I should be happy for Nathan. Why does my heart feel so heavy with sadness and confusion? When I look at Nathan’s ashen face I fear that nothing will ever be the same. My heart aches and I feel alone in the crowd. Why? It’s not like I’ll never see him again. Frustrated, I attempt to rub the dried tears off my face. I shouldn’t be sad that Nathan has been taken to heaven.
Mom gently takes my hand, “Let’s go sit down, Teddy.”
Pulling my eyes away from Nathan’s coffin, I silently follow her to the couch. Many of the faces that pass by us are wet with tears. Some of them I recognize as the parents of the children Nathan and I often played with. Mom shares an embrace and an encouraging word with several people who go up to her.
It’s hard to believe that five days ago we were celebrating Nathan’s eleventh birthday. We played several games of soccer that day and swam in the lake for hours afterward. No one would have guessed that just two days later Nathan would succumb to illness.
“Even in death,” I hear a women’s voice say, “God is working things out for our good.”
“…I’ve been to funerals where the deceased person wasn’t a Christian,” Nathan’s aunt says, “and they all were full of sadness and hopelessness. But it’s a different kind of sadness. A bittersweet one.”
“…is difficult to see God’s hand in times like this,” the Pastor is telling Nathan’s dad, “but wait and you will see God’s plan unfold…”
“I don’t believe God caused this tragedy,” my mom says to another woman, “but I know He will work through it.”
An elderly man says, “…it’s times like this when faith is all we have to lean on.”
“…Jesus said we’d be tested,” the Pastor continues to say, “and He also said He’s never leave us...”
What enables then to look past the pain? All day long I’ve been telling myself these things, but the sadness remains. What good could possibly come out of something as painful as this?
Looking around the room I notice a young girl curled up in a chair. Her arms are wrapped around her knees, hiding her face from view. The neck of a toy giraffe is grasped in her small hand. As I study her I realize that she’s Nathan’s five year old sister, Anna, and that she’s crying.
Sliding off the couch, I tentatively approach her. What now? Anna looks up; her wide, blue eyes are tinted red, shimmering with fresh tears waiting to fall.
What to say?
Blinking back the tears, Anna sniffles, turns her gaze down at the giraffe in her hand. “Charlie was his favorite.”
Charlie? Oh, right, the giraffe.
“Charlie is my favorite too…” she continued, looking down at the old toy. “Sometimes I… sneak in his room and take Charlie…” Looking up at me, her eyes glazing over, she whimpered, “I… I miss him.”
I wrap my arm over her shoulder, giving her a small hug. Afraid my voice would falter, I respond with a simple, “Me too.”
For a moment we both are silent, and then Anna asks glumly, “Why didn’t God
answer my prayers?”
Trying to smile reassuringly I reply, “He did…Nathan’s better now, isn’t he?”
“But it’s not the way I wanted...”
As encouraging as possible I answer, “Sometimes He does things different than what we want...and we won’t understand why…We’ll see him again though.” I realize that the aching in my heart has begun to fade. I don’t feel so alone. I still miss Nathan, though. It hurts to think about him, knowing he’s gone. “We’ll see Nathan again.” I repeat, partially to myself.
“… Here,” Anna said softly, handing me Charlie, “you can have him.”
“What? But…he’s your favorite.”
“Nathan wanted you to have him…”
“Are you sure?”
She shoved the toy into my arms. “He likes carrots.”
“… Uh, OK.”
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