I went to a funeral today.

The last one I attended was several years ago when my grandmother died unexpectedly.  The circumstances surrounding her death were surprising though intellectually I was somewhat prepared for her eventual death.  She was, after all, approaching her late 90s.  (Though she would want me to tell you that she was totally all there mentally and still dressed cute.  That was my grandmother – making sure you knew she may have looked old on the outside but she was twenty where it counted.)

Today’s funeral was also unexpected but unlike my grandmother’s passing, there was no comfort in mourning a long life well lived.  My friend Beth’s thirteen year old boy had enjoyed  Christmas with his parents but was feeling a little under the weather in the days afterward.  He was having a few typical asthma symptoms – he’d had it his whole life – but when he started running a fever New Year’s Eve, as a precaution she took him to the emergency room since her doctor’s offices were closed. Six hours and multiple heart attacks later, he died on the operating room table during emergency surgery.

A virus attacked his heart.

He was her only child.

I’ve known Beth for years.  We were often grouped together at  Bible Study because our boys were similar ages and she would often submit prayer requests for him, her family, and for herself as she parented him.  I watched her son grow up.  Since we attend the same church, I saw him most every week at the church library where he’d be checking out books and waiting for his mom to meet him there.  I’d speak to him most times I saw him and exchanged pleasantries with Beth.  I just saw him a couple of weeks ago as he sat in the corner, swinging his leg over the arm of the chair as she talked with someone.

I hope I said “hello” that day.

I hope I meant it.

The funeral home visitation was last night.  The boys didn’t want to go – he was a year ahead of them and they didn’t know him well and since Craig had a meeting and wouldn’t be able to go with me and help explain what to expect, I went alone.  I managed to hold it together while I stood in line but, honestly, had a hard time maintaining composure when I saw his little body clad in blue jeans and a favorite t-shirt, lifeless hands holding his Bible and a Nerf gun.  I think I wrote jokingly of Nerf guns just yesterday.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem so funny any more.  Now it’s just heartbreaking.

I could barely whisper the words “I’m so, so sorry” over and over as I hugged her and we shared tears. I offered my prayers.  Which, honestly, sounded hollow and trite in light of her grief.  She thanked me and said they were helping her get out of bed in the mornings.

There were people in line behind me and so I moved on but I wasn’t quite ready to leave so I sat for a few minutes in a chair near the front and listened to her as she spoke with others who had come to share comfort.  And then I heard them, the words that have haunted my thoughts for what I hope is the rest of my life.  She was speaking to a friend and relating how overwhelmed they were at all the people who had come to the funeral home.

“My son” she said, “knew that his dad and I loved him.  I don’t think he knew that others did, too.”

Those words have sat on my heart in quiet condemnation all day.

How many kids need to hear that they are loved?  I have a dozen boys other than my own running through my house on a regular basis.  They know I can be counted on to give them Oreos and Sprite and show them where I keep the dart refill packs but can I be counted on to love them?  It’s easy to sling hash and deal with stains and a sticky floor and decibel levels that would rival a Who concert but that’s service without skin in the game.  It’s messy to get involved with these young ones.  Sometimes, dare I say it, it’s honestly really hard.  They talk back, they challenge authority, they can be annoying and immature.  AND THEY SMELL.  But I was painfully reminded this week that I may not have them forever.

God forbid that they walk out of my house one more time without knowing I care because I don’t want to sit at another funeral in regret over what I didn’t say.

Rest in the arms of Jesus, Kevan, and bask in the perfect love of your Saviour.


15 responses to “Requiem

  1. I, too, am so, so sorry. Speechless…

  2. This post wrecks me, as you know my daughter is 13…However, I want to clearly encourage you that your gentleness is evident to all–especially those middle school boys. The fact that you have built a relationship with them is agape love, Sus. Yes, on the surface, it’s about Sprite, Oreos, & Nerf Wars, but at this stage in their lives, those things are the boys’ love language. You love well, my friend. No doubt. Saying a prayer for Beth…

  3. I’m sorry. I don’t think it is possible to live life with kids and be mindful of the fact that any second they may be snatched away from us. It wouldn’t be healthy, you know? For us or them…Yet, we don’t want to take these things for granted, either. It’s a dilemma, to be sure.

    Is your friend aware of Anna at An Inch of Gray? Her 12-year-old son was killed last September in a freak rainstorm/flood, and she has been blogging about what they have been going through since.

  4. So very sorry for your friends enormous loss. There really are no words but I will keep the family in my prayers. I agree with Gretchen…in opening your home to kids as you do on a regular basis you are showing love, making a welcoming space with snacks and drinks and freedom to talk and grow and is what they love as they transition from kid to teen.

    Take care.

  5. You have given Kevan’s memory a beautiful gift by sharing your feelings. His death will not be in vain if all of us who read of it will commit to seeing and loving those we meet, especially children. It makes me want to hug my grandchildren real hard. We will be praying for Beth as the days go on and the hurt stays.

  6. May I never forget this blog. What a reminder that we need to constantly be aware of those around us and how we respond. Thanks for sharing.

  7. My heart breaks for this family although I don’t know them. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child. This post will stay with me a long, long time and I hope I will be able to tell more people in my life how much they mean to me. Thank you for sharing this painful story.

  8. Tina Henoch Burrows

    I heart you! T

  9. Oh, that is heartbreaking. And challenging-
    I prayed for them, too.

  10. I read this Friday night as I was getting gas and your post came in. Have not stopped thinking of this either. Praying for them. The power of the internet. And your friend Gretchen has wise words 🙂

  11. So, so tough… Hugs to you, friend.

  12. OK, you are making me come out of lurking again – that’s twice in just a week! This just wrecked me. Our oldest boy is about to turn 7, so we are just getting to this phase. In the fall we are moving to a new neighborhood, one where the kids are always out, playing together and visiting each others houses. What a great charge to put to myself to be in their lives and not just on the sidelines.
    I am so very sorry for your loss and for his family’s loss. There really are no words…..

  13. This had me in tears. God bless them all as well as you and your family.

  14. Unbelievable. And relevant. As I help my 13 year old study her pre-algebra, and I feel frustrated. We must tell them every every every day we love them.

  15. You are very good at loving on others & those boys who come to your house will remember these times when they are grown (I know, because my boy is grown & I love to hear him talk to hometown friends about their growing up years.)
    I’ve been praying for Beth & her husband since I heard about it the day after. I cannot imagine what it is like to go through this deep valley & continue praying for them. Since I couldn’t be at the funeral, I appreciate you sharing this.

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