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I'm late as usual in posting this but this topic was chosen for a very special reason that is more emotional than most to discuss. I had to stop multiple times and do something else but it's finally done and pictures are uploaded.
Thank you to everyone who donated supplies to help our schools. If you didn't watch the Facebook Live video, you will notice these pictures don't even quite do it justice. We will post our donation to F.D. Moon Elementary as well when we get to go visit them. Thank you also to everyone who sent me personal notes to share all the ways you were Nice On The 9th in Caleb's honor. We sincerely hope this allows kids a little nourishment in their bodies, paper and pencils in their backpacks, and less time and personal resources being forced out of teachers' humble paychecks. Caleb has some pretty special people spreading love for him. Join us next month on the 9th and stay tuned for a special opportunity for teachers all over the map.
Hi Baby. I love you. Mommy is so worn out she feels like a slug trying to make it through an Ironman. I don’t want to have to work so hard or so slow just to make it a few inches but I know that is what I’m supposed to do for you. However, I realize if I let the sweat and tears win, the salt will dissolve my flesh and leave me silently melting into the ground. I’m not even trying to compete; I just want to cross the finish line for you.
I’m still trying to “be nice,” but there is no way for you to realize how much some people make that ESPECIALLY difficult! I’ve spared you the details from people you know and plenty you don’t who test my patience on a regular basis. Baby Boy, you will figure it out on your own, but if I’m supposed to keep at least part of my brain sane, please go ahead and remove those who don’t deserve a front row to my life or at least send them way up into the balcony (or maybe even into someone else’s balcony).
You are ALWAYS at the top of my mind so luckily for hot heads in traffic with more horsepower than IQ points, I’m more conscious of my reactions. There was one such genius behind me yesterday who decided to honk at me for not turning despite the steady flow of cars that would’ve slammed into me. I didn’t give him the hand gesture or stare down he deserved, but I did say some things to myself that I would’ve done my best not to let you learn. Just as you can’t hear these kinds of words from where you are, neither could the other driver. However, I don’t know if it’s this special moon phase or whatever that I keep hearing about, but please remind everyone 16 and older that a regular green light means you have to wait for people moving in the opposite direction before you get to turn left. Do you remember how I was teaching you the rules of traffic and what each light meant?
Okay, now that that is out of my system I have some other things that have been weighing heavily on my mind and soul. I know I’ve told you this before, but your little fish friends do still come to mind often, “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Mommy is “wimming,” but just like Dory, I forget what I’m doing and lose my way constantly. Maybe you are used to this by now or you just know you really are thought of literally non-stop. Still, I’m sorry it has taken me this long to have enough energy to write to you and tell you about the 9th.
I miss you in a way that makes my heart physically ache for you. I actually thought I might be having a heart attack the other night, but I think it was just a mixture of missing you and our old friend, acid reflux. Remember the way you used to soak Mommy literally from head to toe until we figured out dairy was a “no go” for both of us?
One of your last appointments confirmed you inherited this condition from both of your parents. If I had known you wouldn’t be here much longer, I wouldn’t have made you go through with the visit or drink the thick, potent, concoction you were NOT at all happy to ingest. I wouldn’t even care if you threw up on me now because that would mean you would still be in my arms. However, because you went, and despite only meeting new friends at the clinic one time, you left an impression on every person you met that day. One of the nurses even remembered how joyful and intelligent you were and wrote in the sympathy card recalling how you were showing off for her and singing “rain, rain go away.”
I knew you were and always will be special but it was nice when other people noticed, too. Every single day we had with you brought more joy than I can ever capture with simple, mortal words. I’ve never laughed so hard or smiled so wide as when you threw your toddler arms around my neck and squeezed every bit of love and worry straight out of my heart. I’ve never been loved by anyone the way you gave your sweetest, pure affections to me. I miss every pat on the back and infectious giggle. I tell you all the time but it’s true. I miss every single thing about you, Caleb Lennon. People didn’t even have a choice whether or not to love you. As soon as they saw you, even from afar, it was over. I hope even though people only get to see you from afar now, they still recognize your spirit and fall in love instantaneously even if they never had the privilege of cuddling you in their arms. I want them to still talk about you and to know you are still helping all of us figure out how to be patient and grateful for the people we take for granted.
Baby Boy, we had lived enough life to experience profound losses (and extremely close potential ones). We really did do our best to take in the little moments and record the time so we could go back and relive the moments together as you grew older. That probably adds to the fact that every second we have to spend without you here is that much more agonizing. Our hearts continue beating even when we wonder how that is even humanly possible after being dealt such a traumatic, horrific blow. We cry with an overflow of love our bodies cannot contain. We know what we are missing not having you here but we also grieve every plan we had already envisioned for you.
You would’ve bid farewell to your friends at daycare this week (Would you have called it “4s?”). I would’ve been sad to leave a place that became so comfortable and fun for you and hugged all your friends and teachers who cared for you so well. I know your teachers would’ve probably given you a tearful departure, too. You would’ve wanted to say goodbye to Nemo one more time, and maybe we would’ve had to linger until every last person received their high five. I would’ve taken you back to visit when we had the chance, but that is not how your story was written. We never knew your last day at “2s” would be your last with all your friends or that we would never get another chance to see you pull out the wooden step all by yourself as you left your fingerprints on the glass and blew Nemo kisses from the other side of the tank. We never would’ve expected to be handed a paper grocery sack with your extra outfits, artwork, and the remnants of your newly emptied cubby after looking into the red faces of your teachers, hugging, sobbing, and holding me upright. Whether you know it or not, we are all still overwhelmed by your mysterious, unexpected departure from this life. There is not a day or night that goes by that I don’t wonder what happened and how I could’ve changed your life from ending.
Caleb Baby, we would’ve emptied your cubby this week, but we would’ve been doing so for a completely different promotion. School starts on Thursday and you would be going to Pre-K with the twins next door who moved in days before we lost you. So many of your friends are starting this brand-new experience and all I want is for you to have it, too. Mommy’s heart is having a very tough time knowing you will never get to go to school. That sentence alone makes Mommy cry. I know how much fun you would’ve had being there. You absolutely LOVED learning and somehow you just knew things Daddy and I never taught you. We got such a kick out of watching you standing and focusing your whole attention on “The Letter Show” (AKA Wheel of Fortune) as you repeated the letters that were guessed. Since you already knew your letters and many other things, maybe you really would’ve been bored as Ms. Shannon predicted for your future as you made your way to “real school.” Even so, you would’ve been perfectly content to “read” to yourself and interact with the group when they needed you. Who knows, maybe you WOULD already be sounding out the words or keeping the teachers on their toes as they thought they could still spell out words they didn’t want the class to understand yet. Whatever you would’ve soaked into that beautiful mind or not, I just know you would’ve had such a ball being around a whole school of new friends.
Would you be sitting a little more still for Mommy so she could give you a fresh, new school haircut or would I have been too frustrated to try and continue to do it on my own as you squirmed as the buzzing got closer to your ears? Would you still let me spike your hair into the most adorable little mohawk and seal it in place with your gel? Would your hair be getting darker like I’ve watched happen recently with some of your friends? What kind of oversized backpack would you have picked to swallow your petite frame? I imagine you would’ve wanted to write your name by yourself on everything that was required to be labeled.
Would you be picky about your outfits or dress yourself in a mismatched hodgepodge (to be clear, I would’ve let you wear whatever you wanted)? What would you insist we had to buy that wasn’t on your list? I have a feeling you would want us to pick up something to bring to your new teacher and they would have to work hard to pretend you aren’t one of their favorites. I also know you would’ve tucked away a few vroom vrooms as the “Hot Wheel Hitchhikers“ became unofficial “Show and Tell” stars.
Would I cry knowing you were growing up so quickly or feel guilty for not spending enough time together? Would we have already moved so you could’ve attended another school district? Would you have known other kids in the neighborhood? There was a back-to-school party at the pool today. We didn’t go (as we haven’t all summer), but would you have mastered “wimming” with the rest of the kids by now? Would we have forgotten you ever called it “wimming” as I got farther and farther behind in making you a baby book? What kinds of books would you want us to read to you now or would you have clung to a few old favorites?
I hear people complain about what their kids are required to bring to school or how they had to shop at multiple stores to find everything. I would buy anything you wanted, go to every store in the city, and pick up 3 of everything your teacher requested if I could bring you back. I think about the teachers as well. Which teacher will never know they are missing out on an entertaining angel that should be in their class? Who will never get to see how excited you became when you saw an orange, school bus squeal to a halt? You would’ve had to wait one more year to actually get to ride them but I can just picture you standing at the window or jumping up and down as you got out of the car from the drop-off lane! They would be so close every day and you would get to wave and smile at them with your whole face!
Yes, this year, the first day of school is going to be a rough one for Mommy and Daddy. It combines everything you love and all the things we will never get to watch you experience. Mommy is so excited for all your friends who are about to start school for the very first time. She hopes you watch over each of them and guide them to be nice and to remember the kids that are sitting by themselves or who need the friendship and love they may not receive anywhere else. I just wish so badly I could be there to watch you go through these milestones, too.
Baby Boy, we can’t have you pose with your new teacher or have a chalkboard announcing your first day of school. We can’t buy number two pencils, 24-count Crayola crayons, or boxes of Kleenex you would need replenished in the first month at Pre-K. I hate these facts more than I can ever express to you. We don’t get to enroll you or buy all the new things on your list, so this 9th we made sure you would be attending elementary, middle, AND high school another way.
What in the world do I mean? Well, I hope you already know, but we picked four schools with a lot of kids who have to make tough decisions this time of year. Some families might be able to buy the paper, pencils, and folders on their supply lists, but this might also mean they have to skip dinner if they buy everything they need for school. Too many teachers give their time, love, and what’s left of their modest paychecks just to have to the necessities (those are things you have to have) for their class.
We know how much you loved to learn so we thought you would want to help as many kids do that as possible. We wish we could have funded every school, but we have some ideas for that still to come. The Shriner’s were gracious enough to let us use their building (thank you, Mike) to collect school supplies and you wouldn’t even believe how full each school’s table became by the end of the night. You had SO MANY generous friends show up to bring things like crayons, index cards, and glue sticks and even more who dropped off bags of goodies early or donated extra funds for this project.
You would not be surprised to know that we were also strategic in buying the limit of each of the best deals from stores around town so our money could stretch a little further. We wanted to buy as many Clorox wipes, notebooks, and wish list items as possible with the funds we had available (Something we definitely would’ve taught you as you got older and started earning your own money).
If you would’ve been bored in Pre-K, now you can participate in the science lab at Del-City High School, too. That’s right. One of the classrooms who will now know you will be Ms. Geary’s. Remember how Ms. Maria’s food coloring experiment at “2s” made your mouth stay open because you couldn’t believe what you were watching? Ms. Geary also coaches track so now you can watch in amazement at the bubbly concoctions that change colors in a glass beaker OR at how fast her girls’ make it around the field!
We’ve delivered all but one school’s supplies but you will have plenty of options to make a difference this year. We hope you show up to Roosevelt Middle School and give the kids confidence to learn how to present themselves for an interview, make lifelong friends, or conquer English. We hope the notes of encouragement for the teachers and kids help inspire kindness as kids begin their formal education at Apollo or F.D. Moon Elementary. Fill their little bellies with snacks and let them know their school is a safe place to be themselves and learn to trust caring adults. Be with them when they feel like no one loves them or understands all their challenges they’ve already had to face in their short lives. Let them know you are there to help guide them even if we never know it was of your doing.
My little Baby Bear Cub, you will never know just how inspiring you really are. Happy 9th just a few days late!
We may be slugging through Thursday and it will probably feel like someone is slugging us over and over, but I hope all that is reflected is the love you’ve shown us how to share and the excitement for learning you realize every child deserves. Keep scooting us along, even if it’s only one millimeter at a time.
Little Boy, you never made it to school but you will always be the wisest person I’ve ever met.
I love you, Sweet Boy.
P.S. Mommy wrote this while being fueled by Veggie Straws and mangoes. It’s not “owenj ice,” but I didn’t think you would mind me settling for the dried variety.
Who: You and all your friends
What: Help us supply crayons and essentials for kids who need them. Wish lists for each school are below (posting lists as they are received). As we do with every event, we will be including handwritten notes of encouragement. Bring your littles (or bigs) to come draw a picture or two and tell kids and teachers how much they rock!
When: August 9th from 5:30-7:30pm
Where: India Shriners
3601 NW 36th St,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73112
Why: Because four local schools (and many others) have many kids who struggle to have the supplies they need to learn. If you haven't been inside a classroom recently, have a teacher show you the books being held together with duct tape or tell you how they bought all the copy paper after the first two weeks using their own money. If a child came up to you at the store asking if you would buy them a pack of glue sticks or the same kind of crayons all their classmates have, would you do it? You may not get to hear their formal requests, so consider this as such. Close your eyes and imagine the hundreds of little faces that will receive these supplies and smile knowing you are doing something to help our future generation as you add a few extra items to your cart. We are also very happy to accept online purchases or pass along gift cards (we hear Target and Wal-Mart are favorites).
-Elmer’s glue sticks
-Crayola crayons –16 ct and 24 ct
-Crayola washable markers – 8 ct
-colored pencils – 12 ct
-composition notebooks – wide-ruled
-spiral notebooks – wide-ruled – 70 pages
-dry erase markers
-small school boxes (5" x 8")
Del City High School:
-Snacks for teachers to keep in their desk to feed hungry kids
F.D. Moon Elementary:
-No. 2 Pencils
-Broad Tip Markers
-Box of Crayons (24/Pkg)
-3x5 index cards
-Wide Ruled Spiral Bound Notebooks
-Packages of Ruled Loose Leaf Paper
-Blue or black ink pens
MOST FORGOTTEN ITEMS:
-Boxes of Tissues
-Bottles of Hand Sanitizer
-Snacks of all kinds for the little ones
Roosevelt Middle School:
-Green, purple, blue, orange pocket folders as many as possible
-3 ring binders
-One subject notebooks
-Loose leaf college ruled paper
-Colored copy paper
-Construction paper (all colors)
-Dish soap (used to clean paint brushes)
-Dry erase markers
-Dry erase cleaner
See you on the 9th!
Wear your Caleb Effect shirt if you have one!
Feel like I should preface this with a note that I do not want phone calls or texts and that I'm not going to harm myself.
Hi Baby. I love you. I miss and love you more than I can ever possibly convey. I hope that even if you are traveling further into all the places I can’t know about until I’m finally finished here, you can still feel how much I love you. I do see all the signs you are sending but there is still doubt if it is really you. I want to believe these and I know sometimes I really do, but the other part of my brain still wants all the synapses to deliver the hard proof directly into my soul so I can really feel it even if I have trouble believing with my eyes.
Do I just see these and want it to be you so badly that I am willing to trust them? Am I just attuned to notice more things now than before or would those perfectly-timed feathers and roses have been there regardless if you left us or not? Please don’t leave me. My heart is squeezed so tightly missing you. I’m completely overwhelmed and depleted in every way. Another unfolded pile of clothes that will sit in baskets for weeks, stacks of well-intentioned projects abandoned on every flat surface, and plants showing signs that we aren’t capable of tending to their basic needs either. Life keeps ticking by even though ours stopped when you left this world. It’s truly not fair. What a huge disrespect for time to keep moving without you.
I’ve said it before but it is even truer today. Doesn’t the sun know you aren’t here anymore? How dare it still shine? Don’t the birds realize your sweetest face is still not here to kiss? Why do they still go about singing, fluttering, taking leisurely wide-winged rides, and floating idly in sync with the breeze? Nature acts as if nothing ever happened but we know the most beautiful, little creation we’ve ever seen is the one so obviously missing from our laps. I curl into a ball and hold tight my knees instead, but my heart and arms ache for you and will continue to be devastated until my last breath is expelled from my lungs. I wish upon every attempted, peaceful painted sky and look for you to guide me through another lonely, paralyzing night. My body is being forced to sleep more, but with that comes panic and sweat, guilt, and horrific sights that play on repeat. Too many thoughts of what happened to you after the small-statured man took you away and all the ruthless events before and after. We didn’t know him or if he was trustworthy being alone with you. We didn’t know if he was a reckless driver or had evil intentions. However, we also weren’t given the typical options that are normally standard protocol in these situations. The knot is raging but I’m trying my best to be okay.
Today is a day I didn’t want to arrive, and tomorrow will be even worse. The minutes and activities all around keep going on like I’m inside a terrible movie that keeps me tense and cringing. I still can’t believe this is really our life and that this world that once had the privilege of knowing you fully and completely has now limped by without you for the same span of Earthly intervals. It feels eerily similar to when your first birthday here came without you. I seriously thought the day wouldn’t actually come because that would be far too cruel. Maybe the world would come to an end so we wouldn’t have to stare this milestone right in the eye. But it did and so will this.
I just want to hold you and be with you now. I feel stuck here because I don’t want to go on anymore. So many days my tears cry out to God or whoever else is in the room, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore.” I rarely tell you these kinds of things in these messages, but I’ve already censored this more than you realize. I just miss you too much, Caleb. You are so easy to love that not having you to kiss with your giggly, affectionate lips or nuzzle under my chin is not something I will ever be used to or “through.” That love is why I stay here and why I also know I owe it to you to tell everyone about you. You deserve a baby book, a memorial, and a functioning non-profit. No one else will do it the way I will, and no one knows all the adorable stories and love the way you so joyfully gave them to me. I promise you all of those things will be complete someday. Truthfully, I still want more than that, Caleb. I just want you back. I want our old life back. I know I’m not supposed to want that. Daddy even says we don’t want you back here, we just want to be where you are, but we were happy here together.
Either way feels like losing. If I live it’s like plowing over you. It’s not the same. No one can really know what you’re like just by telling everyone or showing them your videos. However, if that’s all I have, your love warrants for them to at least know you in that way. People are forgetting that you were here or that our lives are forever changed, but we will never forget you. At least two people at work even asked Daddy how his Father’s Day was this year. Wow.
Last week I visited prisons and my mind has been too wrapped up in other things that I haven’t told you much about that experience. Everyone there was read their rights and told why they were being sentenced, but I still wonder what Daddy and I did to deserve this punishment. As I’ve said before, losing you is a lifetime sentence with no parole.
814 days with you and now 814 without. It’s a truth that makes me want to vomit and never stop. My body is exhausted and yet somehow it hasn’t collapsed into a flimsy pile the way it feels like it should’ve by now. I always said that if you left this world before me, they would have to bury me with you. However, when your worst nightmare comes true, you don’t really get that option. I still don’t have that choice and I’m beginning to wonder if your memorial will ever be complete. I don’t understand how my heart continues beating while no one on Earth can tell me why yours stopped.
I heard recently that you aren’t supposed to say certain things “shouldn’t” have happened because we are supposed to just accept that they do, but apparently, I’m not as enlightened. So, in my lowly imperfect opinion, no, it’s not supposed to be this way. I miss you too much. So many milestones and things I wish for you that you will never have and that I will never get to watch you achieve. It’s summer which means you would be wearing new adorable bathing suit trunks, “wimming” and splashing until you got too cold in the water. I can almost hear your sweet laughter and it makes me hope that heaven has the biggest pool where we never get wrinkled or cold.
Even Daddy has a new bike and I can’t help but think about how I wish you would’ve had a chance to ride one, too. I see the carefree faces of your friends and the other kids getting taller, playing sports, running and pretending, or taking silly pictures on vacation. While I truly love seeing them and feeling an easy connection as “the big girl” just eager to play, I come home so crushed wanting these same things for you, and for us as a family, too. I think about how often I hear parents say things like “stop growing up” or being “heartbroken” that their kids are having another birthday. I know they don’t mean anything by it but I want to tell all of them that it’s not a BAD thing to have their kids long enough in this world to let them grow up. I want to remind them that heartbreak and emotions from another candle on the cake is something Daddy and I would give anything to feel if our special person came back from being missed at every birthday, picture, and dream. The guilt I feel when someone says “I managed to keep them alive again for another year” only makes me repeat in my head “yea, well, I didn’t.” For that, I am sorry, Caleb Lennon. I know everyone says it’s not my fault and that I would’ve moved heaven and Earth if I could’ve saved you, but I still feel like I failed you. They say I won’t get answers in this lifetime, but what if they are wrong? I will never stop trying to figure out why this happened to you and what stole you from us. Your two youngest cousins are now both older than you, but no matter how many days and years pass while I’m still here, you will always be the wisest person I’ve ever met.
I realize this is not a happy message, Caleb, but you should know that despite all of this, you are still inspiring all kinds of joy. I’m sorry Mommy is telling you this kind of truth, but sometimes there are things I have to get out of my head so they don’t put me in a straitjacket and leave me rocking back and forth in the corner of a demented facility. Sometimes this is what I have to do to make it to a day that I’d rather not see. I do it for you, and my little Booger Bear, you are ALWAYS worth it. All my days in this new, foreign territory will be lived for you. Someday I will never count another day that goes by because we will be never be apart again.
I love you with all my heart and soul. Now and forever, Baby Boy.
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?
Hi Baby. I love you. What a day. Even Mommy is worn out, and that is saying something. This month we decided to do something for people who are battling mental illnesses. I imagine you don’t see the sort of reports that usually make headlines here, but it’s been a really sad week here in America as we publicly feel the effects of just one of these serious illnesses. However, if there was ever a month to get people discussing topics that are taboo (that means they aren’t okay to talk about), this is it. We picked this subject before the world lost two famous people who hurt so much they couldn’t see any hope or a future past all of the pain. This is something Mommy DOES understand, especially since you’ve been gone, but it is one of the deep struggles of the brain that so many are suffering alone in silence. I never would have told you anything about this subject until you were older, but since you are forever 2, but I’ll do my best to open this messy can of worms and explain it in a way you might understand.
Suicide. It’s a word that hurts deeply. No one wants to talk about it even though it happens every day in our world. People who have never wrestled with severe depression that leads to this outcome or contemplation of this result don’t know its power. I DO know what it is like to feel so low I don’t want to live another second. Living without you is THE hardest thing I have to do every day. You made my life so much fun and brought me a kind of pure, joyful love I never knew was possible. It is a love I can’t adequately describe, Baby Boy. It is that good. Losing you and trying to wrap my mind around that concept is too much for me to handle by myself and it makes me want to be with you NOW. I miss you with every microscopic cell in my body and yes, there are so many days I don’t want to have to wait any longer. That is my reality, but as I already described in a recent post, you deserve for Mommy to keep sharing your love and telling the world about the most amazing, happy boy I’ve ever met.
People who have never walked in my shoes or those of so many others hear things like “you are so selfish,” or “you need to pray about it and have more faith.” They probably have good intentions, but they don’t understand what it feels like when someone like me is in a state where they have nothing left. They’ve never felt so depleted that they literally don’t have the capacity to care about anything. Anyone who has reached this point is not in their right frame of mind, but desperately need people who ARE to love and accept them for wherever they are in that moment.
The Lottie House does exactly that so we were so glad we got to visit them this month. Staci Willis, a Team Leader there sent me a message that said “It seems like such a good fit, I kept thinking about how you described Caleb, and even at his young age it seemed like he fulfilled our biggest mission, to meet people right where they are and love them without condition.” I know I told you this before, but it deserves to be mentioned again. Yes, you did this flawlessly, and we got to witness first-hand that they are succeeding in that motto, too. What a wonderful and necessary place they have provided for people most of society dismisses. They welcome and connect people and take them by the hand away from their darkest places.
Sometimes all we can do is wait. I hate waiting but that is how Mommy has made it this far. I wait until the chemicals in my brain rearrange themselves, until the hormones or lack of sleep bring me to a safer place, or until a safe person sits with me until another second, hour, or day has been beat. Not everyone has that last, most critical piece so I’m going to challenge anyone who reads this to reach out to someone they know may be having a rough time and become that safe person.
Maybe you are wondering what is this whole “mental illness” thing is anyway and what did we do in your honor? I thought about how I might describe this to you in a way you could understand, but I think you probably know a lot of things I haven’t given you proper credit for learning along the way.
I talked about the result of just one of the mental illnesses that plague people’s brains, but there are many others. When a person is experiencing these, they can make us feel overwhelmingly sad, angry, forgetful, scared, worried, unworthy, hopeless, and a variety of other emotions that can affect the way we think, feel, and behave. Not everyone has a mind that always thinks so clearly and beautifully as yours 100% of the time. Some of us struggle more than others, and it can make it harder for people to love us or be close to us, but as you taught me, we need to “be nice” anyway. I don’t always get this right but keep pushing me to keep giving it another shot when I fail.
We still need a lot of help from you, Caleb. This life isn’t like the dimension you are now in. Help us become a place where we don’t live in fear of seeking help because it would mean things like our employment being threatened if we actually took care of ourselves. If we want to label anything “crazy” it is not the people living with these mental illnesses, but the system that prevents proper treatment. Military, civilians with special clearances, and SOOOOOOOOOOOOO many others in various positions have to hide their true selves or avoid vital medication and treatment out of legitimate fear of losing their livelihood or leadership positions. You have a lot of friends with you now, so maybe you guys can get together and work on this for those of us who are still on this planet.
We will keep working on these things as well. I know everyone is capable of doing SOMETHING. Nine (ironic???) volunteers shared this vision in your honor on Saturday. We worked to try to make a few guests of the Lottie House a little more comfortable, so we hope you like what we did this month. Since it was 100 degrees, we brought an ice chest full of watermelon and Flavor-Ice for guests. Many of the people there have to walk or take a bus in the heat so they were grateful for the cold treats as soon as they walked in the door. We sorted the mountain of donations that so many in your fan club gave us, organized the library and craft room, and talked to a few new friends. We also brought care packages with things like shampoo, candy, and a personal note to let them know someone cares. It is something we like to do with every project because we know you always made it a point to put your personal touch on everything.
I miss your personal touch more than I can tell you, my sweet boy. I’m doing my best to do that FOR you now, but I know it’s not even close to the same. I’m not as good at this as you and I miss you giving Mommy those extra hugs and love when I needed them most. I tell everyone who will listen, but it’s true. Caleb, you had a sixth sense about what everyone needed and you had a way to give all of us exactly that. I still don’t know how you did it, but without even spending a dime or hours packaging goody bags, you gave every, single person you ever encountered true treasures that could never be found in any store.
I love you, Sweet Boy. God, I miss you.
I keep thinking about how you might have interacted with some of the guests there. They would’ve absolutely LOVED having you. They can’t allow children there, but I think you showed up anyway. Thanks for the ladybug tissue paper craft. You always find a way to let us know you are still doing things your own way and refusing to let the rules keep you from showing up.
Thank you for loving Mommy exactly how I am. You will always be my pride and joy and I will never stop telling everyone all about you. I’m thankful you never had to experience any of these mental illnesses, but I would hope that if you did, you would’ve known Mommy and Daddy would always be here for you no matter what. I know not even that is not enough for some people going through their own personal hell, so I’ve also included some resources and pictures that I hope direct people to finding professional help, especially people who are suicidal.
I love you. Happy 9th (a little late again)! I’m so proud of you, Angel Baby.
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.
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.
In the US:
-Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, at any time, about any type of crisis
-The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
-The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Outside the US:
-The International Association for Suicide Prevention lists a number of suicide hotlines by country. https://www.iasp.info/
Find a local counselor. You can sort therapists by insurances accepted and specialty.
Online therapy from your couch
Be a safe friend and help someone who needs you.
I visited the Lottie House, site of our next Nice On The 9th project. It is a drop-in center for people experiencing mental health challenges. They require visitors to be sober but I love their response to people who aren’t. “Try again tomorrow.”
I was only there for an hour but 3 pages of sign-in sheets were filled just in that span.
June 9th is a Saturday so if you’ve been waiting for a weekend to volunteer with us, now is your chance! We will be volunteering from 1-4pm and all volunteers must be at least 18. We will be organizing the library, sorting supplies in the craft room, and anything else they need us to do.
Comment below and I will send you an event invitation.
Can’t make it on the 9th?
We’re collecting the following items:
-SHOES!! They are in desperate need of shoes! Used and even VERY USED are just fine with them. Gently used tennis shoes are preferred but they will take others as well.
-New or used t-shirts, shorts, jeans, backpacks or bags (they said suitcases that roll are treasures)
-New hygiene products (soap, shampoo, feminine products, lotion, sunscreen)
-New underwear, leisure socks, and plain tees.
-Art supplies (regular or stock paper, drawing pencils, canvases, art erasers (white), craft kits)
-Packaged snacks (tuna packets, protein packs, granola bars, flavor ice)
-Tarps and bungees to provide shelter (pics 5 & 6)
We can shake our heads when we see another person on the news who was in need of mental health services, or we can do something about it.
Sign up today!
Hi Baby Boy. I love you. I’ve had so many distractions, but I’m finally getting to write to you instead of just constantly thinking about you and wishing I could tell you all of these things in person. I miss you. I miss my happy baby. I miss your hugs and kisses more than anything. I still send them to you and I hope you feel my love no matter how far you go. The longer time goes by I wonder if that means you are farther and farther “into the light” or somehow farther removed from this world and it makes me even more sad having all this space separating us. You weren’t a baby anymore but you will always be my baby boy, Caleb.
You know how much you love babies? It’s hard for Mommy to explain, but I love you even more than that. I don’t think I ever told you this but that saying, “I love you so much it hurts” is true. I think you only know the kind of love that doesn’t come with any hurt, but I’m telling you, you are the most powerful little boy I’ve ever met. I still find it so shocking how you manage to climb right into hearts so quickly. It reminds me of how you used to get yourself up to your car seat after “2s” all by yourself (but I think you captivate people even faster than that). You never wanted any help as you grunted and pulled yourself from the pavement and floorboard all the way into your seat. When you got yourself twisted and shimmied into position you always gave Mommy one of your trademark smiles that I tell everyone all about. It’s like you were telling me “See Mommy, I did it!”
Baby Boy, I was so proud of you then and I’m forever proud of you now. I hope you are still smiling with your whole face the way you did in the little #HUNK picture where you are cheesing it extra wide. I can’t wait to see that smile with your whole face again one day. One of the things I know for certain and don’t have to wonder about is if you know Daddy and I love you. You made it so easy to love you while you were here and you still do.
We love you and really do think of you non-stop, but every 9th we go a little outside our comfort zone to make sure others get to know you, too. May’s Nice On The 9th was all about honoring people behind the scenes. People who don’t normally receive much appreciation or hear very many “thank yous,” especially trash collectors, maintenance people, and housekeepers. We picked two people in our lives and chose two others who were nominated on your Facebook page.
Mommy started the day in Piedmont surprising Mr. George who picks up trash for the ENTIRE rapidly growing town! That’s right! One truck, one funny guy with a positive attitude, and one helping heart. He is still following his mommy’s advice she gave him as a kid and tries not to take anyone too seriously. His buddy, Christen Askren Hannegan nominated him and this is why: “George is our trash truck driver out in Piedmont. He is a great guy and he does a great job. He walks up to get carts of our elderly or handicapped customers, not because he has to but because that’s who he is. People aren’t always nice to him but he goes above and beyond anyway and takes pride in his work. I nominate George.”
Christen told George that she needed him to come to the office to discuss some emails so he was trying to think about what he could’ve done wrong. Christen assured him he wasn’t in trouble but the man in the yellow, reflective vest and industrial headset was even more surprised when I told him why I came to visit. I explained to him how you would’ve loved to meet him and how your cousin in Chicago loves trash trucks! George told me that if he sees kids out admiring the truck he will stop and let them check it out or wail on the horn. Isn’t that awesome?! Remember when we got to go inside a trash truck at “Touch-a-Truck?” We might have received some disapproving looks and scolding for honking the horn, but you loved it (sorry, not sorry)!
You loved vroom vrooms of all shapes and sizes, but you especially loved opening and closing the hatch on your blue recycling truck and staring at the wheels. No matter how many times I told you that it was a recycling truck, you always called it a “twash twuck.”
While I was there, a man came in with an injured leg and pushing a scooter. He said George pulled his trash barrel in for him and shook his hand. Nice timing. :)
I had a chance to talk to Mr. George for quite a while and I could see him tear up every now and then. I held it together and told him to keep his eyes open for some extra ladybugs. Booger Bear, it would be really awesome if you would send some his way and introduce yourself, too.
Daddy honored the janitor at his work who cleans up after some really yucky situations. DaDa talked to Tyler before, but never knew his name. He made it a point to use your special day to find out. Tyler is an especially quiet, hard-working person who perfectly fit the description of the kind of selfless spirit we wanted to reward. You weren’t old enough to clean the potty, but this is one of the things a janitor does as part of their daily to-do list. It is not a fun job, especially when it’s not even your own potty mess but Tyler makes sure every inch is scrubbed to perfection. Most people like having a clean bathroom to use, but probably don’t think about the people who keep it that way. Daddy made sure to thank Tyler and gave him the bag of goodies for a job well done. We hope Tyler realizes that his work is important and so is he.
Daddy met me in Edmond and no introductions are needed for this next recipient, Jeff Freshour or just plain “Jeff” to you. After switching to your new class, Mr. Jeff would wait for you to come to “school” downtown everyday. Right after saying “hi” to Nemo, Jeff would be waiting by the door to get your “fives” and hear your sweet, tiny voice announce, “Hi, Jeff!” You were ALWAYS so excited to see him and so was he. You had recently transitioned to the 2-year-old class on the other side of the building and I wasn’t sure how I would like it after having such wonderful teachers who doted on you in “1s.” I knew it wouldn’t phase you one bit as you had been to several new classes in your life without batting an eye. I was right. You never missed a beat going into another room and being with new friends but Jeff made the new routine easier for ME. I always felt better after seeing him and soon I learned your new teachers adored you, too. They taught you things like how to drink out of a cup without a lid and always commented on your sense of wonder for learning new things.
You loved to learn and I loved watching your various dramatic expressions as you took things in for the first time. I memorized your new teachers’ names but I wouldn’t have known Jeff’s without you. Jeff didn’t work specifically for the daycare, but rather took care of the building maintenance for all of St. Luke’s. We didn’t go to church then and never went to any activities outside of your daycare so it was only in those morning exchanges that I got to know Jeff. Being kind to you and making you feel special was not part of his job requirements but he waited for us every day and always made us smile anyway.
I don’t know if you see all the things he takes care of, but the church and daycare have all kinds of activities going on at each campus and he usually has a hand in helping in some way or the other. There are regular church services, yoga classes, bible studies, birthday parties, luncheons, meetings, service projects, and special events. Jeff works up a sweat moving hundreds of chairs from place-to-place and keeps everything in the building (and some things outside, too) running smoothly. Then he comes back and helps run the Audio-Visual equipment on the weekends, too.
Yes, Jeff is behind many different scenes in a variety of venues. I don’t know what his hours are, but they are definitely not Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. He works until the job is done and then goes home and keeps working on projects there as well.
One project I know he never wanted to have to add to his schedule was your memorial service. Jeff never grumbled when the room where you used to play started running out of chairs as the time to celebrate you grew nearer. He just quietly got a red dolly and kept moving more and more seats into the room. After your service was over he also didn’t complain about having to retrieve some sneaky helium balloons off the ceiling that were probably more than a hundred feet in the air.
After losing you we came back to collect your things from your cubby. There were so many hugs and even more tears. We did our best to make it through seeing your teachers and your classmates but walking through those halls and seeing Jeff was especially crushing. Everyone still loves you there and is devastated but when I look into Jeff’s eyes I also see the heartbreak he holds for you there. I know he misses you, too. I’ve often wondered if he still gives fives to the kids or if losing you has made him a little more guarded.
Jeff may wear the keys to every room of the church on his belt loop, but you never needed a key or any extra chairs to take up residence deep inside his heart. Once again, we did our best to hold it all together but Jeff broke all of us. I told him that I wished I had you with me to give him his surprise and I hope somehow, I still did. Daddy and I gave him some fives and told him how much we love him. Don’t forget to send him some signs sometimes, too, okay? Thank you, Baby Boy.
After redoing what is supposed to be “waterproof” mascara (something I’ve worn since the day of your service, May 6th), Daddy and I headed to Guthrie to meet our last winner, Eduardo Robles at St. Mary Catholic School. Susan Barron nominated him and told us “He’s a friend to all & has worked hard to keep our school together for 20+ years! He’s always smiling, the kids love him & he’s an incredibly hard worker!!!”
We didn’t make the connection that we were visiting a school named after Saint Mary until we typed it into our GPS. Before calling Eduardo to come meet us and despite never knowing anything about your rose stories, Susan also had one of her own. WHAT?!
Susan couldn’t be more correct and we couldn’t have picked a more deserving person. Eduardo does not look even remotely close to his age but I think his positive attitude and being around all the kids keep him young at heart. He was humbled to be receiving any special attention, and like George, he kept telling us what a blessed man he was.
Mommy can’t feel things like she used to but for whatever reason I think her ESP (which stands for Extrasensory Perception and is like a 6th sense about things - something you had firing every second of every day) is getting better. We like to include personal notes in every random act of kindness we do and I just got an overwhelming feeling that Eduardo was a very gentle person. In his note I thanked him for being a gentle soul before I ever met him.
Eduardo is a petite, soft-spoken man, but perked up when the kids would walk by and say “hi” or refer to him as “Edward.” We heard he is also known for sharing candy and going above and beyond for anyone who needs his help, but we hope he keeps some of his new gifts to enjoy for himself, too.
Eduardo was the perfect ending to visiting all the honorees who work so hard despite not many people knowing or appreciating all the ways that make them special. We explained what the 9th means to us, but our mouths dropped open when Eduardo told us why May 9th was so significant to him. Eduardo explained that his wife died many years ago but May 9th was his wedding day! WOW! Maybe you have met his wife now, too.
I never would have believed all of these little things, and sometimes I still struggle to truly know you had a hand in orchestrating some of these connections. I know it usually takes a little more convincing or a few extra signs, but I hope you will keep being patient with your mommy.
After visiting Eduardo, Daddy and I went to Valliance Bank where we got to see our friend, Bridget Jaime. We already had a whirlwind of emotions all day and apparently, I needed some talk therapy because Mommy was chattering about a thousand words a minute as soon as we saw her. I wasn’t sure if Bridget already filled Debbie (the lady that opened your new account) in on The Caleb Effect so I was cautiously trying to keep my “game face” on before I thought I would have to answer any questions about why we were there and what our foundation is doing. Luckily, Daddy was not as overwhelmed or sleep-deprived as I was, so he took care of most of the business of opening the new account while I caught Bridget up with my flurry of thoughts.
It didn’t take long but when Daddy and I found out Debbie already knew all about you, we told her some of the ways you are making the world a nicer place. I also told her how I’ve known Bridget for over 20 years and how we met while we were both working at camp at Lake Murray in July. The camp was really delipidated with holes in the walls and floorboards, no air-conditioning, and uninvited campers such as Copperheads and scorpions. However, going through this unique experience together also helped create lifelong bonds with all of us who worked as staff.
We don’t wish this the unique and unpleasant situation we have wrestled since May 2nd on anyone, but we love it when people like Bridget embrace your message and continue to show the ways they love all three of us.
I also wanted Debbie to know how special Bridget is so I told her how excited I was just to be invited to Bridget’s little boy’s upcoming birthday party. That’s fairly unusual for us now, so when I read the rest of the details on the event I was absolutely blown away. I know you must remember me writing to you about this, but instead of asking for presents for her baby, she told everyone they could bring a toy to donate to The Caleb Effect! Debbie hadn’t even read the heartfelt message that went with the invitation that made Mommy ugly cry, but this detail sent her over the edge and had her stopping the official paperwork to reach for a Kleenex. I knew right then and there, even with her phone ringing and multi-tasking capabilities that were keeping her on her toes, you had claimed another unsuspecting admirer. (We might as well climb to the top of their tower and put a flag there that says, “Caleb was here!”) We also think she’s going to have fun giving out the dozen vroom vrooms Daddy left for her to distribute to her littlest patrons (those are customers).
Little “Doo-duh” (the way you pronounced dude), the next part of the story changes everything for The Caleb Effect. You never did much of anything on our schedule so it shouldn’t be surprising that this piece of the puzzle didn’t happen on our timetable either.
Last month Mommy “happened” to drop off some vroom vrooms to our friend, Lance for his Alzheimer’s fundraiser project. As I told you, I saw that yellow Hummer on the way there and even got a picture of it but didn’t think more about it until today. Lance asked how The Caleb Effect was coming along and I told him how we had met some incredible people along the way but had experienced a series of setbacks in the path of becoming an official 501(c)(3). We have been planning to take this next step since his news crew showed up at Aunt RoRo’s house 10 months ago, so I suppose it was also fitting that this idea was planted in our heads and also became reality with his assistance, too.
As it turned out, when I was talking to Lance West he told me he might have a friend who could help. Sure enough, a few days after our conversation he put us in touch with her and she sprang into action.
Since we started celebrating Nice On The 9th one year ago, yesterday, we decided it would be the perfect day to make your foundation official. I hope you already know the big news we shared yesterday, but Caleb, you now OFFICIALLY have a non-profit organization!! Yes, Baby Boy, on May 9th, Kelli Masters filed our papers for us and The Caleb Effect became “The Caleb Effect Foundation!!!!!!!!!” Is that awesome or what?! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I really hope you are clapping for yourself right now.)
All day yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how these nominations and surprise visits reminded me of “Pay It 4Ward.” Kelli had seen our story when it aired and spread your love by delivering a big meal to a family who was going through a hard time. She had already seen you, our little mohawk man, and had already spread some of your kindness into the world as well. Normally this would cost a new organization a significant amount of money, but Kelli did all of this out of the kindness of her heart. THANK YOU, KELLI and THANK YOU Lance for continuing to “be nice” and helping us share Caleb with the world!!!! We know “thank you” is not quite adequate, but we are truly grateful to have you in our lives.
I told Kelli how you like to show up with ladybugs and roses to let people know you are watching. When I got the email that everything was filed I saw a little note at the end. It said, “P.S. I have seen so many lady bugs this week!” Wow! You’re quick, Baby Boy and so was Kelli! I found her online and saw not only is she highly qualified as a professor teaching non-profit and sports law, but she’s a beautiful lady on the outside, too. Is that why you keep coming back and bringing her ladybugs? Ha. Oh, my little boy. All the ladies always do love you here on Earth.
Now that we have non-profit status, you will be able to help even more people and spread your love to places we’ve only dreamed of seeing.
May 9th was the one-year anniversary of devoting a whole day to being Nice On The 9th. We pause on the 9th of every month because that is the day we finally got to meet you and kiss your tiny, crying face that had just been evicted from your nice, warm home. It is a celebration of your beautiful life and a way to let your glimmering light reflect off of every painful tear.
May 9th is also a day that is ingrained in our memory because it is a day that almost stole Daddy away from us. Seven years ago, Daddy Ken Toeywas in a terrible, freak accident. He was riding his mountain bike on a trail where he had never been before and went off a bridge. He landed on his head and then onto his back. At the insistence of his friend, he was wearing a brand, new helmet purchased just a few days prior. It ultimately, saved his life. Still, the broken bones included 6 vertebrae, 10 ribs, his sternum, and a shoulder blade (and that doesn’t even include some of the other complications like the collapsed lung or the liter and a half of blood that was drained out of it). The surgeon implanted 13 permanent titanium pieces from his toolbox including 13 screws, 2 rods, and 1 stabilizer bar. He also told Daddy as we headed to the inpatient rehab center that most people with his injuries are either paralyzed or dead. Having Daddy in the Trauma ICU hooked up to all kinds of IVs and tubes was one of the scariest times of our lives but he made it. It’s a completely different situation, but we are still making it one second and minute at a time now, too. It’s not the way we planned to live our lives and there’s not a pain pump dumping medicine into our systems every few minutes but we are still here. Yes, yesterday was a very special day that gives us one more reason to celebrate life.
We had a last-minute kindness kit assembly party at one of Mommy’s favorite places in Oklahoma City, Lake Hefner. Despite only having one day of notice, and 91-degree heat, you had quite a few family and friends stop by. We made 30 kits to give to other people who do a lot of work in the background of life but go unrecognized a majority of the time. Some of your friends came and made sweet notes and colorful pictures to include in the bags, too.
We hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating this momentous day! We know with this next step in place you and The Caleb Effect FOUNDATION are about to do some really big things! I would also like it to be noted here that Nemo’s best friend, Ellen DeGeneres is going to LOVE you and want everyone to know about you immediately when she hears about you (and I think she is definitely going to hear about you in the near future).
Also, did you see all of those amazing people wearing their new shirts? If not, check out the photos to see your friends!
THANK YOU FOR ALL THE LOVE, SUPPORT, PARTICIPATION, AND SPACE YOU KEEP MAKING IN THE HEARTS OF ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS.
I love you, Baby. I miss you more than I can even explain to you in words, but Mommy is so proud of her little boy. You received half of each of Mommy and Daddy’s DNA, but there were some extra special genes methodically placed in your soul that had nothing to do with either one of us. You are still my gift, my light, and my forever treasure. I love you more.
Sending all my love now and always.
P.S. I've heard from several people this week who told me they read EVERY WORD of these messages to you. 😲 I'm always surprised to hear this so if anyone has made it this far, I'm sure you are thinking of a line from Bon Qui Qui's routine, "DANG, anything else?" If you've made it to the end, feel free to work in a Bon Qui Qui quote in the comments. This should be entertaining. If you don't know who Bon Qui Qui is, we obviously have not spent more than 10 minutes together in real life. Ha! Happy 9th (and 10th and 11th now)!
Caleb's Uncle, Andy Wile wrote this heartfelt true story two years ago, but it is an absolute, must-read letter that deserves to be shared again. I can't make it to the end without crying.
Thank you for sharing your deep love for Caleb and recognizing his simple yet mighty affections he so freely gave to you. It's one of the many reasons why not having him here with us is so exceptionally difficult.
Andy, it is obvious Caleb didn't even make it to round one before creating the love and pride I can see all over your face in this picture. Thank you for the most beautiful tribute to our giggly super hero. I agree with Ken Toey's sentiments of two-years ago. Please share this over and over again. We love you, "Unka Annie." 💜
Written by my brother, my Bubba - all of you, share this please..
A True Life Story by Uncle Andy Wile
My nephew the Super Hero.
Unfortunately, it took me until May 6, 2016 to recognize that my nephew, Caleb Lennon Wile, was a super hero.
We all know that Wile children possess super abilities but not all of these powers are glaringly obvious.
However, Caleb, when brought into this world carried the message and gift of love. While some call it unconditional love, I prefer the words
love with no limits, love without trepidation or rejection, love for everyone and anyone he came into contact with. Anyone with the gift of sight,
the gift of hearing, and the gift of life was susceptible to his power. Even the hardest of hearts and strongest of the strong were no match
for him. As with every Super Hero, there were a variety of tactics in his arsenal.
First he would run around and just be himself, a normal inquisitive boy. While he would not reject the proffer of wearing a cape, tights and maybe a mask, he didn't need that attire for his super powers. If someone was able to resist loving him simply from being in the room with him, he would recognize and prepare for Round 2.
Round two, would be his contagious laugh. His laugh was so contagious the CDC would have severe difficulty in preparing for it. To my knowledge, this is the first recorded sound related infectious material. He could find anything and I mean anything hilarious. He could bellow out his laugh akin to the testing of a tornado siren on a Saturday at noon. If at this point, he had not conquered and devoured someone's resistance to love, the final round was about to begin.
It would begin by him fixing his gaze into their eyes, then he would run, not walk, to the person. Then he would outstretch his arms and hands to heaven expressing the universal language that means "pick me up right damn now". At this point he has already won the war, just the person (aka challenger) does not recognize it yet. Unwittingly, and for reasons that everyone of us already comprehend, the victim immediately and without hesitation would reach down and snatch him up. All the while, his blue eyes were staring into their soul and he would retrieve their love and put it on display for all to see. One would think that Caleb would be finished at this point but no, he was not. He has to inflict the finishing blow.
The finishing blow was something so simple, so discreet, so effortless it was...his smile. One could wonder why he did not lead with
"the smile" but if one considers that the challenger did not capitulate in Round 1 or 2, the challenger must have buried love so deep that the finishing blow was required. Parenthetically, it is not for me to critique a super hero's techniques and abilities. "The smile" was so categorically awesome that it would release pain, make people slack jawed, and could briefly cure all known ailments.
His smile would also cause physical changes in Caleb. It would literally cause his ears to raise a 1/2 inch, his eyes would squint as if he was looking at the sun, and he would show you his teeth, that give the very definition of pearly whites. Some would call this his "victory grin" but it was not
a competition with him. That is not what he was here for. He was made with a hollow in his heart that was only temporarily pacified every time he exposed, received and gave someone love.
And as always, in every super hero comic book and movie, there is a twist that no one on Earth could have possibly predicted. Ultimately, God called Caleb home on May 2, 2016. Unbeknowst to all of us once we received and gave Caleb our love, we in turn are left with a hollow in our heart yearning for his never ending addictive love. This love is more addictive than any drug known to man. While his pictures, movies and memories temporarily pacify the hollow, it still returns. Consequently, it will permanently be filled upon our ascent to heaven. Until then, we have our voluminous pictures, enthralling movies and precious memories that no one can take away. Additionally, we have his love and stories to share with anyone that will listen. So now our mission has not changed. We still must carry on and spread his love. Unfortunately, at this time, the undersigned lacks the ability to emit comprehendable noise on this matter and can only express himself in written format.
And while I was not there to witness, I am positive that God said "Well done my good and faithful servant. Let me introduce you to some family of mine and yours."
God, Thank You for the gift of Caleb. Caleb, aka "Cal-L" we love you...but you already knew that.
The pit of my stomach still feels the pangs and cinched knots growing like one of those rubber band balls, except these bands are tied and matted in every direction. They are not uniform or circular-shaped and they definitely do not bounce when you try to toss and turn them all through the night.
They don’t shift much except to stab my heart when I least expect it, and there is no passing this knot to anyone else. The bands are not rubber, but rather thick, sharp pieces of iron and steel stuck and twisted around my organs. Like a masterful bomb chocked full of shrapnel, and implanted into the center of my intestines while I wasn’t looking. I hear the timer ticking constantly, waiting impatiently for its demise.
It radiates heat from attacking me suddenly and involuntarily, then melting my insides together with a blow torch. The knot forcefully smashes through every vein and muscle on its way to my gut and doesn’t care about the trail of blood and vomit left in its path. Losing a child leaves a physical sort of reverse-birth that is more excruciating than any baby’s arrival, and without a joyful bundle to cradle in your arms after all the damage is done.
It is so sweltering and torturous that my sobbing tries to soften or rust this painful tangle, but the beast laughs as the flow of salt water fades into my shirt. It mocks any attempt of eroding the impenetrable labyrinth, as it knows within minutes there won’t be any proof of the tears that once struggled to dissolve it. It tightly cramps and grips its fist all the way around my waist. The knot wraps itself around my hips and squeezes the oxygen out of my lungs until I am gasping for air and coughing. It is a living organism like a tumorous mass accumulating more cells for its wicked project. It aches with the kind of agony and wailing that only those who have lost a child could begin to understand. It pulses its erratic toxins until my limbs are heavy and numb.
Some days I wish it would just hurry up and explode or claim me as its latest victim. Still, it shows no mercy. There is no reprieve from the hurt. No crying “uncle.” You are still gone. They say that even coal can be turned into diamonds with time and pressure, so I wait. I try to be patient, but I miss you too much. I don’t know how to let time and nature work on the snarled conglomeration, and I know that realistically, even stellar endurance and grit won’t unravel this mess. I want a sledgehammer and the Jaws of Life and I want it now. I wonder if I really will make it or if the knot will cut one too many holes into my already shattered heart. I’m broken and tired in so many ways.
Others farther down this path say the knot never goes away but that it changes and isn’t as overwhelming as it is now. They say this cruel, punishing suffering will always be intense because so is the love. However, they swear the knot doesn’t consume them as frequently as it did in the earlier days. Still, I wonder if this really is true. A year-and-a-half gone by and I miss you more with every additional day that I don’t get to see you. I yearn more each slowly passing month to hold you and kiss your beautiful, perfect face. I want to feel your soft, toddler cheeks against mine and make you laugh. I want to watch you play with your “vroom vrooms” and study their wheels, or have you excitedly climb on my back as we run through the living room like superheroes zooming through the air. I want to see your brilliant, smiling little teeth and be thankful for each of them, even though they caused sleepless nights for all of us. I just want our old life back.
Realistically, I know that not until this body undergoes its own final deterioration will the wretched knot dissipate, and I will finally get to shed my shell.
In the meantime, I’m doing my best. As I often do these days, I ask for guidance from the wisest, most radiant soul I’ve ever met. Caleb, one day I will see you again and tell you “I love you” face-to-face. I know I’m forever wounded by this mangled build-up in my core, but I will carry you with me no matter how slow I have to crawl or how many bruises this monster leaves in its rage. I will keep fighting, writing, and sharing your beautiful, joyful life, and Baby Boy, your love will shine above this tormenting knot. The knot will NOT win. I love you and I always will.
5/6/18-(2:09pm)-(Interesting timing)-Hi Baby Boy. I love you. I miss you but there aren’t even words to tell you how deeply and completely. So much it makes my stomach clench and shudder when I try to exhale through my tears. Today is hard. This month is excruciating. Distractions aren’t working, and as I said before, it all just boils down to missing you. You are always going to be my favorite person in this world or the next. I try to remember that Daddy’s DNA made up half of yours and when I show my love to him, maybe somehow that means I’m still loving you here, too.
Two-years ago at this time, we were at your daycare desperately rifling through pictures and trying to get everything set up for your memorial service. There was an army of family and friends helping us but I was still stressed to the max trying to make every detail perfect for you. A balloon crew, people we didn’t even know preparing food in the kitchen, a thoughtful set of cakes from your uncle, a smoothie from your aunt that I couldn’t even force myself to drink, all your favorite toys on display, and more people than we even had time to hug. Your cousins even flew in from Washington JUST FOR YOUR SERVICE and turned around and took a plane ride home. I have tried to tell myself that this is where my focus should be. I’m trying to remember all the outpouring of love for you and all the ways you are still making us better people. However, I can’t help feeling like I’m suffocating without you.
Apparently, it is Bereaved Mother’s Day today. It’s an interesting concept I just learned of that I suppose at least recognizes that next Sunday doesn’t have the same meaning it once did. I guess it is to acknowledge all of the mommies who have to live without their favorite people but it doesn’t make me feel any better. Yes, I wish I could still be gifted with your simple handprint art but once again, all I really ever needed then and now is you. I never needed or wanted anything special for holidays or birthdays because we already had enough just being together.
Baby Boy, I admit that I still have the gift card Daddy gave me six days after we lost you (my first Mother’s Day here without you). I actually have a plastic bag with several other gift cards I’ve never used, too. It’s not that I’m not using them on purpose, but I will go to a store or online and I try to find something, but I just don’t have any desire to buy the things I once might have. None of these things matter anymore and I’m already spending too much time going through all the extra “stuff” we don’t need and that is cluttering our house as it is.
I knew we had it all then, and Baby Boy, I really WAS grateful. As you can hopefully see now, you are spending your days (or whatever they are where you are) with so many people we were lucky enough to know here on Earth. We will always love them and be excited to hug them someday, too, but no one will ever compare to you. We were already taught many lessons about not taking our days for granted, so I don’t understand why Daddy and I had to have you stolen away to keep that ingrained in our minds.
If there IS one thing that has shifted more than anything it is that my priorities are narrowed. I don’t try to keep as wide of a social circle and I’m doing my best at setting more boundaries to avoid the toxic, draining people or tasks that used to claim more of my time. Mommy never cared much about what other kids at school or other social circles had to say but now it is even more evident. EVERYONE has an opinion on what I should or shouldn’t be doing, but I have bags and bags of something I’m pretty sure you were also born with - IDGARA “I Don’t Give A Rat’s…uh, um, Arm.” You got along with everyone you ever met, but you also always did your own thing, too. I remember your teacher sending me a picture of you “reading” to yourself in your cubby. This was normally reserved for “me time” when someone got in trouble, but you didn’t care. Apparently, you must’ve wanted to read a story and have some time to yourself, so you did.
Caleb Lennon, I will live the rest of my life trying to be more like you. You needed some “me time,” but you didn’t see it as a negative thing. Baby Bear, Mommy is still learning how to have that “me time,” but it is something so foreign and not one I’ve ever been comfortable practicing. I HAVE had to step away from the crowd and have some solitude far more often than I have ever had to do in my life, but it’s still different than the kind of space you gave yourself. In fact, I don’t remember hardly any instances before losing you that I felt the kind of discomfort being in a crowd of people (unless it was a stuffy, formal party where people were going to great lengths to impress each other). Mommy has always been a person that liked people and is even fascinated by our differences. You were starting to grow up and become very similar as well. I DO believe in the idea from Will Rogers “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I don’t think we have to like everyone, but I DO think there is something to like about each person.
I love everything about you and that makes not having you here such a stab in the chest. I will always love you. One thing that is sure to make me absolutely crazy is for people to talk about my love for you in the past tense. THAT WILL NEVER BE TRUE! Please tell everyone to stop saying that. My love for you will always be constant. There is nothing anyone can say or do to me that will ever change that. Maybe it sounds crazy but I loved you even before I was pregnant with you. I didn’t know you like I do now, but I do know I’ve always loved you and I will keep loving you for infinity.
Mommy wrote something about 6 months ago but never posted it anywhere. It seems appropriate on this “Bereaved Mother’s Day” to share it, especially for the others I’ve “met” online who also know what it is like living with this overwhelming ache. (link at the bottom/next blog post)
Someday I will shed this body and this growing knot that lives inside of me and there will never be days like this again.
I LOVE YOU.
Before, then, now, and always. I love you forever, Little Boy.
P.S. Thank you for the perfectly-timed ladybug that came to see me when I needed it most.
We had a great morning at the AutismOklahoma PieceWalk & 5k honoring our little buddy, Austin!!
But first, let me back up a little bit and tell you about another amazing human being.
My sister, Gaust Ama AKA "Michelle" was selling some of my nieces' toys when she found out the buyer taught in an enhanced autism classroom. She donated the items as a way of spreading The Caleb Effect, and probably didn't think twice about ever hearing from the sweet teacher again.
They say actions speak louder than words, and if you Googled "thoughtful woman of action," Maria Casado's picture should appear from now on!
After receiving the toys, she and her kids put together bags of vroom vrooms in Caleb's honor and donated them for children at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, but she didn't stop there.
While out shopping she replaced a bag of candy that was already in her cart in order to purchase more vroom vrooms. Then, she bought $20 worth of vroom vrooms to honor victims of the OKC bombing during our Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon project last weekend. If that wasn't already enough, her kids found out that only four names were left on the lists they chose and what did they do? "My boys felt bad that 4 people were left off so they took $2 each from their wallets." 😲
Do you think I'm finished with their random acts of kindness to a person they have never met and who lives 1,300 miles away?
I received the attached letter along with two beautiful bracelets (again each item chosen with an enormous amount of care).
Today, after leaving the Piece Walk, I went to the post office to pick up a package. What did I see? Another kind envelope from Maria. This time it included lots of little Caleb Effect tags that we will be using to spread Caleb's love. WOW!
If ALL of these things weren't already enough to absolutely make our jaws drop and cry knowing The Caleb Effect really is spreading, Maria bought a globe for her class and they are now tracking all of the places in the world (all 50 states and 69 countries if you are curious) where The Caleb Effect has been!!
Maria, we only intended to come to the Piece Walk, hand out a few vroom vrooms and support our friend, Austin and his family, but you made today an even more special event. The kids loved handing out the vroom vrooms, and Austin's mom, Renee Hays said to tell you that she is never taking the bracelet off!
Austin's dad, Rob Brian, also shared this:
"I want to thank everyone who made today possible. Whether you bought a T-shirt, stopped by for the garage sale, donated to our team (Keep Austin Weird), sent words of encouragement, or quietly prayed or sent positive thoughts our way, thank you from Renee and I.
People ask us how do we handle all of this every day. The answer is we just do. We don’t have a choice. What makes it easier is all of you. Your love and support is what gives us the positive energy to stay strong.
Today was clearly evident of that. There was a record number of people at the Piecewalk today. The energy and love that enveloped the event was so incredible. It reminds us that we are not alone in this. That Austin is not alone. That being weird is not a bad thing, but just the opposite.
Being weird is awesome. Being unique is a good thing. The Piecewalk is an event where weird and unique individuals are celebrated for who they are, not defined by how they act or look.
Thank you to everyone who participated today. Austin may not come up to you and say thank you, but I promise you today meant a lot to him. It meant even more to Renee and I."
Ken Toey (Adam) and I bought t-shirts and made a donation today in honor of Austin, your students, a special boy in Colorado, and all of those who are impacted by autism. Weird is the new awesome and we are so glad we had a chance to be a part of this incredible event!
Thank you for heeding the call to be nice and for sharing Caleb with the world.
(Also, we already heard back from one of the vroom vroom recipients today.)
Hi Baby. I love you. I miss you so much. It has been 2 exceptionally long years since I got to hold you and kiss your angelic, happy face, and 1 year and 364 days since I got to have you hug me, lay your sandy hair on my shoulder, and kiss me back. I miss the way you would squeeze me and we would give each other smooches until it made us both laugh. I hope you feel all my hugs and kisses even though I only get to write them to you now. Just like your “Baby Kisses” book says, “Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah.” I love you and no matter how many more seconds, days or years I have to keep living here, that will NEVER EVER change. I will ALWAYS love you FIERCELY with my whole heart and soul. You have every bit of both and I hope that because of that, it somehow makes it seem like I’m already with you. I know a huge piece of Mommy died that day, too and I’ve often theorized that this might be why people say we don’t have to wait long for those we love to show up after we get to your dimension.
It is a very odd thing knowing you are somewhere I’m not even though we know a lot of trustworthy people who’ve made it there, too. With the exception of daycare, we only left a babysitter with you 4 times in your whole life. Even though we know quite a crowd of family and friends up there, this is still WAY longer than I ever would’ve given you permission to be gone without me, especially without any kind of acknowledgement or request that you were even going anywhere without my supervision. I don’t know if you knew this was going to be happening all along and you just snuck out when we weren’t watching, if you were stolen all at once, or if you struggled and tried to fight off whatever attacked your body. I have so many questions and zero answers. I hate today so much.
I woke up today sweating and it reminded me of 2-years ago when I had probably crawled into bed exhausted, without a shower, and still wearing my clothes from the day before. Then waking up to what I did, and all the other horrors of the day left Mommy feeling a kind of icky I can’t even describe in words. Another tiny shred of symbolism to go with the other repulsive details of the worst day of my life, yet what I hope (but is still too hard to imagine) was the most glorious day of yours.
There is no way you actually remember this but when you were really tiny you used to throw up all over Mama in a most impressive, drenching way until we discovered that BOTH of us didn’t do so great when eating anything made from a “moo Cow.” That’s how I feel today, Baby. I didn’t eat any ice cream or cheese, but I feel like at any moment the knot in the pit of my stomach could erupt and soak everything in vomit. I don’t think you are aging, but just thinking about getting sick made me think your friends who still celebrate birthdays here might actually think watching this sight would be pretty awesome now that they are 4 and into grossing out their parents.
It is true that living here every second since I found you 2 years ago is excruciating. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do over and over, every single day, but I also know that sharing the way you taught us to love is worth it. It is what I’m supposed to do for you now because you can’t do it physically on your own. Keep reminding me of that on days like today, okay?
Today’s weather matches my heart. It’s cloudy and humid and the hail and tornadoes are still to come. I wish we could fast forward or stop at yesterday but the calendar we keep in this world keeps moving no matter how badly we wish or will it to “be nice.” As we learned last year, it is unbelievable that days like today would have the nerve to actually keep coming around. However, as I’ve told you before, the days don’t take their direction from me. I’m just one of the players, not the keeper of all the games.
Thinking about tornadoes this morning reminded me that what makes a tornado is a mixture of hot and cold air. It reminded me of May 2nd. The most perfect, spirited, heated air and energy that I loved to feel on my skin symbolizes your beautiful life and the cruel, coldness that hurts all the way to the bone represents your death (God knows how much I hate writing that). Put them together and you have the darkest storm and everything spinning completely out of control. Your breath and everything perfectly warm and comforting was sucked out with the coldest brutal truth of life. Everything spun out of control and in so many ways we are still dizzy and sick. We’ve cried a thunderstorm of tears and felt like hail was nailing us in the heart over and over again. However, Daddy and I are trying our best to try to hang on to each other to weather the gloomiest clouds and most severe thunder that roars at night.
Sometimes I think I must still be in shock. I don’t feel things like I used to and I don’t know that I ever will without you. Much like Sunday’s race, I’m trying not to worry about time and just make sure I make it to the finish line, but that is so much easier said than done.
I miss you. It all boils down to missing you. I can’t “go there” and think about what happened 2 years ago but my brain still remembers and certain things take me anyway. I also wonder things like if you saw yourself in the out of body experience people talk about before they leave this world. Maybe it was too dark in your room for you to see yourself when you left or maybe someone shielded your eyes. That’s what my hope for you is today. There are still no answers for why you had to leave us so quickly, and Mommy is still haunted by the “what.” What happened, what stole you from us, what is still out there ready to silence Daddy, your cousins, or your animals, and from “what” was it that I should’ve protected you? I wish you could just tell me.
I do not want this day to win and Baby Boy, I’m working my behind off to make sure that doesn’t happen. However, it is literally the challenge of my life. Help me be strong for as long as I have left to live here. It IS what I want to do for you.
I hope you see all 508 shirts with your name on them and know people ARE listening to you and becoming more aware of the ways you show up to let them know you are still here. It is not AT ALL in the way I wish I could have you on Earth, but I’m trying to be grateful that you are still attracting attention and teaching people all over the world how to love like you.
You were always a natural teacher as one of the older ones in your class. You taught the younger kids letters, new words, and even how to greet a new friend joining the group. Caleb Baby, you are getting more virtual pupils all the time, but I miss being in your classroom and seeing your joyous face every day. I just miss you my sweet boy and I can’t wait to have you in my arms and kiss your perfect face again and again. I know there are a lot of people where you are but I’m going to go ahead and warn you that they all better hurry up and get their turn with you now because I WILL be hogging you as soon as my body here is done. Just as you said “My Mommy” when you got jealous that I was playing with your friends, “My Caleb,” I am anxiously waiting my turn with you, too.
You used to tell me that the sun was hiding behind the clouds. I will keep telling myself that my son is hiding behind all of those clouds and that someday I will get to sit and enjoy all your peaceful, bright rays again.
You are the most beautiful boy in the world who ever lived and I will never stop telling anyone who will listen about you. Someday you can tell everyone yourself, too.
I love you through the most violent storms, just help Mommy and Daddy hang on a little tighter on days like today.
I love you, Angel Baby.
Hi Baby. I love you. The Caleb Effect was all over the city today (quite literally), and in many parts of the country as well. Four of your friends and Daddy got up extra early to spread some of your love and vroom vrooms and run the relay in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for you. You also introduced three out of the five to their very first race and they finished in under 5 hours!! Woo hoo!!
Another group of your friends set up a special area in the kids' marathon and passed out 75 vroom vrooms to honor you and the people who were killed there in 1995. That was long before you made it into this world, but a day Mommy and Daddy will never forget.
There were also more than a dozen people who wore your shirts in the race to spread some love. Did you see them? Aunt RoRo ran her first half-marathon and still had steam left in her tank to go for a walk with your cousin afterward.
Do you remember race day, Caleb? You always had SO much fun seeing all the new people and festivities and it was really hard knowing you were not going to be at the finish line greeting me with the happiest smile in the world. I miss you my little bear cub.
Mommy ran today as well but did not break any land records. Thank you for helping me make it to the finish line, which was the only goal I could hope for today. I know Mommy was not properly trained for this and had many setbacks, but I promise you there is NOTHING in this world or the next that will ever stop me from loving you and sharing your happy, friendly spirit.
This was the first race Mommy has signed up to run since you've been gone. I hope you know that I crossed the finish line smiling just for you and knowing the flu of two months ago, the ridiculous training weather, all the deep sadness, and not even shingles or a fever would be victorious today. You didn't ever get to run a race, but Baby Bear, today you won big.
I love you more than you will ever know and I can't wait for that day I get to run to you faster than I've ever sprinted on any course in this life.
I love you forever and always.
We are LOVING seeing everyone getting their new shirts in the mail! (If you are one of the ones who asked us to do one more printing you can get yours here but only for a few more days: https://www.bonfire.com/the-caleb-effect-1/ ) Keep the pics coming! Also, if you would like to help us honor victims of the OKC bombing, you can participate in this project on Sunday no matter where you live or whether you are attending the marathon or not! Here is how:
1. Tell us who you will be honoring (updated list of names of those killed in the bombing and that still need someone to pass out a vroom vroom in their honor are on the Facebook page) and you can learn more about each person here: https://oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/people/)
2. Print off a template under the blog posted titled "OKC Memorial Marathon-Remembering with Vroom Vrooms," or click here: https://thecalebeffect.com/…/22/rv6xq3ohugdfzu2hdj2swze152h…
3. Write the names of those you told us you want to honor on the template
4. Cut out the template
5. Tape it to a vroom vroom
6. Give it to a child on Sunday (wearing your shirt if you have one).
We will be making sure every person who lost their life on April 19th, 1995 is remembered with a vroom vroom given in their name. We have some special people already on our list, but we need your help! Maybe you can honor all of the people who have the same letter of your last name (although all the last names beginning with “G” are already taken). Hot Wheels are about $1 and it would mean a lot to a family who no longer has their loved one here. Thanks friends!!
One week from today, The Caleb Effect will be participating in the OKC Memorial Marathon. This is an event to remember the 168 victims of the bombing of the Murrah Building on April 19th, 1995 and to support The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Caleb absolutely LOVED race day! Seeing new excited faces, bands playing, giving unlimited high fives to the runners, and being the cutest, jumping fan, clapping and beaming with joy was so much fun for him. Last year we created a logistical impossibility for ourselves so Caleb's aunt "RoRo" took the reins and went all out, creating hand-painted T-shirts and handing out vroom vrooms with the relay team for us.
This year we WILL be running (despite our ill-prepared training plan) and we WILL also have a relay team and many others wearing their new T-shirts and spreading the love all along the route. If you would like to join us either in the race, somewhere along the course, or WHEREVER YOU ARE IN THE WORLD, please download this special template we created just for this event, pick up a few vroom vrooms, and post on our Facebook page which of the 168 names you will be writing in the blanks when you hand these to an unsuspecting child (see The Caleb Effect Facebook page for the complete list of names of those who still need someone to honor them and click on the link at the bottom of this post to learn more about each person). Even if we have to find a way to carry 168 vroom vrooms with us, every person WILL be remembered next Sunday!
Before losing Caleb, we ran this race many times to remember all the lives lost and to honor Caleb's great-aunt, Ruth, a survivor who lost her eye, a job she loved, and too many dear friends. Every mile of every race we run is dedicated to someone who is no longer here physically. We run for those who can't and we hope you will feel compelled to do something, too.
As the event website says, "Our mission is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed and unite the world in hope. This is not just another marathon. It is a Run to Remember…and a race to show that we can each make a difference and change the world."
The Caleb Effect believes in making a difference and we know one forever 2-year-old who will be with us every step of the way. We can't wait to see all of you changing the world in Caleb's honor and feeling The Caleb Effect wherever life takes you. "Auntie Ruth" will be waiting for you at the finish line to give you your medal. See you next Sunday!
Lucio Aleman Jr.
Teresa Antionette Alexander
Richard A. Allen
Ted L Allen
Miss Baylee Almon
Diane (Hollingsworth) Althouse
Rebecca Needham Anderson
Pamela Cleveland Argo
Saundra G. (Sandy) Avery
Peter R. Avillanoza
Danielle Nicole Bell
Oleta Christine Biddy
Shelly D. Bland
Andrea Yvette Blanton
Olen Burl Bloomer
James E. Boles
Mark Allen Bolte
Casandra Kay Booker
Carol Louise Bowers
Woodrow Clifford “Woody” Brady
Cynthia L. Brown
Paul Gregory Beatty Broxterman
Gabreon D. L. Bruce
Kimberly Ruth Burgess
David Neil Burkett
Donald Earl Burns, Sr.
Karen Gist Carr
Zackary Taylor Chavez
Robert N. Chipman
Kimberly Kay Clark
Dr. Margaret L. “Peggy” Clark
Antonio Ansara Cooper Jr.
Anthony Christopher Cooper II
Dana LeAnne Cooper
Harley Richard Cottingham
Kim R. Cousins
Aaron M. Coverdale
Jaci Rae Coyne
Katherine Louise Cregan
Richard (Dick) Cummins
Steven Douglas Curry
Brenda Faye Daniels
Benjamin LaRanzo Davis
Diana Lynn Day
Peter L. DeMaster
Castine Brooks Hearn Deveroux
Tylor Santoi Eaves
Ashley Megan Eckles
Susan Jane Ferrell
Carrol June “Chip” Fields
Kathy A. Finley
Judy J. (Froh) Fisher
Linda Louise Florence
Mary Anne Fritzler
Tevin D’Aundrae Garrett
Laura Jane Garrison
Jamie (Fialkowski) Genzer
Sheila R. Gigger-Driver and baby
Margaret Betterton Goodson
Kevin “Lee” Gottshall II
Ethel L. Griffin
J. Colleen Guiles
Randolph A. Guzman
Cheryl E. Hammon
Ronald Vernon Harding, Sr.
Thomas Lynn Hawthorne Sr.
Doris “Adele” Higginbottom
Anita Christine Hightower
Thompson Eugene “Gene” Hodges, Jr.
Peggy Louise Holland
Linda Coleen Housley
George Michael Howard DVM
Wanda Lee Howell
Robbin Ann Huff and baby
Dr. Charles Erwin Hurlburt
Paul D. Ice
Christi Yolanda Jenkins
Norma Jean Johnson
Raymond Lee Johnson
Dominique Ravae (Johnson)-London
Larry James Jones
Alvin J. Justes
Blake Ryan Kennedy
Carole Sue Khalil
Valerie Jo Koelsch
Rona Linn Kuehner-Chafey
Teresa Lea Taylor Lauderdale
Kathy Cagle Leinen
Carrie Ann Lenz and baby
Donald Ray Leonard
LaKesha Richardson Levy
Rheta Bender Long
Michael L. Loudenslager
Robert Lee Luster Jr.
Aurelia Donna Luster
Mickey B. Maroney
James K. Martin
Rev. Gilbert X. Martinez
James A. McCarthy II
Kenneth Glenn McCullough
Betsy J. (Beebe) McGonnell
Linda G. McKinney
Cartney J. McRaven
Claude Arthur Medearis
Claudette (Duke) Meek
Frankie Ann Merrell
Derwin W. Miller
Eula Leigh Mitchell
John C. Moss III
Ronota Ann Newberry-Woodbridge
Patricia Ann Nix
Jerry Lee Parker
Jill Diane Randolph
Michelle A. Reeder
Terry Smith Rees
Antonio “Tony” C. Reyes
Kathryn Elizabeth Ridley
Trudy Jean Rigney
Sonja Lynn Sanders
Lanny Lee David Scroggins
Kathy Lynn Seidl
Leora Lee Sells
Karan Howell Shepherd
Colton Wade Smith
Chase Dalton Smith
Victoria (Vickey) L. Sohn
John Thomas Stewart
Dolores (Dee) Stratton
Victoria Jeanette Texter
Charlotte Andrea Lewis Thomas
Michael George Thompson
Virginia M. Thompson
Kayla Marie Titsworth
Rick L. Tomlin
LaRue A. Treanor
Larry L. Turner
Jules A. Valdez
John Karl Van Ess III
Johnny Allen Wade
Robert N. Walker Jr.
David Jack Walker
Wanda Lee Watkins
Michael D. Weaver
Julie Marie Welch
Robert G. Westberry
Alan G. Whicher
Jo Ann Whittenberg
Frances “Fran” Ann Williams
Scott D. Williams
W. Stephen Williams
Clarence Eugene Wilson, Sr.
Sharon Louise Wood-Chesnut
Tresia Jo Worton
John A. Youngblood
So much sadness today. I’ve been thinking of the 168 people lost and the countless others who were forever changed as I have every year since the day I thought we were having an earthquake in first hour at school. This year my heart hurts even more as a beautiful little boy who only got to celebrate one birthday with his loving parents and sisters was laid to rest today.
I decided to go for a run outside to try and clear my head but I kept thinking about how it was the same park where I used to take Caleb, and where I have pictures of him falling asleep with his toddler-gelled mohawk and a stuffed Spider-Man tucked into his stroller seatbelt.
Tonight the park was full of children having soccer practice, playing baseball games, climbing on the new playground, and learning to throw a frisbee. Things I will never get to do with Caleb.
Even trying to cope in the healthiest way I could imagine completely leveled me.
Losing someone you love is not a one-day event and losing a child means grieving all of the plans we didn’t get to watch them fulfill. It leaves an ache that not even a beautiful sunset can fix and forever holes in all the places their physical presence don’t get to visit anymore.
I don’t believe I will ever be “through” this or “healed,” and that is an agonizingly jagged pill to swallow. It’s just been one of those days that makes me wish I could fast forward time and be together again.
Goodbye April 19th. As I told my friend who buried her son today, “just one second at a time.” It is now past midnight and all of those seconds have finally turned into another day for me and for too many others who are forced to live without their heart and soul. I survived another day and am now one day closer to being with my little boy. I’ll claim that as a victory.
I feel like I’ve run out of prayers but if you have a few extra for my friend’s family and all of those who have to count the seconds until April 19th changes into the 20th, I’m sure they would appreciate a little light, good vibes, acts of kindness or whatever you can offer on this dark day in history.
Hi Baby! I love you. I can’t even tell you how much I love you because there aren’t words that exist in this world that are even close to being adequate. Just know that Mommy loves you more than you loved any vroom vroom or even going “wimming,” and think of you far more often than you thought about how wheels on your toys went around and around. You are always on my mind, heart, and soul, and as I’ve told you before, I hope most of my soul already left with you so that you never wonder where Daddy and I went. My love for you is never going to be in the past tense. Saying I “loved” you is not the way I feel about you. You may be gone physically, but I love you and I will ALWAYS love you, Caleb Lennon. You are my everything, my beautiful boy and you always will be.
I still wonder constantly what you are doing and if your days (or whatever they are now) are still consumed with some version of vroom vrooms that keep you curious and able to tune out the rest of your surroundings. However, I know I probably couldn’t even fathom all the things you now know even if I kept trying for the rest of my days here on Earth.
I know this message is coming to you late again but I hope you have been hearing me when I talk to you and already see that it was not physically or mentally possible over the last couple of days. Because of you, Mommy is really trying hard to pay close attention and push herself outside what is comfortable. I’m still not always courageous enough to do the things I think you want me to do, but I AM listening, Baby Boy, and I really do feel you directing me. I want the whole world to know you even if it is just through stories, pictures and videos. I hate it with all my might that this is my only option I have left. Even though my heart is decimated (that means destroyed and crumpled so small there are only tiny pieces like crumbs left), I want to be able to put that aside so everyone can see you through me. I want to represent you even if it is just a tiny fraction of the person you showed me how to be. I know they can’t see your joy and love when I’m sobbing or despondent (that’s a kind of unhappiness that you thankfully never knew). I have to keep getting off the couch, keep trying, and continuing to tell everyone what I think you would want them to learn. It IS hard to answer questions and meet new people (the cards help though and for anyone reading this who has lost a child, you can make your own version from the “Be Nice” section of the website or click here: https://thecalebeffect.com/kindness/ ). I know the first few questions will always include “Do you have kids?” and it does hurt knowing my only baby isn’t in my arms anymore. It CAN be hard to smile on the 9th or when we visit places in the community for you, but I hope you really do know you are always worth it and your life is worth sharing. This is why we celebrate the 9th, because we want everyone to see the way you lived your life and feel your presence and good-nature as it applies to their own.
Maybe that’s why this was the busiest 9th yet because I wanted to send you in as many directions as possible. Did you see what we did for “Nice On The 9th” this month? We decided to postpone our original theme for this month THIS WEEKEND because we wanted to have more time to make sure when we tackle this upcoming topic, we get it right and have the best picture of the situation. Mommy was already running on borrowed steam, but you helped me make it through somehow. Thank you, Baby. I hope you already know everything I tell you. Maybe you even know things that are still to come, but I don’t live in the same dimension where you have been sent, so for now, this is just my way of telling you, and keeping a record for this life.
This month we chose to be nice to people who have been on this planet longer than us. Some of them have been in this universe for quite a bit longer than us and we wanted to make sure they knew they are still really important people in our community.
You LOVED older people and really did have a sixth sense about what they needed and how you could brighten their day. Daddy loved pushing you in the shopping cart backwards so you could greet everyone and I think you enjoyed entertaining the older crowd more than almost anyone else (except babies). Every time you guys would come home from the store, I would ask him to share the details of your new fan club. Each time you guys went, there was a new story about how you made someone’s day. Daddy turned grocery shopping into a fun outing for you and a way for me to get a few things done at home. I have to admit though, sometimes I was jealous that I didn’t get to see some of these interactions, too. I have been told I’m a pretty empathetic person, but I had nothing on you. Caleb, how did you know exactly what every single person needed from you and exactly how to give it to them?
I don’t know if you have memories of your entire life or how that works now, but there was a time when we were on an airplane flying home from visiting your family in Washington and you stretched out your arms to a complete stranger a few rows away. She asked if she looked like someone you knew or maybe a grandmother, but there was no resemblance to anyone in your routine life. She looked pretty harmless and since we were on an airplane, I knew she couldn’t get very far even if she wanted to. I hoisted you over to her and took my seat in our row. The lady lit up as you pointed out the window and jibber-jabbered something I couldn’t understand from where I was sitting. You sat with her for takeoff and went back and talked to her again for probably at least another 30 minutes until we landed. She thanked us for letting you visit with her and we found out that when we had boarded the plane, she was terribly upset because she had just left her own grandkids. She wasn’t crying and Daddy and I probably didn’t even notice her because we were too busy trying to figure out the best way to maneuver what your Uncle Lon termed “crappage” into the overhead bins. However, you did. You didn’t just notice her or even just perceive that she needed you, but you also did something about it. You weren’t even old enough to have your own seat on the airplane, but you found your own way to help her anyway. You stretched out your arms to her and took the edge off her pain. You went even beyond that and made her smile.
This is one of the most perfect examples of how you instinctively knew things that the rest of us couldn’t. I don’t know how I was ever chosen to be your mommy, but it is what I will be most grateful for for the rest of my life. You knew what I needed and always gave me the best tight hugs, extra kisses, the most delightful giggles, and play time spent cracking each other up that made all my stress melt away. I know I am supposed to keep carrying that love and pure joy you shared with me and make it last for the rest of my lifetime. I will cherish every nanosecond I had with you here and I will never stop trying to be more like you, Baby Boy.
Because of you, there are literally hundreds of people who experienced a thoughtful surprise (or are soon to experience one as the goodies are handed out in the coming days and weeks). You only aged two years so you never had to experience things that come with getting older. As we get more candles on our cakes, we usually become wiser and our priorities clearer. Unfortunately there are also some not so great things that come with every “Happy Birthday” song, too. Our health, favorite possessions (that’s stuff we own), privacy, independence, regular human interaction, participation in events, hobbies, and even just access to decent meals can be lost.
We say we don’t have time to visit others because we know sometimes it might take a while to chat or maybe some of our older friends might have trouble saying goodbye as your Uncle Thomas has dubbed “The Lindo Linger.” Booger Bear, you were the exception. You did not walk past an older person, dismiss them, or get angry when they took an extra few minutes to collect an item off the shelf or cross the street. You always made sure to wave at them, say “hi,” give a high-five, or let them know you loved them just as they were. Did you just know these things because you were a child and still so innocent in the ways of the world or were you given some supernatural gifts? We are taught that it isn’t polite to stare at people, but maybe we use that as an excuse to dismiss everyone else and only worry about our own needs. Is it just human-nature or part of self-preservation that as we become adults, we start focusing more and more on ourselves? Whatever it is, I think this may be a good reminder to stop and nonchalantly (that’s when you don’t make it obvious) people watch long enough to notice someone who needs us.
Baby Bear, Mommy realizes now that she has more energy than most people, but I hope the 17 stops (not including lunch) proved that even a small amount of quality time being present with people who need them is possible and necessary even if it isn’t done all in one day. I know Mommy is not the only one going at a 150 mile an hour pace trying to get it all done. There are work obligations, ball games, birthday parties, church events, and all kinds of other distractions, but even a 10-minute phone call on your way to one of these activities could mean the world to someone who spends most of the day by themselves.
Little Bear Cub, you were always the one person who could always keep up with me and I know you are the reason I was able to keep up with you without crashing. Thank you. I miss running around like a crazy person with you so much, but I also hope the 9th was a day that many others also took time to slow down and have a conversation with an elderly neighbor down the street, a grandparent, or a new friend who needs them.
Help us to see what people need and to go further by noticing others. Guide us to look up from our phones and really see people and sense their suffering. Let us reach our arms out to people who need us and encourage us to do go a step further and do something about it. Give us the courage to sit with someone in their pain and make their day. Your Uncle Andy was right, you were a superhero whose powers were to make everyone love you even if they didn’t intend on letting you in their hearts. You are my light in the darkest of places.
One day we will both be in the light and I will get to see you on a day that both of our arms will be stretched out as wide as your smile. I will squeal and sprint as fast as I can to get to you, and I will never let you out of my arms again. All of my pain will disappear and I will finally get to introduce you in person to every last fan you are making here.
I can’t wait to finally experience that kind of day where both of us knows what the other needs and the only thing we need is our little family back intact again. I love you forever, always, and completely.
I love you.
The 9th is tomorrow!! Caleb shared a special bond with his great grandma, and even said “I luh you guh..,” when he should’ve been way too young to have been able to say that. Whether it is an elderly neighbor who is lonely, a stranger in a nursing home, a little old man at the grocery store, or just someone wearing an “old man” style hat, we hope you will join us tomorrow in your new colorful shirts to buy a cup of coffee, sit with a new friend, or find your own way to spread some love! Don’t have a shirt? Link is in my Instagram bio, and pasted here as well. Shirts are only available until Tues (11 PM EST), so get them while you still can!
Hey "Peeps!" This will be my last video for SUDC Awareness Month-2018. I didn’t even attempt to stay under two minutes this time, but I hope you will watch and see why this month is so important to me.
P.S. The 444 other kids I refer to in the video only include the numbers from the U.S.
P.P.S. Caleb’s death would not have been categorized as SUDC if we had not hired a private autopsy, but that is a story for another day.