We woke early for an Easter sunrise, adopting a beautiful tradition from a beautiful friend, but there was something incredibly important and special about this specific Easter and this specific sunrise.
The clouds were socked in, it was misting throughout the wee hours of the morning, and the rain began to really come down. We all huddled under our umbrellas and our blankets. She used the same umbrella for protection on that rainy morning as I had used that sleepless night in 2012 in the waiting area during that nine hour surgery. We wondered if it all might be for not, the sky darkened in agreement. We wondered if we should just finish our hot chocolate, call it off, and hope for the possibility of a lovely sunset. We started sharing stories of other sunrises and sunsets, stories of Travis.
Then, almost imperceptibly, the rain was gone—it was all coming down, then it was gone, and it was the quietest change. It took several minutes before anyone noticed. Once our heads were freed from the umbrella's shelter we could see above us and out in the distance a few silver–linings scattered around the sky. We all felt happy with "seeing the silver–linings" and decided to just be grateful with that, then... gold! Bright, white, shining, gold burst through and between the thick clouds and gold fell on the hills around us and kissed our cheeks.
We gathered together to take it in, our breath taken by the sight. Now, it was time to listen.
A while ago Jason sent a letter "Dear family of my angel donor", then a few months later we received a message "I think my brother might be Jason's angel donor". Those two greetings are what catapulted us to this highly anticipated weekend, when Debbie and Amy and Dustin flew to Texas and we had the honor of meeting the newest members of our family.
It was as if we had known them forever, and we loved them and prayed for them before we ever knew their names. Over shared meals, through our adventures all around Sea World, riding in the car together, meeting atop our hill for the sunrise, and FaceTiming with our families, we came to know these lovely people and Travis Jericho Tillett.
Travis, a tall, blonde, entertaining, beautiful sixteen year–old boy who just got his learners permit. Who selected to be a donor without a second thought. He adored his mother, he called her Chap, he watched over her and she him and they were partners for each other. They went through life as soul–mates and were spontaneous together chasing the sea and the sunrise and the big, bright, full moon. He went out of his way to brighten and better the lives of all those around him. He knew just how to make his sister, he called her Sweetpea, laugh and laugh until she cried. He was thoughtful and driven and excited to get a job to buy a car and finally be finished with braces. He was on his way to school at SUN tech one morning, mid September 2012, when he was in a fatal car accident... only a couple days later we received The Call. There were beautiful lungs, perfect for Jason, ready for surgery. We would receive the sweetest, most selfless gift.
In the days preparing and throughout their trip, Debbie (Travis' mom), Amy (Travis' sister), and Dustin (Amy's son, Travis' nephew), experienced SO MANY tender mercies, so many miracles and signs along their way. From things small and simple as finding many pennies from Heaven when they reached their hotel room and even as they received their boarding passes to fly back to Pennsylvania—to a patient Jason had in his chair a few weeks ago, who just so happened to be head of admissions at Sea World, who told him they would be honored to host us with free admission for our special visit—to the clouds bursting open and the light reigning down on us for a moment so utterly personal and sweet it's nearly impossible to put into words.
Easter morning the air was thick and fragrant with fresh rain, our hearts were full and bursting with the sun shining around us, and Jason pulled his stethoscope from his pocket, Amy pulled hers from her purse.
Debbie slipped it into her ears, Jason guided her hand to his lungs. Amy readied herself as well. Jason took a long, deep breath. Debbie closed her eyes. Listening. "... ... ... ... Travis. ... It's Travis! There he is! Ohhhhh... ... it's Travis."
We all wept.
God was with us during our time together. God was with us throughout this tragic and terrible and beautiful and painful and miraculous journey that made our paths to cross. And I promise you God was with us on that hilltop hoping for the sun to rise. And I know that Travis was there too. I think Travis was pulling strings and walking along with us for his family's whole visit to Texas and I think he was glad we all finally found each other.
God is good. And Christ is Risen. And because of this we can all hope, we can all find joy, we can all try and love and look up and reach out to others and do our best through this walk of life. And after this mortal journey is through we can anticipate a glorious reunion in the end. Because of our Savior. Because of Him it can truly all be ok in the end.
Until then—Travis isn't gone. Travis is everywhere. And oh boy! Do we love him, and love those who love him.
"He lives on in others who now see the beauty of a sunset through his eyes, hear the coo of a child through his ears, breathe the breath of life through his lungs, and feel the pulse of life that lives on in his heart. Travis is no longer with us... He is now everywhere." –an excerpt from Travis' obituary, written by a close family friend