Dear Clay,

You would be so proud of your wife, the leader of your tribe.  She keeps you alive.

Your children didn’t know you long, but they know you well. Allison doesn’t stray from mentioning your name at the dinner table. She’s not afraid to show home videos when the kids ask to hear your voice. She doesn’t shy away from keeping pictures of you on the walls or love letters from you on her desk. They keep you alive.

Allison says you were steady and kind, yet you could shoot a gun at the ranch like nobody’s business. She tells me how you loved your Aggies (I forgive you for that one) and you never missed a game. You were not only dedicated to your team, but also to your family, your friends and your church: you poured into them so much.

You would have been the best father to Gracie, your little girl.

She was only two when you passed away but she asks about you often. Gracie has become familiar with your voice and the way you danced her around at Reid’s fourth birthday party. She’s six years old now and the spunkiest little person you could ever imagine. She swirls around in princess dresses in the kitchen as Allison laughs and delights in her playful soul. Gracie is a light during the dark days and brings excitement when Allison needs it most.

Allison knows the importance of “guy time” for your Reid. He’s only nine, but has matured in the most beautiful way. You would be so proud of him.

She’s teaching him to open doors for others like a gentleman and to throw baseballs like you did. He is gentle, yet strong, silly, but a man at heart. At such a young age, he loves his Maker like you prayed he would.

Allison is brave. She lives in the land of Barbies and baseball games but she has hope in Jesus and runs Team Aderholt with grace and love.

Your bride, Allison, has walked through the deepest trenches, yet still cares enough to sit with me on your couch talking about life and eating Oreos at midnight. Your girl encourages her friends when we should be encouraging her. Allison has created new traditions for your family, like an annual beach trip for Father’s Day. She has learned to be vulnerable and ask for help when she needs it. And she has used this pain to walk through life with other widows or anyone experiencing loneliness, grief or any type of pain. Read what she wrote recently:

“I used to think loneliness was a lack of people around, now I see I was wrong. In a room full of people, in my kitchen with children running circles around me, in the presence of married couples, in a small group of single divorced women. In all of these places, I have felt lonely…

The reality is, sometimes I just want Jesus with skin on to comfort, encourage and be with me in my valleys and on my mountaintops. Because of this, my tendency has been to go to people over Jesus. For the past three years, I have asked Jesus to take me to a new place of intimacy with Him over people.

I’ve asked Him to use this season of “less people” to allow Him to become my end all – that He would be who I run to in my victories, defeats, heartache and joy. Don’t hear me saying people don’t matter. The Trinity of God is relational. He created us that way, and we are to celebrate that and live in community, not isolation. But they can’t be our hope, our end all, or our satisfaction. We are a fallen people, broken and unable to perfectly meet the needs of others. Only Jesus can do that. ”

Clay, I wish I could know you today. I know so many people wish the same. But, because of your tribe, your Jesus is being lifted high and your legacy will not die. Allison, Reid and Gracie exemplify the kind of courage and gentle love you instilled in them and, because of that, my life has been changed. They have passed through seemingly impossible storms yet still have the faith to walk on the waters when called. I know you would be proud of your Team Aderholt. They are doing amazing things.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Allison Aderholt