"Labor" is an appropriate word for what Steve endured this same weekend in 2009. His breathing was labored. His speech was labored. His body had worked too hard, and his body needed rest.
In 2010, the kids and I escaped to Michigan over Labor Day weekend. We stayed with our dear friends the Healys. We attended a Michigan game in Ann Arbor, courtesy of our friends the Redmonds, and felt right at home thanks to the Dodd family.
In 2011, we escaped to Los Angeles. We stayed with our dear friends Gretchen and Anthony. They were impeccable hosts, showing us Malibu and Hollywood and museums and great restaurants.
In 2012, we're not going far. Michigan is coming to us, actually.
Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington is hosting tomorrow a big college football matchup: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan. The Redmonds helped again, this time allowing us an opportunity to buy alumni tickets before the general public sale that never actually happened because tickets sold so quickly.
Jim and Betty have tickets, too; the five us will sit together and root for Michigan together.
In one class he was asked to name his hero. He simply said, "My Dad" without explanation.
In another class he was asked to create a paper shield illustrating a little about himself.
In one corner, the teacher asked for an animal. He drew a snake because he was born in the Year of the Snake.
In another, she asked for an activity from summer. He drew the lighthouse from Peggy's Cove, which we visited on our Canadian cruise.
In another, she asked for what he wanted to be when he grew up. He drew a beaker bubbling over to show that he wants to be a chemist.
And in the last section, she asked for a representative color. Cooper colored the area black.
"I chose black because I have seen death," he wrote.
The date for Labor Day changes annually, of course, so pretty much the whole week is a minefield of memories. This year the experience stretches a full week, from today through next Friday, Sept. 7.
I try to focus mostly on all the good from this week three years ago. There was so much good, so much love surrounding Steve and us, so many reminders of God's love and provision.
Laughter mixed with tears surrounding Steve during his final hours. Never-ending prayers. Standing with Steve as he took his final Communion. Family members and friends and hospice workers who stepped in to take care of what I couldn't take care of. Steve, unable to speak, pointing to letters to spell "Thank you" and "I love you."