I've spent all day thinking about this post and forming my words carefully. I do not want to make light of the situation or bring any disrespect to this family. What they have gone through is unimaginable and most of us wouldn't even know where to start if we were in their shoes. Yet they've handled it with grace from the beginning to the end.
This morning Sadie and I attended a funeral for a little boy named Broxton. Broxton was a month older than Sadie. He had been dealing with a genetic terminal condition for about a year. There were probably over 200 people at this little boy's funeral. And I decided today that if I am ever in this situation, I want to handle with the grace and love that Broxton's family did.
I don't have a lot of experience with funerals. I went to one in 9th grade after a classmate of mine committed suicide, and I've been to all my grandparents' funerals (which were all cremations and there was never a casket or a cemetary burial or anything), but that's it. I was nervous about going. I wasn't sure what to wear, if I was supposed to bring anything, or if it was okay to take Sadie with me. I didn't know what to expect, I wasn't quite sure how to act, and when I got there I was a little embarrassed that the tears started in the parking lot!
When the time came that guests were invited to say something, I went up to the mic. I had this beautiful, but short speech planned in my head...but when I got up there I don't even remember what I said, but I know it wasn't what I had planned. People probably thought I sounded like a blubbering idiot. I am much better with the written word than the spoken. So, I'm going to try again. Here's what I meant to say...
I haven't known Kristi (Broxton's mom) that long. But I didn't have to know her long to love her. I didn't have to know her long to see how strong she is and how much she loves her family and how much they love her back. We met because I also have a child with special needs, and although our situations are different, there was comaraderie found in the fact that we both have to be strong, we both have to overcome, and we both have to learn how to rely on help. I can't imagine going through the heartbreak that Kristi and her family are going through right now, but I do know that when I'm having a hard day, I can somehow draw on her strength and get through it. I am so happy that Broxton is in Heaven jumping and dancing and playing like the little boy he was always meant to be and I can't wait to see him again someday in his perfect body. I look forward to having Kristi in my life for a long time.
I'm pretty sure that is WAY better than what I actually said!
Something I realized throughout this event was how beautiful it was. It was planned and put together as a wedding would have been. The family was honored and followed the coffin in a processional down the center aisle. We all stood as they carried Broxton's little body through the sanctuary. People knew what to do, where to stand, and who to look at. It was like it was expertly choreographed. Only, the difference between this and a wedding is that this is NOT the kind of show you want to be the star of.
I watched Broxton's parents and close family shaking in sobs as they walked behind his coffin. I saw big, huge men crying their eyes out unabandoned, while all eyes were on them. I saw Kristi as the center of attention at an event that she would give anything to not even be a part of. The grieving mother of a little boy, too young to die, knowing that after they lowered that tiny coffin into the ground she would never see his face again, never touch his skin, never run his fingers through his hair. And yet, her strength prevailed. She held her head high, her hair was perfect, her clothes beautiful, and her face stained with tears as she experienced her worst nightmare. And even though that room was full of people who would give their lives to spare her this pain, nobody longed to be in her shoes.
But you know who really touched my heart? It wasn't Kristi, or her husband, it was their 4-year-old, Brody. I don't think he was too young to know what was going on. I don't think he misunderstood what this was about. But when I saw those men sobbing and carrying that coffin out to the hearse, it was Brody, with his hand on that coffin who stood the tallest. I even heard that he didn't let go of it until it was all the way in the car. Up until the very very end, Broxton's big brother kept watch and made sure Broxton got where he was going safely.
When two people fall in love and get married and have children, they have on rose-colored glasses. All they see are rainbows and unicorns in their future. They don't ever imagine their child will have a life-long disability, or a terminal disease, or a genetic abnormality. A special needs child is a true test of that relationship. Some couples come out standing taller, and some don't make it. There's no way to prepare, but I am happy to see that not only has Broxton's life drawn his parents closer together, it has brought together all the extended family, and touched an entire community.