Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Goodbye (for now) Comes Too Soon

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you.  Philippians 1: 2-3

I mentally began this post several times over the last two to three weeks but it is a hard one, so I've had to make myself  sit down today and write.   Three weeks ago Tuesday night, my phone rang and when I saw who it was on the screen of my phone, I uttered, "Oh no!"  Never before had I uttered those words when receiving a call from her.  Earlier that day, she had posted a message on a social media site requesting prayers for a friend whose family had been changed forever by tragedy.  Our lives and friends have been woven so beautifully together by our Heavenly Father in the tapestry He is creating that I wondered if I also knew the family of which she wrote.  I commented that I would pray and received no private message.  But when the phone rang that evening, I knew.  My dear sister friend shared the shocking news.  But first, the backstory.  
In the year 2000, our family of six left our small (less than 200 members) church home and commuted 25ish minutes across town to a larger congregation of over 800 members which subsequently grew to around 1000.  My teenage children "knew" a few kids and adults from area youth events and activities.  I knew one family from the congregation where I grew up in upper East Tennessee. We had several other connections to family and friends with other members at our new church home.   As time went by, we made friends and found a small group study in which to participate.  
I am not sure when a certain young family became part of our lives, but they did and we were blessed.  We first met the mom and two little boys.  Her second born was just a few months younger than our third born.  Her boys were born fourteen months apart; my youngest was born just two and one-half years after his next older brother.  All of that to say that our four little boys played well together and we hit it off so the play-dates began and the friendship grew.  My teenagers found her boys well behaved and didn't mind being around them at all (unlike their own little brothers.)  We spent several years as close friends, in and out of each others homes, sharing meals and time together regularly.  Her boys were always full of adventure and fun and such good boys.  Once when their mom needed some childcare help, I mentioned to the youngest that he and his brother would be coming to my house soon; he smiled his impish, beguiling smile at me and said, "Oh good Mrs. Potter, I love coming to your house!"  I told him I was glad he felt that way.  He did not miss a beat and smiling at me, he replied, "You will have candy, right?"   Okay!  So much for being loved and appreciated!

Life took some twists and turns for all of us. In 2006, we returned to our former, smaller church home as a family of four.  Our daughter had married and was living in another Tennessee town and our oldest son was also living on his own across town from us.   Our friends, the young family, visited our new (old) church home several times; but ultimately, they decided to attend a congregation nearer to their home.   As time went by, it became more difficult to spend time together due to school, jobs, their move to another county.  Life got complicated and too busy for all of us and we didn't work at keeping our friendship active and close.  After about another year, we rarely talked.  Life marched on for all of us.  Until a year or so ago, I was completely out of touch with them.  And then we found each other again through social media.  It was good to be in touch again and see how our little boys had grown into teenagers.  In spite of losing touch, we love each other and always will.  They are family, spiritually and emotionally.
Now back to the phone call a few weeks ago from another friend.  Her news was heartbreaking.  She had worked in the same office with the grandmother of those two precious boys for several years.  I would occasionally hear tidbits of news about them during that time.   The grandmother had called her the evening before this phone conversation.   The baby grandson, barely seventeen years old and for unknown reasons, had decided  that he could not endure this life any longer and he delivered his spirit into the arms of JesusIt couldn't be true!  But it was.  It is!
A couple of nights later, we went to pay our respects, show our love and support to this broken family.  The chapel was running over with people.  The dad is a police detective and the department was out in force showing their love and support.  There were parts of numerous church families what with the church home changes and the grandmother's church home.  Work, school, and church associates were all represented and it was crowded.  We eased through the long line towards that mother, father, and that brother left behind.  What on earth does one say?  And then there we were face to face.  I first hugged the father.  He didn't recognize me at first.  I mumbled how sorry I am as I hugged him.  And then face to face with my sister, we embraced one another and stood holding each other.  I murmured, "There are no words."  And that was it and that is it!  There - are - no - words!  Nothing I say or do is going to help in this situation.  I cannot comfort or ease or explain.  They can rely only on The Comforter.  
We stayed for the celebration of that young man's life and what a blessing it was to be there!  One of his friends spoke and had us all laughing and crying at the antics and the sweetness of that boy.  His youth minister shared more stories of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and care for all those around him and of the fun times they had shared.  His brother, yes, his brother (Collective Gasp), shared a few thoughts. Then his minister spoke words that wrapped it all up.  And then there were songs, beautiful songs, which I will never hear again without thinking of that young life.  I see that adorable little boy in my mind's eye asking me about candy, chocolate candy.  
His mom and I met for breakfast a couple of weeks later.  Our friendship is still strong, connected emotionally.  We have our separate lives, busyness which will be hard to overcome.  But I vow to reach out and be part of her life every few weeks or months.  There are still no words; I don't think there will ever be words.  But there is love and love never fails.  We can smile and even laugh at our shared memories of those four little boys; we can cry together over the heartbreak of a life ended too soon; we can pause, lost in thought of the sadness for that soul which in that moment felt so alone.  We can acknowledge that our lives go on but will never be the same.  And we can be inspired by that young life, lived in care and thoughtfulness for others, humor and fun, and love for everyone and every beast, to live our best lives!
We miss you Jeremy and will love you through eternity.  Until we meet again...
Pressing on in Him,

 (Jesus speaking) "and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."    John 14: 16-18

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