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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“Helping Those Who’ve Lost A Loved One”

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.”


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Free Resource:

“Helping Those Who’ve Lost A Loved One”


Why Relationships Are My Candles – Todd Stocker.com

relationshipAs of yesterday, I’ve been on the globe a half century. Pardon my stroll, but over this chunk of my history, I’ve cycled through multiple educational systems and won a few accolades. I’ve held jobs from delivering pizza to restoring antiques to working as a flight attendant among others. I’ve circled the world, climbed mountains and snorkeled off the coasts of Hawaii and the Dominican Republic. I’ve written books, been on TV and even held my own radio show for a wonderful 3 months.

I’m not rich and I’m not poor. I don’t have “toys” but I’m certainly not bored. I’m healthy, can jog and can read a sign from a good distance away.

As I tally my life, I realize that these trophies on the shelves of my memory make me happy, but they don’t bring joy. What brings me joy — true joy — are the memories and the current interactions with people I love. Relationships trump accomplishments every moment of the day.  Friends are the candles on the birthday cake of life. [Tweet That].

God has graced me with a wife whom I don’t deserve, three kids who have achieved and are accomplishing their dreams, a close circle of guys with whom I can act like a 6th grade boy and a myriad of friends, coworkers and acquaintances who know me well enough to challenge, value and encourage me.

If the next 50 are even a sliver of the past 50, I can’t wait to get started.

“A good man measures his life not in the number of his years but in the quality of his friends.” [Tweet That].


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Makenzie: Five Years Old


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)




My Facebook Day

Like yours, Facebook lit up for me like a Christmas tree on the 24th.  “Happy Birthday” flooded my timeline and I indulged in the well-wishes of family, close and distant friends and the casual acquaintance who happens to know someone who knows someone who knows me.

It is good, I think, to ponder our days and years, each one of which is a gift from God.  Psalm 139:16 says that while I was an unformed substance, he looked into my timeline and formed each and everyone of my days.  Literally, God placed each day as on a potters wheel and formed a vessel into which He and I both pour.  Some things he wants me to do.  Other things, I choose to do myself.

That’s the beauty of living.  To weave in and out of one’s moments.  To discover His surprising goodness.   To experience the joys of my consequence.  And to know that among the Facebook eulogies is one that will say, “Well done” by my God who forms my days.

(By the way, thanks to those who noted my wall yesterday.  If you want to join my Facebook conversation, Click Here)



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.