Derek, from the moment you were born, I knew you were going to do great things. I picked Derek Braden because I like the names. But when I found out that together they mean “ruler of people from the broad valley,” that solidified it! You had a dream of flying since you were 5 and look at you now – an Air Force pilot flying a super cool plane, a Major who leads people, and your broad valley is the sky! You definitely got those leadership skills from Dad! The dream of flying came from me, though! 😊
You are such a special man and you have chosen a special wife with Kate. We love how you two are together…in many ways it’s like looking in a mirror! You complement each other perfectly, and you are a beautiful (handsome) couple! Your relationship is strong because you work on it. Keep it up and you’ll one day be saying “We’ve been together for 41 years” just like Dad & I do now. Remember your vertical alignment – God first, Kate second, you third – and you will live a life filled with blessings.
You’ve had struggles and you’ve overcome them. You handle adversity with a sense of calm that more people need to learn. You are wicked smart and always curious – two traits that make it a pleasure to talk with you. You got the smarts from both Dad & I, but the curiosity comes from me.
I love how you love the outdoors – disc golf, hiking, snowboarding, skateboarding, scooter gang, flying (okay, yes technically it’s inside the plane, but it still counts because the view you have from the cockpit is just…WOW!!!). We can’t wait to explore Norway with you & Kate! And we have a blast watching you maneuver through your video games…it’s amazing how you focus with so much going on! (Also, you were right…playing video games when you were growing up was educational and helped get you the career you wanted. You “told me so”!)
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this…We are very proud of you and love you so very much!!! You truly are DeRock! Love You!!!
Dustin, I woke up this morning and the first message on my phone was from Beau. He sent me a Happy Mother’s Day message on your behalf and included a picture of Olivia he took when you brought her to his office. What a blessing! I may not get to talk to you today, but I wear your love in my heart and on it…in the necklace you gave me for Mother’s Day a few years ago. It’s such a simple token yet means so much to me, not only because it’s me & you, but it’s also you & Olivia. You were such an amazing Daddy! I’ll never forget seeing the awe in your eyes when she was born, the love in your eyes when you played with her, how patiently you let her put play makeup on your face, and all the times she made you “go ’nite ‘nite, Daddy”).
I would have loved to see you taking Olivia on her first date to “set the bar” for her expectations; watching her at soccer games, dance recitals, sports events, etc; taking her on Disney cruises; walking her down the aisle at her wedding (and not wanting to give her away). But those are not meant to be. Instead, you will be watching her from Heaven and asking Jesus to guide her every step of the way.
I know that your life was not perfect and that there are things about you that we’ll never know. That’s okay. What we do know is that you were loved by many, many people because you were a great friend. Your personality was magnetic, and you let that draw you to people and them to you. You made everyone comfortable from the first hello with your warm handshake, genuine smile and deep “Hi, I’m Dustin”. Over & over, we’ve heard that from so many…how you made them laugh, gave them hugs when needed, and how infectious your excitement for being a dad could be! We’ve adopted a few new kids with Beau, Eric, Brandan & Davina, and Robert. I am proud of you for how you let God’s love flow through you to others. We all miss you.
So, on this Mother’s Day – the first since you went to Heaven – know that Dad & I love you. We miss you immensely. But we’re doing okay; you don’t need to worry about us or Olivia. We will always tell her how much you love her and keep your memory alive in her heart. (By the way – she’s going to be a big sister in November! She’s going to be a great one to her little sister. You taught her well by having her around Gabbie!) Keep an eye on us all as you are now part of the cloud of witnesses. And give Jesus a hug for us…we’ve been asking Him to give you one every day since you left. We'll see you when we get to Heaven.
Love you, Son!
For those Moms reading this who have lost children, we feel your pain. May today be filled with the blessing of memories that make you smile and your heart swell with love and pride. We pray for healing of your hearts.
And for those whose Mom has already left this earth, may her love for you while she was here fill your hearts with love today and always. Remember her smile, her hugs, her love. We pray for healing of your hearts as well.
Grace & Peace,