The tick-tick-tick of the kitchen clock mocked our tense emotions as time passed. The phone was silent. Our son Jason’s cell phone went unanswered. Jason should have been home from basketball practice hours before.
Rrrrriiiiing. My husband jumped up and grabbed the phone.
“Jason?” Relief flooded Robert’s face then it wrinkled with concern. “Oh no! What time did it happen and where?”
Robert filled me in as we got into the car. My frantic questions were quickly answered. Jason was ok. However, he had witnessed a terrible accident. Another student had been driving home from practice as well and was broadsided at a traffic light by a drunk driver. The student was killed instantly.
The young man, Joel Anderson, was Jason’s best friend.
The Anderson’s home was only a few blocks from ours. Quite a few cars lined the street and a squad car was just pulling away from the curb, its flashing lights stilled. Weeping students stood around on the front lawn, hugging one another, while others stood staring, seemingly still too shocked to even show emotion.
Inside the house the Anderson’s were seated on the sofa and a preacher was sitting with them reading from a bible.
Jason was seated on the floor nearby listening. Not quite knowing what to do we went to the kitchen where other parents were gathered. Several sat at the kitchen table with heads bowed.
Feeling uncomfortable there as well we returned to the living room where a group of students had begun to gather.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the Anderson’s faces. Not wanting to seem to be staring I bowed my head.
Tears were running down their cheeks yet there was something else: a peace I could not fathom.
What really amazed me was that I felt as though I was angrier than they about what had happened to their son. Joel had spent a great deal of time at our home and it almost seemed that we too had lost a son.
Our own son had not even seemed to notice when we walked into the house. His eyes were fixed on the man with the bible.
At last the preacher rose to leave. The Anderson’s also rose, thanked him, and walked with him to the door. Something was said about a “bitter-sweet goodbye” as fresh tears flowed.
Jason realized we were standing there and came over to us. He hugged each of us and I took Kleenex out of my purse so he could wipe his eyes.
The Anderson’s came over and thanked us for coming. We expressed our condolences then stood awkwardly silent. What more could we say.
Oddly it was our eighteen year-old son who came to our rescue.
“I think I’d just like to go home now. I’d like to ride with you.”
“Could I leave my car in your drive?” he asked the Andersons.
On the way home, Jason was silent.
Arriving home I thought I might go ahead and prepare for bed. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally.
Jason however wanted to talk. As a parent you learn to sacrifice for those moments; especially so on a night like this.
“Mom, Dad, I…” he stopped and was quiet for a moment.
“It’s OK Jason…,” I started to say, but bit my tongue before the words were out. It was not OK; certainly not for him.
“No, it’s…not about Joel. Well, not exactly anyway.” It still seemed that he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. I offered to make some hot chocolate. Strangely, my son declined one of his favorite treats. Whatever it was he wanted to say, he didn’t seem to want the interruption.
“Look, I know we’re not church people,” he began. “It’s just, well, Joel and I were talking after practice for a long time and…well, I think Joel is in heaven right now.” He sobbed but took a breath and regained control.
“What do you mean?” Robert asked very gently.
“I think, well, I saw his face…he…it…his expression was, well, it was…peaceful.
I remembered thinking the same thing about the faces of the Andersons. No bitterness, just an amazing calm.
“Mom, Dad, I accepted Jesus tonight,” Jason said.
I saw my husband sit up and lean forward. After a moment he said “Tell us about Jesus, would you son?”
At church Mrs. Anderson later explained to us that it’s a bitter yet sweet kind of sorrow to send a child on ahead to begin eternity with the Lord.
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