As much as I dreaded Taylor's birthday, it is now over. Another milestone is passed, and we are still sitting in the palm of Jesus's hand. I got up on Thursday morning the day of Tay's birthday with a deep pain in my heart---I just kept thinking about the day 21 years before---how little and cute he was---he was so tiny they put a little green hat on him to keep his body temp up. A couple of days before his birthday, I decided to sit down and write a letter to Tay to read at the cemetery on his birthday. I knew I could probably not read it, because I was sobbing just writing it and when I tried to read it over just to see if I could, I ended up sobbing even harder---so knew it was going to be impossible for me to read it. Brooke thought she might be able to, but as time got closer to his birthday, she didn't think she could either, so I asked a good friend to read it. Spencer and Brooke decided that they would try going to school that morning. Spencer wore one of Tay's favorite shirts and Brooke wore the Famous Yamaha shirt with "In memory of Taylor Gasser" on the back. She knew it was going to be a tough day, but was hoping being busy at school might help, maybe even a little tiny bit would be a good thing. She said on the way to school----and as she drove past the high school there were all these tractor----and most of them red (Taylor's favorite kind). At first, she thought, are they doing this in Taylor's honor of this birthday-----because anybody that knew taylor knew he loved tractor's, but soon realized it was FFA days. By the time, she got to school, she was on the verge of tears and was hoping nobody would remember that it was taylor's birthday. She had a meeting first thing in the morning, but one look at her an Mr. Dreher knew what was going on and decided to cancel the meeting. By this time, her heart is aching so much, she can't take another minute and breaks down into tears. Mr. Dreher's heart is breaking for Brooke. He helps her through this breakdown and then for the rest of the day, the teachers all help her with the kids. They all showed great compassion for Brooke, but by the time she got home from school, she said I feel like I am just whipped, but knew we had some very hard things yet to get through. Spencer said his day was sad, but not as many people knew what the day was---the kids did not remember, or most likely most never ever knew it was his birthday, but one sweet girl, a friend of Spencer's put a plate of cookies in his locker with a note. I tried to keep busy---but it did not take much for me to have tears running down my cheeks. It was a warm sunny day, but very windy. I wanted to get balloons and tie them on his cross out at the cemetery, but afraid they would either burst or fly away before evening. April, Diane, Max, Morgan and I went to wooster to get balloons anyway, because we were all praying that the wind would die down before evening---power in pray, and we just felt God would answer it. I knew alot of people were praying for us, because I had asked almost everybody I knew to please pray for us that day. I felt, yes, the day would be very difficult to get through, but knew there is great power in prayer and I also knew that God would give us just the right amount of Grace to get through this very difficult day. This verse kept running through my mind all day, Isa. 40:31 "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."WOW--that verse was so true. Just like eagles, when a storm hits, an eagle sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm---while the storm is raging below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm, but simple rises on the winds to be lifted higher. That is so much like God's Grace--I was soaring on the wings of God's Grace---lifted up above the tremendous grief of celebrating a birthday of a child that is not here. The winds are still very strong, but knew I would never survive if I was pulled right in the middle of the storm. Yes, God has allowed a grief-storm to enter my life, but He will give me His strength to rise above.
At 6:10 we leave for the cemetery, not knowing who or even how many of his friends are planning on coming. We get there finish tying the balloons on. As we stood there, we realized God answered our prayer---it is a beautiful evening. The sun is shining, the wind had completely died down. We barely get the balloons tied up and the cars and truck start coming up that long drive. I just stood there watching one after another pulling into the drive. It was very quiet as each one got out of their vehicles and walked over to his grave site. I hugged a few people and yes, there were tears, but could feel the prayers and support of all that were there. After about 20 minutes the last one pulled in---there were probably around 65 people there, some holding balloons, some brought flowers, but most of all they were there to support us. Jeff started it off with his voice cracking thanking everybody for coming and saying a few other things. Mark, and many others had on that same shirt that Brooke wore to school---in Taylor's memory---it just tore at my heart to see how these kids truly loved Taylor and are missing him just like the rest of us. Brittany read the poem she wrote in Tay's memory---it was so him, then Rebecca read the letter I wrote to Tay----yes, it was just as hard to listen to her read it as it was when I was reading it over at home---My heart is breaking because he isn't here to celebrate his birthday with all of his friends and family, but I just have to keep focusing on that he is celebrating big time in heaven-----maybe not his birthday, but celebrating and worshipping our Savior Jesus--not just today but every single day. Spencer spoke next---he told a memory about Taylor and himself----a trick Tay played on him last April 1st (April fools' day). Brooke spoke next---she just spoke from her heart. Mark said something that was so very true---when something bad happens---Taylor's death was definitely bad, but something very good can also happen---giving your heart to Jesus is the very best thing that can happen. Some of Taylor's friends then spoke and told some memories about him. Then Spencer lit the candle. We all just stood there watching it burn for a several seconds, before Rebecca had a prayer. As she was praying it was like Taylor was saying I am here too---because in the background we can hear a fourwheeler in the distance. After she is done, we all get our balloons , some write a message on them, some tape messages to them, then we all say happy birthday taylor and let them slide out of our hands. We all stand there in silence as they float up and away, but as they do somebody says look and here there were two jets that crossed paths and the white stream they let behind, made a cross in the sky----was that Jesus saying I know this is so painful, but I am here with you, and Taylor is being well taken care of? We all stood there watching the balloons float out of sight, then slowly everybody stared back to their cars. Brooke and I stayed awhile longer, just standing by tay's grave talking with each other and to Tay. We did look up into the sky and was watching the beautiful sun set God had given us this night. After the cemetery, we invited the kids all back to the fountain for a meal, so they could just sit and talk if they wanted. Again, I have to say Tay had a great bunch of kids as friends---actually, several of his friends planned the meal. As we pulled into the fountain, Brooke and I just stared at what was posted on the sign "In Memory of Taylor Gasser's 21st Birthday"----we just looked at each other and said, just how can this be true!!! Can't it just be a nightmare that went on all night, but in the morning we wake up and find it is not true---we could just go back to our old normal---we are so tired of this new normal, but realize that is never going to be.
I can't remember if Taylor's birthday fell on Easter weekend before or not, but it meant so much more this year than if it ever did before. I had to think---God gave His only Son---watched Him being flogged, spit on, and crucified---and Jesus endured it all---He understands pain--Yes, my heart can be filled with sorrow and pain that we lost Taylor so very young in life, but I can't even imagine what it would have been like if I had to watch him being beat, having big spikes pounded into his wrists, and ankles----and Jesus did it all for us----He was completely innocent---He did it because He loves us and wants us to spend eternity with Him----again God's Amazing Grace.