July 9th, The Day After

Timing is everything, right? I’m not so sure. You see, the day after my oldest son Stephen died, I woke up screaming. I was living a nightmare and, at the same time, waking up to my youngest son’s birthday. This would be Scott’s first birthday without his big brother physically present. And, from that year forward, every birthday after.  

Thinking back, I’m not sure how I got through that. I was in a daze; confused and shocked. Yet somehow we did the thing we always do.  It was like we were running on instinct, a pattern of some sort. The birthday boy picks the restaurant and we go to dinner. From the moment of Stephen’s death we put one foot in front of the other. We had to. We had another child to take care of. A beautiful boy; Scott Henry Kress.

On July 9, 2017 we went to Texas Roadhouse. I can remember the exact booth we sat in and the feelings I had. I felt like I was in a different world. What the heck was I doing in a restaurant? This didn’t seem normal. But what’s normal anyway? Certainly, for Scott, normal is not watching your brother die the day before your 18th birthday. Yet, this is our story. A story where grief and joy live side by side and are acknowledged every day; especially July 8th and July 9th. And once again I ask “Why?” I’ll trust that God knows the answer to that. In scripture we read about this very same concept, joy mixing with long-suffering in God’s people:

With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation.  The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.
Ezra 3:10-13 (NLT)

I’ll never forget our friends Jeff and Robin who showed up at our house that evening with a bottle of wine. They sat and talked with us. They helped us get through this “anything but normal” day. They even took a picture of us. I was so tired I could hardly stand. This was our first picture without Stephen in it; only the Donate Life bracelets we wore in his honor.  Behind the smile I was holding a deep hurt; yet I smiled because Scott is worth celebrating. I believe in that moment it was God’s strength holding me up.

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

How do we do this every year? Each anniversary is a reminder that we will always be bereaved parents. And the very next day, we celebrate Scott’s life. It doesn’t seem real, but it is our reality. We remember Stephen and celebrate the 20 years we spent together. Humbled that God trusted us to be his parents. Thankful that we will see him again in eternity. An eternity that will last longer than 20 years. This truth keeps me going. My husband keeps me going. Scott keeps me going. God has surrounded me with people, like my amazing friends, who comfort me and give me strength. Because of them, I laugh a little harder and smile a lot more. Four years later, I know that grief and happiness can coexist. A mother’s love never dies. We hold onto our children and every detail about them. God brings purpose through pain and I feel blessed for my family, friends, and community that support me and my ministry called HUGS4LIFE. 

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:19 (ESV)

Today’s calendar reads July 9, 2021…Scott is 22 today. We have loved watching him grow into a patient, loving, caring person with a compassionate heart. He is a kind person and that makes me happy. This year he surprised us with a trip to Miami over his birthday. I thought this was super awesome! I love that he thinks of his parents and likes to spend time with us.

Scott is independent and has many dreams. He never gives up! He motivates me. He encourages me. He hangs out with his mom and I love spending time with him. He makes me smile. He will always be my “baby”. His determination to move forward inspires me to do the same. Ever since he was little he was involved in many things. From gardening, to taking care of every little critter you could imagine, to gymnastics, and archery. He never gives up and always gives 100 percent to what he is doing! I hope that will never change and that Scott will continue to confidently move forward in all the days to come. And we, his parents, will move alongside him every step of the way, cheering him on.   

Happy birthday Scott. We love you so much! July 9th will always be a very special day for us. God blessed us the day you came into our lives and made it better. Never forget that your brother loved you. In all the “days after,” God will be with you. Believe that. Hold onto it and never let go!!

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