This painting was a gift Stephen had given me a couple of years ago. It usually hangs in the breakfast nook where it can be seen from the kitchen sink. It is our “Ocean View” even though we are hundreds of miles from the Atlantic. Currently, this painting is on special exhibit at Progressive Insurance headquarters and has been there since before Christmas, and in a very special way, Stephen’s gift is being shared with hundreds of people. Many years ago, I read Gift from the Sea and recently came across this quote, which so perfectly describes Stephen’s relationship with the sea, and his character-never greedy, always patient and faith-filled.
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Stephen loved to be by the sea.
He truly appreciated this gift from God, who is the ultimate giver of patience and faith.
Today would have been Stephen’s 21st birthday. Any other year, Stephen’s favorite food would be served for dinner (spaghetti and meatballs), Amaw’s special chocolate cake would be baked, lots of bright balloons would decorate the dining room, silly hats would be worn, happy memories would be shared, gifts would be opened and our love for Stephen would be expressed. Today there is no visible celebration, although November 1st will always be a special day.
It is so fitting that Stephen was born on All Saints Day. For the majority of the 20 years and 3 months that Stephen lived on this earth, he embodied the Biblical meaning of a saint.
Stephen, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
On April 16th, Chris Peterson honored Stephen’s memory in a very personal way by placing a picture of Stephen in his wedding tuxedo pocket. This tender picture of Chris and his bride, Courtney, is a beautiful visual reminder of how every celebration on earth will never be the same for us without Stephen alongside us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 1 Peter 1:3-6
As Stephen stands in the glory of the risen Savior, he now has the full revelation of these words written by the Apostle Peter almost 2,000 years ago!
Recommendation for Stephen Beirne
Stephen is amazing. This is not a word I’d use lightly, but it’s applicable in his case. Though I didn’t get to know Stephen personally until he became my student in August of 2007, I knew who he was because of his physical condition: a couple years previously, he had been diagnosed with spinal cancer and had had to take a year off from school. During his absence, the school coordinated a couple “Standing with Stephen” initiatives (involving fundraising and card-signing, if I recall correctly) to give the school community ways to show their support of him.
While a lot of us, myself included, might have used that year to wallow in self-pity, Stephen did something far more constructive – he wrote a novel. Entitled November Reign, it was published through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and is an enjoyable fantasy adventure that also gives a clear, but not too heavy-handed, presentation of Stephen’s Christian beliefs. Every family in our school received a free copy, and additional copies were sold in one or two local bookstores. Stephen earned some money from the sales, but rather than keeping it for himself, he donated it to a fund intended to make our school’s facilities more accessible to disabled students and visitors.
Although Stephen was in better health by the time he began my Honors English class last year, his cancer returned partway through the year, and he had to miss a lot of school once again. Normally, Honors English students are expected to take AP English their senior year, but because of Stephen’s circumstances, I gave him the opportunity to switch back to regular English for his senior year, if he thought that would be helpful. His response? “Well … thanks, but I’d probably be kind of bored.”
I agreed. Stephen is an excellent student. He ended up with an A+ average in Honors English last year and in Advanced Writing last semester; based on his work so far this year, he’s likely to end up with an A+ in AP English and in Creative Writing as well. Stephen has a great mix of native intelligence and a disciplined work ethic. He’s well rounded, too – he’s a strong writer in various genres (whether personal narrative, creative fiction, or literary analysis), a good test taker, and a clever project performer and presenter (in two recent projects, Stephen and his groupmates chose to go first; when they were done, everyone else groaned, realizing what a hard act they would have to follow). From what I’ve seen and heard from others, Stephen’s not solely an “English person,” either – he does well in all academic disciplines, and though his physical condition has prevented him from having much extracurricular involvement in recent years, he used to be on the cross country team, and is now one of several student editors for our student literary journal.
But perhaps more importantly, Stephen’s just a really nice, humble, gracious guy. He’s got more reason to complain than pretty much anyone around him, but I’ve never heard him do so. He even was one of the student speakers in this past year’s Thanksgiving assembly, sharing about how grateful he was for the various blessings in his life. He’s a class act through and through, and he will greatly enrich the lives of those in his college community and beyond.
from Meredith Riordan, Stephen’s English teacher
I wanted to write a quick note to tell you some of the memories I have with Stephen from when we were just young little guys together. I remember those carefree elementary school days with Stephen fondly, playing basketball in the driveway, mashing video game buttons in the living room, goofing around in the basement, or hanging out with Greg occasionally in the upstairs bedrooms and both of us thinking he was cool and wise (which he undoubtedly is). Stephen’s kind heart and quick smile made him a wonderful companion for me in those days, and I only wish that we could have spent more time together playing, laughing, and growing.
Hearing news of Stephen’s cancer several years ago was heartbreaking for me, and it was hard to imagine the vibrant friend I had come to appreciate so much transitioning into a time of hardship. I knew that many difficult days would come for him as he received care and treatment. However, I also sensed that through his trial, Stephen would certainly minister to those around him in a powerful and unique way. I want you all to know that I firmly believe he did that and so much more, and I have immense respect and admiration for him. With unwavering confidence in the love and sovereignty of Christ, Stephen defied the expectations of most and I’m sure his tenacity and resolve baffled many people in the best possible way.
I thought of and prayed for Stephen often, and at every update I received I was awed at the way he continued to turn to prayer and Scripture for his strength. I think that his life was a wonderful picture of what it looks like for us to be faithful to God as his people and children. Undoubtedly, Stephen knew what it was like to be close to God, and in that way he provided a model that all of us can absolutely learn from and follow. I thank the Lord for Stephen’s life, and I cannot wait to be reunited with my brother in Christ one glorious day!