A few months ago I went to the funeral of my friend, Reed. Reed was five years old.
There are no words to describe the pain and sadness of this loss for his family and friends.
To honor his life, I wanted to share a few things about Reed.
Reed was beautiful, with curly, crazy hair, an infectious smile, and a curious spirit. He loved pushing things like toy trucks, or carts. He had a great wiggle when he got excited. He was so happy when he was swimming.
Reed also lived with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental challenges.
I knew Reed from when he was a little baby. My husband and I are friends with his parents. We would often go to their house in the evenings, and the grownups would drink wine, play games, and talk for hours. But we got to be with Reed until he went to bed. I held him and played with him.
I remember how mesmerized I was with his huge eyes, which watched you intently. It made me feel that there was something almost divine in that baby body; his eyes were full of such expression and wisdom.
One day when Reed was about two, I was finishing a run in our neighborhood, and passed their house. Reed’s mom was on the front steps, waiting for Reed’s bus to drop him off. I stopped and waited with her. When the bus pulled up, she went to the bus and retrieved him from his seat.
Reed was so tired and laid his head on her shoulders as she carried him towards me. His eyes were sleepy and serene. When she got close to me, Reed suddenly put out his arms to me, and hopped onto me, laying his sweet little head on my shoulder. Reed’s mom and I smiled and laughed in surprise.
My heart swelled. It felt so nice to be wanted by Reed. I was so glad I could provide a shoulder for him. It was one of those pure moments when you feel so connected. Like you both belong.
One Halloween, Reed and his family came by to trick or treat. I was dressed as Miss Piggy. He took one look at me, and yelled, “OFF. OFF. OFF” and grabbed at my blond wig. He wanted to see me, not Miss Piggy. It felt nice to be seen.
Although there is no one like Reed, there are souls like him in our midst. We just have to see them. See each other.
“Discover the gift of who each person is, and then invite people to live in each other’s hearts…. And then hope that people will not only discover their gift and their own goodness but that they’ll live out of that place with each other….”
– Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir
There is so much we can learn about each other. It makes us better for ourselves and each other.
Perhaps we can try living so that we assume that every person we meet teaches us something. That they know something we do not know, but can tell us if we listen. We can see this in the eyes of every person we meet, people of every age, background, life situation, or diagnosis.
Reed’s mom shared this amazing video with me a few years ago. To me, this is the definition of pure joy.
I hope it brings you joy, and thank you, Reed, for the joy and lessons you have brought to all of us.