Greg's most cherished childhood memories were formed in the woods behind the house he grew up in. Those woods with their "Berryland Trails" were his safe space. Out there he was in charge: leading his little brothers on adventures and attacking thorn bushes that dared to get in his way. In the peaceful woods, he was far from the unseen danger that lurked in what should have been a safe place.
Decades later, we came to the D.C. suburbs in search of a home for us and our toddler son. As soon as Greg saw the dense patch of woods at the last place we looked at, he knew it was would be our home. The woods, with a stream gently winding through, would give our child the gift of adventure and a safe place to call his own.
The woods were far easier to give than the other things Greg wanted for him, but give them he did. He was determined to keep unseen dangers away from our son. His safe places would be truly safe. His safe people wouldn't let anyone harm him.
It cost Greg tremendously, as it does for all who stand between their children and the harm they've experienced. Yet Greg never wavered. In the end he gave our son a gift far greater than the woods: he gave him a safe and innocent childhood.
We don't visit the woods as often as we used to, but their snow-covered beauty drew us in today. I watched as our boy took the biggest stick he could find and smashed the ice-covered stream again and again, thrilled his strength. He was experiencing pure delight, the kind his Daddy wished him to have.
My heart swelled with gratitude. Gratitude for the sacrifices Greg made to protect our son. Gratitude for the lovely patch of woods in which so many of our child's memories were formed. Gratitude for the gifts Greg gave us that remain even though he is gone.