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.