In the shade of the slender Palm tree, Kyle dug the oversized spade into the patched ground. Intently, he thrust the spade into the ground to create a furrow. He paused and brought a bony arm decorated with a Spongebob Square Pants sticker to wipe the perspiration running down his head. His little sister pottered around with her little lawn mower, sending rainbow bubbles into the air as she played the busy gardener.
“Kyle, take a break--you’re working too hard,” his mom leaned out of the patio door.
“Just a minute. Mom, look, I’m about to plant some sunflowers,” Kyle lifted the seed packet from his pocket, big grin on this face.
Mrs. Speer looked at her son, barely eight and yet his four foot three inches frame had taken a hard beating. Kyle had been to more hospital visits than trips to the park. He had a box full of shot stickers, each a tribute to his survival. All the nurses know him by the sound of his footsteps navigating the hall. “My little farmer who wants to be a botanist one day,” she thought with a sadness that seemed to permeate everything she did. “That will never happen, right, Lord?”
Diagnosed with leukemia since two, Kyle has fought it with all of his desire to live another day to enjoy the sunshine. Since his relapse at six, he had been staying longer and longer at the hospital for periods of time. Pain would raged through his frail body and his parents would have to bite their tongues to keep from crying in front of him. His parents prayed for a miracle but Kyle’s decline was obvious. His doctors suggested radiation and chemotherapy and Kyle’s hair fell like leaves on wintry trees.
But Kyle’s disposition was anything but wintry. Though his treatments often left him tired, his laughter remained, a resilient prop for his withering form. Kyle had a whole bunch of jokes to entertain his visitors. “Why did the butler throw the butter out?”, “What do ducks eat with their soup?” He loved it when his older visitors fumbled for the right answers.
As one of his Sunday School teachers recounted, Kyle was ready to go. On one of his very last Sunday in church, this teacher couldn’t find Kyle in the usual pile of kids in front of the white board. Alarmed, she went in search of him and found him by a window, with a smile as big as a slice of water-melon, face aglow with the sun glistening off his shiny head.
“Kyle, why are you all alone. Come and join us,”
“Not now, Mrs. Smith. Jesus and I are debating on whether we should plant some sunflowers or marigolds.”
“Kyle, are you OK?”
“I’m OK….” Kyle’s voice sounded far-away and dreamy, “Mrs. Smith, I can see Heaven and I can’t wait to get there.”
“Really?” Mrs. Smith checked Kyle’s head.
“Mrs. Smith, I know you don’t really understand but Heaven is like a field of gum drops. It’s so bright and everything grows, including my hair.”
Mrs. Smith was one of the many who cried as she spoke that cool evening when Kyle was put to rest. Nurses and doctors choked as they testified how Kyle’s joy in the face of pain, despair and doom challenged them to the thankful in the harsh reality of daily living. His pain has germinated seeds of strength for the weary, the discouraged, the beaten and the defeated.
As they closed the service with a montage of Kyle’s short life, accompanied by Mercy Me’s “I can only imagine/What it will be like/When I walk/By Your side/I can only imagine/What my eyes will see/When Your face/Is before me,” the pictures magnified the blessings of a life completely given to God. Kyle with his shovel and tiny packets of seeds smiling his gap-toothed smile; Kyle, face in the wind, racing his little sister down the grassy slope; Kyle lighting seven candles wearing his dad’s oversized Chargers T-shirt and Kyle’s face barely visible under the shepherd’s headgear in a Christmas play.
Heaven was reflected in the prism of the tears that flowed freely that night.
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