|Will and his grandbaby Milly|
A small family in our close community lost their only son. A 20-year-old who just moved out of his parents' home. Who was planning to propose to his girlfriend. Who was on the brink of beginning his adult life.
In a moment those memories became a nightmare. The friend, not knowing that assault rifles stand ready to discharge a bullet even when the clip is out, bumped the trigger. In a instant Jake was dead, his friend in police custody, and the world was turned upside down.
|Lane and Dusti|
|Rory and Meggan|
My own boys were and still are beautiful children, but they were also boys. They did those boy things that are silly and goofy and (sometimes) stupid. They had all the dangerous things that outdoorsy boys have: ATVs, guns, campouts, parties. I wonder how close we came to being the parents to face the worst of circumstances. I realize, too, that despite all we did to teach and guide them, it's impossible to know which end of the gun any child is on when things go awry.
|Jenny and Adam|
I knew Jake. I watched him grow up. Our families shared holiday meals together. He called my children's grandparents Ma-ma and Pa-pa, even though they aren't. We are friends who choose to be family. He could not have had better parents, more love, a better support system.
|Alayna and Jenny|
Jake sat in my classroom and struggled with writing and came to my house for tutoring. I taught his friends, whose silly jokes were sometimes at my expense. Today I hugged them like a mother and learned more than I ever taught them as a teacher.
|Caki, Marley, and Sophie|
I thank God for my children and their families today. At the same time I am heartbroken. For a beautiful young life with a good heart and a kindness for everyone he met. For parents who can never be the same. For a friend who made the worst mistake of his entire life. For several young men who will carry a casket for the first time. For a fiancee who will never hear him say the words, "Will you marry me?" For a community that is reeling and doesn't know how or why and never will.
But I am also thankful that I was blessed to have known Jake, his friends and his family. Perhaps I am most thankful that I believe with all of my heart that today Jake is flashing that bright, silly smile in a place we call Heaven.