Only thirteen years, but a life well lived. That is what we think of when we think of Luke. He had many interests, was endlessly curious, and loved adventure. As a toddler he was the one we found, with Shawn jr. in tow, with a board, hammer, nails, a lighter, scissors, and screw drivers hiding under a table. He liked to build. He understood quickly how things worked. He liked new projects. He liked taking things apart. He liked organizing things practically and liked to be prepared with whatever gear he may need for any situation.
Luke is an old soul. He noticed things, would take his time investigating. We found him at Tohi one day where the stream eddies into a small pond. He had discovered the birthplace of every frog within a mile. With that beamish smile we saw him standing at the edge of the water, his staff covered in frogs. That day he gained the title “Frog King.” It was admittedly strange, but Luke drew things to himself. He noticed when someone was lonely or just alone. One summer he made friends with a grandmother that was sitting on the beach. Three- or four-year-old Luke began to spend so much time with her day after day that we eventually had to move our beach chairs over and our families became good friends.
Luke could also be stubborn. Luke could not be convinced math was something he ever needed to do. He would laugh and run away to build forts outside with Shawn and Kaitlyn, to the exhaustion of his mother. But when he liked something, he pursued it. One of these interests was fishing. He was determined to become scuba certified. He learned about all kinds of fish, tackle, bait. He became the resident expert at blowing bubble rings from the bottom of our pool. His stubbornness when directed to something he enjoyed became determination.
Luke was physically strong. He was good at wrestling with the kids, and even dad (not Colin). His favorite thing to do was just to sit on someone when they least expected it. He would laugh as we screamed for him to get off. He was very proud the day he realized he was taller than his mother and would indiscriminately pick her up and move her around, as others did before, to her adamant disapproval. He loved to tease, especially Hayden. They loved to mess with each other. But he could also be very protective and sensitive. He spent all day making Hayden his own homemade ramen noodle bowl recipe. Even from the hospital bed he called his mom when she went down for Doordash at 11:30pm just to make sure she wasn’t kidnapped. He figured out to use a paintbrush dipped in milk to nurse Mortimer, a wayward field mouse, back to health. Luke, Shawn, and Kaitlyn made it a home for three days in one of Luke’s empty fish tanks and kept it on our kitchen counter.
Luke liked to hike and explore outdoors from the Lemon Squeeze climb in New York to the Beehive in Acadia National Park. He planned trips to the aquarium in Mystic, CT, coastal Maine, Key West, and of course Disney World. Wherever Luke suggested dad somehow managed to come through with a surprise trip.
Luke had a funny sense of humor. His laugh was hard won but very distinct and genuine. It mostly involved unexpected physical injury. He and Garrett had loud, fast conversations full of laughter and various accents that no one else understood.
He could also be serious and docile, learning how to take apart and reassemble a firearm with Colin or learning how to target shoot safely and accurately. He patiently baked with Kaitlyn, made airsoft battle plans with Shawn, and beat the pants off all the kids at any shooter video games.
Luke seemed to have a premonition. He insisted on having his airsoft birthday party a month early this year and so enjoyed his day with his group of friends without the burden of re-diagnosis. He insisted on learning how to drive an actual vehicle, so the day we left for the hospital he drove his dad’s pick-up truck all around the yard with his brothers piled in. In preceding weeks, he wanted to play baseball, so we set up “the big game” in the front yard.
The last months of his life Luke had a partner that never left his side. He slept in a chair next to his bed so that he could hold his hand. He made sure Luke was busy with lists of things to do. They watched movies and kept updated on fishing reports. He read him books on Marine Biology and even when Luke was sedated, he would stand for hours talking with him and making sure he knew that someone was there. He made a promise that they would go through this together and he was faithful to that promise. His partner, his special buddy, was his dad.
The truth is, Luke wasn’t done exploring. Luke had endless projects as the unopened Amazon boxes in our foyer attest. He has hydroponics towers, equipment to make his own fishing lures, plans to launch a food company, and even investment strategies involving Legos and Pokémon. He opened his first bank account from the hospital and would ask to hold and look at his debit card that had his name on it. He would look at his name and then, when satisfied, ask dad to put it back in the drawer.
Luke bought an enormous fishbowl. He turned it into a self-contained ecosystem. He planted it, watered it, and put plastic wrap over it. It is still vigorously growing. We do not open it. It is still full of life. That is what we must remember. Luke is still full of life, now he is even radiant with life. He is still exploring, but he is exploring what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard. We will see him again. He is with us even now.