Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy 11th Birthday, Jake!

 As you have probably come to expect by now, I typically do a blog post every year on my Christmas decorations. As I am putting them up, I am always pretty reflective on my life, and how all of these ornaments and decorations came to be a part of my life.  As I am un-decking the halls tonight, I am taking time to pay particular attention to this little tree.  It's my "angel tree".
 The reason it is called my Angel Tree is because it is put up each year to honor and remember a special little angel.
 That angel would be 11 years old on the 31st.  Every year when everyone shoots fireworks and celebrates, I always just imagine that the whole world is celebrating Jake and his awesome life.
 I now see people who lose loved ones, and I have a new "answer" as I try to console them.  They may or may not like what I have to say, but after losing Jake, it became very, very clear to me.
 God KNOWS the length of your days.  He knows the length of your loved ones' days.  He knew that Jake would live four years.  He knew that he would touch millions of people with his story.  He knew that his legacy would help other kids with cancer all over the country.
 And He knew that how we, his family, chose to deal with his life and death would be a huge testimony to many.
 So, when others are dealing with loss, I try to explain to them, that God KNEW this would be the day that their loved one would end their time on earth.  It came as no surprise to Him.  Only to us.  And we can rest in the realization that God's timing is perfect.  And then, hopefully, we can find peace and with reflection, also purpose in that life that God sent to the Earth to grace ours and to enrich all who came to know them.
 And so, this is my Christmas tree that most helps me remember this great kid.
 I have angels of all types.  This lace one is from my Nannie's tree.  She made them herself.  She used to go to the nursing home very regularly and visit with the residents and do crafts with them. I remember vividly going with her.
 I have collected angel wings over the years to go on this tree as well to represent those who are now in Heaven.
 Ironically, I can remember the Christmas before Jake went to be with Jesus that he helped me decorate this little tree.  It was shorter than my others, so he was able to help me put the ornaments on it.
 I had been receiving these Lenox ornaments for years from my dad and stepmom.  Each ornament has a date on it.
 For instance, this angel says, "2004".  Each one is given to me and Todd on our anniversary in September.
 Here's 2005.  I just love this tradition.
 Apparently, 2004 was the year of the angel, because I have two ornaments from that year and they are both angels.  It is also the year Jake was diagnosed with cancer.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Again, God knew what the plan was.
 It was just our role to live it out.  To live as boldly and confidently as we could and to shout to the mountaintops that we were Christians and that we BELIEVEd in God's healing, no matter what form that would come in.
 Don't you even think I don't LOVE this one!
 I have little photos of Jake all over this tree.
 And awesome messages that help me know that he is ok.
 I threw in a few of my angels on earth too!  This is Ellie when we first moved into this house.  She was 3 years old.
 Coach, possibly our favorite dog ever, (even though I don't think we should really have a favorite.... our pets are like our kids... except poor ol Tarzan!...but Coach was our "first born"), is the topper to this Angel Tree.
 Here we have 2012.
 And my favorite dated one, 1996.  It is the year we got married, and the first one we ever received.

 I kept several of Jake's armbands from St. Jude along the way.  I am so glad that I have these.  I sometimes cant' believe that these were actually on his tiny little arm.  This one was one that he wore on 10/10/2005.  He had to wear one every single day that he entered the hospital.
 Here's my other little angel.. she is on loan to me too.  Just like Jake was on loan to Staci.  We are just the chosen ones who get to be called their mamas until Jesus calls them back.  Gabbi was two in this picture.  Just a tiny little thing.
 And as I pack them up, I reflect on every year.  This was 2002.  Todd and I were actively going through aggressive fertility treatments.  WHo knew then that all of those shots and drugs, and 4 hour round trip trips would be futile!  And God also knew that we would be needed to help with Jake's siblings as he would be moving several states away with their mama the in the next couple of years.
 Again, God's timing is perfect.  He knew that Ellie and Gabbi were heading my way.

 Another one from 1996.  It also says, "Our First Christmas Together".  WOW!  How far we have come.  I remember hanging this on our first tree.  Todd and I were 27.  We are now 43.
 So much has happened in our lives together, just as I am sure it has in yours.  It's sometimes crazy to just stop and reflect.  I am so blessed.  God has been so good to me!
 This was our mantra during Jake's illness.  It is still seen on the windows of cars and trucks all over our hometown.  I really love to see it when I am out of town, knowing how many people were praying and loving Jake and reallly all of us as they Believed with us during his bout with cancer.

 And HOPE was the word that St. Jude uses on all of its promotional material.  It will always be a special word to us as well.  In fact, Staci used it as Madison's middle name.  St. Jude was, is and will always hold a very, very special place in our hearts.

 ANd then when I was just about finished, I found this one... "It took the heart of a child..."
 "to reach the soul of the world."  I realize this ornament was made to represent Jesus, but I can also see a parallel with these words and Jake.  His little warrior heart, refusing to quit, refusing to be beat down, and refusing to lose its spirit of wonder and play and happiness, really did "reach the soul of the world".
 He was an awesome kid.
 And tomorrow we will celebrate his birthday.  My kids certainly know all about Jake.  They know that the word "Believe" represents Jake in our house.  They know that we wear lime green when we want to remember him (Ellie has already told me, in detail, her plans for her outfit for the big celebration later tomorrow night).  They know that he lives in Heaven, and that we send balloons to him when we miss him or want him to know that we are thinking about him.  They know that we will see him again someday.

 I am so blessed to have known him.  I have spent the last year really committing to learning more about spirit, soul, religion, God, and LOVE and how these things are the same or different.
 I am confident that Jake had a very specific purpose to his life.  He had a mission which I feel he carried out with perfection.
 I feel his spirit with me often.  I feel his soul continues on...and is very close to me.

 I am glad that I had the privilege of being his aunt.  I am thankful that so many people prayed for him and believed in his healing, thus believing in the power of God.  I think he taught many people about LOVE.
 And now I have the honor of raising my own two precious little ones, with wisdom and a different perspective that could have only been gained by knowing Jake.
 Jake, we love you and miss you.  We are richer people for having known you.
 I hope you'll send up a balloon, a firework or just a prayer tomorrow in celebration of Jake's life.

Jake's very grateful,
Aunt Mo


Michelle said...

Big ol tears, gal. Such sweet words. What a cherished child. I can't wait to meet him one day! We let balloons go up today with letters of love for my Papa. We will remember Jake tomorrow!

connie said...

iam the first one to comment on here tonight i remember jake and his fight i got one of believe cross and little square that has believe painted on them. i love all the pictures you took of your angel tree i cant believe he would have been 11 years old happy birthday jake im sure he will have a wonderful birthday celebration in heaven tomorrow, i will send up a ballown up tomorrow. cant wait to see the pictures from yalls celebration of jakes birthday...

Nana said...

I just took down my big tree and looked carefully at the wooden star ornament with a picture of you and Jake on it... and the word BELIEVE. I had glued the hospital bracelet on the back. Don handed it to me when we went to see y'all at St. Jude's. Then we went to the Pierce's to eat. I remember it all so clearly. I always remember Jake's birthday because Case was born 5 days after Jake. I look at Case and can imagine how big Jake would be. You are so right! That precious little boy touched thousands of lives all over the world and made us better people for knowing him...and his family as they shared his life with us. Wonderful post, Mel.
(I still have my M&M's too)

mark and bobbi said...

Beautiful post, and a wonderful tribute to an awesome little boy. He was blessed to have an inspiring aunt "mo".

Deb said...

...and of course I read this at 11:11, how perfect. Thanks for sharing and you are right, he has made a difference! I started following you during that time and were always so blessed to read the journal and "walk" with you! He will not be forgotten!

Cassie12 said...

Love your "angel tree" Beautiful post about a beautiful little boy who has definitely touched so many lives!!
Happy Birthday Jake!!! A special prayer will be said for Jake tomorrow. Have fun celebrating his birthday!!!
Hugs to all of his family.
Redwood City, CA

Ashley Bianchi said...

Beautiful tribute to an awesome kid! We still remember Jake fondly as one of our first kids at St. Jude. We love your family!
Ashley and Ed Bianchi

Amy K said...

A very wise woman you are...thank you for sharing your heart and your family here.

Remembering sweet Jake with you today....

Zhohn said...

Happy Birthday Jake; little blue eyed angel taught me so much! I'm so thankful to your family for sharing him with us, which eventually led to you sharing your girls with us ;)

Love the tree topper!

Happy New Year!!

Kimmy said...

Wow, I can't believe our little onion head would be 11 today! I remember the pics of TTB riding him on the 4 wheeler, and the boys playing with him. Mo, you're an amazing woman with an amazing family and I thank you for sharing them with ME. You have brought your family into the hearts of so many, and I look forward to the day that I get to come to LA to meet you. I wish y'all many, many new blessings in 2013, and anxiously await to follow watching "our girls" continue to grow and keep you on your toes along the way!

Kristina said...

I first "met" your family during Jake's illness. It literally changed my life. I began giving to St Jude and volunteering at RMH. I am a better person for knowing your story. Thank you for sharing. We will praise God and His plan he had for Jake.

snekcip said...

Celebrating JAKE today with your wonderful family. I THANK GOD for bringing this ANGEL into my life. I have my BELIEVE sticker proudly displayed here in TEXAS!! I also have my HEART WITH WINGS ring proudly displayed in my car. It has been with me since I have attended the SHAKE FOR JAKE 2011!!

I use to ponder HOW I managed to find Jake's blog, but it's all clearer to me was all a PART OF GOD'S PLAN to bring so many different people both near and far, different racial backgrounds,etc who all worshipped HIS LOVE AND MERCY through one special little boy, JAKE OWEN RABORN. Thank you GOD for Jake, thank you for The Raborns, The Masseys and THANK YOU GOD FOR TEACHING US TO LOVE and NOT JUDGE, for we are ALL GOD'S CHILDREN.

Mo, continued blessings for your BEAUTIFUL FAMILY and the many I have come to know thru your blog.

Gotta go put on my LIME GREEN TEE when I get home!! Yep....Bre and I still have ours!!

Theresa Shirley said...

Oh Mel--what a very precious post! As I'm looking at the comments I noticed that there are 11--on Jake's 11th birthday! It doesn't seem very long ago at all that I was reading Jake's Caringbridge page, and then your blog as you began writing it. I'm so glad I've gotten to "know" all of you, and I thank you for sharing your lives. You're right--Jake's life was an awesome testimony to many people. I love the pic of Ellie with the angel--how sweet! Happy Birthday Jake, and Happy New Year to all of your family. Love ya'll!!

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing your Angel tree. I too joined up with you all when Jake was fighting the fight. His "We Believe" "WE love and support you Jake" magnet greets me everyday with his precious smile. I have also fought with more than one co-worker over my Believe cross that sits on my desk - I'm pretty sure it is part of Mo's work. I also still wear my believe necklace in memory of a precious little one. You have got it right - my nephew died 24 years ago at the age of 11. We were blessed to have him for 11 years. His daddy always said, our children are not our children, they belong to God as we all do. Happy Birthday Jake and you all have a great New Year. Becky

Granddad said...

Mel - Beautiful post and I just looked at the time on my computer, it is 11:11am. Love, Granddad

Rhonda said...

Beautiful words....I'm so thankful I somehow stumbled across Jake's caringbridge page many years ago. Simply put, beautiful thoughts and words....

Mary said...

LOVE! This was just what I needed this morning after we spent a teary night last night remembering many of our friends and family that have gone before us. Thank you!

Mary said...

I was also just thinking of the time you brought Jake every kind of gum one could imagine. :) LOVE that memory! What a great aunt!

Becky said...

Happy Birthday ^Jake^!! I can't believe he would be 11 already! I remember reading his caringbridge page and PRAYING with you, and honestly I'm not even sure how I found his page up here in Minnesota! Guess it all happens for a reason! I remember his love of M&M's!! I just love that cute little bald head! Missing him with you! Enjoy his celebration today and know we are all praying for you! Happy 2013!

Susantwilhelm said...

Jake's sweet precious life touched me in such a way that I will always be thankful. If had not been for your lovingfully blogging his journey, I would not have met you and been able to watch your own beautiful children grow. God has a plan....

Sassy said...

What a beautiful tribute!!!!! He was blessed to have you as his aunt!!! My kids have a WONDERFUL aunt-its a special relationship!!!


Pat said...

Such a beautiful post from a very wise woman. Thanks for sharing all of those precious moments in your life...but especially this.

Maureen said...

What a beautiful post! Wishing you and your extended family peace and joy in 2013.

Unknown said...

What an awesome post! I will always remember Jake and his story. I love your outlook on his life, and on your life! What an amazing testimony that you have to share with those around you. Not only have you touched people with Jake's story, but with your infertility, your adoptions, your business, your influence on your employees and patients, your influence that you have had on the lives of so many teenagers, your friendships, your blog. etc. etc....SO, SO awesome! Even though I don't know you personally, you have touched my life with yours. So glad I happened upon Jake's page so many years ago, and continued to follow your blog. Happy Birthday to Jake, and a very Happy New Year to you and your precious family!

Juanda said...

Melanie,this is a winner as far as your blogs go,right from the heart.Not only was Jake's short life destined,so was yours to be there in such a powerful way to honor his memory,boast the support to St Jude's and most of all Glorify God.You are a blessing to many people,thank you for your endless energy of being another Child of God.

kimybeee said...

i was so shocked on fb when don said happy 11th birthday to jake - it is like time has stood still and he will always be that smiling little man with such a warm spirit!!!

i always think of jake's halloween tree and m&m's and 4wheeler rides and hunter shaving his head to match jake. i think of staci in that little bed cuddled with jake all the time and the wagon rides and visits that just made that boy glow.

but his smile is what i always remember - even when you knew he was having a bad day - lots and lots of smiles!!!!

god's timing is perfect and you and your family are a beautiful testament of faith!! i think those smiles were because jake "knew" god's love and knew what an impact he had on this world during his short time here!!!

happy birthday jake!!!! always believe!

Shannon said...

I too do not remember how I found Jake's page. But I do know that it's been part of God's plan. You, Jake, and the Groves/Massey/Raborn family have certainly impacted my life. Thank you for that.

Emily said...

*tears*....Yes, Jake made an impression on our family that will never fade....every "11" we see brings a Jake discussion, every sun ray, everything green, M&Ms, "Live Like You Were Dying", etc. Shelbi always felt a special connection with Jake and we still feel so very blessed today for getting to know him.