Today is my son’s birthday. My first born on earth. My first to enter Heaven. And I certainly pray Travis is the only one to graduate to that higher realm before I do, though seeing my children choose Jesus and knowing they have eternal life is my highest calling and the thing that matters most to me.
Losing a child is an amputation of the heart. Oh, not the whole heart. But that section where he and he alone resided. I still have wonderful, adored children on planet earth and my heart is full of them. But a piece of my heart is gone. And like an amputee who feels the pain of his lost limb, the empty space in my heart aches with unquenchable grief for my son. I wake in the night with it. I walk through the day with it and on days like today, the tears fall and fall and fall.
On a long ago August 19, a Thursday morning at 7:28 a.m. after a very long night, Travis arrived battered, bruised, one eye swollen shut and an orange sized hematoma on his head. The moment the doctor held him up for me to see, I laughed with joy. And then I cried at damage a difficult delivery had done to him. He was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.
I had waited a long time for his arrival. He was much anticipated and passionately loved long before his battered face drew a breath. I would lie on the floor, hands on my tummy, and talk to him as I practiced breathing exercises. Somewhere in a Bible I wrote down the traits I wanted him to develop. Integrity, intelligence, kindness, love of God and others. He embodied all of those and so many more good qualities in his abbreviated life. Even in the long excruciating battle with cancer, his thoughts were for others. He pushed forward and he never complained.
Looking back, I realize how gifted he always was. Sensitive, perfectionist with himself, Travis was the hardest working boy-and later man-I’d ever seen. And as a teacher, I’d seen many. When he did something, he wanted to do it right, to do it well. In second grade, he cried because he made only a 99 percentile on his achievement tests, not understanding that 99% was the top score in the nation.
In junior high he suffered bullying. Sensitive, bright kids seem especially to be targets. Older, mean boys, knowing he wanted to do what the coach asked, would tie knots in his football pads and make him late to gym where he’d have to run laps for being late. He never “tattled”, even though I wanted him to. Those same boys would sabotage his locker, hide his homework (and usually copy it), and mock his intellect. Even a teacher did that once. He forgave those people and moved on, proving himself bigger than all of them. Mom is still working on that.
By high school he’d come into his own. He was handsome, funny, popular, and involved in every available activity—usually as the leader. Though he worked a part time job, attended college part time, and played every sport, he graduated Valedictorian with a pile of awards and scholarships.
I could go on forever about his accomplishments. Medical school, named outstanding surgical resident, established a medical practice that was not only respected but loved. Along the way, he married and gave me two grandchildren, both of them so much like him. How he loved them. How he did everything for them.
Before dawn this morning, I stepped outside and looked up at the sky, hoping to see a shooting star. You see, again this is a memory of Travis. He was interested in everything and the pair of us shared a fascination for God’s universe, especially the night sky. When he was about ten, he and I tossed a quilt onto the ground late one August night to watch the Perseids. The night was pleasant and the sky navy blue and star-studded. We watched the occasional, marvelous flash of falling star for a long, memorable time.
I never look at the night sky that I don’t think of him.
So today, I remember this fine, beautiful son and take solace in knowing that I am 860 days closer to seeing him again in Heaven.
Happy birthday, Travis. I miss you.