My phone rang after seven but before eight this morning. I knew something was wrong when I heard my mother’s whispered voice.
“Kaleb just passed away,” she said.
And the tears came quickly on my end of the phone too. He was only seven. His mother had been a bridesmaid in my wedding nearly 15 years ago. We were both young and newlyweds. We double dated when marriage was still shiny and dreams were still novel.
And this morning’s tragic news came over the phone instead of the television. Her son was gone.
And I walked through our home dazed. I added creamer to coffee and milk to an envelope of muffin mix. Kaleb’s picture is framed on our refrigerator door, a reminder for us to pray for him, pray that he would be home from the hospital soon. And instead he went to a glorious home as the sun rose.
And so begins the stirring struggle of what to do when someone is hemorrhaging from heartbreak. Do you fill the air with pushed conversation? Or do you walk alongside their grief? Just hours into his death, I sat staring into a coffee cup. I’m a pastor’s daughter; I’ve gone to many funerals, I should grasp death by now. Flowers are ordered and meals are arranged and logistics are mapped out. But this loss feels different. He was such a young boy who bubbled over with charm.
And in my moments of blurred distraction, Luke toddled to the kitchen table. He was still zipped in pajamas. I pulled him close, and his smell of yesterday’s lavender baby powder lingered.
And in the moment, I knew there was little I could do for the broken mother who had just lost her son. For the father friend of ours, who was weeping for a boy he’d never tuck into bed again. I wanted to comfort them both; I wanted to snivel and sob and tell them how sorry I was that God had another plan for this little child’s life.
But I did the only thing I knew to do. With toys and balls and books, I drove to a nearby park and turned my phone off. And I followed my three children for hours. I took in their witty conversation and soaked up their curious fascination of nature. And we skipped rocks under a bridge in the warm day meant only for short sleeves. And in between kicking a ball and splashing water from a rock filled creek, I whispered the words I sometimes think but don’t always say, “I really love you.”
And these gifts of children, and they are gifts, run down our halls and hide in our closets. We spend their childhood preparing to one day let them go. And these friends of ours, draped in grief, let their son go early in the morning hour. And his young life will impact many for years to come. Myself included.