At this point eight years ago, I was probably trying to get some sleep but failing miserably because of the anticipation of your arrival. It may have even been around the time your grandpa was sleeping sitting up in the room. I know both your grandmas were up and chatting and trying to pass the time. I am pretty sure your Aunt Rachel was there, ball cap on and coffee in hand. Your Daddy was sprawled in the recliner to my left, leg crossed over one another and probably trying to rest, too. At 6:23 this very day 8 years ago, our lives would all change. You came into this world and you were placed into each of our arms-and left the biggest imprint on our hearts. No one here could have ever comprehended the journey that would be started a short 3.5 years later. It's been hard and it's been moving.
This year has been different then the others. I feel as a family unit, we all have grown closer. I know it's a cascading effect from our experiences with you in our lives and our experiences learning how to continue on with you in our memories. Your Aunts and Uncles welcomed in new members of the family. It was with you that their closest and truest forms of learning to love something so little started. It's carried on into each of the kisses and hugs they give your nieces and nephews. I know my kisses and hugs to them is sweetened with your memory. In those kids, your legacy grows. Your great grandpa joined you this year. His passing was a shock to all of us. For me, it's still sometimes a surprise that he isn't here. I find him on my mind more then I thought would happen. His life and passing is another reminder of how quickly life is-and coupled with all our experiences of having you leave physically, I think made us all revisit what matters most. You get the new great grandpa experiences at this moment and I can hear his laugh at all your antics when I close my eyes and imagine.
We all have had separate and intimate moments with God this year, most are internalized but the start with the relationship change was built upon your life. For me, my whole heart is strengthened as our family joins together under the cross. Your Daddy and I gave Jake his first Bible recently. Your brother has grown so much as a little first grader this year. From the beginning, I wondered what role Jake would play as he stepped into oldest brother/second born. You would be so proud of him. I am. He is such a smart little boy. You should see him with his newest love-Legos. He is getting to a point where talk is easier with him as he can comprehend more. It may lead to harder questions but I know it will be met with true answers. The care he gives your sister is much like what I know you would have shown Andrew. How you did show Andrew in the too few moments you had with him. Your littlest brother has boomed this year, too. I know you would have probably kept him contained in all his crazy-or maybe encouraged it! Andrew continues to be sour and sweet. The emotions that radiate through his little body is exhausting but his heart is so big. Sometimes I wonder if you have a hand in his little caring heart. Your sister continues to be a light to anyone she encounters. It's becoming even more evident recently. Just in the past few days alone, I have had multiple people exclaim how special she is. And she is. She really is. There aren't many little sisters that get to have 3 brothers-one who already knew her before she was gifted to us. I think-I know-there is a part of you in her that radiates from the inside out. It was my prayer, after all, that she always know you and knows her special role in this family. I think deep within her, she does truly know who you are. It may seem that I focus on her so much, but in her, I can see and feel God's grace. She was a gift we all didn't ever know we needed. Your Daddy and I continue to experience healing and growth. It isn't always easy and when the hurt does come, it really hurts because we love and miss you so very much, but together, we do it. I know you would be so proud of us and the bond we have. I love your Daddy so much.
This birthday, I think it's setting in more of how long you have not been here with us. Eight sounds so old. I think of the milestone years I have yet to encounter and it seems so daunting. Scary. But, here I do sit with another birthday year enveloping my mind and I am making it. This year, Jake and Andrew started learning about others. We collected a Christmas Child box in your honor and tonight we get to sit under the majesty of a Christmas celebration at church. It really will be the perfect way to honor you and your life. Without God's promise and gift of His son, I-we-would not have such a emboldening assurance of everlasting salvation and eternity with you. In the worst of worsts, in the dark and hurting thoughts, that still shines brightest. I know for me, as I celebrate and witness such a testimony to Jesus' birth, your birth and life will not be far from my thoughts. After all, God gave me you as a son to save me.
I love you with every bit of my being, sweet boy. You will always be my Dan man, monkey man. My first born. My promise of goodness and light.
Happy birthday, Daniel. I love you.