I was brokenhearted Sunday morning to read of the passing of a local ten-year-old boy. He was struck in the head by a falling tree branch while leaving a Tupelo baseball field as storms rapidly approached. Most who commented on social media could not imagine the incomprehensible sorrow of losing a full-of-life ten-year-old son.
Unfortunately, I can. I recall first getting the news that you never want to hear. I remember walking closely with some dear friends of mine in the succeeding days, weeks, months, and years after their son’s death. I learned lessons I never wanted to learn, lessons I wouldn’t have learned any other way.
I would never, never compare tragic situations and say, “I know just how you feel.” I don’t. I haven’t personally experienced losing a son. Even if I had, every situation is different. But I do pray differently for families like the one who is now walking the path of losing their son. I do think about God differently because of my friends’ journey that, for me, started with a phone call…
A Front Row Seat to Grief
The call came from Mike, one of my softball teammates. Another of our teammates and my longtime friend, Cary McRae, had been taking his son and daughter to school that morning, just as he did practically every school day. Someone ran a red light, plowing into the side of Cary’s truck. Mike didn’t know all the details but informed me that Cary’s daughter, Madison, was banged up but would be okay. Cary was hurt worse and was in the Regional Medical Center (The Med) dealing with broken ribs and other assorted injuries. His ten-year-old son, Taylor, was hurt the worst, and all Mike could tell me in that initial call was that the outlook was not good. He would call back as soon as he knew more details.
I immediately began to pray for the whole family, especially for Taylor. The waiting between phone calls was excruciating, and I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish anything at work, so I eventually took the rest of the day off and drove across town to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. Mike met me in the lobby with an update, a bleak one. Taylor’s doctors were giving the family no hope that he would survive the accident.
Cary was right across the street from LeBonheur trying his best to find out any information he could about Taylor. In his heart of hearts, he already knew. Nothing would deter him from gaining his release from The Med, but that did not come quickly. As Cary’s wife, Stacey, waited anxiously for news from those attending to Taylor, I was in the first group that was able to get in to visit Cary. That’s when it became obvious to me that God was carrying this family in such a way that it would astound us all.
Taylor passed away in the early hours of the following morning. Cary and Stacey were by his side, having said their goodbyes. I had said mine the previous afternoon. My pain certainly didn’t compare to his family’s, but I was devastated on several levels. I mention them because of how they speak to Taylor’s legacy in my family to this day.
Cary and Stacey and I had been friends for many years, and I grieved for their incomprehensible loss. Taylor had been my buddy, too. As the catcher on our softball team, I required very few warm-up tosses, so I waited until everybody else had started throwing before I began to loosen my arm. Once Taylor’s baseball season was over, he was always in our dugout with his glove ready to volunteer to be my throwing partner. I considered that special even before the accident took my throwing partner from me. Taylor was such a servant at church to kids younger than he was, too. My son Garrett was a few years younger than Taylor and very shy. Taylor took Garrett under his wing and gave him an older kid to look to as a role model.
I grieved on all those levels then and sometimes even now as I write with a large lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. The next few months would teach me more about God and His merciful sovereignty than any other period in my life. I had the privilege of a front row seat to how Cary and Stacey determinedly chose to trust God in the most trying circumstances they could imagine. They offered forgiveness to the other driver, and they demanded that the insurance company not pursue punitive damages. They allowed those who chose to be near them to be close when they were doing well and when they were falling apart.
A Prayer for a Grieving Family
Heavenly Father, Your Word says that You are close to the brokenhearted. There is a family in my area who is brokenhearted over losing a son. I know that You know what it’s like to go through losing a Son Yourself. So, please, Lord, stay so close to them that they can feel You breathe. Overwhelm them with Your grace and Your peace that passes understanding. Surround them with people who allow them to be real moment by moment. In Jesus’ name, amen.