On January 24th, 2002, our son and brother, Steve, passed away suddenly at the young age of 24. No words can describe the feelings a family goes through from the loss of a child and brother. Our faith in God and the love, support, and prayers we received from our family and friends helped us through those very difficult times. This is the “miracle” that Mike, Steve’s dad, received that would become Steve's Dream. I was in Minneapolis on business when I received a call from Jan (Steve’s mom), that Steve was in the hospital.I contemplated flying directly to Chicago but chose to fly home to Phoenix and then catch the next flight to Chicago on Friday, January 25.As soon as the plane touched down in Phoenix I called home, only to hear Jan’s grieving voice telling me our son was gone.We both wept.
When I arrived home our house was filled with family.Our daughter, Sara, was living in Tucson at the time.Jan had called Sara to tell her Steve was in the hospital and that we were all going to Chicago.Bob, our brother-in-law, arrived to pick Sara up and when she answered the door he told her that Steve had died.Thank God for Bob.Jan or I could not be there, but Bob was.Sara wasn’t alone when she heard the news.
The next day, Friday, January 25, Jan, Sara, Laurie (Jan’s sister) and I flew to Chicago. We decided to stay at Steve’s house so we could provide comfort for friends and family in the area.Saturday the 26th was the day we were to make Steve’s funeral arrangements.It is also my birthday.Later that morning it hit me, for the rest of my life I would associate my birthday with making my son’s funeral plans.That’s when reality finally hit me.I was overcome with emotion and wept uncontrollably. I have never felt that much pain and sadness in my life.
As I walked, still filled with emotions, to the bedroom I heard Steve's voice telling me, "I'm sorry".Between the tears I answered Steve, "That’s OK Steve, but I don't want anyone singing to me today, because today simply will not be a happy birthday". Moments later I heard another voice, but this was different, it wasn’t Steve’s voice.In fact it wasn’t a voice at all, it was more like a thought, but the thought wasn’t mine."Something incredibly beautiful is going to happen to you today. When it happens, you will know. Then they can sing Happy Birthday to you". My crying stopped, I felt a little better, but I was doubtful this "beautiful thing" was going to happen.I remember looking at the ceiling and muttered, “Yeah, right”.I later shared my “experience” with Jan and Laurie that something incredible is going to happen today.
It was a 45 minute drive to the Memorial Chapel and we were running late.In the car with me were Jan and Laurie.The mood was obviously very sad and quiet.During the drive, Laurie reflected on their mother’s funeral arrangements that were made almost 15 years earlier.She commented on how expensive caskets are and it's a shame that after all the expenses are taken care of there never seems to be enough money left over to donate to a charity in the person's name.That’s when it hit me…CHARITY!I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand.I couldn’t speak and almost drove off the road.Jan and Laurie quickly asked me what was wrong; they thought I was in some kind of excruciating pain.I managed to say, “It happened, oh My God, it happened, my beautiful thing!” I exclaimed.At the same moment Laurie said with urgency, “Look at the sign, look at the sign!”Off to the right was a road sign that read Route 126, today’s date!We were speechless. We had just turned on Route 126 moments earlier.Jan asked, "What is it, what’s the beautiful thing"?I said, "I am going to start a Steve Berry Memorial and donate some of our Cubs Spring Training tickets to fathers and sons”.The mood in the car immediately became lighter.
Some of the best memories I have of Steve is when we would sit behind the Cubs dugout at Dwight Paterson Field in Mesa and watch spring training.All we did was talk baseball.For three hours that’s all that mattered.We really bonded as father and son.I no longer have a son to share this with, so donating our front row seats to other fathers and sons, to create those special memories, was indeed a beautiful thing.
As we continued our drive to the Chapel I happened to look at the time and it was exactly 1:05pm.That’s game time for spring training.Coincidence? Not likely.We began talking about all the good things we could do and all the families we could touch and soon the tears turned into smiles.
After we arrived at the Chapel I called my sister Lyn, who was back in Phoenix with her family, my other sister Cheri and her family, my dad and mom, who would lose her fight with cancer a month later, to tell her what just happened. She was speechless as well, but she said something that made my knees buckle. She said hearing Steve's voice and experiencing this "event" was truly a miracle. "Only God performs miracles" she said.“This is confirmation that Steve is in heaven. Can you think of a better birthday gift”?A warm feeling ran through my body as tears immediately filled my eyes and a sense of love filled my soul.
When we were through making the arrangements we went to a local park that was special to Steve.I called my family who were all gathered at my parent’s house. I shared the miracle with them and they were all overcome with emotions. As we said our goodbyes, the all sang Happy Birthday to me.
Steve's service was held in Lockport, Illinois. I shared this story with our friends and family. The service was beautiful and warm, and filled with love. Afterwards we gathered for dinner. While we were eating, Sara said she had the perfect name for Steve's memorial: "STEVE'S DREAM". Steve had a dream to someday have a son and take him to Wrigley Field.Since that cannot happen it only seems fitting that we name this memorial "STEVE'S DREAM".January 26 will no longer be the anniversary of the day we made Steve’s funeral arrangements.Instead, we celebrate two birthdays, mine and “STEVE'S DREAM". Being part of a miracle from God has changed my life.I miss my son so much and at times, the sadness is overwhelming.But I also know and believe with all my soul that I will see him again and that gives me peace.I have been blessed with 24 wonderful years with Steve and the gift of Steve’s Dream that will allow us to share his love and passion of sports with others.In doing so, his memory and spirit will live on.