I’d felt numb for two days. I wondered where God was on Sunday when Jacob was crying out in pain. I did not feel Him when my daughter called the next morning to tell me Jacob had gone Home sometime during the night. Instead, I felt an uncomfortable sort of relief; Jacob was no longer suffering, the long ordeal of caregiving had ended for my daughter. I looked for a sign, anything that would tell me God was there in all of this. I did not pick up a pen and write words of thanksgiving as I had the morning after my husband’s death. My Bible lay unopened on the end table. I reached for it once, then pulled my hand back.
My heart felt heavy, leaden even, all day Monday and most of Tuesday. I went with my daughter and son-in-law to the funeral home to make plans for a wake, and then to the church to plan a funeral. All the while, I was reminded of the plans so recently made for the husband I had lost. My beloved, my beloved, I need you! I did not know if it was my husband or my Father I called out for. I wanted some sign that God was with me, that David was nearby. Instead, I just felt empty. Spent. How much grief can one heart bear? In the space of three years I have lost my mother, my husband, and now my grandson.
When the priest asked us to tell him about Jacob, we paused for a moment, looking at each other; Elizabeth~ the mother, clutching her infant daughter, Ben~the father, wanting desperately to be somewhere else, anywhere other than planning the funeral of his cherished son, and me~ the grandmother. Where do we start? How do you describe such a child? Elizabeth had delayed the obituary because of such a dilemma: how could she encompass the short life of a little boy who had done so much with mere words?
Without further adieu, I began lauding the praises of the little boy who touched so many lives. A boy who, while he lay dying on a couch, heard his mother say that her back hurt, so reached his thin arm out from under the blankets to rub it. How do you describe a little boy like that? The little boy who won prizes during his hospital stays and saved them for his siblings, who didn’t eat the cupcakes he made because he wanted to share them with his big sister and little brother. The child who worried about his mother having to spend her birthday in the hospital with him, even though he’d spent his own birthdays there. Jacob, who collected toys to share at the hospital in between his own treatments. Jacob, who loved babies and animals and gardening. How do you sum up the life of a little boy who barely said a word but whose eyes and smile could brighten up a room? Tears came to my eyes as I told the priest these things, because I suddenly couldn’t imagine a world without Jacob in it. “There is a page on Facebook we have used to update others on Jacob’s fight with cancer,” I mentioned. “Around Christmas of 2010, there was 700 people viewing his status. He has over 4000 followers and they share his status. When his health took a downturn I noted 16,000 viewers one day, 22,000 another.” The priest’s eyes widened.
“The morning he died, 41,000 people viewed his status.” A tiny spark of something lit up in my heart as I said those words. *that status changed to 46,192 as of this writing*
Where are you God? I wondered as reality set in and I realized I would never again look into Jacob’s beautiful brown eyes, never hear his delighted giggle, at least not on this earth. Tueaday afternoon I was interviewed by both a newspaper and a television reporter, both who had met Jacob and were working on stories about his death. The tiny spark became a small flame. A friend messaged me on Facebook, telling me about some magazines she’d picked up at the library: “yesterday I picked up some used magazines at the library to read…this morning I was putting a couple of them in my bag to bring to work….and a slip of paper fell out…it was a receipt from the library with the due date on it…..the name was David Kenyon…..so I said a prayer for you on the way to work…..ironic how God uses a small piece of paper to bring you to the mind of others.” I shrugged at the coincidence, even though I realized David had rarely used his own library card to check anything out, and obviously hadn’t checked anything out for over 17 months. I thought to ask the title of the magazine. Wild Bird.
Wild Bird, I marveled. It seemed appropriate. Before his death, David would tell me I was “flying, soaring.” Jacob had earned his own wings.
Still, I went to bed a little angry with God.
I had a dream Tuesday night.
In my dream, a healthy Jacob was climbing up into my lap. He was tall, with a full head of hair. I could feel the heaviness of his body. He turned in my lap and I felt the insistent push of feet and legs against my arm as he attempted to be cradled in my arms. Like an infant. In my dream, I looked at my daughter Elizabeth to see if it was all right that I cradle her son, this big boy, like a baby, and she nodded. Then I woke up, crying, but knowing that I had been gifted with the clear message that Jacob was now strong and healthy, cradled in His Heavenly Father’s arms.
Yesterday afternoon at the funeral home we greeted friends, family, and even strangers who had been touched by a small boy’s life. Grandmothers hugged me tight as we cried together. Mothers who had lost their own child hugged my daughter to them in a loving embrace that said I intimately know your pain. Two women who represented a group of online friends that have supported my daughter for two and a half years flew out on airplanes to be there. The man responsible for bringing Jacob and the Star Wars actor together came to pay his respects to a small boy with a big smile. His friend (and now ours) who was also part of that memorable day, came. A young boy, the friend that God gifted our Jacob with his last summer on earth, arrived with his mother and cried tears of pure anguish over his little friend. “You are so brave,” I tell him. “This is difficult for adults, and here you are. Jacob loved you so much.” I do not tell him that at least two adults could not manage to approach the coffin. They staggered away, crying and apologizing. I hope this young man remembers that his friendship made a difference in Jacob’s life. In our lives. I sense the presence of something holy, something beyond our understanding, in that funeral home room where the body of a little boy lies in a casket. Online condolences continue to be posted on the funeral home page; from Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin…All over the world. One little boy. One short life. And thousands of people changed.
Thousands of people.
I see you, Lord. I see you.