Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Stevie D

I hope to recap today's uplifting memorial service soon, but fatigue is setting in. So for now I'll post the remembrance that Betty read in my place today.

Steve asked for three people to speak at his service -- his dad, Will and me. But he also knows my fear of speaking in front of more than six people, so he suggested that someone else read for me. Betty did an amazing job with the words and pauses and even the Steve "Yee haw!"

***

For almost two years Steve and I were focused on making him well, on fighting the Damm Spot. Those two years amplified the qualities that made Steve Steve.

During the first 38 years of his life, what he would call his charmed life, he was fearless. He was passionate. He was fully invested. He was creative. He was a marvelous friend. During the scariest challenge of his life – living with an inoperable, deadly brain tumor – he was even more fearless. He was even more passionate. He was even more invested. He was even more creative. His compassion and empathy as a friend reached new heights.

Steve wasn’t afraid of adventure. For the first 10 years we were together, Steve owned a motorcycle. But because Steve was Steve, it wasn’t just any motorcycle. It was a rare Italian racing bike.

Some weekends when we were dating he would drive it between Brenham and Dallas. One Sunday he took me out on a two-lane, hilly road on the Ducati. I wrapped my arms around his chest and held on tight, convinced I would be terrified on the ride. Steve was so confident, though, that my fears melted away. And the faster we sped, the more often he would chuckle or yell, “Yee haw!”

Steve wasn’t afraid to love, either. When we lived in Lubbock, we had awful luck with our first two Scottish terriers. Both died much too young. To be honest, after going through the heartache of losing two dogs, I really preferred to never own another.

I remember crying, telling Steve that I was afraid to love another pet, afraid of the pain that would eventually follow.

He eased my fears, telling me, “You can’t live life worried about what you’ll lose. You have to be open to love, even knowing there will be pain.”

When Steve loved someone or something, he did so with great passion. I would call it “unbridled enthusiasm,” a nod to a Seinfeld episode that always made us laugh.

I’ve never known a father more passionate about his children.

When it was bedtime at our house, nothing else mattered. Steve would beat me to the kids’ bathtub every time so that he could bathe them and get them ready to sleep. He looked forward to reading with Cooper and Katie every night and would often read past bedtime because he couldn’t bear to leave the room.

Because Steve was Steve, he didn’t settle for just any books. When Cooper was 3, Steve started reading chapter books aloud to our son. He introduced him to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlotte’s Web.

One of their favorite shared experiences was Harry Potter. Cooper and Steve read the first five volumes together and almost finished book six. When Steve’s voice started to fail, he wasn’t ready to give up their special time. Some days he would stop talking for two hours before bedtime so that he’d have the strength and voice to read four pages of Harry Potter aloud to his Cooper D.

About a year ago, I recorded a short video of 3-year-old Katie dancing on our bench on the front porch. Her outfit includes a red tutu and brown boots, and she shakes, stomps and shimmies with enviable confidence.

Steve loved this video. He would watch it over and over again, every time giggling or weeping a little, every time with his hand over his heart. He also made others watch it over and over again. During hospital stays, when Steve had his laptop computer open so that he could work from his bed, he would introduce nurses and medical assistants to Katie by showing them the dancing video multiple times.

I often called Steve all-or-nothing man. He was fully invested in whatever project he chose.

When he was a health-care consultant, he spent every week out of town. For three years he commuted to and from Los Angeles or Saint Louis. We both wanted to start having children, but neither one of us wanted Steve to be an absent father. He worked with dads who left their families behind week after week, and he couldn’t fathom missing so many school plays and sports practices and bedtime routines.

Steve’s new job with Children’s Medical Center was an answer to prayer. He would no longer travel, plus he would be working on a project that fulfilled his passion to help people. He helped to create a clinic for children from low-income families, ensuring that children would have access to quality health care. At the same time, he was available for almost every performance, practice, game and nighttime tuck-in.

In 2000, he chose running. Because Steve was Steve, he didn’t run just a little. He ran 5Ks then 10Ks and then marathons.

Back in 1994 he chose to marry me. He was fully invested in our marriage. He was equally gifted with big flourishes and little details. When we traveled, he always held my hand during a flight’s takeoff and landing. He did the same every time we prayed.

When we were in Paris to celebrate our fifth anniversary, he planned special themed days. One day was all about perfume. We stopped in countless shops so that we could sniff perfume until we found the perfect scent for me. I’ve worn Champs de Elysees ever since. Steve never let my supply run low.

Another day was all about chocolate. We bought and sampled chocolates throughout that romantic city. Ever since then, Steve kept my bedside table stocked with chocolates.

He always knew how to comfort me, how to make me laugh, when I needed time o alone, when I needed extra time with him.

Steve earned an MBA and spent his work hours analyzing data and producing detailed reports, but he never ignored his creative side. He painted, sculpted, created a floor vase, crafted a table, sang, played trumpet, told fanciful stories.

Steve’s capacity for friendship cannot be overstated. He was so humble and low key about his influence on others, though, that I didn’t realize how many people he’d affected until he was ill.
For years Steve told me about his fraternity brother and roommate Cory. What he didn’t tell me was that he was instrumental in helping Cory through a life-changing experience.

Cory wrote me this week to share the story about Steve – or as his Michigan friends called him, Cheeze.

Cory wrote: “I remember how he carried me in school when I couldn’t handle life. You see, in a house full of drunks, I had a reputation. By the start of my sophomore year at Michigan, I was addicted to alcohol and pills, I had been kicked out of school, my parents were getting divorced, I had no money left to stay in Ann Arbor, and I had no idea what to do. I remember the day I told Cheeze that I wanted to quit drugs and alcohol, but I didn’t know how or if I could. At that time I didn’t want to go to AA, but I didn’t know what else to do. Cheeze rounded up all of my pills (even the ones I hid) and tossed them.”

Cory continues to share how Steve supported him during the following years.

“A lot of people watched over me in those first couple of years, but soon enough I came to believe that life could be great. Cheeze couldn’t have been a bigger part of that. God willing, next week I will be clean and sober 21 years, and I have a fantastic life. I tell my friends in AA today that I got sober in a fraternity house where God had the greatest friends in the world carry me for Him.”

I feel the exact same way about Steve, my one true love. I know that God brought us together so that Steve could carry me and care for me for the first part of our marriage and so that I could carry him and care for him in the final months.

Of course, we desperately wanted our love story to continue until we were old and wise and gray. We had big plans for raising Cooper and Katie, for continuing to travel, for spoiling our grandbabies, for continuing to learn and grow together.

Already I find comfort that his beautiful spirit has found eternal peace. And that we all now have the most passionate guardian angel. And that the oversized way that Steve lived and loved will continue to ripple among friends and family and, most importantly, our dear Cooper and Katie.


Steve and Tyra, engagement photo, 1994

9 comments:

Guys of Stone Creek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Kniering said...

Amen.

This was the most amazing day. I laughed. I cried. I felt the rain cleanse me.

I believe I just heard Steve order a a bloody mary, a steak sandwhich and a steak sandwich. :o)

DogBlogger said...

Beautiful, Tyra. I so wish I had been there in the crowd gathered today. Steve was a gift to this world, and will continue to be one. I can hardly believe I never met him, because through your writing, I've come to love him. Blessings to you, Cooper and Katie.

Laura said...

Tyra, Thank you for sharing this with us. What a beautiful tribute to Steve, and a fantastic love story. I'm sorry I couldn't be there with you today, but I thank you for bringing a part of the service to us.

Lorrie I J said...

What a beautiful rememberance of your life together---your time on Earth together was definitely fated and it's an inspiration to all. Be blessed, Tyra...

tlundt said...

Tyra,

A beautiful tribute to an incredible husband, father and friend. Though not a direct friend of Steve, I was still very much honored to be in attendance.

So many of us will take so much away from their experiences with Steve, both in life and now that he is in heaven. As both Will and Mr. Damm mentioned today, he certainly has raised the bar for the rest of us.

Was pleasing to go home from the service today and watch the Big Blue Machine drive in the final seconds for the win. Am sure Steve had something to do with it.... You gotta love it! Go Big Blue!

Praying for peace for all of you.

Trey Lundt

Rob Cook said...

Tyra,
Thank you for posting this today and all of these posts for these months. Steve was a special person to so many of us. I wanted so badly to be there today, but I couldn't get anyone to cover my call, but at least I got to hear a small part of it. I will continue to pray for you and your family through these times.
Rob Cook

Anonymous said...

Tyra

It was just beautiful!!!
I could feel Steve was smiling at all of us.
I agree with you that MS. Betty did such a wonderful job and I loved that " Yi Ha " sounds!
Love you~

Jasmine

Anonymous said...

two verses come to mind as i read the love and life of Steve.. the first is for steve..

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day..."

and the second is for you, tyra...

"The heart of her husband safely trusts her... She does him good and not evil, All the days of her life..."

its evident that every day..from now until you are reunited with steve.. that you will honor and cherish.. uplift and share the character of your husband.. and that his strength, humility and compassion will be evident in the way you live and in the lives of your precious children.

may the Lord grant you and your children a peace that surpasses all understand.