Jake had sandy blonde hair, big brown eyes and pudgy cheeks. When he smiled, his grin exposed a missing front tooth. He knocked it out on the coffee table when he was learning to run. Most toddlers learn to walk first, but not Jake. You know the type—not happy at ground level and born to fly. Instead of crawling, Jake climbed cabinets and leapt from anything he could manage to conquer. Jake’s lop-sided grin didn’t distract from his appearance; rather his missing tooth punctuated his boldness. His smile seemed to declare, “I’m out for victory. Nothing can hold me back.”
Jake didn’t give lingering hugs. He couldn’t sit still long enough. The way he showed affection resembled more of a linebacker than a two-year old. He tackled me with his hugs. When I picked him up from daycare, somehow he could distinguish the clip-clop sound of my pumps over all of the other mommies. His little head would peer around the corner of his room to verify his suspicion, and in no time flat he’d come barreling down the imaginary field like an invisible quarterback just hiked the ball. He must’ve thought I was the intended receiver because when I’d bend down to hug him he mowed me down.
It’s been years since I’ve had a hug like that though.
The tragedy that took his life was devastating, the pain agonizing, the horror unthinkable. Without the grace of God, I would’ve crumbled. But I’ll never forget his precious life.
Today, he’d be 24. And while I can’t celebrate his birthday in the traditional way or get one of his linebacker hugs, I can tell a story to memorialize his life.
So in honor of Jake’s birthday, here is one of my favorite Jakey-Poo stories.
We were gathered around the kitchen table for dinner one night after work, school and daycare when Brittany asked Garrett the infamous question.
“Who’s your girlfriend?”
Now mind you, Garrett was only five-years old, but some men start young!
Garrett, ever the deep philosopher, took a deep breath. Considering Brittany’s question, he propped his elbow on the table and cradled his chin in his hand in a classic thinker’s pose. After a moment of reflection, he began the countdown. With his fist raised in the air, he exposed his thumb first as he announced the first girlfriend’s name.”
“Destiny, of course,” he declared without a trace of blush.
“She is a cutie,” Brittany agreed.
“And Anna and Jessica,” Garrett continued.
“Oh, more than one girlfriend!” Brittany threw a nod to her brother, impressed with his romantic assurance.
Garrett’s ring finger and pinkie rose as he announced two other daycare babes. As he raised his other hand for the final countdown, Jake had had enough.
Accustomed to being the center of attention, he crafted a two-year old strategy to divert the interest off of Garrett and back onto himself where he must have felt it was best deserved.
Scooting his little hiney all the way back in his high chair, Jake sat up as tall as he could and poked his chin upward to emphasize the importance of what he was about to say. Puffing his chest out, he pounded his fists on his highchair tray, and boasted with pride, “I gotta a girlfriend!”
His strategy worked. All eyes were on Jake, and he was proud that he managed to steal the spotlight once again. But what happened next caught him off guard.
Brittany, wide eyed with amazement, questioned Jake. “You do, Jake? You have a girlfriend?”
Jake beamed with confidence.
“What’s her name?”
The air froze for a moment as Jake pondered his response. Apparently, he didn’t know what a girlfriend was. He had succeeded in getting the attention he felt that he deserved, but now he was perplexed about how to keep it.”
Jake muttered the longest ummmm that I’d ever heard. His shoulders slumped forward as he searched our faces for a clue. After a long pause, he sat up straight again and smiled broadly, certain that he was giving an appropriate reply. Then he revealed the name of his girlfriend. At the top of his lungs Jake shouted, “GARRETT!”
His uninformed response worked to his advantage as the entire family burst out in a huge chorus of laughter. And the more we laughed at his innocent reply the prouder Jake became.
Throughout the next several weeks, whenever Jake wanted to make us laugh, he’d grab one our hands and yank on it until he had our full attention. Then he’d look us square in the eye and announce, “I gotta girlfriend!” He thought we should all be just as amused no matter how many times we’d heard it.
Today, I bet he’s in heaven poking Jesus in the ribs and announcing, “I’ve got a girlfriend.”
And no doubt by now—I’m sure he does.
She must be an angel.
The legacy of Jake’s life is joy and I bet he’d be thrilled to know that we’re still laughing at his joke long after he was gone. While He may not live here on earth anymore, I can’t throw him a party or get a physical hug, but I can sure celebrate his life and spread the joy. So join me in spreading laughter and joy. Laugh at a silly joke. Remember the ones you love that have moved on to heaven. Let their life bring fond memories, laughter and gladness.
Gotta love the socks and sandals trend:)