We went to Tim's funeral today. In short, it was a noble farewell to a cherished young man. Boy Scouts everywhere. I know I will have more to say about him when I am not so overwhelmed. But not today.
It seemed only yesterday we were at the graveside of another scout, Tony Ferris. I realized today that I've never really gotten over that tragedy. 5 years have passed like nothing, Cub Scouts are now Boy Scouts -- tall and handsome. For growing boys, time barrels on. My son doesn't remember the details of the first tragedy, nor does he remember really the boy who once was. But for adults, time stood still that day. We who lived in the land of perfectly safe children were shocked into the reality of how little control we had over the well being of our youngsters. Tony was 8 when a concrete park bench toppled over in a park full of children and crushed him in front of a crowd of bewildered children and young YMCA counselors. We suddenly knew that despite our over priced homes and 4 star schools, our over-protected and over- privileged children were just as unsafe and vulnerable as the rest of the world's kids. How could this be? We covered them with prayer in the mornings and at night. We brought them to church and were careful of what they watched on TV. We taught them first aid and all aspects of safety precautions. They were well decorated Cub Scouts. They were prepared. But nothing could have prepared us for that park bench.
That event, Tony's death, cemented us together. Pack 773, Den 6. Tim's dad was our Cubmaster. He carried us through that dark, dark time. Our little boys seemed so very big as they stood together in a solemn scout salute while the oh so tiny casket was carried to its place. They wore their uniforms proudly, and they looked to their Cubmaster to lead them. He gave them all black bands to wear on their arms and treated them like men as they said goodbye to their fallen comrade. Tim's dad wrote a letter to them all that I have linked to here: http://pack773.ocbsa.org/cubmaste.htm . We all cried together (our Cubmaster included) and agreed that we would need to be carried away if it was our child in that box. We prayed fervently for Tracy (Tony's mom). We shook our heads and prayed for God's protection over our children. We knew then as we do now that they all belong to God. But we asked what all parents ask: that our children will grow to be adults. That we will know our grandchildren. That they will gather to bury us. As hard as that will be.
But today (in fact all week), we've been together again. Preparing to burying another child. Our Cubmaster's own son. Tim.
I remember Tony's funeral -- a graveside service in a children's cemetery. I remember realizing that the hundreds of markers in rows represented hundreds of children gone early to heaven. Hundreds of broken hearted families. Hundreds. Some were there that day -- picnicking at the graveside of a child long gone. I see them like a surreal vision in my memory, lawn chairs unfolded, picnic blankets spread out. They'd look at us for a moment, then return to their own sorrow.
That event, that accident, that loss was covered by every channel news. Tony's face was seen in every news paper. Parents everywhere shuddered at the thought that parks could be unsafe. Blame the city! Blame the bench maker! Make them pay! That graveside event was front page news -- our boys immortalized in their little Cub Scout uniforms and sad little faces. Standing tall with their Cubmaster to hold them up. They were so brave.
Today, there was no grave. No media. Tim had been reduced to a box of ashes and a small article in the local section of the paper amid obituaries and holiday sales. "Local Teen killed by car. Driver not charged." That small box was a heart renching sight -- His parents had signed over his broken body from the coroner to the mortuary on Christmas Eve. Today, we crowded into a small Episcopal church, overflowing. Our boys were older now. They understood more. They were once again so brave. The Reverend spoke of the Feast of the Holy Innocents -- celebrated in formal churches today. A day to remember the hundreds of baby boys slaughtered by King Herod in his effort to kill Jesus. He told us that there was no justification for these sufferings, no way to understand. No words to make it better. "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Matt 2:18.
This is the human condition. Children die. Not everyone grows old. Those who perish already know the truth. "they're in heaven now. They wouldn't come back if they could.." (billy graham at the national 9/11 service)
The hope of heaven is for us -- the ones that are left behind.