"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."

– Romans 8:14

Today Was Your Birthday

Another year has passed by. Thanksgiving was without your presence yet again. Your plate with just a roll and maybe a little bit of turkey wasn't at the table this year. Whenever our families are gathered together, I know that you're on at least a few of our minds. You're not there to talk to, joke around with, or even just give me disapproving looks on my behavior. Yeah I know I could be a punk sometimes, but I knew you still loved me. You knew that no matter how much I messed with you, or made fun of your picky eating habits, I still loved you. It was just how we were. We were cousins, and we grew up together. All of the kids in our families were pretty much brothers and sisters when I look back at it. The sheer time we all spent together running around the yard at Nanna and Pappa's house, playing video games, and going to church together can attest to that. No matter how much we may have got sick of each other, we were still a family, and there was a lot of love.

It's hard to endure the thought that another Christmas will be passing by without you here. No gift with your name on it will be placed under the tree. I won't be carrying a present with your name on it in the truck to take it up to Nanna and Pappa's house. There won't be any well thought out and clever gift from me to you. Remember the Christmas I got you a loaf of french bread? I would have to say that that was my best. Loaf of French Bread: $3.99, Wrapping Paper: $4.99, the look on your face from receiving bread as a Christmas present: PRICELESS. And it was priceless for sure. Because never again will I be able to give you a present like that in this life.

It's not the same without you here. It's like a part of our family is missing. Whenever I walk through the dining room and look up at the portraits of all us kids, with you right in the front surrounded by Alison, Anthony, Jarad, Jesse and myself, I can't help but get choked up. That was only 2 years ago, but everything has completely changed. We're all still here, but I guess God needed you more, so He took you up.

I remember it all like it had happened yesterday. It was a hot July day and I had just finished working out at the high school. There were several missed calls from both my Mom and Dad. I tried my mom but there was no answer. Next call was to my dad and he picked up after a few rings. At this point, I was already on 202 headed home when he started telling me that I had to go to Snoqualmie to meet up with him and my cousin Jesse to drive down to Seattle. I almost didn't turn around. I almost kept driving on 202 to North Bend. But something about his voice told me that I had to go. So I turned around, and met up with them at the Shell gas station on the ridge. The drive to Children's wasn't like the ones I had made with you and Nanna during your treatment. There was a solemnity about it. No one really said anything. I followed behind my dad all the way to the U-District. We arrived at Children's in about an hour.

I still have the visitor's pass from that day. I always made fun of you for being such a pack-rat, but here I am with this little piece of paper with my named spelled incorrectly, on my wall. I know you'd be calling me a hypocrite for sure. We rode the elevator to the Third Floor in silence.

That walk to your room took ages. It was only about 30 steps from the elevator, but it felt like an eternity. Curtains were pulled from all sides to cover the windows but my mom opened the door for us and let us enter the darkened room.

A room filled with our family was the first sight I took in. My mom and Nanna were bedside to you, Pappa was sitting in the chair a few feet away with Jarad on the arm of the chair. Pastor Pete and Vivian were standing close by near my mom and Nanna. Doctors and nurses filled the back wall of the room. Some with tissues, others quietly standing next to their co-workers. But they all seemed to disappear when I saw you laying in the hospital bed. I couldn't look straight at you for more than a few seconds. I was just a kid. I had no idea what was going on. An image of you in such a weakened state, like you were literally being held to this world by a string. I couldn't handle it. I stood there in the corner of the room for minutes without saying or doing anything. I probably wouldn't have even gone to your bedside if my Mom didn't call me over to say hi to you.

A sinking feeling hit my stomach as I walked up to the hospital bed. Before getting there, a breathing tube had to be inserted down your throat and just by looking at you I knew that you weren't having it. My mom quietly said to you "Jori. Kasey's here." Even though you were in such a weakened condition, your head slightly turned to the left and I knew that you knew I was there. In that moment everything seemed to fade away. It was just us as a family, together with you. I know that our Savior was in that room with us. Because as time went on, an indescribable peace fell about the room.

An image of that day will forever be etched into my memory. The looks of pain and hurt on the faces of everyone I cared about will never disappear. But the one part of that day that will always stick with me until the day I go home, is the peaceful look you had as your spirit left your body.

Your spirit went to a place where there is no more hurt, no more pain, no more suffering. Only eternal paradise, filled with worshipping and praising our God and Savior. I'll never forget that day and you will forever be my inspiration to continue in my walk as a Christian even when the times are tough and I don't know what the future holds.

You are a warrior and my hero, forevermore.

Happy Birthday.

Jori Marie Rieke

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