Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks in Mourning

Will and his grandbaby Milly
Like everyone else, I think about all the blessings in my life--my husband, children and grandies. Appreciating them today is different, however. Although I thought it impossible, I love them more and I appreciate their coming today so we can all be together. And with good reason. This Thanksgiving is different. Very different. Even with all this love, today was also difficult and sad. 

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. 

Two young men spent a day playing: riding their ATVs, practicing with their bows and arrows, tinkering with their noisy trucks, just having fun and laughing and making wonderful memories.

 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
So tonight I'm thinking of the parents who just yesterday made funeral arrangements for their son, called family and friends with such horrific news, and decided where to bury him.

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 am thankful for so many other graces that we rarely think about until it comes home to us in the worst of ways. Those things came to mind as I sat with a mother who checked off the things her son will never do: celebrate his 21st birthday, marry and start a family, buy a home, find a better job, make big life decisions, build a future. When she asked why, why my baby boy, I asked the same question. 

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.


Kaja said...

I know my tears don't help, but I am so sorry for the loss of this young life.

Sandra Walker said...

Oh Mary, just so very very sad. I am so sorry. There are no words, but know that I am thinking of you and your family, empathizing with you, and that my heart goes out to Jake's family...we lost our also young son-in-law, my grandson's father, this past June on Father's Day, something that should never have happened. Hope that all the love and caring helps comfort a grieving community, and that memories of good times will help soften the pain that will never ever leave.

Mary at Fleur de Lis Quilts said...

Kaja and Sandra, knowing that other people care does help and your words are so kind. Maybe it just me, but it's difficult to let go of a young life. I really ache for those who don't have an opportunity to become the person he is capable of becoming. And of course, anytime I think of Jake's mom and her loss, I get so sad and heart-broken. But you are right, Jake was a fun-loving young man, and the memories that he left behind will help greatly. Sandra, I hope and pray that your family is beginning to heal from the loss of your son-in-law.

Preeti said...

I am so sorry. This is heart-breaking. Sending hugs and best wishes.