The evening of 9/9/09 was spent the same way 6 out of my last 7 September 9ths have been spent: celebrating the life of a 6 year old boy I've never met. Travis would have been 16. He would have been excited to get his driver's license, maybe had a girlfriend, and he'd be all about football. Through a friend where I used to work, I met Travis' mom. Her story, though not mine to tell, is a heart wrenching story of sorrow and triumph. I have learned so much about living in community from these friends.
The party always has the same format: it's held outside near a garden planted with Travis' favorite veggies (in 10 years it's never rained this night), an opening prayer, a short devotional that incorporates part of Travis' short life, a song over which Travis' mom tells his story of cancer diagnosis, remission & relapse (from B105's St. Jude's fundraiser), memories of Travis shared, another song (You'll be in my Heart from the Disney Tarzan movie), a closing prayer then releasing green balloons - one for each year while singing 'Happy Birthday'.
I love it! Sad? Heartbreaking. But it's an event that is all about family, all about community. Neighbors, extended relatives, siblings & their friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and family all gather to remember Travis and celebrate his too-brief life. I love this community that comes together, because Travis is worth remembering, SO worth celebrating!
There's always tears. And there's always a neighbor comforting a family member. Or a 14 year old boy, who probably never met Travis, awkwardly patting the shoulder of his trying-to-be-brave friend. Or people like me who never knew Travis, but know his story, can see his legacy, and who are so honored to be there. And parents who hug their kids a little tighter.
So, hug the people you love today. Be nice to the people you meet. Help out when you can. Help out even when you think you can't. Bring a meal to someone, teach someone something, give a crazy-busy parent a break for an hour, make a date with your friends and don't come up with a reason to cancel. We are not in this alone. Love. Love. Love.
Because you never know what tomorrow brings.
I wonder if Travis knew he was going to teach us so much about love?