Capitalist Note - I'm getting ready to go to a funeral for a neighbor's 18-year old who died way too young. Everyone has stories about people who have passed that they admired. This is mine. I'm sending it to the parents today.
Natalie and Alex -
Your son passed away way too young. You've heard hundreds of stories and looked at hundreds of pictures over the last couple of days. Here's mine. It's online, so throw it in a gmail folder and look at it when the physical photos aren't available, or when you need to hear that Blake mattered.
My love for your son is framed from where I watched him. This picture shows you where he had the most impact on me. It's not an event or a conversation I had with him.
You recognize the picture. It's looking at our street, where the neighborhood kids play. That's your house to the left. This is where I watched Blake.
More to the point, this is where I watched Blake take care of my oldest son - 7 years younger than your boy.
In 2001, we moved into the neighborhood. As anyone who knows your family would expect, everyone in your house greeted us with open arms. But - we introduced a new variable to the lives of your kids. Here's a picture of that variable:
A roaming, sloppy 2-year old looking for attention, especially attention from older boys in the neighborhood. The type of thing that sends most older boys running.
Part of watching your kid from the window is seeing them get rejected. That's life and it's part of growing up.
Blake was different from the pack. While many older kids would (and did) run from the kid pictured above when approached for the 1000th time, your son remained calm.
He always had time for the kid in the boots.
Always. I saw it from the window.
Quality time. He let the kid approach. He talked to the kid. He let the kid play, even if it meant the game being played was effectively over. He was kind. He always found a way for the kid to feel great about himself. He showed him how to do things. We see kindness in our kid today that looks a lot like what your son provided.
In short, he was a mentor - and didn't even know it. Most mentors don't realize the impact they have on others. It happens informally and it's just who they are.
Part of that is great parenting, to be sure. Part of it was just who your son was.
When I heard the news, the only thing I could think about was that window. Hundreds of videos playing in my head of your son - taking care of the sloppy kid in boots pictured above.
Your son was different and had impact beyond what you know. God bless your son and your family.