thank you

thank you

Have you ever received a hug from someone that you never wanted to end. The type of hug where they wrap their arms completely around you and squeeze just right. Where you melt in their embrace and feel so loved and protected. Their strength oozing out on you, the warmth of their body enveloping you. I experienced that on Saturday. But it wasn’t one person. Every single second of that day, felt like a big, warm bear hug that I didn’t want to end. It was an emotional day and many tears were shed. But friends and family began reaching out to us Friday night to let us know they were thinking about us. And the tight hug embraced us well into Saturday evening. I have never, ever felt so loved before.

Saturday was a big day for our family. It was the third year team JR Hearts participated in Briggs and Al’s Run, and by far the most important. We had nearly 100 people walking and running with our team that day. People took time off from work to fly to Milwaukee to be here for us. Family from Michigan and Louisiana pounded the pavement with us. Probably half of our neighborhood surrounded us. Church families. And the most amazing four nurses that loved and cared for Jackson joined us, as well as his two cardiologists and their families. (Can I just say that for these six medical professionals, who we love dearly, to take time out of their very busy schedules and come walk with us was humbling.) And friends and family from coast to coast who couldn’t be with us walked in their hometowns. Eric and I were in awe. There is no doubt Jackson is loved. Even from a distance, and though his physical body is not here with us, my baby boy is loved deeply.

Most of team JR Hearts
The day was beautiful – figuratively and literally. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was a cool morning with the sun beaming down and hardly a cloud in the sky. As my friend Katie said, “Today is a beautiful day…and you know what that means? Jackson is smiling down on us. His smile was pure sunshine.”
Family from Louisiana and Michigan
Look at that smile…Robin’s and Jackson’s!
Jackson made sure we had a good day to walk. And walk we did. And some of us ran. And we didn’t just do it for Jackson; we did it for all of the kids at Children’s Hospital. Our goal this year was to raise $3,000. Our friends, family and even strangers rose to the occasion, and we raised more than $10,000. What!?!? That is incredible! Some people gave their hard earned money for our little guy. Some people held bake sales. Others raised money. And every single penny goes to the Jackson Reese Endowment Fund, which means that the money you gave will continue to help other children forever. Eric and I said from early on that we want some good to come from our nightmare. Because of all of you, it will. It already has. Thank you. Thank you to those who gave. Thank you to those who joined us on Saturday. Thank you.
 It’s hard to tell in this photo, but there are thousands of people in front of us.
The last 5 months have been awful. There are days when I just hate life. I miss Jackson so badly. Honestly, unless you have lost a child, you will never know this pain. I pray that you don’t ever have to. I miss that sweet smile. I miss his warm hugs. I miss the way he smelled. I miss his slobbery kisses. I miss his outie belly button. I miss squeezing his little tushie. I miss watching him play with Kate. I miss our life before April 20, 2013. On numerous occasions, before Jackson moved to Heaven, I told myself how blessed I was and said I felt like our family was complete. Now, it’s incomplete. I will never have that feeling back. I’ve been robbed. I go to look at our pictures and hope and pray I find one that I haven’t seen yet. I want one more picture with him. One more moment.

I battle so many different emotions everyday. Yet, in the same breath that I can say all of that, I can also say that besides Kate and Eric, the only way that I am able to get out of bed each day and make it through is the hope and knowledge that I will see Jackson again. I know he is happier than any of us could ever dream. He doesn’t miss me because he can see me every day. And one day I will see him again. I find great comfort in that.

Eric and I have always said how blessed we are. Through all of our trials the last five years, including Jackson’s move to Heaven, we have found the blessings. It’s not always easy, but the way that our lives have played out the last few years, it’s hard not to see God working. Specifically, God knew what he was doing when we found this house, in this town, in this neighborhood. We’ve always known we had great neighbors. They were there for us when Jackson was first born, and I was going back and forth to the hospital. And they have been there for us nonstop since April. Saturday ended at one of our neighbor’s homes. Everyone brought food and we remembered Jackson’s life and celebrated the amazing day. 

Cookies the neighbors had made with our team logo.
At the end of the evening, our friends presented us with four blue sky lanterns. If you’ve never seen these before, they are beautiful. They were all to be lit and sent directly to Jackson. One for us, one for Kate, one for the grandparents and one for the neighbors.  It was a beautiful sentiment. So, we did. One by one, we lit them, made a wish and let go. They floated up illuminating the night sky as they made their way closer and closer to Jackson. As I watched every single lantern until I couldn’t see them, I envisioned Jackson catching each one, with his big toothy smile. So happy. It was the perfect way to end the day.
There are so many people I want to thank but there is no way to list you all here. So many people have donated money, given their time and talents, prayed for us and with us, hosted and contributed to the gathering and just been there for us. There is no way that we could ever repay you all for everything you have done for us. But please know we are forever grateful. Jackson’s light is shining on down here, and because of all of you he will be impacting and changing lives forever. I can only hope and pray that one day we can pay all of the love that we have received forward.