I went to a memorial service today. I watched my coworker and his wife say goodbye to their 18 year old son who died suddenly and tragically, leaving them with questions that might never be answered.
As I sat there in the church, I did what I always do when among a large crowd: I people watched. This young man was going to graduate this week, so you can imagine that there were many teenagers there. The boys stared dully ahead with their fringed hair-dos obscuring their faces while the girls cried and hugged each other, wearing outfits of varying degrees of appropriateness.
My heart went out to these kids who were already dealing with the emotional upheaval of graduation. How sad for them to have the loss of a friend thrown into that mix. My friends' son was very well loved by his friends, family, and community. That much was clear.
I also watched the family members who sat with dazed looks on their faces. Maybe they just wanted the service to be over so they could have some time in peace. For the past week, they have had to deal not only with normal funeral preparations, but because this story has had a considerable amount of press coverage, they've had that dynamic to deal with too.
My eyes naturally zeroed in on the grieving parents. I watched my co-worker, his wife and their 10 year old daughter as they sat with their arms draped around each other, providing silent support. At one time the minister described the deceased as a 'good hugger and a good listener' and I thought that sounded just like his dad. It made me smile just a bit.
As I drove home, I kept thinking how unspeakably awful it would be to have to bury a child who you have spent 18 years raising, teaching, learning from, and loving. The boy's mom was quoted in a recent news article saying, "Parents, give your kids a hug - you never know when it'll be the last time you can."
That's what I have done since I heard about this tragedy. I don't want to take for granted anything that happens with my children. Tonight as I got home, Bumblebee showed me that she'd lost her first tooth. She is so excited about it - wondered if the tooth fairy might give her ten dollars! (I think not!) I had to smile at her exuberance, this is a big milestone for her!
At the same time, it made me sad to think that my coworker and his wife are hurting as much as they are. I hope that their own memories of things like the first tooth lost are comforting to them today, as they say goodbye to their son, and in the many hard times ahead.