Three years. How can it be? On the first anniversary we released balloons from a mountain top in memory of our son. I had a beer to remember John. We spent the second anniversary at a lake where we had shared wonderful memories with our son. We later ate pizza, and yes, I had another beer in memory of John. This year, we’ve decided to do something different. It’s an idea from the MISS Foundation. Instead of spending the day in mourning, we want to spread joy and happiness to others. A little kindness goes a long way. It will certainly make our hearts lighter.
We’d like to invite anyone who wants to remember Ethan and John to participate in the Kindness Project. MISS has some ideas on their websites. They even have free memorial cards that can be printed and handed to those you help. I truly can’t think of a better way to show our love for Ethan and John than to share it with others. So, on July 27, the day after the third anniversary of their death, please help us spread some kindness in the world!
It’s hard to believe almost two years have passed since we lost John and Ethan. It feels like yesterday. Many people continue to offer their support and condolences. We are very grateful for the many kind thoughts sent our way. Recently, a mom — someone I don’t know — heard our story and sent the Star Wars picture posted below. Another person I don’t know made a special mention of Ethan on a designated Star Wars day. To know that Ethan and John live on in these small moments provides some comfort.
We love you. We miss you. For google, infinity, ever after.
The Internet opens the door to many wonderful opportunities. It allows people who are separated by continents to connect. It makes it possible for people with shared interests to find each other. For Ethan’s 7th birthday, people from around the world watched Star Wars. When we honored Ethan and John on the one year anniversary of their death, hugs were shared in Europe and the U.S.
But the Internet also provides opportunities for people with darker intentions. My family has been ridiculed in chat rooms, our photos have led to online discussions over the proper way to mourn, and most recently, my identity as Ethan’s mother was stolen.
A person claiming to be “Lisa Ethan’s Mummy” set up a memorial site for Ethan and John on a portal called GoneTooSoon. She stole content from this site and posted it on GoneTooSoon. She has also posted her own comments on GoneTooSoon while pretending to be me.
I contacted the administrators to request the removal of the sites. The administrator’s response: “Hello Lisa, obviously GTS cannot tell who the mother of this child is, or any details surrounding the individual memorial. We can remove the memorial, but it would require you sending in some proof that you are Ethan’s mother (email an attached copy of his birth certificate).I am not disputing the claim that you are his mother, however, as stated we cannot tell who is the mother and who isnt, simply based on you telling us.”
It is an absolute outrage to suffer such a painful loss and then have to PROVE your identity. It is clear that sites like Gone Too Soon need to change their administrative process in order to better weed out fakes and identity thieves before it becomes a problem for the truly bereaved. Perhaps, Gone Too Soon should ask the impersonator for proof.
Shame on them. Shame on the person pretending to be Ethan’s mother. I think our family has been through enough pain.
We have been given much support over the past year from friends, family, and strangers. I wanted to let everyone know how much our family has appreciated that support. Coping with Ethan’s death would have been much more difficult without it.
So, for the one-year anniversary of the death of Ethan and his grandfather John McGee, I wanted to do a cyber version of “pay it forward.” I declare July 26 “Hug the Ones You Love Day.” Please, take this time to hug the people you love. Below is an email version that can be copied, pasted, and sent to all the people you cannot hug in person.
This message is a cyber-hug to let you know how much you are appreciated and loved.
Sometimes in our busy lives, we forget to tell the people we love how much we care. We think we’ll have time tomorrow. But what if tomorrow never comes?
July 26 is “Hug the Ones You Love Day” in honor of six-year-old Ethan Forster and his grandfather John McGee, who both died in a swimming pool accident on July 26, 2008.
Remember hugs are free but their value is priceless. Hugs are nonfattening and nonpolluting. They reduce stress and improve health. When you give a hug, you get one back.
So, wrap your arms around the people you love on July 26. If you can’t hug them in person, please share this message and send them a cyber-hug.
So many people have written or told us that they don’t have the words to express their sadness at our loss. Likewise, we have struggled to find the words to express our gratitude to everyone who has called, written, sent flowers or gifts, prepared food, and much more. This has been the worst time of our lives, yet we have seen the best in people. The words – Thank You – are inadequate but they are all we have. We truly have been overwhelmed by the support shown by family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers. The communities of Selma, Fresno, and Sacramento in Calif., Athens, Ohio, and Eugene, Ore. have wrapped themselves around us like a prayer shawl, offering us hope, peace, and love. We are deeply, deeply grateful. Thank you.
David and Lisa Forster
On Aug. 21, we held a birthday bash for Ethan. Nearly 100 people attended to help us celebrate Ethan’s short life. We had promised to let him watch Star Wars on his 7th birthday but he died three weeks shy of his birthday. Friends from the Register-Guard, University of Oregon, Co-op, Harris Elementary School and Spencer View apartments attended the potluck and showing of Star Wars. Darth Vader even made an appearance. Everyone was invited to write a message to Ethan. We attached these messages to balloons, and right before the start of the movie, we released the balloons into the sky. For us, it was the most moving and difficult part of the evening. We are very grateful for the support of everyone who attended and those who sent their well wishes and watched Star Wars at home. Getting through our son’s seventh birthday was extremely hard and painful, and we are fortunate to have so many friends who helped us make that day as bearable as it could be under the circumstances. I think the force was with us all.
I apologize for the delay in getting your Star Wars pictures posted. We’ve been visiting with family and friends in California and haven’t had Internet access.
We have heard about people watching Star Wars in London, Japan, Washington D.C., Texas, Florida, Alaska and many other places. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There is one special story I want to share. It was forwarded by Erin Armstrong in Ohio. Her best friend had her first child, a son, on Aug. 21. The birth went smoothly, and later, the new mom and son, Dean, watched Star Wars. Ethan and Dean now have a shared birthday. We wish Marie and Dean all our best. It’s wonderful to hear joyful news like this at such a sad time in our lives.
In the last several days, numerous Star Wars watching party photos have arrived. Thank you for sharing them with us and taking the time to celebrate our son, Ethan, on his birthday. Please keep sending your photos. Our email is: email@example.com
We have heard that people around the world watched Star Wars today for Ethan’s birthday. Japan, London, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Ohio, California and many more places. Thank you!!!
The photos are beginning to roll in. Please send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll post them on the blog. Mike DiBari sent this photo from Athens, Ohio of his wife, Sherry, sons, Dylan and Jack, and friends, Jim andKorpi.
Ethan’s Aunt Michelle and Uncle Vance also sent this photo from Fresno, California. We’re told Vance has watchedover 100 times (no exaggeration!), he still loves seeing it. Michelle hasn’t seen it in years, and Ethan’s Grandma Nancy only saw the movie when it first came out. Michelle’s friend Julie hasn’t seen Star Wars since she was a child. Pictured are Ethan’s grandma Nancy, Julie, and Michelle with R2D2.
We plan to honor this promise to our son, and we are asking everyone, wherever you are, to watch “Star Wars” (the first movie, which came out in 1977) on Thursday, August 21.
Since Ethan’s death, we have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of love and compassion by family, friends and complete strangers. This “Star Wars” gathering is for us a tribute to the memory of our son, but we also see it as a opportunity to bring people together in celebration of the bonds that join us as family and friends — sort of like a Thanksgiving in August.
So we’re asking you, if you feel comfortable doing so, to forward this message to your friends and family. We’ve already heard that several “Star Wars” costume parties will take place on August 21, one as far away as Washington, DC. We’re inviting everyone to email us their “Star Wars” party photos so we can post them on the blog. Our hope is to turn this into a global celebration.
If you have any questions, you can reach us by email at.
David and Lisa Forster
“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them, I shall use my time.”
– Jack London
In 1972, John McGee came into our lives. I was 8, my sister 5. It must have been difficult, stepping into a broken home, becoming a husband and father to two all at once.
John was born February 1, 1941, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He moved frequently as a child as his father changed jobs, and left home at 17 to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps brought structure and discipline to his life, and imbued him with the values of honesty and integrity, and a moral imperative that demanded he do what was right no matter the cost and that he lead by example.
We lived in Susanville, California, where John worked at a saw mill. It was hard work, and John, one of the strongest men we’ve ever known, was a hard worker. But he wanted something more, for himself and his new family.
John had a sharp mind and strong analytical skills. He was curious about the world around him. Going back to school engaged his inquisitive mind, and made him hungry for more.
In 1977, we moved to Fresno, so John could attend Fresno State University to pursue a degree in civil engineering. He had a natural aptitude for math, and did well in school, but was forced to drop out of college after two years when it became necessary to return to work to pay the bills, including private school tuition for my sister and I.
John saw education as a means not only to escape the poverty he had known as a child, but perhaps more important, education was the antidote to ignorance. For John, ignorance was the enemy.
But our education came first, and when forced to choose, he set aside his dreams to make certain my sister and I had every opportunity he never had as a child.
He worked two jobs: a carpenter by day, a security guard by night. He couldn’t have been happy about it, but John always did what needed to be done, and wasn’t one to complain.
But it wasn’t all work and no play. John loved watching Saturday morning cartoons with us, and laughed harder than we did. He loved reading the Sunday cartoons out loud to anyone who would listen. And he had a great sense of humor that often would come out when you least expected it.
I’d been dating my husband, Vance, for about six months before he met my family. When I introduced him, John said, “I don’t see why you didn’t bring him around sooner, he’s not that ugly.” Vance laughed. Often when we spent time with John, he would say something that would crack us up.
Although we didn’t see much of John during those early years when he was working so hard to provide for us, his influence as a father during this time was not diminished.
Without a good role model in his own life from which to draw, John relied on his Marine experience to guide his parenting. While his approach could at times be a little severe, his intentions were to provide his children with the values that would turn them into productive members of society. He also was motivated by the fear that he might fail, that he might fall short of the sometimes impossibly high standards he set for himself.
He taught us to think for ourselves, to reason and make wise choices, to do what was right, not what was popular.
I remember one time John telling me when I was in sixth or seventh grade that I was to treat all people the same, regardless of their skin color. He told me that if he ever heard me using a racial slur he would blister my behind. And that was no idle threat coming from John.
Keep in mind that this admonition came from a man who grew up surrounded by ignorance. Ignoring racism would have been the popular thing to do.
John would tell me that he wanted me to do well in school, and that meant that I should do my best. Before moving to Fresno, I was an average student, and earned mostly C’s and the occasional B. John was okay with those grades, as long as I was doing my best. When we moved to Fresno, it took some time for me to make friends at school and I had more time to study. In 5th grade, I brought home straight A’s for the first time. John took one look at my report card and said, “So this is your best. I’ll expect no less from you from now on.” I was doomed to earn all A’s from that point forward.
I was the only student I knew who had to explain an A- on a report card, and what I was going to do to bring up that grade.
For John, education was not so much about the things we learned, but about learning how to learn, how to confront problems and solve them, how to be self-sufficient.
That included learning how to fix your own car. And we’re not talking about a mere oil change and tuneup here. When I was 17, I was required to rebuild the engine in my ’66 Mustang. Fortunately it had a fairly simple straight-6 engine. My sister was not so lucky.
I had a 1970 Volvo with a V-6 engine and duel carburetors. I was 16 years old, and John expected me to learn how to rebuild both carburetors, with the Chilton’s manual as a guide. He gave me tools, plastic baggies and a pen and said, “Be sure to label everything so you’ll be able to put it all back together.” There I sat on the floor of the garage, taking apart these foreign objects and doing what I do best in stressful situations – crying. With a little help from my brother when John wasn’t watching, I am proud to say that I did rebuild my carburetors. A year later, when my brakes went out, I also had the pleasure of rebuilding the master brake cylinder. Good times. Today, I am thankful that John treated me the same as my brother when it came to learning about car repairs. When I take my car to a mechanic, I know what I’m talking about.
Speaking of cars, John also had a few rules about driving. And again, his intentions were good. He emphasized defensive driving, and that meant no distractions. No listening to the radio while driving. No talking to passengers. Oh, and no passengers, well, except for my sister. I know what you’re thinking: How would he know if you’re talking in the car while driving. But as irrational as it sounds, we believed that John was everywhere, omnipresent if you will. And, the truth is, we didn’t want to disappoint him. Still, we bent the rules on occasion. When we felt we were a safe distance from home, the radio would come on, and my sister and I would visit, but always with heads straight forward, and moving our lips as little as possible — just in case.
My senior year in high school, I was allowed to drive my car to school. But the no passenger rule was still firmly in place. For the most part I kept my end of the bargain, but on occasion I would take my friends out for lunch. However, I did make them all lie down in their seats so they couldn’t be seen through the windows. They complained a lot, and gave me no end of grief over it, but always complied. One of these days I was planning on confessing this breach to clear my conscience. I hope you can hear me, John.
John was always active, and exercise was central to his life. He took up running in the early 1970s, long before it was popular, and later took up bicycling and swimming as well. He competed in many bicycling and running events, often winning awards for his age class.
In August 1996, John was riding his bicycle after work on a rural stretch of road west of town when he was hit by a car. The driver did not stop, leaving John for dead. His injuries included a swollen brain, broken ribs, a crushed spine, internal bleeding. The doctors suspected his neck was broken and that he would be paralyzed from the neck down, if he even survived. Next the prognosis was that he would likely survive but would be paralyzed from the waist down. John defied all the prognoses. He was too strong and too stubborn to accept this fate. Within a year, he not only was back on his feet, but running again — with a fused lower spine reinforced by two synthetic rods.
This accident only reaffirmed our conviction that John was one of the strongest people we ever knew. But it also ended up bringing out a different, softer, more sensitive, side of John that we had only seen glimpses of before. The accident, and the love and support he saw from his family, when this big, strong man was for the first time in his life rendered helpless and dependent, changed him.
For example, John was never much for holidays. For years, he refused to celebrate Christmas and birthdays with us. “Bah, Humbug,” he used to say. But then the Christmas following his recovery from the accident I came down for a visit. When John answered the door, he was wearing a red shirt and Santa Claus suspenders. “Merry Christmas” he said. I was speechless, and fought back tears. From that point on, I always looked forward to Christmas with John. He would buy more Christmas gifts than anyone, and never mind the cost. “It’s only money,” he would say.
He underwent yet another change with the birth of his first grandchild, Ethan. John, who took the responsibilities of parenting so seriously, was finally able to relax and find the child within him. The times he spent with his grandchildren revealed a softer, sensitive, playful side of John that would have surprised many who knew him. As strict as he could be with his own children, he indulged his grandchildren in all their wishes. Being with his grandchildren brought him a measure of uninhibited joy that had been absent from his life.
For all the rules that John imposed on us, he broke all of them with Ethan. I remember as a child that we were not allowed to put our elbows on the table when we ate. We could not talk with our mouths full. We had to have one hand on our lap at all times, and the fork had to rest on the plate in between bites to allow time to chew – no shoveling the food into your mouth. These are good table manners, and I’m not disputing that he was right to teach us these things. However, I distinctly remember watching, my jaw dropping, as John taught Ethan to pound his fists on the table at a restaurant and demand his meal. The more Ethan copied John’s table pounding the more John laughed and encouraged him to pound harder.
We believe it is this joy John was feeling, playing in the pool with Ethan Saturday morning, when he departed this world.
Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us
Give our rights away
Arise and seize the day!
Now is the time to seize the day
Send out the call and join the fray
Wrongs will be righted
If we’re united
Let us seize the day!
Friends of the friendless seize the day
Raise up the torch and light the way
Proud and defiant
We’ll slay the giant
Let us seize the day
Neighbor to neighbor
Father to son
One for all and all for one!
Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us
Give our rights away
Neighbor to neighbor
Father to son!
One for all and all for one!
Those are the lyrics from one of Ethan’s favorite songs, Seize the Day. It’s also a fitting theme for the way Ethan lived his life. He found joy in every day.
The first thing anyone noticed about baby Ethan was his head. It was massive. Much too big for the rest of his body. It took a couple of years for the rest of him to catch up with that head.
The second thing you noticed was his smile. Smiles and laughs came easy to Ethan. It was hard for him to stay upset, because usually all it took was a funny face or tummy tickle to pull him back to his usual self. The definitive Ethan smile was a mouth open, teeth flashing expression, usually accompanied by a blast of laughter from a deep reserve inside.
Ethan was an easygoing baby. At about three months, he started sleeping through the night. And after about a year, he would wake up in the morning, and instead of calling for mom and dad, he would lie in bed singing.
We would lie in our own bed and just listen to him, often still in disbelief for how content he seemed.
He did give us a few scares, though. In the first days after he was born, he was having trouble breast feeding, and as a result wasn’t peeing. The nurses got worried enough that they decided to catheterize him. That must have got the message across, because as the nurse prepared to insert the tube, Ethan let loose, soaking the nurse in a golden shower.
Ethan was extremely curious about how the world worked, but also very cautious. He stood back and observed before diving in. When his sister, Ava Simone, was born three years later, he often used her as his “guinea pig” before trying something new himself. Ethan adored his sister. They spent Saturday mornings cuddled on the couch, supposedly watching cartoons but often spending much of the time wrestling and giggling.
Ethan loved to put things together and tear things apart, to see how they worked. When Ethan got his first box of Legos, it was love at first sight, especially “little Legos.” He followed the instructions and constructed the picture on the box. But then, he tore it down, and let his fertile imagination drive his many creations: usually elaborate, and often perfectly symmetrical. He proudly displayed his many “built by Ethan” rocket and fighter planes. He’d usually make one for himself and another for anyone he could get to play with him, usually asking: “Do you want to be the good guy or the bad guy?”
Ethan also was fascinated with knights and loved dressing up as a warrior, with his sword or a light saber strapped to his side. He loved playing sword fights. But perhaps his favorite “toy” was a hose – he could spray water for hours, soaking everything in sight. He loved getting wet, making pools, building channels and dams.
Ethan started camping with us before he was a year old, and acquired our love of the outdoors. During one cross-country camping trip, he hiked to waterfalls, canoed rivers, explored caves, splashed around in lakes, ran along the ocean – and always collected lots of sticks along the way. He loved sticks.
Two years ago, we moved to Ohio so I could attend graduate school. We took two months to cross the country and had many adventures along the way. While David and I discovered the country, Ethan discovered himself. We also began to see clearly the boy Ethan was becoming rather than the toddler he had been. We saw glimpses of a young man who would love the outdoors, who would build engineering marvels, who would someday change the world for the better.
On this cross country trip, we stopped in Colorado and went on a five mile hike to a waterfall near Telluride. It was a long uphill walk. Ethan grew tired. He wanted to stop. I started talking about my time in the Army to distract him and keep him walking. It worked. He was fascinated by my stories and especially anything involving guns. He repeatedly asked: Were you in a war? Did you kill anyone? Next thing we knew, we arrived at the waterfall. I gave him a piggy back ride down. And all the way down he continued to pepper me with questions about the weapons I used. He was particularly interested in bazookas. My time in the Army became a recurring topic of conversation over the next two years. Recently, he bragged about my time in the service to his teachers. He was also fascinated by police officers, and of course, their guns. He asked the same questions: Do they shoot their guns? Do they kill bad guys.
Ethan talked a lot about fighting but was gentle at heart. We saw this on that same cross-country trip when we stopped in Dodge City for the 4th of July. The employees there fell in love with Ethan. He even got to pull the garter off a saloon girl. At Dodge City they have a gunfight. We thought Ethan would love to see it, but he practically cried saying he didn’t want to. The woman running the restaurant dining room overhead him and asked if he could help her clean up after dinner. He earned his first dollar and proudly showed it off.
Ethan was also fascinated by rockets and airplanes. Part of that love grew over that summer. We visited the space museum in Huntsville, Alabama. Ethan sat in rockets, saw the flight suits of the astronauts and even went on a flight simulator. Ethan thought it was amazing. David got sick.
In Kentucky, we bought a foam air plunger rocket. He was giddy about that because it shot so high in the sky. Later it got stuck on the roof of our house in Athens. Fortunately, Uncle Scott, Aunt Tami, Macy and Amanda bought him a super cool replacement. It gave him hours of fun.
Ethan was a trooper on our many trips. We could see his love of the outdoors growing. When we visited Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, he climbed all the stairs and went into the dark cave with no fear or hesitation.
At a crystal clear river in Arkansas, we took a canoe ride. Ava screamed the entire way and tried to throw herself overboard, but Ethan enjoyed seeing the wildlife and stopping for lunch and a swim in the river.
As much as Lisa and I loved the canoe rides, Ethan had his heart set on riding in a motor boat. During that trip we stopped at a big lake near Branson, Missouri, and decided to grant him his wish. It was a clear, sunny day, and the water was calm. It seemed the perfect time. We hadn’t been in the Midwest long enough yet to realize how quickly that can change. The boat was expensive, and the rental agreement specified no refunds for foul weather. By the time we loaded up, that perfect summer sky had clouded over. No matter. It was still warm and calm. By the time we pushed off from the dock and motored out beyond the 5 mph zone, it started to sprinkle and the wind picked up. We could handle that. A few minutes later, the sky opened up, and the wind whipped across the water, turning the surface into a choppy mess. But I was determined to give my son the ride he wanted. He huddled under the canopy in the rear of the boat with Lisa and Ava, trying to stay warm as we zoomed across the lake, the boat bouncing hard in all directions. It was raining so hard by now and the sky was so dark I had trouble seeing with my sunglasses on, but when I took them off, the raindrops pelting my eyes at high speed was even worse. I kept thinking the storm would pass, but it didn’t. Ethan was trying to enjoy the ride, but finally begged to go back. A few minutes after we returned to dock and unloaded ourselves from the boat, the rain stopped, the wind died, and soon the sky cleared and the sun returned. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
Ethan always had difficulty with transitions. He liked stability. So, he had a difficult time adjusting to kindergarten – there was so much to adjust to: a new school, a new home in Ohio, making new friends. Early in the school year, a boy was washing his hands at the sink, walked up pulled down the boys pants and licked his bare butt. Needless to say the school called. We figured we’d better make a bigger effort to help with the transition.
Ethan had many friends in Ohio, girls and boys. Perhaps his best friend was Dylan, who we met shortly after we moved to Athens. Ethan always latched on to one friend. There was Luke in Sacramento, who he still talked about and asked to visit. And Dylan in Ohio. The day we moved away, we spent some time in the park with Dylan and his family. When it came time to say goodbye, Ethan hugged Dylan and cried said how much he’d miss him. Then later on the trip back across the country, Ethan broke down, sobbing unconsolably over the friends he’d lost. It was the first time we understood just how difficult it was for him to leave.
Ethan loved to dig. He spent the year in Ohio digging a hole in the ground in the backyard. It started shallow and got deeper and deeper. It was quite a hole. Then when the weather warmed up, he’d spray water from the hose into it and have his own private lake. And the landlord was worried about having dogs at the property. She didn’t know about my son.
The house we rented in Athens, Ohio, was huge, more than three times the size of our tiny home in West Sacramento, with two stories and a full basement. It was a very old home with lots of deep closets, and dark corners in the basement. A perfect place for a boy with a fertile imagination. One of Ethan’s favorite games was to dress up as a cowboy or knight or superhero, or sometimes a combination of all these, and go hunting for the monsters he knew were lurking in those deep recesses. He’d arm himself with a gun or sword or light saber, or sometimes all three. He’d make all these bold threats about slaying the monster. I’d slowly turn the knob on a closet door and crack it open, then pretend a monster was pushing against the other side, or trying to pull it open, or pull me inside. Ethan’s imagination was so strong that by this point, he’d always lose his courage and would hand a weapon over to me and tell me to take care of the monster and he kept a safe distance back.
It also was in Athens that our family began to develop some traditions. Ethan was a creature of routine, and loved having something to look forward to each week. Because Lisa was so busy with school during the week, we settled on Sunday as our tradition day. We’d make fresh guacamole in the afternoon. Ethan would sit on the kitchen counter, anxious to mash the avocados with a fork, which he did with gusto. For dinner, we’d make a pizza, with dough made from scratch. After dinner, we’d pop popcorn and watch a movie. On Monday morning, Ethan was already talking about the next Sunday.
Ethan always loved babies and was very gentle with them. So, he immediately connected with his little sister, Ava. In Athens the bond grew stronger because Ava could finally get around and talk more. They spent hours giggling and tickling each other. Rolling around on the floor. She looked to him for guidance on everything. Whatever he ate, she ate. What he played with, she played with. I see so much of him in her. But he also encouraged her to do some of the mischievous stunts that he wasn’t brave enough to try himself. Recently, we were at a water park and he wanted to go under the water spray, but didn’t want to do it alone. He grabbed Ava’s hand, pushed her in front of him, and shoved her under the water. She laughed and then he stepped in.
He and Ava were unlike any brother and sister I’ve known. They fought occasionally and teased each other occasionally, but most of the time they were hugging and kissing on each other. And the last couple weeks they had been especially goofy and giggly. They couldn’t get through dinner without having several laughing fits.
Our trip to Oregon was pretty uneventful, except we stopped in Las Vegas for Ethan’s 6th birthday. We had dinner at the Rainforest Café and he got a chocolate lava cake with a sparkler on top. It was the same cake he wanted for his 7th birthday which is three weeks from now. Ava’s birthday is next week. They would have been celebrating together.
In Oregon, Ethan was fortunate to attend the Spencer View Co-op afterschool program. They encouraged his creative side and to explore his environment and different materials. He collected all kinds of things, a rock, a stick, a marble. They were all stuffed in his pocket along with his Pokemon cards. More than once when I’d forgotten to check his pockets before washing his clothes, I’d here thump , thump, thump. Once the Co-op took him to a recycling center. He was beside himself. He came home with a huge box full of stuff that looked like garbage to me, but in his mind were already pieced together into an amazing machine.
He thrived at the Co-op and made the most elaborate projects. Most things he made served a purpose. He liked to take string and ribbon, coat hangers, and whatever else he could gather. He tied the string and ribbon from the bed post, to the dresser, to the armoire, to the door handle. Pulleys, and all other kinds of devices. Honestly, he was so far beyond my comprehension. I was alternately awed by his imagination and ingenuity and annoyed by the mess and obstacle courses he created.
Once he built something he hated to break it down. He wanted it preserved forever. He once came to me crying because some kids destroyed an elaborate tunnel and building he’d made in the sand pit. I tried to explain that things built in sand were not be permanent. It took a while but he seemed to understand. Still, he wanted to display his work and never tear anything down.
When the weather finally turned nice, and in Oregon the weather is pretty miserable most of the time, the kids were able to put on their swimsuits. They spent hours spraying each other with the water hose, sliding down the slip n slide, jumping in our small blowup pool. Ethan wanted to visit the local pool but we never made it. But in the last month, we finally had the chance to spend some quality time together as a family. We hiked to a waterfall. Ethan stuck close to his dad, even after David twisted his ankle and had to hobble a mile back to the trailhead. On my birthday we visited the coast. Despite warnings, Ethan got soaked to his knees. We forgot to bring a change of clothes or towels. When the weather suddenly changed, Ethan was freezing cold. But even then, as he sat on the back of the car with his bare sandy feet sticking out, he laughed so hard as I was smacking his toes with a bag to knock the sand off. We couldn’t get the sand off and I had to carry him to his seat. He tucked his head into my neck and wrapped his legs around my waist. He’d always say, aaaahhh momma and it always sounded like a contented sigh.
He loved to be held, and nuzzle in your neck. He loved to wrestle and tumble around on the ground. He loved ice cream, root beer and bean and cheese burritos. He adored his sister and his grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. He was always excited to see his dad and looked forward to when dad had the day off from work. When we picked him up from the Co-op, he’d either hide and giggle so loudly it was never hard to find him, or he’d run at you full speed and leap so hard he practically knocked you down. But he hated long goodbyes. The last time I saw him, he sat in the car with his head ducked and refused to look or speak to me. It was his way of dealing with the sadness of leaving on his trip to Fresno, even though he was also excited about his new adventure.
David and I are so grateful for the seven years we had with him, and we’d rather endure this horrible pain than not to have had the opportunity to know him. He was an exceptional boy and would have been an exceptional man.
Ethan, I know you’re up in heaven with your tape, glue gun, and string fixing the pearly gates because of those crazy angels. You’re probably also constructing sturdier, sleek wings so the angels can fly faster. Grandpa John is there with you, giving you tips on how to do the best work possible. He’s inspecting your welds, testing the wings, helping you make them better. Those angels are awfully lucky to have you.
But I want you to know kiddo, that I, Da-duh, Ava Simone, and the rest of your family will love you for infinity, Google-plex, without end.
Read “Love You Forever.”
I’d like to invite anyone who would like to say something about John or Ethan to come forward.
American Legion. Presenting the flag. Taps.
In your program is a sheet of lyrics for another of Ethan’s favorite songs: John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” I ask all of you who feel comfortable doing so to please join me in singing this song.
Thank you all for joining us today in this celebration of the lives of John and Ethan. Please join us for a reception at the Portuguese Hall. Directions are on your program.