He was always Toad.
And his Mama was always Mario.
And they always played Super Mario Bros together.
And when her Mario would die in the game, Ian (Toad) would say, “Don’t worry, Mom. Just believe.”
This post’s a hard one for me. The tears are already hitting my cheeks.
Ian was seven. He lived with his Mama, his Dad and his big brother. And everyone agreed, he was one of the happiest little guys around.
When he was excited he would start bouncing on his toes.
He made friends easily… probably ’cause he was one of those kids who was always concerned about the happiness of those around him.
From the memories and the words they wrote about him, his teachers were clearly in love with him.
You know “Joy” from the Disney movie, Inside out? Imagine her as a boy instead.
Caty, my old friend from high school who was also Ian’s mama, his Dad, and his big brother got to have Ian for seven years.
And then one day, they didn’t get to have him anymore.
He was there. And then he was gone.
Is there a bigger nightmare? That’s an honest question.
Is there anything that scares you more in this life than losing one of your babies?
Is there any scenario you can imagine that has the potential to break you more completely than the one where your child dies… and you have to go on living?
‘Cause I can’t think of one.
But it happens.
I’ve watched it happen to two of my friends already in this lifetime.
It just seems to be too much.
And I pray… I beg, every night, that it doesn’t happen to me.
But as I watch my friends closely… Mindy with the loss of her Ben, and now Caty with the loss of her Ian… I find something that I just didn’t expect.
Something that blows me away, entirely, actually.
And it gives me hope.
‘Cause I see something in their eyes… even through all of the overwhelming grief and pain that threatens to destroy them daily, there’s something else there, too.
Something else that I can’t wrap my head around.
I see strength.
I mean it. This isn’t some fluffy stuff I’m making up to help us all feel a little better right now… it’s really REAL.
When I look into the eyes of my friends who have been through the biggest nightmare known to mankind, I see a quiet strength.
And I didn’t expect that.
But I know why it’s there.
I’ve heard them both talk about it, each in their own way.
It seems to be that both of these friends of mine understand something that a lot of us have a hard time really “getting”. And maybe it’s because they’ve had to stare it in the eye, face to face, on a more real level than any of us can begin to imagine.
They understand that there’s something bigger, here. Bigger than them, than you, than me.
And that Ian and Ben are part of that “bigger”, now.
They know that God took those two little guys to be with Him into the “bigger”… for whatever reason. One we’ll probably never get.
And He knows it hurts down here… like crazy. And He cares that it hurts like crazy. And He’ll help us with that crazy hurt for the rest of our lives, every day…
but he needed to take Ian and Ben.
And THEY’RE not hurting anymore.
They’re completely taken care of.
They’re perfect, now.
And while I know that the throbbing pain in the center of Caty’s and Mindy’s heart still brings them to their knees, and probably always will…
they have a strength I can only dream about, that pulls them back up and keeps them moving forward.
Knowing they’ll each see their little guy again, someday.
‘Cause where Ian and Ben are right now is not only bigger… it’s so very much better.
And I bet they wish they could tell their mama’s all about it.
I can just see Ian bouncing on his toes right now saying, “Don’t worry, Mom. Just believe.”
I’m quite certain I’ll never again get through another round of Super Mario Bros without some quiet tears rolling down my cheeks. Xx
Some notes on how I made Ian’s cake for his end of life celebration…
I used modeling chocolate to make the figures.
There’s a small styro ball in the center of Toad’s hat to help keep it from being so heavy.
I rolled out an egg shape for his body in white and then another the same size in skin tone.
I cut them both in the same spot and then fitted the correct pieces together.
To make his coat, I rolled out some yellow mod choc and attached one end of it to his body with water.
I used my exacto knife to cut the edge of the jacket appropriately, and scissors to cut off the excess fold as I wrapped the yellow around to the other side (and then did the same thing, there.)
Added some orange mod choc trim, and the rest of the details.
I ran a wooden skewer up through his center (right behind his right foot) and into his head and hat to keep him stable.
Mario was also made out of modeling chocolate. (Learn to make your own by watching this video, HERE.)
I used some melted candy melts and a piece of dry spaghetti to attach his arm to his body.
I got the idea for the clouds from Lesley over at Royal Bakery. I covered ripped up marshmellows with fondant to make mine, but if you’d like a step by step of how it was done, she’s got a cheap tutorial over on her page, HERE.
Had to take a break once I placed Ian (Toad) on his cloud.
Didn’t want my tears that I all of a sudden couldn’t control to ruin the airbrush job on the cake.
I cut a rainbow template out of cardstock to the exact size I wanted it to be and used that as a guide to create mine out of modeling chocolate (and fondant… either works well for this).
(I traced and cut the clouds to use as a base for the puffy ones I ended up making, and once they were ready I held them to the rainbow and cut the striped colors to fit the curve of the clouds.)
I then held the template up to the cake and just lightly scored some spots to use as a guide while attaching my rainbow to the correct spot using some shortening.
To create your own font, find an image of one you like online, adjust it to the size you want it to be on your cake and print it out onto cardstock.
Then cut the appropriate letters out with an exacto knife… roll out some modeling chocolate, lay the letters over top, and cut them out too.
To make sure my images are lined up well, I cut out a strip of card stock to the appropriate height and use that as a guide while I’m attaching them with shortening.
And then it was time to create a scene from the video game onto the bottom tier.
I used mod choc to create the landscape,
buttercream and a small leaf tip and star tip to create the foliage,
and dipped the edges of some round cutters into white piping gel mixed with just a touch of some different airbrush colors to then press onto the cake to form bubbles.
It was created for Ian’s end of life celebration (which was in place of a funeral).
The celebration was beautiful.
Just like Ian.