Christian. I will never forget the way he went right up to baby Brody and instantly connected with him. Christian seemed to have that "big brother" charm with the little ones. He had a true glow of life that poured out of his eyes, and he was so very polite.
Unfortunately, this was my only one-on-one experience with the children as the Oudings moved to the Grand Rapids area soon after we moved. Thankfully, we stayed connected through Facebook. I happily watched as their family grew in size and in number. When Gideon was diagnosed, Katie and Mike showered countless comforting and loving words on us. They made me laugh over our "little girl mullet" comparisons that both Katie and I sported back in the day, and they just are a family I truly look up to and respect.
They were there for me through my tragedy, and now I am finding it impossible to find a way to be there through theirs. Tomorrow I will be going to the visitation for Christian, their oldest child, who lost his life to Lake Michigan. He was a true soccer prodigy, and he never lost that glow of friendliness that made such a deep impression on me. Here is where I am lost. Here is where I just want to pull out my hair and scream out "WHY". Ouding family, your grace through this tragedy is nothing short of miraculous. I wish I had something I could say or do to lift some of the crushing heaviness that is the weight of losing your son. That is impossible.
The only thing I can think of is to send out this story of your incredible family on Gideon's cancer blog. As tiny as it is, all I can do right now is send out a message to everyone else, everyone else who still has a family with living and breathing children within the four walls you are blessed enough to call a "home" (including myself):
- Never leave one another without an "I LOVE YOU."
- Inboxes are inboxes, dust is dust, messiness is messiness, and it will always be that way. Kids will not always be kids, so stop stressing about things that will not matter in 20 years, and LIVE.
- Bask in memories and moments.
- Surround yourself with supportive and understanding people. People who do not feel that they are "owed", but continuously reach out with loving hearts and gracious spirits. A friend is someone who you may not see or talk to often, but when you are together, it feels like home.
- Be yourself and open yourself up to let the people in your life change you for the better.
- Focus on the blessings in your life and do not let negativity cloud what you have in the here and now.
- Do not look sideways at the people around you and the things of this world. Focus inward and let all that is in, out. Shine that soul of yours to others every single day, the way Christian did.
So many prayers are headed in your direction, Ouding family. Everyone who reads this, please do the same and pray. Thank you.