My Makenzie Monsoon

A few hours before dark, eight years ago today, my Makenzie left.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to go but the lure of a ballerina photo shoot was too strong to resist.  I was sitting at my computer in our little office by the back door as she leaned over and gave me a kiss goodbye.  That was it. 

Three plus hours later, she left again.  This time, her departure was more dramatic — more powerful.  Truthfully, she didn’t leave, God ushered her out.  A red light.  A hitting of the gas and not the brake and in a moment, it was done.  She was gone.

Eight years seem like a long time for some.  For me, it seems like eight seconds.  The pain of the loss of Makenzie has changed, but the ache never goes away.  The hole she left isn’t filled by time, it is simply there. 

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not writing these words in sadness or sorrow.  I don’t tap the keys trying to fight back tears.  Those days are done.  I pen the remembrance because I have to.  Just seeing her name pop from the screen is part of the cathartic healing that is lifelong. 

So today, I fight against the monsoon of memories her 18 years has left and I am okay.

Peace,

(Hippo Campus song about Makenzie.  The clock tower at the end shows the time when she died.  Video producer had no idea)

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Seven Years Afloat: Makenzie Home-going Anniversary – Todd Stocker.com

mourningIntoDancing.001Seven years ago, I thought my anchor gave way.  My life’s-boat was set a drift in a storm called “the death of a child” when my oldest daughter, Makenzie, was killed in traffic accident.

Yet what I found was my anchor was more secure than ever.  The pain, the grief, the emptiness and the heartbreak were waves battering the hull of my life yet beneath it all, the anchor of hope held. 

“This hope we have is the anchor of the soul…” Hebrews 6:19

Hope is secure as it finds its hold in the Spirit.  Hope is hooked when it believes the promises of God.  Hope is anchored when it sinks deep into the unfathomable love of Jesus. 

So let the torrents rage.  Let the waves crash.  Let the sky darken and the rains pour because I know all these things must take place.  Yet, I sleep well in the belly of my life’s boat because my anchor will hold as it is set in God’s enduring love for me.   

Peace!

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043: SPECIAL: Celebrating Makenzie’s Last Birthday [Podcast] – Todd Stocker.com

birthday makenzieMay 3rd is my Makenzie’s birthday.  She only saw 18 of them before she was killed in a car accident.  Here are my thoughts on this day.

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It was her last birthday but none of us knew it.  In life you never do.  Yet deep down, I think she did because her last birthday was unexpected and simple — just like Makenzie.

Turning 18, one would think that she’d want to do it up with friends and a party — silly balloons and maybe even a tiara. 

That was Makenzie.

Instead of going big, she went small.  All she wanted to do is to go to Grandpa and grandma’s house and spend the day on a small beach by their house.

“Are you sure?” I asked, being kindred with her playful spirit.

“Yes,” she said, “what a great way to spend my birthday with people I love.” 

We played.  We laughed. We talked and opened presents.  I don’t remember what she got but I know that after each unwrapped she’d exclaiming, “Oh I love it.  Thanks!” and then would give the giver a huge hug. 

Cake on the beach.  Writing in the sand.  Dancing and twirling to music that was all in her head, and then closing out the night back at Grandpa and Grandma’s.  That’s what she wanted.  That’s what we did. 

I think often on that day.  I still see her making faces at her brother and tickling her sister.  I still feel her smacky lips on my cheek at the end of the day saying, “Thanks dad.  It was a great birthday.” 

birthday cakeEach May 3rd, I wish I could celebrate with her again.  I wish I could wake her up with breakfast on our families celebration plate and laugh with her as she fumbles with her scrambled eggs.  Some day — again —  I will.  Some day, when this side of heaven takes its last bow and the curtain closes, I will be with her again to celebrate the birthday that Jesus has given her and me and all who believe. 

Until that day, I will spend the day pondering, chuckling and shedding a few tears wishing I could say to her once more, “Happy Birthday, button-nose.  Happy Birthday.”

Peace!

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Why Is There Pain? – Todd Stocker.com

grief given to help othersComing up on seven years ago, I lost my precious Makenzie.  Suddenly taken, I was suddenly shaken; set adrift in an ocean that I didn’t want to sail.  It took me several years to find emotional land again and when I did, I had to deal with the ‘Why’ question with which most of us struggle. 

“Why did this have to happen?”

Sometimes you wonder why hurt tragedy and loss arrive on your doorstep.  Like a packaged delivered by an unknown enemy, you are forced to take it in, open it, and deal with the contents of its abuses.  Even after the ache of the offenses, you are left wondering why it was necessary?

There is an answer.  I experienced that answer moments ago as I sat around a table with a family whose 22 year-old daughter was taken from them by a distracted driver only 6 weeks past.  They shared their hurt with me and I nodded.  They talked about their girl who was friendly and strong and someone with whom you’d want to love and I smiled.  They talked about the new normal in which they were being forced to live and I understood because I’d been there, in that boat, navigating the seas on which this beautiful family now sailed.   

And that’s the answer.

Tragedy, pain, loss, hurt.  All are experienced  and comforted by Jesus so that we could help others navigate a similar experience.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4

You are not alone in your grief.  That which you are fighting has been fought by others.  That which you suffer has been suffered by many.  There are those in your church, family and community that are given to you by the Master to help.

Ask around.  Trust in God.  I’ll bet you’re staring your comforter right in the face.

Peace

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A Makenzie Restoration

61767397100The dreams about her have subsided. I don’t think about her everyday as I have in years past and I’m needing to play old audio to remember her voice. Six years ago today, my oldest daughter, Makenzie — who is now my youngest — was invited into heaven.  “Six years” is a long time as I think about all that has happened since.  Great things.  Hard things.  Things to celebrate and things to mourn.  

As I spend today in the back corner of a small-town coffee shop, I think about the word “restoration.”  More-so, I think about what it takes to be restored.  Brokenness first.  Surrender second.  Expertise third.  Time last.  Then, restoration births new life.  That’s God’s way.  He takes my broken and hurting heart for the loss of my child and calls it to surrender.  He reaches out and holds my surrendered hands first to comfort, then to lead.  With expertise, he chisels his way through the rocky attitudes and sorrows that surround death and over time, calls me to something greater.  Pain is necessary for growth.  Demolition is necessary for restoration. 

So many emotions today.  I’m expecting them.  So many thoughts and mental wanderings will flood the hours. I’ll entertain them.  It’s part of God’s restoration for me, and it is good.  

Peace!

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LIFE IMPACT: MAKENZIE AND QUINN

Makenzie_hatThey didn’t know each other and we didn’t know her.  Yet last Friday, we all connected.

I opened up my email and saw one sent from, “Quinn.”  I don’t know any one bearing that name.  Spam had spammed me I thought.  As is my habit on these junky occasions, I hovered my cursor and right clicked – ready to send it to that folder for the abyss.  Yet, in my spirit, I was prompted not to hit ‘delete’ but ‘open’.

These were the words staring back from the screen:

“We have never met before or spoken, but I just thought I would let you know how your blog, or I guess how Makenzie changed my life. You see, this weekend I am getting baptized and the reason is because of your daughter. I came across your blog and found myself very intrigued by your family’s story. After reading about Makenzie and her love for Jesus, I found myself wanting to give my life to Jesus. I just want to thank you for putting her story out there. I know it changed my life for the better and I am sure it has done that for many others.”

Once again, God used my daughter’s short-well-lived life to change someone else’s for eternity.  Once again, I as the dictator of the story feel immensely humbled by it all.  Once again, I thank my Lord for Hope-lived-out and His eternity breaking into Quinn’s history.

Thank you, Quinn, for letting me use your email and for following the calling of Jesus!

(Update:  Quinn was baptized this past Saturday!)

Peace!

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Makenzie: Five Times Now, Today.

32638547100I’m up earlier than normal again.  The last few weeks have stolen hours of sleep from me, most likely because of today.

Five times now, I’ve endured the turning of this calendar page without my oldest daughter Makenzie.  Five times now, this day has kept me from work, from happiness and from others.  Five times is five times too many.

39437192100I spend this day, like the four before, pondering.  Like Mary in the Bible, like many others of whom I now know, I think deeply on the meaning of tragedy that befalls us.  Like my fraternity of other parents who’ve lost their children, I pace through the same pictures and videos that fib and tell me she’s still here.  I want more.  I wonder what life would be like if Makenzie had not died in the car accident.  Would it be a good life with her?  Would she be safe?  What would she be doing?  How many lives would she touch?  Would she be in love, married? Would I be called “Pops” by her beautiful child?  I wander the halls of these questions today and I miss her.  Random pecks on my cheek.  Goofiness. Snorty laugh.  Graceful dance.  I miss all of it.

Five times now.  And I have to.

Yet even in the cloudiness of this day, God meets me.  He flips through the pictures with me.  He laughs when a shot reveals Makenzie’s goofiness and He tears when He feels the hurt I feel.  Even five times now, He does the same.  And my sorrow is His sorrow.  My hurt is His hurt.  He endures with me and promises good from bad.  Five times now, He has been faithful.

Makenzie on Easter Day!

Makenzie on Easter Day!

So today, I will spend most of it simply with God, talking about my ballerina and foolishly asking Him what she’s doing in heaven.  I will find a corner in a coffee shop nestled in an old river town and buy Makenzie an iced Frappuccino – she loved those.  It will be the 5th one I’ll end up throwing away, un-drunk.  And in my ache, God will meet me as the clock digits 8:08 tonight, the time of the accident.  And I will be grateful that Makenzie is alive and safe, waiting with God who loves her more than I possibly could.

Peace!

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Makenzie: Five Years Old

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Today is my ‘oldest’ daughters birthday.  There won’t be presents.  There won’t be cake.  You won’t find our family all together dining at her favorite restaurant or sharing stories of past celebrations around the table.

Makenzie has graduated from all of that.  Her final birthday celebration was five years ago today, a month before she died.  I guess, putting it that way, my oldest is now my youngest.  She’s five years in heaven (if there were a measure of time in eternity).

As I watch the sun paint its beauty across this morning’s sky, I miss my five year old.  I miss her dance.  I miss her smile.  I miss the way she snorted when she laughed and I miss her random hugs.  I tear up thinking of the unmerited “I love you, Daddy” that she’d giggle to me at all times of the day.

IMG_0324_7006bYet in my morning solemness, I am grateful.  Because this Daddy’s heart first and foremost wants to know that my kids are safe.  Makenzie is.  God made sure of that.  He loves her more than I do, if that were even possible.  She is with Him, waiting for me.

And so I’ll ponder her life today.  I’ll roam the halls of my memories.  At times, I’ll smile and I’ll moisten.  I’ll be quiet and I’ll laugh.  All because of my little five year old who is finally home.

(Read Makenzie’s Story Here or type her name in the search bar at the right for more blog posts about her life)

Peace!

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A Thank You to Facebook

100_0574_0200_200Facebook.  Good-to-do’s call it a time sucker and tramp.  Others call it a stalker’s paradise and a bullies playground.

Today, I take another tack.  Today, I am thankful for the online service of Facebook because Mark Z. has done something for our family that no other venue has done.  They recorded a piece of my daughters life that is now archived for simple access during our Makenzie Moments.  

Photos, news feeds, pokes, pictures and videos, all wrapped together in a package of digital memories of her short but well-lived life.   The access provides remembrances.  The files give laughter.  The data brings her back to life, if only for a short, emotional while.

facebook-logoSo to Facebook.  Today I salute you.  For holding the past and delivering it to our present.  And now, five years since Makenzie’s home going, we close down her Facebook account which, I guess, is another sign of our journey of grief and healing.

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Makenzie – 2.1 Miles Away

makenziestockerI don’t know how many of you have a physical location in which you can say your life changed forever.  As I write,  Google informs me I am 2.1 miles away from mine.

Four years ago this evening, Makenzie finished her last pirouette, landed her last leap, and smiled one last time for the camera that loved her.  Four years ago this evening, she headed home as a passenger in a car that drove the last 2.1 miles of her life to the intersection that I now mostly avoid.  Four years ago this evening, God lifted my beautiful daughter from a horrible wreckage and said, “Welcome Home.”

It is a funny thing how my human experience is now interwoven with concrete and traffic lights.  I ponder how my mind continues to bring up joyful memories and grieving feelings.  But I also praise God’s way of death for Makenzie. Instant. Unaware. Painless.  I am so very thankful that her location – where she rests – is free from all that is ugly.

So today, I choose to celebrate in the location.  Later, I will walk the lake shore that provided a beautiful backdrop for her last photo shoot.  I will sit on the dock in the place where she sat and I will venture to that intersection in which everything changed.  But I will not grieve.  I will only thank God because she is in my future and not in my past.  She is home; safe and sound in the protection and grace of her Savior, Jesus.  What more could a parent ask for.

Sleep tight, button nose.

Peace!

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Makenzie – Forever 18

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Birthday Cake Nose

I don’t remember where I read it and I don’t remember why.  But somewhere in my scanning of some random article, a mom was talking about her children – of which she bore three.  What caught my attention was how she listed the names and ages of her kids.  “Alex – 22, Molly – 24, Andrew – forever 18.”

Reading Andrew’s listing stirred up in me a Makenzie moment.  I paused.  Knowing what she meant and wondering the details of the back-story.  I wondered how he died and if he led a full life.

Today, ‘forever 18’ strikes me especially hard.  My Makenzie’s birthday.  She would have been 22 but is ‘forever 18’.  She would have been in college, maybe had a boyfriend and maybe would have come home to celebrate with us.  Lot’s of maybe’s, silenced by reality.  She doesn’t have any more birthday’s.  She is ‘forever 18.’

What I wouldn’t give to bake her a cake today.  What I wouldn’t do to see her play along with my old joke of putting re-lighting candles on it.  (She would always pretend to be surprised that the candles wouldn’t blow out – but she knew).  What I wouldn’t give to hug her bear-like, kiss her forehead and whisper “Happy Birthday, Kenz”  only to hear back “Thanks daddy.  I love you.”

Today as I sit in the quiet of my writing room, look up to see her pictured face and finger a bobby-pin found underneath my coffee mug, I am simply grateful that the “forever” in her “forever 18” is spent at the side of God.  He knows what He’s doing.  He has granted her a “forever” that is filled with joy. He has given her a life that is above any she experienced while with me.  He has graced her with a fullness that I too will know.  My Makenzie’s “forever” is with her Savior Jesus and I cannot be more grateful.

Happy Birthday, button-nose.  Forever-18.

Peace!

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My Makenzie Drift

img_0699_7264bOne of the most difficult experiences for those of us whose kids have died is to relate to our other “earth-walking” kids.  That’s what I’m ‘drifting’ about most recently.  Not that I wish they were like Makenzie or that they acted as the same, but I reactively want to talk to Makenzie about how awesome Nathan and Maddie are.  I wish I could see the three of them together again – laughing, fighting, goofing around.  I wish I could email Makenzie or text her to tell her about the latest song Nathan wrote or the cute boy about whom Maddie’s twitter-pated.  I wish that somehow I could get her a second cup of coffee at the Starbucks at which I’m now sitting.

It isn’t to be.  She won’t get to hear Nathan’s music or do girl-stuff with Maddie.  But She is sleeping in the arms of Jesus which, I suppose, is much grander an experience that dawdling with us.  For now, I just have my wishes and dreams that tend to drift me into a vacant gaze out a nearby window.

The chatter of two teenaged girls snap me back from my drift.  I like those drift-moments.  Some would say they’re daydreams.  Whatever.  They sit well with me because they remind me that there is more to my life than the urgency of the now.   There is “then” as well.  And sometimes, God brings my thoughts there so that I can have peace here – all riding on the wings of my Drift.

Peace!

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Her Name is Makenzie

Photo_092108_002In the corner of a coffee shop, I frantically type out my blurry thoughts, trying to meet imposed deadlines for publication.  When writing, I usually enter another world and am able to block out the bustling sounds of the grinding coffee machine, chatter from patrons and the light jazzy style music that drips from the JBL speaker mounted in the corner over my head.  But not today.

A mom walks in with her friend, both being followed by two little 5-year-old-ish girls.  They take off toward the knee-high chalkboard in the “family-friendly” corner.  I notice them because the mom calls out the name of her daughter which simultaneously calls out my emotions and memories.

“Makenzie” she says.

I look up expecting to see my oldest daughter scampering across the tan tiles of the shop.  For a split second, I hope it to be true.  I hope it is her.  I hope the last years without her could be redone.  But God doesn’t work that way.  The reality of my Makenzie’s death sinks in again as a different little face turns and looks up at her mom.  You never really get over those “hits” of reality.  Some of you reading, know … you know.

So I pray for that young mom and her “Makenzie.”  I pray that the joy my daughter brought me would also be hers.  I pray that God’s plan for their lives doesn’t intersect with the same tragedy as did ours.  All in all, I succumb to the numb that I haven’t felt in quite some time and I sink back into my coffee shop corner.  Deadlines persist and I thank God for allowing me to hear her name again – “Makenzie.”

Peace!

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LOSING A CHILD REWIRES MY BRAIN

I’m sitting at Starbucks on a drizzly early morning.  Normally, I’m at Caribou Coffee but nothing seems normal this morning.  Why?  Because my mind is connecting in strange ways today.  You see, when my oldest daughter was killed a few years back she was 18 years and 1 month old.  Too young to die.  Too energetic to have life cut short.

But back to my madness.  Today, my son is … you guessed it … 18 years and 1 month old.  I know.  You may think it’s a strange weaving – her timeline with his.  But that is how a person’s mind works when you lose a child.

In all of this, it reminds me again that our days are numbered, that our time is short, no matter if it’s 18 or 88 years.  And that the measuring of our prosperity is in our connection with God and the positive impact we have on others.

So today, as the clouds roll in and out, as the drizzle collects on the lawn and the world slows down, I will lean into the Lord and thank Him for the short years that He gives us all.

(Psalm 39)

Peace,

MY MAKENZIE’S ESPIRIT DE CORPS

Have you ever put off a project so long that it grew legs and took over?  That was my garage.  So finally, after a year, I decided to clean out the cobwebs and organize the bins that had all but grown roots in the concrete.  Bin after bin, I opened the lids and shuffled threw old tennis rackets and camping gear that had long since rusted out.  But then, I opened up a bin that flooded all my sense with memories.  It belonged to my daughter, Makenzie.

For those of you new to my blog, you may not know that my oldest daughter, Makenzie, was killed in a car accident a few years back.  (You can read her story here).  Anyway, seeing her ballet shoes, class notes and an a sundry of knickknacks that used to rest on her nightstand nearly broke me.  One of the items was a plaque she received after her first year at the Bay Area Houston Ballet Company.  It was the espirit de corps award.  Simply put, this award recognizes someone who exemplifies a positive common spirit of the company and who lives a life of excellence.

As I think back on Makenzie’s life, read her journals, and find her personal belongs in bins, I am reminded that a great person is not the sum of their possessions.  A great person is defined by the relational impact of their life.  Makenzie was such a person. She loved Jesus and that love reflected to all who met her.  She added value to those who felt worthless, joy to those living is sadness and laughter to those who wanted to cry.  Makenzie lived a life of espirit de corps.

Ultimately, Makenzie was a great person because she knew that her own value and worth came from Jesus.  She knew who she was and whose she was.  In her short 18 years of life, she impacted more people than most of us ever will in our lifetimes.  For those of us blessed to know her personally, we will never be the same.

Peace,