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I Thought  We  Had  Forever  is  a  collection  of  love   letters,  emails,  and  journal  entries  that  reveal  the   passion   and   pain   a   family   went   through   when   their  forever  ended  on  July  28,  2004.  It  is  a  love   story  that  began  when  retired  NBA  player  Steve   Patterson   took   a   blank   piece   of   paper   and   penned  a  collection  of  love  letters  that  changed   the  course  of  many  lives.  His  wife,  Carlette,  holds   the on  to  her  family  as  her  five-­year-­old  daughter  is   forced   to   understand   grief,   her   young   adult   daughter  finds  her  way  back  from  drug  addiction,   and   her   oldest   daughter   navigates   life   with   Aspergers.   Experience   their   raw   emotions   as   they   search   for   hope,   hanging   on   to   their   faith   and  finding  a  love  more  powerful  than  pain.

It wasn’t   until   something   so   unexpected,   so   unplanned   by   me   and   so   perfectly   written   entered  into  my  world  that  I  was  introduced   to   a   different   level   of   love.   Through   the   experience   of   being   loved,   I   now   know   that   love   is   a   gift,   not   to   be   treasured   all   alone.   From  the  depth  of  my  soul,  I  believe  that  love   can  only  become  what  it  is  destined  to  be  if  we   can are  willing  to  read  its  tender  words,  written  in   unfamiliar  places  —  add  our  story  to  its  pages   and  pass  it  along  to  someone  else.


I hope  you’re  having  a  good  day.  I  want  

to thank  you  for  making  many  of  my  days  good   and   happy   ones   by   your   bright   smile   and   cheerful,  kind  words  to  me.  

There is  so  much  I  want  to  say  to  you  

that cannot  or  has  not  been  said;;  because  of   time,  or  convention,  or…but  I  believe  that  the   word,  be  it  spoken  or  written,  is  what  makes  us   human.  In  an  effort  to  speak,  a  need  to  speak,   to  communicate  my  thoughts,  my  feelings,  my   plans,  my  dreams,  my  fears,  my  love…I  take   paper  to  pen,  to  make  the  abstract  real.  This  is   paper how   we   as   humans   create…we   speak,   we   communicate,  we  define  our  reality  and  in  so   doing  we  invent  possibility…  

The pain  of  Steve’s  death  taught  me  the  value   of  love  and  its  amazing  healing  powers.    

To My  Husband  …

Steve was   a   man   of   gentle   greatness.  

Steve lived   excellence.   May   the   Lord   say   to   my   husband,   to   Dad,   to   our   friend,   to   Coach   Patterson,   "Well   Done,   Good   and   Faithful   Servant."  

With all  my  love,  


When I  let  go  of  my  fear  of  touching  the   pain  of  grief  and  instead  accepted  it,  I  began   to   heal.   My   healing   came   from   feeling   the   vulnerability  of  being  alone  and  just  relying  on   love  to  get  me  through  it.  It  was  not  a  kind  of   love   I   had   ever   known;;   it   was   a   love   that   started   with   faith,   continued   with   hope,   and   grew  as  I  trusted  the  love  I  felt  from  so  many   grew different  people.   Along  the  way,  I  continued  to  find  some   relief   from   the   pain   by   writing   love   notes   to   Steve…it   was   by   taking   pen   to   paper   and   writing   to   him   that   my   need   to   communicate   subsided.  The  power  of  something  so  simple   —  yet  the  permanence  it  creates  —  documented   our  love  forever.     Hi  Babe,   I  miss  you.   I  miss  that  we  will  never  look  across  the   room,   catch   each   other’s   eyes,   and   smile   because  we  have  each  other.   I  miss  being  your  wife.   I  miss  being  loved  by  you.   I  miss  that  I  don’t  get  to  share  tomorrow   with  you.   I   miss   taking   your   hand   and   instantly   knowing  where  I  am  going...

As Sara   was   withdrawing   from   me   and   the   family,   she   was   desperate   to   try   to   stay   sober,  so  she  would    snuggle  up  on  her  bed  in   her  black  bedroom  and  share  her  heart  with  a   blank   piece   of   paper.   Her   journal   became   the   only  friend  she  had.  The  following  is  a  journal   entry…     Dear  Journal,     Only   by   the   grace   of   God   did   I   get   through  today.  Today  I  was  so  close  to  losing   my  sobriety.  I  actually  went  to  get  the  bottle  of   vodka  out  of  the  kitchen  cabinet.   Mom,   I   can’t   even   stand   to   be   around   myself  all  the  time,  I  don’t  really  love  me,  in  all   truth  you  don’t  really  love  me  either.  According   to  you,  you  don’t  even  know  me,  how  can  you   love   somebody   you   don’t   know?   I   am   your   blood  and  daughter  I  am  half  of  you,  you  had   me,  your  love  is  for  your  daughter,  it  wouldn’t   matter   who   it   was   me   or   any   other   girl,   that   matter love  is  only  based  on  the  fact  that  I  happen  to   be  your  daughter.  Your  love  is  not  for  me.  The   Sara   you   want   so   desperately   to   know   and   figure  out  you  wouldn’t  love,  and  that’s  me.     Stop   trying   to   fix   me…just   accept   me…you   have   to   accept   me   before   you   can   love  me…Love.     Sara

Makena wanted  a  way  to  tell  her  daddy  

how she   was   feeling.  As   much   as   we   talked   about  him  and  shared  stories  about  him,  she   wanted   and   needed   more.   Since   writing   to   Steve   had   become   the   way   Amanda,   Sara,   and   I   were   coping,   I   thought   maybe   Makena   would  find  peace  by  writing  to  him  too.  I  bought   her  a  journal,  and  she  too  began  to  share  her   her heart  with  Steve  through  the  amazing  healing   power  of  paper  and  pen.    

Dear Daddy,

I need  you  now  Daddy.

I miss  you  lots  and  lots.

I wish  you  would  come  back  Daddy.

My world  is  not  the  same  without  you.

I love  you,  Daddy!  Until  we  meet  again,


Amanda always   does   things   her   way   and   in   her  own  time.  I’m  proud  of  her  and  where  her  journey   has  taken  her.  We  are  learning  to  respect  each  other   for  who  we  really  are  instead  of  who  we  wish  we  were   for  each  other.  Our  days  are  not  always  easy,  and  we   struggle  with  expectations  and  disappointments,  but   we  are  okay  with  that  now.  We  get  that  it’s  part  of  life.   This   year,   twenty-­eight   years   after   the   world   was   This blessed  with  Amanda,  she  has  found  her  voice.  She   found  peace  with  her  story  and  through  SAARC  has   been  able  to  find  the  words  and  language  to  share  it,   in  hopes  of  helping  other  families  navigating  through   their  autism  experience.  She  tells  her  story  and  lives   her  life  in  a  very  structured  way.  It  is  change  and  the   unexpected  that  leave  her  lost.  It  is  wanting  emotion   unexpected rather   than   facts   that   can   make   her   seem   discon-­ nected,  but  she  is  probably  more  connected  to  her   heart  and  soul  than  most  of  us.     Hi.  I  am  Amanda.   I  graduated  from  Arizona  Christian  University,   formerly  Southwestern  Bible  College,  with  an  Asso-­ ciates  in  General  Studies  degree  in  May  of  2006.   I  got  involved  in  SAARC  (Southwest  Autism   Research  and  Resource  Center)  in  early  2008.  My   mom   had   me   fill   out   the   paperwork.   I   knew   I   had   autism  but  didn't  want  to  admit  it.  Also,  I  really  didn't   want  to  go  to  SAARC.  My  mom  made  me  go  and  I   went  along  to  make  her  happy…   I  am  a  SAARCie  for  life!

We have  all  come  a  long  way!  I  am  in  awe  

that it  all  started  with  Steve  taking  pen  to  paper,   and  many,  many  years  later,  each  one  of  us  has   found  our  way  through  grief  and  pain  to  a  deeper   understanding  of  what  love  is,  by  writing  our  love   notes  to  Steve.

Today, I   am   forty-­seven   years   old   and   know  that  my  forever  could  end  at  any  moment.   I  spend  my  days  loving  my  little  women,  working   at  our  company,  worshiping  a  God  that  I  deeply   love,   and   opening   my   heart   to   what   God   has   planned  for  me.  I  know  pain.  I  know  hurt.  I  know   grief.  I  know  love.  I  know  God.  I  know  grace.   I  know  friendship.  I  know  my  truth.  That’s  about  it.   I  don’t  know  what  tomorrow  holds,  but  that’s  fine   with  me  because  I  have  made  peace  with  today. When  I  think  about  where  I  am  today  and  what   I  would  want  to  write  to  Steve,  it  is  simple:  I  love   you  and  thank  you.

My little  women  are  not  so  little  anymore,   but   they   will   forever   be   my   little   women.   Their   stories   and   their   journal   entries   are   just   a   little   peak  into  their  souls.  I  have  watched  them  grow   from  sad,  angry  little  girls  to  wise  young  women.   As  we  all  tuck  the  memories  of  Steve  deep   into   our   hearts,   I   see   a   beautiful   smile   that   radiates  from  each  one  of  us  —  a  smile  that  says   we  know  we  are  loved  and  that  we  have  made  it   through   a   very   tough   time   by   sticking   together,   clinging  to  our  faith,  and  discovering  what  love  is.  

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