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It would be a simple day in our backyard, one of nothing in the extraordinary, that would be burned in my memory forever and one I would keep coming back to.

Because of cancer and a never-ending list of treatments, Hunters body would fail him over time. His first loss was after surgery when he could no longer walk or balance well. Then the chemo and radiation would begin to take his strength in so many different ways. By the summer of 2017, after relapse and continuing more chemo, we started to see a life we never envisioned of for our son. A fight lasting too long and taking too much from him. It was then that we began to look at death differently. Setting him free brought a sense comfort and less fear over time.

We would help him do absolutely everything, full time care takers to his sweet body that just couldn’t do what his mind was telling him to do. Jump, climb, skip, none of it. So, we’d be there to help his body cooperate and bring him joy. He loved the little rock climbing wall on our play set that led to a fort. It happened to be one of our biggest fears. As he climbed it we’d have to guide his legs to each step and make sure he didn’t slip and fall. We’d hold our breath through every lift of his foot. If he felt our hands touch his body he’d yell “let me do it!” He was a typical 4-year-old but he just didn’t realize, he couldn’t do it, and that broke our hearts.

When Hunter passed, we knew he was set free from all those struggles, nothing would ever hold him back again. An earthly symbol of this for us, has been spreading his ashes and watching a piece of him be free in some of his favorite places.

We hold every bit of Hunter and his sweet little life in our hearts, every second of every day so that his soul continues on in all of us. We know he’s everywhere, but more importantly we also know he’s home. He’s free.

While we’ve concentrated on the view of freedom being heaven for Hunter, we also have to concentrate on the what freedom means for those of us left behind to grieve. How such a valuable and irreplaceable loss can happen and how we continue to find the joy in this life while grieving. I don’t believe there’s any freedom from the pain we feel every day without Hunter. Pain is what happens in the absence of being able to have him in our arms. Pain will always be present because of how much we love Hunter. Maybe over the years we’ll get used to it and it wont sting as bad, but it’ll always be there. Trying not to feel the pain, is not the road we want to take. We have to know pain will always be along the journey, but we also have to figure out how to incorporate it in to our joy.

Feeling joy and pain at the same exact time has become something we view as an absolute miracle. We stand in awe every time we laugh or feel happiness while we still deeply ache for Hunter. It is such a gift from God to be able to do both and navigating all of it is a learning experience every day. I don’t think we’ll ever stop learning and growing from what we are going through. By concentrating on the bigger picture of Hunter being free from everything that was holding him back, we can also see our freedom from earthly worries and our dreams being shattered. We can see it all differently and know that because of God’s promise for eternal life, our fears are crushed.

We know we can always visit Hunter, anywhere we go. We know we can talk to him whenever we want, we know he’s ALWAYS there. Watching his ashes blow in the wind and land among the sun kissed turquoise water, we saw a glimpse of his beautiful freedom. Knowing a piece of him is in the waters of an ocean he loved so much, makes coming back here over the years that much sweeter.

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