His name was Austin. A good kid. Well-liked and from a nice family, he'd seemed as healthy as any seventh grader on the playground. Third-hand accounts are always suspect, but apparently he'd been running, went for a drink of water, and collapsed.
His older brother was with him the whole time.
Photo Credit: http://www.billemory.com/2006/02/time-to-die.html
And then I thought about the tears, the joys, and the tiny insistent worry that never goes away--that your kid will be the one struck by lightning. That you'll be the parent forced to grieve.
To say it's a nightmare is a poor cliché.
To say you'd never truly be happy again probably gets close.
We've known other families who lost children. At the funeral of their four-year-old daughter, my college friends talked about their precious girl, trying to describe her quirks and endearing qualities for those who'd never met her.
Our daughter was the same age. I remember listening to them, sobbing, wondering how anyone could really know our sweet child without having been there the Christmas she stepped into three-inch Barbie heels and chased her brothers around the living room. Without knowing she always puts on her best velvet dress to play in the sand pile, and that she likes to snuggle after her bath.
Who could truly appreciate our beautiful daughter when her daddy's the only one who saw the camel she drew last week during church...and the only one who heard her giggle through the service because she'd drawn a pile of manure behind it?
No-one loves our children like we do because no-one knows them like we do.
And no photos, no stories can truly describe them.
Maybe that's the real tragedy of a lost child. That the treasure we've held and cherished and looked forward to presenting to the world will forever be known only to us.
My friends buried their daughter six years ago. And they do have good times. They celebrate and laugh and enjoy their growing family. But when anniversaries roll around--their daughter's birthday, the day she passed--you sense the deep, painful abyss in their lives.
And so, like this weekend, when other parents lose a beloved child the rest of us can only swallow the lumps in our throats and try to listen to the stories they tell about their sons and daughters...
...and then go home and hug our own.
*We're blessed to have a friend staying with us. She won't understand how much joy she adds until she has children of her own.