August 21, 2006 – Travis’s 1st Birthday in Heaven – Claudia’s journal
Travis's birthday was August 21! It was such a difficult thing for me to try to figure out how to do right! I didn't have much energy, was trying to read what I could about Remembering Well, and didn't find much. The boys' girlfriends, Cora & Joanna, had called me the week before to let me know they would be here for us, since the boys were away (they were vacationing and working in Hawaii for 20 days). I was feeling pretty anxious about what I was going to do - I felt like all the weight was on my shoulders to make something happen, and didn't feel any strength to do it. I finally decided what happened would happen, and I'd just let the day flow and see where it took us.

Here's what I finally decided to do. We were headed home from the Redwoods and the Coast. We decided to stop at the Blue Lakes - on Highway 20 - between Clear Lake and Ukiah - we've always wanted to check them out. God opened up two camp sites right on the water's edge in a very clean and nice campground. Randy's parents were with us. Travis wrote in one of his papers that he always loved waking up in the morning when we were camping and watching the sun rise while he drank coffee, so I had decided that would be how I would start the day - I also had another friend suggest we take a picture of the sunrise or sunset the first birthday he was in heaven - so that fit right in. I woke up at about 3:30 AM worried that I would sleep too long and miss a picture of the sunrise, so I set my alarm for 6:00 and went back to sleep. God brought me the most amazing dream! I was someplace unfamiliar with Brandon and Jared and my niece who is 11. I was lying down on a couch, and Travis walked in - just appeared to us. I was so happy and surprised. I said "I'm so glad you came today - it's your birthday and I just need a warm hug from you", he seemed about 16 years old. He smiled and came over and gave me the best hug! I was so comforted! Brandon and Jared saw him too, but my niece couldn't see him. I don't remember him saying anything to me, but when I woke up I was so surprised that it was a dream - it felt so real! It was such a nice gift!

I then got up, made coffee (Randy was still sleeping), and headed outside with the blanket Travis bought me for Christmas this last year, my Streams in Dessert devotional and journal, and my camera. I spent an hour and a half watching the morning wake up right on the shore of the lake - with no other distractions (other than the traffic of Hwy 20 across the lake). The hug I had just experienced stayed with me all morning, it was almost as if I was with Travis - I watched single birds flying by - a Peregrine Falcon, a duck, then there was a family of ducks on the water - the evening before I had seen them, and there were three baby ducks with their parents. That morning, one of the baby duck was missing - It felt like our family. Later Randy's Mom said she saw that the third baby duck had joined his family (maybe that is a picture of our reunion in heaven?). Finally the sun peeked over the mountain and onto the lake. I got a few pictures, they are not spectacular, as there were no clouds for the sunrise to color, but I did capture the morning. I shed a few tears, and when Randy got up, he was very solemn, and took a walk by himself down by the water's edge and shed a few tears of his own, but the day just moved on.

Randy and I took a nice bike ride around the lake area, then came back and packed up, played a game with his parents, then headed home. We got home just about the time the girls were getting there. They had offered to bring pizza up, but I just had a sense that I wanted to teach them how to make a Chicken/Pasta dish that Travis used to make for us - it was his own creation, so that's what we did - I instructed them, and they learned how to make his special recipe - it didn't taste as good as when Travis made it, but it was similar.

We got a call from the boys in Hawaii, I had asked them to do something to celebrate there, and call us and share their day. They had slept on the beach that night on Kauai, and woke up to a beautiful sunrise, then they decided to do a hike on the Napalli Coast - they said it was some of the most amazing scenery - they knew it was something Travis would have enjoyed! They were also going to take a picture of the sunset from Hawaii. We headed out after dinner to take a picture of the sunset from the bluffs of Forest Ranch, overlooking the valley, and Bridgette - (Travis's former girlfriend) just moved to Arizona, so she was planning to capture the sunset from there.

We came back home, we had bought a Boston Cream Pie/Cake for dessert - something we had enjoyed for his birthday in the past - and put the #19 in candles on one side of the cake for the 19 years of birthdays we had celebrated with him on earth, and #1 on the other side for the 1st birthday we celebrated with him this year in heaven. Next Year it will be #19 & #2. Then I asked everyone if they felt comfortable doing a Quick Write with the prompt of "I Remember When...." Just writing for 5 minutes - whatever came to mind or pen. Randy just couldn't do it - he went outside while we did, then came back in for us to read ours - I told him it was something that could be sweet memories, not designed to make us cry. But when I read mine, it made me cry just a bit. Randy was able to share some funny things he remembered when we read ours. It ended very nicely.

So - One birthday down - I just didn't have the energy to do a whole group this year, and no one expressed the desire to share the day with us except for Cora and Joanna - God knew what I needed. A few people sent cards, and one of the boys' friends, Josh, had dropped off a candle and card and left it on our Bar-be-que - we got it when we got home from our trip- his birthday is the same day, but the month before, so he said he will always remember Travis's birthday. Desiree - My niece - sent us a Yhatzee Score Card of Travis's in her card. Aunt Rhonda called to wish me a happy birthday to Travis – she’s always been so good at remembering birthdays. My niece Bethany took a beautiful picture of a Dog Wood Tree in bloom for the front of the card from the Kelly family (we have 7 Dog Wood Trees planted in Travis’s Memory in our front yard) and Aunt Corine sent a card with a silhouette of what could be Travis and his cousin Andrea at the beach in 2005.

This one is interesting - when we were at the coast, the camp ground table right on the coast at Westport - overlooking the ocean, had Travis's name carved on the bench, so when Randy and I went for a walk on the beach, I decided to collect some stuff to decorate it and take a picture to remind us that he was there with us - his memory and love will always follow us and there will be sweet reminders of him for us all through our time left here on this Earth.
"Travis - Brandon, Jared & Justin remembered your birthday in Kauai"