Hi Baby. I love you. I miss you more than words can adequately describe in this world. Yesterday was the kind of day that tugged on our heartstrings even more than our typical 9th, and one mixed with a more somber tone as well.
Yesterday, your baby cousin became older than you. You lost another place in the family chronology, and my heart sank to another depth I didn’t want to explore. I want her to live and thrive but I want you to be there playing and growing, too. This is something that will never make sense to me and one I know I will wish over and over during every happy moment with her. I know you guys would’ve had an absolute BALL playing and pretending together. My heart aches not ever getting that chance. In the same moment, I am also grateful she was sent here, and I know it did everyone’s heart well to see her in her purple t-shirt “dress” as she spread love for you.
As you also know, Grandma Faye is with you now so we all got together to celebrate her life yesterday as well. It was impossible to be fully mentally present for a variety of reasons, but I did my best. There were intense, unpleasant memories from searching for a cemetery for you, and that had Mommy’s anxiety at full throttle even before I left the house. Several other factors were not helping the situation as well but I’ll spare you those details.
There is still an uneasiness about everything and I will always be kicking myself for NOT going to visit Grandma on the day we had planned. We were going to surprise her on the 4th but Daddy’s bike showed it was due to arrive early and fear of it being stolen kept us away. I had decided I would just go see her by myself but another kind of fear dashed those plans, too. Instead, we were going to go see her at her new place on Saturday, but she died the next day. I even specifically mentioned “there might not be a Saturday for Grandma,” but fears won the day. I of all people know that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us. Grandma and I had even talked about the fact that her age meant she was in the final chapter of her life. Still, I wish I would’ve had a chance to see her one more time, to hug and kiss her, tell her “well done,” and that it was okay to let her weakened and aching body give up the struggles of this life.
I still don’t quite understand why since losing you, I haven’t been consumed by rage like I was when I lost my daddy or others I will always love. Maybe it is because I am still too in a fog or all of it was used up on the ME’s office and the (insert all the naughty words here) that was so callous when we were “cemetery shopping.” Even thinking about it makes my heart race so Mommy’s blood was boiling in my veins before I even arrived. My head was going in a million and one different directions but on my way into the chapel a very well-placed white feather was waiting for me in the grass. Thank you.
Since it was the 9th, Mommy wore your Caleb Effect shirt and made sure to choose a blue one since that was Grandma’s favorite color. Times like this make me wonder if you would’ve had a favorite as well. Do you have a favorite now? I hear that in heaven there are even more colors than we have on Earth so maybe your favorite color is a color I don’t even know exists and one that is too beautiful to see with human eyes.
I had been to this chapel for other services in the past but hadn’t remembered the name. The “Chapel of the Rose,” interesting. It was another warm July day outside but it gave the stained-glass roses appear even brighter having the sun glowing behind it. Grandma had a variety of friends and family at her service and the purest white, plump roses covering her baby blue casket. It was a short service which seemed appropriate since Grandma wasn’t the type who liked a lot of attention or people fussing over her. Even when Daddy and I would bring her cheap fast food she tried to pay us for it but she knew it was an argument she wasn’t going to win. After it was over, “Aunt Gin-ny” came up to me with one of the oversized roses in her hand. She said “Grandma wanted me to give this to you.” I didn’t see anyone else with a rose so that hit me pretty hard. Wow. Please tell her “thank you” for Mommy. I feel special and guilty all at the same time. Help me carry out some of the ideas that are brewing, Baby Bear.
Whew. I gave out all my hugs and then we were off to be Nice On The 9th. I couldn’t leave the rose in the car to wither so I made a mad dash home before meeting up with our little crew. Much to my surprise, I also retrieved another package from your friend, Jennifer, with items sent for the Exodus House and New Day Camp!
We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all of our projects for the 9th without your friends with big hearts so please show up to them in ways only you are able. You probably already know this by now, but yesterday our focus was on prison outreach. This is not something I really ever thought very much about, but several months ago Daddy felt like this was a topic that needed your attention. There were several other signs immediately following this that confirmed this should be on our radar but we originally intended to highlight this in April. We didn’t have all the pieces we needed to do the event the way we wanted so we decided to postpone it at the last second. Mommy has never been great at remembering details but April was the month we chose to be Nice On The 9th to the elderly instead. Grandma Faye was one of the people we visited that day. If the topics were swapped from April to July, we wouldn’t have been able to surprise Grandma with a visit. Yet another “wow moment.”
Want to hear another “wow?” Mommy wrote out 9 example notes and letters to be given to kids who have one or more parent in prison, those who are newly released from prison, and people still currently serving time. Since we lost Grandma 4 days before the event, we thought it would be a nice tribute to her to have at least 91 letters and pictures created in honor of each of her years of life. I honestly didn’t know if this would be a realistic goal and had prepared myself for writing additional letters if the target was too lofty. However, your friends absolutely rocked it and made 97 letters and pictures to take to the various groups.
We only had time to visit the Exodus House, but Mommy will be taking the other donations and letters to the other groups on her own next week. We met everyone at the Exodus House and got to hear how special each of these notes is to the new tenants. I already told you how something so simple became a turning point for Tony Altizer, a graduate and now Facilities Manager, but it bears repeating. After reading the note that was left for him on his new bed he said, “I had no idea what love looked like. That’s what addiction is. When I was shown somebody loved me and didn’t know me, that was a new concept to me.”
The Exodus House shows people that kind of love and we wanted them to feel the magical powers of yours, too. Former inmates who are typically condemned from society after serving a prison sentence are provided a 6-month, residential program where they are taught life skills, tools for dealing with addiction, unhealthy relationships, a positive spiritual connection with a God who loves them, and all kinds of other amazing things that would make this message even longer than it is getting.
I know this topic is outside the realm of comfort for many. It probably would’ve stretched the old me, too. Why would we help people who have committed crimes or caused hurt to themselves, their families, and innocent people?
When planning your memorial service there were people who hadn’t always treated us or some of the people we love most very fairly. Daddy and I were talking about if we should invite them and all we could think about was that you didn’t have any grudges. You wouldn’t care if everyone in the entire world was invited so we let everyone know it was an open invitation to honor and celebrate you the way you would’ve wanted. That lesson, Baby Boy is something we’ve carried with us and one that first made me coin the phrase “The Caleb Effect.” Every “Caleb Card” we hand out when people ask us what The Caleb Effect is, or when they ask us “Do you have kids?” says it. “Caleb smiled with his whole face & loved unconditionally with his whole heart. He never knew a stranger & gave love freely to everyone he met. Caleb is still making the world a better place. Embrace Caleb’s effect in your own life: Do something kind for someone else today. Say “I love you” & mean it. Forgive. Don’t wait.”
Since your service we’ve heard from other people that without you, people who normally would never be in the same building together have gathered and even reconciled. We’ve said “I love you” and hugged people that we never dreamed we would embrace. We aren’t perfect at this and we know you still have your work cut out for you, but we hope we represented you well yesterday.
I love you, Caleb Lennon. What a 9th.
Give Grandma extra kisses for us until we can finally make it there, too.
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
As we were going home, Adam noticed this...coincidence?