Category Archives: Love
Tomorrow, my son will die.
My drive to work was like every other, uneventful. I stopped for tea as I regularly do each morning on my way into Nashville. The day would be filled with meetings, spending practically my entire day in the conference room, drawing processes on a dry erase board. There would be several “fires” of the day that would lobby for my attention and distract me from what I ought to be doing. The morning would fly by quickly, eating lunch in my office and back in the conference room for more of the same! The day was no different than any other, as matter of fact the days were all too routine.
Amidst all the things I had going on, I remembered that I had given my son a three day supply of his medications on Sunday, so I didn’t have to drive into Gallatin to see him until tomorrow evening to give him more meds. That was a relief, having to drive into town and give him meds every day was taxing, some days he wouldn’t be home or he wanted to be driven some place to pick up cigarettes or groceries, and usually at inconvenient times. Every time I left his apartment I smelled of smoke, so at least for today, I didn’t have to go see him. Whew!
Tomorrow came. Nothing different, no change in my routines, I would approach the day in like fashion, except today, I had to drive to Gallatin to give my son meds. My plan was simple, I would give him another three day supply and not have to worry about it for another few days; I wouldn’t have to go again until the weekend. I had it all figured out, a quick stop this afternoon and I was free from the needs of his care and I could continue doing what I wanted to do for another few days. These feelings were center of many conversations over the years, and now foster all too frequent remorse. He was indeed loved, but the routines become burdening.
In my eagerness of getting out of the office early, I was distracted when the phone rang. The caller abruptly told me that my son was dead, that they had found him in his apartment, unresponsive. My immediate feeling was frustration, my thoughts were ‘here we go again’, because his reckless behaviors have often ruined plans or disrupted agendas. I told myself, he better not be drunk and passed out or acting a fool. There had been times when he had drank too much, and had to be taken to the hospital and detoxed… comatose! This forced me to simply sit in the room with him and await his regaining consciousness, a process that often took many hours, well into the night and early morning hours. Such events usually left feelings of sadness, relief and anger. Nevertheless, I raced to get to his apartment, not knowing what to expect, my mind wandering… emotions teetering between worry, anger and shock. Nearing the apartment complex I saw the police, an ambulance, and a small crowd in the parking lot just outside his front door. The gathering was composed of family members, friends and neighbors. The looks on their faces caused my anger to dissipate and caused a pit in my stomach. I don’t remember having any feelings at that time, no emotion, dreamy.
Approaching an officer, as she stood at the base of his front door steps, I identified myself. The officer said that I could not yet go into the apartment, arguing that I needed to get inside and see him, still they refused me entry.
Later, entering the apartment, I climbed the few steps and pulled open the screen door, crossing the threshold of his apartment I saw a gurney sitting just inside. They had positioned him onto the gurney and covered him in a white sheet foot to shoulders. As my eyes made their way to his face, I saw his eyes were closed, he had a few abrasions on his cheek and a few days beard growth. Although his eyes were closed, he looked normal. Except this time, he would not open them again. Seemingly, within a few fleeting moments I would be back outside, they would have him covered and carried out. It would be months, years, before I realized how that dreadful day changed me. It was within those moments that my life was most impacted. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these minutes are forever in my mind and I relive them too frequently.
Since his passing, I have thought about all the good times, all the laughter and fun times together. He loved to joke, laugh, and eat! He loved his pecan pie, seafood, buttercups and time with family. So often when taking him meds, he wanted to come out and just spend the day at the house. Much of the time, once he was there, he would eat something, wander around the house or go lie in the bed and fall asleep. Just being there was enough for him, some place where people loved him, and some place where he felt safe. During the summer months he would want to come swim in the pool, sit in the swing on the pavilion for hours or go fishing with his grandfather. I must admit, his grandfather was the best thing in his life! For that, I will be forever grateful.
Poignantly, during those moments of identifying his body, that somber Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock, I never noticed whether he or his apartment smelled like an ash tray. Like I had noticed so many times before… I didn’t notice his house was in disarray or complained that he had squandered away all his money on other people, which he often did just to have their friendship. That afternoon, the thought of inconvenience never crossed my mind, I didn’t feel anything had been interrupted, and the memories of all the times he had talked back to me, cursed me, rebelled against me, ignored me, hurt me or disappointed me – never came to mind.
Unsurprisingly, I saw a three year old boy that refused to stay in bed at bedtime, a boy that forced me to get onto him repeatedly because he was so full of energy that he couldn’t sleep. I saw the boy standing at my back door in cowboy boots, shorts, a t-shirt and holding two rolls of toilet paper, standing beside the sheriff’s deputy that brought him home. I saw him riding his bike alongside his brother, hurriedly down the street, racing to get some place. I saw two boys playing army in the back yard, building a snowman, or boys vying to beat me at some computer game for the simple joy of beating dad! I see every facial expression, hear every giggle, and feel every hug. Strange how the bad moments of life pale in light of the good, and then only in light of a crisis. What are you waiting for, tell them you love them, today.
While simply writing these few lines of text, I am forced to reflect on those moments, the events of that day, and the sight of him laying on that gurney. My eyes are filled with tears, my mind clinching to memories and a heart scarred for life. It’s been
two three four five six seven eight nine ten years and I miss him every day.
Moreover, we all live life with some expectation that we’ll bury our parents, a pet or possibly our spouse, but never dream that you’ll bury your child. That explains why society has labels for these circumstances – losing parents makes you an orphan, losing a spouse makes you a widow, losing a child – simply leaves you with a big hole in your life.
Today, my eldest son is no longer frustrating my day, his demands and needs no longer disrupting my plans, the stench of smoke on his clothing no longer irritates my senses and I would give anything to have these things back in my life! If he were still alive, Tony would be thirty-eight years old – but he isn’t.
Yesterday, my son lived.
Johnny was a lonely nine year old boy that had no friends and none of the boys in the neighborhood ever asked him to play. Every day he would walk the short mile to school, and on this particular day his mother had told him, “Johnny, this afternoon you hurry home from school, no lollygagging, come straight home!” He said, “Yes, Ma’am”, and with a goodbye kiss raced out the door.
That afternoon when Johnny left school, as he had done many times before, he passed by the make-shift ball field where the other boys played baseball. However, on this day, for the first time ever he heard the boys yelling “Johnny!”, they said, “Johnny, come play, we’re a man short and need someone else to play.” Johnny replied, “I have no glove”, to which they replied, “No problem, you can use one of ours!” Eagerly Johnny dropped his books, ran onto the field and for the first time, began to play with the other boys. For several minutes he played and laughed and had a great time, then suddenly, he recalled his mother had given him specific instructions to come directly home following school. Instantly, Johnny dropped his glove, ran off the field to grab his books and start down the sidewalk home.
Just then, an increasingly loud siren ascended behind Johnny! As he turned to look, he saw two fire trucks coming down the street, passing him and turning into a side street just ahead of where he now stood wide-eyed.
Without hesitation, in a seamlessly natural response, Johnny bolted across the street and was in pursuit of those fire trucks. They had stopped just in sight and as he got closer he could see the firemen running around with fire hose, spraying water onto a huge blaze. A fire had engulfed a two story house, flames were shooting skyward in upwards of one hundred feet! Johnny had never seen anything like this, it seemed everyone was out on the street staring at the fire and the bustling firemen! In the warmth and glow of the fire before him, his mother’s instruction to come straight home after school echoed in his mind. Speedily, he turned and began running home.
Down the sidewalk, into the yard, up the steps and through the front door he sprinted! His mother met him with worry in her eyes, but Johnny was so excited he could barely communicate his joy! As he began telling his mother about the experiences, she interrupted with “Johnny, where have you been, I told you to come straight home after school!” Johnny replied, “I know, but mamma, the boys asked me to play ball with them and they have never asked me to play ball with them before… and, mamma I saw a fire truck and big fire, the fireman were spraying water on the fire and climbing the ladder to the roof… mamma, you should have seen all the people….” His mother interjecting, said, “Johnny, I had asked you to come straight home, no go into the kitchen and sit down at the table!”
Johnny slumped his shoulders and walked into the kitchen, sat down at the table. For the first time that afternoon he had realized that he did not do what was asked of him. He knew his mother had told him to come straight home, but he had disobeyed her. He was so excited about the fire trucks and getting to play ball with the other boys. Even though he knew he had disappointed his mother, he was still very excited about all that he had done and seen on his way home from school!
His mother, rhetorically asked again, “do you remember, I told you to hurry home after school today?” She said, as she opened the freezer, “some of the ladies from my Sunday school class came by this afternoon.” Reaching in and pulling out a bowl of ice cream piled high with strawberries! She told him, “this is why I wanted you to hurry home, the ladies brought strawberries and ice cream for our social, but I saved mine for you.”
Wow! Being a parent myself, I remember well all the times I have been on both sides of this story. And today, what jumps off the page is the realization that Johnny did not get what he deserved! He disobeyed his mother, he did not do what he was told to do that afternoon. What he deserved, was a spanking! Something that would make him think about what he had done and hopefully cause remembrance the next time he was tempted to disobey. Instead, not only did he get out of a spanking, he got strawberries and ice cream! What is that? He didn’t deserve that!
Hmmmmm, this story demonstrates unequivocally the differences between mercy and grace. Johnny deserved a spanking, yet she choose not to spank him, that’s mercy. He didn’t get what he so rightly deserved. Moreover, his mother gave him strawberries and ice cream, something he did not deserve at all!
In all, Johnny did not get what he deserved and what he did not deserve, he got! He got mercy, then he received grace.
Perhaps, something in the morale of the story above answers the question I ask myself every day, why hasn’t God sent me to Hell already?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave HIMSELF UP for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. – Psalm 127:3-5
Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.” -Proverbs 20:11
You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. -2 Peter 3:18
The prayers/letters of these children are pure and acceptable to God, because they are from babes. From you, He demands more… because you know better. To whom much is given, much is expected.
Want an example? Consider Mary (Luke 1:34), upon hearing from the Spirit that she would conceive and bear a child, she asked “how could this be”? Recognizing her spiritual maturity, the Spirit lovingly explained to her how it would happen without condemnation or penal consequence.
On the other hand, consider her husband, Zechariah (Luke 1:18), upon hearing from the Spirit that he would a father the same child, he asked, “How can this happen?” And, recognizing his spiritual maturity, his question bore witness of his disbelief; the Spirit struck him mute for 9-months! He knew better than to have questioned God, he had studied and been taught the scriptures all his life, he himself was a priest, he had been given much and for that, much was expected.
Nothing is too big, nor is anything too small for God… so ask Him. But, be sure you pray His will be done and not your own. After all, prayer is really nothing more than you conceding to His will… He is not your cosmic bellhop or a little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.