Wow, what an incredible week! It has been full of tears, laughter and tremendous love. I know that so many of you have been following along, and I know how much he touched your lives and meant to you! So, come with me in Remembering Stephen Chao Peterson. :)
We left before the sun was up on Thursday morning to make it to little Stephen's viewing in Albuquerque which is 4 hours away. I had been trying so hard to prepare myself for it, knowing it would be difficult. It was a beautiful experience. I walked up to the tiny little white casket. He looked so peaceful. He had his special blanket with him, his favorite Nemo toy, and traditional Chinese note cards that family and friends wrote their final goodbyes and well wishes to him in. He was dressed in white. It was beautiful. He looked just like he was sleeping peacefully, free from his pain. It was so good to see him one last time. Tears and all. :)
Then we went to the church for his Celebration of Life. They had a room set up with Stephen's favorite things. You may recognize some of the things here. You can click on any of the images to get a better look at them.
His favorite masks (the one in the middle is the one he wore for his last Halloween at St. Jude) and of course, Darth Maul. :)
His favorite clothes (see the Sponge Bob pajamas from when I visited him? *sniff sniff*)
His special blanket (the same one from the viewing) The little note card on it says that it was originally given to Sabin when she was little, but Stephen took a liking to it and she gave it to him.
Some of his artwork from school, the blanket with his sweet school picture on it...
His adoption book, pictures, and some of the Chinese gifts they were going to give him as he grew up.
One of the traditional Chinese note cards (like the one from his viewing) and his sword. He really was a warrior, wasn't he. :)
His beloved bike.
The memorial service was BEAUTIFUL. It was full clear to the back! There were many of his classmates there, they were easy to spot. They were the little ones with the tears in their eyes, burying their faces in their Mom and Dad's laps. It broke my heart. He was so loved.
They also showed a video that Brent had made.
It has moments from the very first time they held him at the orphanage in China, through the devastating discovery of his cancer, until the very end. It was so beautiful. We laughed and cried (there are some majorly hilarious parts in there!) Then, Stephen sang "I Am A Child of God". How sweet to hear him sing those words in his cute little voice:
"I am a Child of God, and He has sent me here.
Has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way,
teach me all that I must do,
to live with Him some day."
Which is exactly where he is. Right now.
Then laying in his bed, looking very frail and weak, Stephen says, "Thank you, and I love you."
There was not a dry eye in that room.
Both of his parents spoke at the memorial and his big sister read a journal entry. Their talks were incredible...you seriously have to read them. Same with the Eulogy. They were put on his Caring Bridge Journal HERE. I don't know how they got through those talks...such faith, such strength, such humility. The spirit was so strong in that room, you could cut through it with a butter knife. I will never forget it.
Saturday was Stephen's Run. OH.MY.GOSH. Words can't even describe how incredible that was. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot I was in tears. There were SO.MANY.CARS!!!
There were hundreds and hundreds of people there, all to support Stephen's family.
Including these guys. Oh my gosh, I completely lost it. Remember when they went to visit him in the hospital after his first brain surgery?
This is the tail END of the start of the race...but you can still see how many people there were! The other hundreds of people stretch all down the street.
Guide posts to direct the runners...
T shirts for the participants...
The AMAZING 17 year old neighbor, Makaila, who got this all started! (17 years old!!! That girl is going to go places in life.)
Albuquerque's 93.3 KOB FM, the ones who helped organize this race and changed the station's name to STEPHEN FM for a whole day in Stephen's honor! They started the race with his favorite song, Sponge Bob's "The Best Day Ever". I will never be able to hear that song without tearing up again. :)
I hand painted this T Shirt the night before and wore it at the race. I think it turned out pretty well! *sniff sniff*
I made friends with a Storm Trooper. But...maybe the feelings weren't mutual? (Oh my gosh, I am SUCH a geek.) I was in heaven.
From where I was standing, I could HEAR Darth Vader breathing!!! Coolest Darth Vader suit EVER. It was seriously cracking me up seeing all of these Storm Troopers and Darth Vader wandering around the park and down the street. A lot of cars honked and other runners on a joy run who were on the same track ran through like, "what the heck is this!?!" Some of them freaked out and ran to the other side of the street! Hahah! Oh, Stephen would have LOVED this.
Stephen's Dad, Brent (on the left), and the Star Wars crew at the finish line cheering everyone on! It was a glorious sight. :) That's my mom, who walked the entire 5K with Kate on her shoulders! GO MOM!!!!
It was such an emotional high, I could not stop crying! I was so unbelievably happy. I could just see little Stephen, running around and playing, cheering people on, and dancing to his favorite songs. I am sure he was there and enjoying the party. :)
After the race, we all went to shower and change and drive to the burial. It was a sweet little gathering of their closest family and friends.
In China, the ladybug is a symbol of good luck. They let everyone release a ladybug in his memory and honor. The girl in the yellow is his big sister.
Red was his favorite color.
The family had made a promise to Stephen before he died. He had always wanted to go back to China to see where he came from. They had planned to take him back, but when the cancer struck, they knew that he would not have enough time to go back. They thought and prayed about this for a long time, and felt strongly that it was right. For this reason, they chose to have him cremated. They will keep their promise to Stephen by taking part of him to China, where his ashes will be spread near his home town.
This is from the Caring Bridge Journal:
"Stephen has been betrayed by the cancer that has invaded his healthy body and finally conquered it. Although we know that his spirit lives on, we can not stand the thought of him laying underground with that same cancer having consumed his body and continuing to exist with it. Cremation gives us some peace that this ugly cancer has finally been purged and that not only his spirit, but his body will be set free as well."
Take that, cancer! *sniff sniff* It's perfect.
After they put Stephen's remains in a special box to be buried in, his brothers and sister and all of the cousins had an opportunity to write him a little message on the box. It was so touching.
And with that, they put Stephen into the ground to rest until the day when we will see him again in perfect form. Inside the note I wrote and put into his casket it read, "Dear Stephen. I love you with all my heart and am so blessed to be a part of your eternal family. I can't wait until we meet again, it will be THE BEST DAY EVER!"
And it will.
Love you, little Stephen!