Live Like LucasThe non-profit organization Live Like Lucas was founded in August of 2015 in order to accomplish the goal of empowering youth to spread kindness. Our first official event was on January 16, 2016 where we had over 200 youth as well as adults participate in service projects and random acts of kindness in the Grand Rapids area. We served a pancake breakfast at Park church, made over 100 lunches and hygiene kits and distributed them to the poor along Division avenue. We made breakfast and did activities with the children at Hope Community, which is temporary housing for single moms and their children. We went to nursing homes and played bingo and bowling with the elderly. We distributed fifty 10.00 gift cards at Meijer as a random act of kindness. The result of just this one day was astounding. The volunteers had their eyes opened to situations that they had never been in before and met people unlike they had ever encountered. They saw people in poverty as real, worthy, human beings who weren’t just lazy. They saw the elderly, as one student put it “peppy and funny and mischievous.” They connected with people who were far outside of the Forest Hills “bubble.” And they wanted to go back. They wanted to do more. They asked, “When can we do this again?” Live Like Lucas is not just about spreading kindness out on the streets of Grand Rapids but also in our schools. We are currently researching programs and speakers to encourage our youth to practice kindness EVERY DAY- not just to their own friends but to those who feel alone and disenfranchised. We want to encourage friendships across all social, racial, and socio-economic boundaries. Teaching kindness also needs to start young. We are working on a program with “Lucas puppets” for the social workers to use to teach lessons on being kind to others and encourage conversation about sadness and loneliness and bullying. The kids will be able to put letters to Lucas in a mailbox so they can express their feelings and in turn the social workers can address these issues. One especially powerful method of learning about kindness in a global way is through mission projects. Our goal for next summer is to fund or partially fund at least 10 trips to Guatemala for kids who would otherwise be unable to go due to financial concerns. Lucas went 2 years ago with my grandparents and it was life changing for him to see the utter poverty and lack of medical care that was available for these people they visited in remote villages. He was prompted to really think about what his future looked like- he had planned on going into the medical field and now felt drawn to the mission field. Live Like Lucas has a vision of youth who look outside of themselves, look outside of wealth and power and popularity as goals and really see the world as how it is- full of hurting people. Even a small act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. It may even change their life.
Monthly Archives: March 2015
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. In the morning when I wake I pray the path of love to take. God bless Mommy, Daddy, Lucas, Brooklyn, Brenna, Bryleigh, and Brady…
The list goes on to list relatives, sick people, all the little children in the world…
My daughter Bryleigh’s prayer. It breaks my heart every time. I wish I didn’t have to write about my broken heart EVERY time I sit in front of the computer.
Oh God, Why? Why? Why?
Not my precious boy. I cannot fathom a lifetime without him and I TRY so hard not to think about it. I try not to think about the next day or the next or the next but I can’t help it.
Today was a beautiful spring day and I played outside with the little ones for hours and I missed him EVERY second of EVERY minute. The outside screams Lucas to me. The outside sings Lucas to me. The outside pulsates with everything that is Lucas. The garage is filled with baseballs and his pitching helmet. I can see him shooting baskets at the hoops. I see him in the lawn throwing the ball up in the air and hitting it with his bat nearly across the street. We have a huge lawn. The back yard where he shot his bow and arrow for hours at a time and shot his bb gun at squirrels. It’s where he shot of fireworks, as many as humanly possible.
Then there’s the swing set where I will be spending much of my summer. Where he pushed Bryleigh and Brady so many times. So many times I would say when he got off the bus, “hey buddy can you push them for a little bit while I put some laundry in?”
He can’t be gone. He can’t. He can’t. He can’t. Oh God I loved him so much so much so much he can’t be gone I loved him so much.
He was the most beautiful soul. This note was found in his room after…
Dear Papa Doug,
Thank you so much for being the person you are. I look up to you, respect you, and I think you are the best grandfather I could ask for. I am so grateful for your wisdom, selflessness and compassion. Thanks for being such an important part of my life, Lucas
God bless Lucas.
If I could only have half the heart he had…
II Corinthians 12:9
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I will keep praying for God’s power to be perfected in my weakness.
Dinner time…the hardest. Setting once less plate. Not having that deep 15 year old voice reprimanding Bryleigh to get back in her chair and eat her food. He was better at that when I was. He was always telling me, “Mom don’t let her get away with so much.” Well to me, just getting dinner on the table and everyone around it was exhausting enough. Then Brooklyn would start acting silly and Lucas would basically just shake his head at her, tell her to cut it out, ask her when she was going to start acting her age. He never really understood acting one’s age. She at 11 years old was acting exactly her age while he was always 25. 30 maybe.
Then he would help me clean up. Every night. I can’t clean up dinner without crying. I can’t sit at the table without tearing up.
Just a constant ever present pain that soaks down to the marrow of my bones. An ache. A deep deep ache.
Lately I’ve been having these kinds of “life flashes” where I picture him as a toddler “mowing” the lawn, as a kindergartner reading the prayer at his spring program, all the precious little smiles on the first days of school, baseball games, orchestra concerts, it just all comes as a flood and the regret is agonizing. That I can’t remember better. That I didn’t enjoy every moment as much as I could have. How having each child limited my time with him more and more. Even though I never could have gone back anyway, now I can’t add to that precious time or make more memories with him.
No one should have to go through this. I think that probably too frequently, that such suffering simply should not exist. I think of the Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” I cannot fathom the suffering that Jesus went through. I don’t know what it was like for him but this feels like a special kind of hell.
I just don’t know what to do with it right now. Trying to think of others going through this, well it helps a little. Yet it is my pain, I own it and no one else can feel it nor can they take it away.
It seems to me a paradox- as time goes on I feel the pain in more detail and more clearly. Little things that he would have done or said come to me more often and cause such sharp wounds. Yet I need to continue to function and live and be a Mom, I cannot falter. Well I can, but my kids need me so much and no one else can be me.
I am just a walking wound. I am trying to do good things with my wounds, instead of hiding under the covers I might as well walk around showing them proudly.
More so I want to make him proud. I want his life, short as it was to mean something. I want desperately to make a difference by building upon what HE was. The sweetest purest most honest soul there was. His deep, deep compassion. Whatever he did with his life he was absolutely going to help people. I have to do what he would have dreamed and envisioned. I have to run with it and I am passionate about it.
I am going to Guatemala in July with the same church group that he went with last year.
I want to see what he saw. I want to do what he did. I also want to help carry out a mission that I know he would have been so excited about…
A Live Like Lucas medical van.
Some doctors from Holland have had the vision of raising money for and building a medical van to go to the outlying villages in Guatemala. Right now medical care is almost nonexistent. Hospitals only exist in major cities and for thousands and thousands of people there is just no way to get there. Or they are too afraid to go. It is a huge need. This group of doctors also want to build a medical clinic. The ministry that is in Guatamala and ministers to the people full time is called Grace Ministries. http://www.aglimpseofgrace.com/
I believe the Live Like Lucas legacy begins here. A medical van- that will ease the pain and suffering of thousands. I want to use my pain to help others.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I have started a go fund me to begin the fundraising for the Lucas Van. The hope is to get the “shell” of the van purchased in late summer so that it can go to American RV to be outfitted in the fall. The total cost of the vehicle will be about $150,00. I realize that sounds like a lot of money but every dollar will help. Every journey starts with a single step. Please consider donating:
We went to Great Wolf Lodge Sunday and Monday with my family- Mom, Dad, sister, brother-in law, cousins. What excruciating joy. The trip was given to us by a kind friend who won it in a raffle. It was something we had thought about doing but then – Boom! It appeared on our doorstep.
We needed that fun time with the kids. This has been every bit as difficult for them, or at least some version of the process, though they show it in different ways. For one daughter her grief has displayed itself every day in anxiety, frustration, irritability, just not being able to cope.
The same way I feel many days. I just don’t (usually) lay down on the floor and kick and scream. Or refuse to put my shoes on. Or go and hide in a closet.
So they needed this. It was a blessing, one of a bajillion we have received.
It was hard for us, Rich and I. So terribly painful. Yet with glimpses of joy. To be on a family vacation, without our whole family. It kind of cemented it in us that we are an earthly family of 6. In my heart I will always have 5 children but 5 children did not check into great wolf lodge.
As I went down slides and tubed through the lazy river I would feel my heart start to ache, so much aching, and I would just pray “God get me through this.”
We are both so broken, Rich and I.
After a couple of hours we went back the room and cried together. He said, “I just feel so dead inside.”
That feels so, so true. Yet I don’t want to say I feel dead, I want to feel alive but wounded and crushed and bleeding.
I feel like if I am dead inside God is not there. I know he is there. He knows how excruciating it was for me to take my kids to Great wolf lodge and from somewhere deep inside I found the strength to do it. Even though every teenaged boy I saw there brought tears to my eyes. Every single one I asked myself “why can’t mine be here.”
I kept picturing Lucas the way he looked at Kalahari, another water park last year so muscular and tall with his wet blonde curls. Every year for the past few years we went there because there was a ton of fun older kid stuff. He would spend nearly the entire time on the flowrider where you could surf. He was so dang good at it.
Difficulty and suffering are going to be part of me. Part of my being. I know I will never completely heal from this loss- how can I? How can my heart be completely whole after the loss of this beautiful amazing boy, who loved God and was compassionate and good and kind. He was smart and wise and knowledgeable. He had the golden touch at pretty much everything he did. He was my comforter, my right hand man. He was a piece of me. I will never be the same.
I am not the only one who has lost and has to learn to deal with excruciating pain. Pain is life and life is pain. Yet the darkness will not overcome. When Jesus was telling his disciples about his death, he was trying to explain it to them without really coming out and saying it. They were confused. They thought he was talking in riddles. They could not comprehend their master who they loved would be taken from them. Jesus said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
He has overcome the world. Even then before his death he knew what the end result would be. He would be our Savior. No matter what trials and tribulations, not matter the pain and sorrow we have peace in God. He will be the calm in our storm. If we truly embrace him and trust him, cling to him with everything we have. Everything.
He has overcome the world.
Such hard days. People don’t understand that as the shock wears off it gets more painful. It is not getting easier to bear the pain of his loss. I feel strangely guilty talking about it still, and then I remind myself this is my blog. I can talk about whatever is on my heart, and strangely people will listen. I don’t know why but they do.
At first you are so surrounded and inundated by people and food and flowers and cards and expressions of love. You are still in shock, not even really realizing what has happened. Even a month later, you feel a certain kind of deep sadness but your brain is still protecting you from the full realization. Its not that is doesn’t hurt then, it does, but its just different. Still you are buffered by people helping you and being there at your every turn.
Just like anything, time simply goes by. Its no one’s fault. Its just the way of the world. No one concentrates on one thing forever.
Except I am the Mommy. Who feels those stabs of grief like a hot poker in every minute of every day.
I get up and get oatmeal for Brady. The instant packet kind. In the back of the cupboard is Lucas’ plain “real” oatmeal. Just sitting. No one will eat it.
He’s not coming back.
As I do laundry I begin to fold the socks and make a pile of all the black ones. Lucas used to wear them and now Rich does.
He’s not coming back.
I decide to reorganize the bookshelf and find books about chickens, birds, his goodwillie yearbook, novels that he had read for school, books about baseball.
He’s not coming back.
I run out to the garage today to try and find a pair of tennis shoes to fit Bryleigh that one of her sisters have worn. As I dig through the bins there is a very large pair of size 12 baseball cleats still with the dust on them from last years baseball season.
He’s not coming back.
The yearbook teacher at the high school asks for pictures and ideas for a tribute to him in the yearbook. I pull out a stick drive thingy my sister has given me and see pictures of him I don’t even remember seeing. My beautiful boy. Over and over in every picture. It KILLS me. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab.
He’s not coming back.
Why God, why this agony, this suffering, this unbearable unbearable pain? I feel I am at my breaking point.
But he’s coming back. God. He’s coming back. That’s all I have left. That is what I pray for.
This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done.
What a wonderful day. To see so many people sharing in something beautiful; to feel that connection with others for a higher purpose; to have a whole day to celebrate being “unselfish.” To be the kind of people God really wants us to be. I am so truly honored that so many chose to come along side with me today. Not even just to do acts of kindness but to feel their support and love as we remember Lucas.
Some days I feel like one mother mourning one child. I know people are praying for me, for Rich, for the kids, but grief is so isolating. Today I felt so blessed that so many others were thinking about him, celebrating the person he was, feeling his loss like I do. Even those who never got a chance to meet him but have been able to get a sense of who he was and his heart.
To a grieving mother one of the greatest worries is that her child will be forgotten. That he will simply disappear from this earth and it was like he was never here. Today Lucas lived on and that gives me great joy. It gives me even greater joy that God could be glorified through his life and the inspiration he gave others.
Still it is painful. I almost always am caught off guard by the moments where I feel something really good happening through “livelikelucas” and then I find myself wracked with pain. I forget that it is going to remind of how he was so compassionate, how he comforted me, how he was there for me, how that was his ultimate act of kindness.
As time goes by the grief changes in ways I don’t know how to describe. It is more of a continuous aching sadness. Its almost like its clearer and more precise. It seems I remember him better and thus it hurts more.
And then there’s the forgetting. Today I was outside playing with Brady and he was trying to make baskets in his little tykes hoop and I thought, “I can’t wait until Lucas comes home and can play outside with him.”
I remember he’s gone and I can’t. Breathe.
Its been two months, two long months to some people but like a second to me. The grief so fresh it could have been yesterday. I don’t know how long it will be like this.
Right now I carry in my whole body at all times “I have lost a son.” It never leaves my mind, my heart, my soul. An unending pang. Loss like a bitter liquid dripping through my veins.
God is still taking care of me. I have people. I have comfort. I can lay in my bed if I want to and sob endlessly. God loves me. He never said it was going to be easy- any of this. Life. Not easy. I never understood before, never had a clue- what hard was. Not a single stinking clue. Now I would live in a mud hut in africa and eat wormy rice just to have my Lucas back. I would give every one of my limbs. Anything.
Life is not the same and will never be the same and I know for the rest of my life I am “mother who lost a son.”
I also know life is not always about happiness and comfort and sunshine every day. It all boils down to one thing- I was created by God and given this life so I can serve him. Lucas was his gift to me. He was on loan to me. I will praise him in this storm. I will strive to be a wounded healer. I was created to be God’s instrument..
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I just spend an entire exhausting wonderful day preparing for Random Acts of Kindness day on Monday. The 16th. The day that will never be the same for us. I am so bubbling over from the bottom of my heart in excitement for what this day will bring.
Just in the schools we are working in alone (Ada, Central woodlands, Central Middle, FHC) there will be over 3,000 kids thinking about the impact of kindness. Thinking about what they can do for someone else. Thinking about how they can make someone’s day, put a smile on their face, put a little spring in their step. Putting others ahead of themselves.
Each of these kids is going to write their act of kindness and put it on a blue strip of paper which will join hundreds of other strips to make a chain. A chain of kindness. If only…the world could be a chain of kindness. Passed on from one person to the next, to the next, in an endless circle. If only. Why not start here. One branch of Forest Hills Schools.
I saw a commercial while waiting for a movie to start the other day where the girl described “throwing her heart out in front of her and then running to catch it.” That really resonated with me. I think about it all the time.
Why not? Just throw it out there. Put aside your reservations, your in inhibitions, your self-consciousness and just go for it.
I have the “club no one wants to be in” perspective. I wish everyone had it. The “it could never happen to us” has happened. I have no reason not to go “all in” because I truly understand how short and fragile and fleeting life is. How very little time we have to make an impact. I will use my son’s life as an example and a springboard until my dying breath. I believe God gave him to me for that very reason. It was his act of kindness to me. Lucas was my gift. I am going to pass him on.
My heart breaks. It breaks because of young people- middle schoolers and highschoolers who are hurting. Before it was my job to take care of my high schooler and I had a very narrow view of what my job was. Take care of Lucas. Take care of my other kids.
I don’t have a high school age child anymore. Which ironically has opened my eyes in such a tremendous way- and it is just so frightening.
Now that he is gone I feel like I need to get in touch with them, with students, to get a feel for what the pulse of the high school is like. While I am taking baby steps I feel a calling to help there- somehow.
The report I get there is so much hurt, so much loneliness, insecurity, anxiety, depression, hopelessness. That kids are not helping each other through tough times and instead pouring salt in each other’s wounds.
I am very very saddened.
I also know that there are some, probably many, wonderful kids. I have met a handful. Kids that “get it.” Kids that get why they are put on this earth. That its not about them. Whose hearts are full of love and kindness. I guess that there are not enough of those kids to influence the others.
I know there are cases where “Live Like Lucas” has already come and gone and it’s back to reality. Students are just wanting people to like them, to stay in the right crowd, to make sure their own happiness comes first. They take other’s problems and use them as a way to boost their own self esteem.
I don’t know if that many, say, 12-18 year olds read my blog. If they did, I would say to them, you do not know how much time you have on this earth. How many times have you heard that, right? It would never happen to me. It would never happen to me. Well it happened to our family. Our worst nightmare came true. Lucas had 15 years and ten days on this earth. You just don’t know.
Even if you lived to be 100, why do you think you are here? To be popular, to be well liked, to push others down on the way to the top?
How would you want to be treated if you were hurting? How do you want to be treated, period? Many of those who hurt do it because of their own hurt. The cycle must be stopped.
I don’t know exactly what the answer is, to healing all this pain and suffering these kids are going through.
Well I do know one answer, a very important one.
Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I am on my knees in prayer for these kids. I am begging God for a transformation. I am begging for an answer.
I have lost a child. There is nothing I can do about it. Nothing.
Yet how I deal with it now is everything. My attitude about it is everything.
Yes I have very bad days, a lot of them where I choke back tears all day. My stomach feels sick all day. I feel that angst, that want, that need that ache to have my son back that feels so overpowering that nothing else can matter, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I can’t….
Then I come back to some sort of center where I know I will go on, I have to go on, Lucas wants me to go on, God put me on this earth to be something other than a grieving mother.
Most of the time right now that is all I am, I look like I am doing other things but inside all I do is grieve.
Sometimes I see the big picture. Mostly in people, that God has given me, so that I can survive. In verses, in songs, and in people.
Today I did yoga with Kelly Shomin who is on my list of “best people ever” (doesn’t everyone kind of have a list like that?). Something called restorative yoga. Its amazing. I will tell you why- there are very few times I can actually feel un-sad and un-anxious and actually…good? It almost feels like an exaggeration. I feel good. I feel peace. The best part of today was she shared this poem by Mother Teresa.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful
If you are honest and sincere, people may cheat you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may not be enough.
Give them your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Bless her heart, she said it reminded her of Lucas. It does because it also reminds me of the Albert Einstein quote I said at the game, “Life isn’t worth living unless it is lived for someone else.”
I may be sad and heartbroken and crushed but I am not here for me. I was created by the Creator to do his work. That is the only way I can feel true joy. That is the only way I will be able to get past my pain. That is the only way that I will be able to heal. I know my definition from here on our is “mother who has lost a child,” but that does not mean I cannot be “mother who does God’s work.” I will do it not only because I know that is what I was created to do but because my beautiful boy would want me to. I know that is where I get the courage.
I know I just blogged a few hours ago, but I found this next to my computer and well…It deserves its own post. This is my son. In a nutshell. An email to his spanish teacher…
Dear Mrs. Malivuk,
I just wanted to send you a letter to let you know how great of a teacher you are. I truly appreciate how kind you always are, and that you are so great to your students. Some teachers don’t understand we are people too, but you have always afforded us respect. Your class is easily my favorite. Simply put- it is just enjoyable. (Students name) well he is one of a kind, as I am sure you understand, but that just shows your patience with your students. I am always available to help him out with material. If you ever get overwhelmed with him, I am always there to help!!
Thanks for everything, and merry Christmas,
Lucas Van Sprange
This is what the world lost and heaven gained on January 16. This was no ordinary 15 year old.
If this touched your heart-
Help me, in any way you can to spread the Live Like Lucas movement. Such a loss cannot go with our a tremendous gain. The world needs to know. To learn. To change.
If you are willing to help me email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lets spread his legacy.
I just laid in my bed (almost) all day….not such a good plan, but every time I would get out I would just feel so awful I would climb back in. It was despair- deep, dark, heavy, painful, heart wrenching despair. My heart felt like it weighed 500 pounds. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could not even see an end to the tunnel.
I wonder, so often, how people get through this. I wonder equally often how such pain is even humanly possible because I feel as if the heaviness will just make my heart stop beating.
As I lay in bed I wanted to feel close to Lucas, which is not often, strangely because it hurts too much. As far away as I can stay to that “closeness” the better. Yet I had this longing to read the texts we had sent to each other, almost just to convince myself that I could do it.
So I did. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled through, “tell Rich to start dinner” and many many “what time do you want me to pick you up” texts. Then I got to the ones where I was pestering him to find his coat. I had bought him a brand new coat this year, not a cheap one, and he had lost it. As a mother, I felt this was a big problem. There were “did you check the bus”, “did you check every class”, “did you check the office again?” It went on and on. It was such a big deal to me. He felt very badly about it. Very. Badly. As the mom of a teenager I thought would be in my life forever, I continued to berate him about losing the $200 coat. He kept telling me over and over, “the old north face is fine. I don’t need a new one. Its fine. Its fine. Its fine.” It was a lighter weight spring-ish version he had had for two years. I ended up buying him another new one. It is hanging in our closet having been worn once. The day he died he was wearing the old north face coat.
It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter at all. Coats don’t matter.
I also had gotten on his case about shoes. I had bought him brand new shoes as part of his christmas present. I had hinted very obviously about this fact yet he went and bought new ones with his grandma when he was there for the weekend. I was pissed. I went off on him over text, for no particular reason, it seems, other than the fact that I had picked out these cool ones and I didn’t like the ones he had picked. The gorgeous bright blue and green tennis shoes that I bought him are now in our garage in a bin with his backpack, untouched, waiting. Worn less than a month. For…what? I don’t know.
It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter at all. Tennis shoes don’t matter.
I did find these two texts.
My sweetheart. My wonderful boy. My pain is as deep as the love I had for him. I am going to learn from him like I hope others do as well. Learn to love like Jesus. Unconditionally.