The old man had cried on and off over the past five days.
It’s not manly. It’s not the way a man is supposed to act. A grown man sobbing like a little girl. A grown man tearing up during a chance encounter with a neighbor or with a salesperson who had simply said ‘have a nice day’.
The young man was but twenty when he died. A son, a brother, a smart kid, a musical talent. A glimmer of light touching the lives of hundreds. And yet, he somehow managed to no longer exist. Leaving those hundreds of illuminated with a painful hole in their hearts. It just wasn’t right. God should know better.
But God does know a few things about families and communities.
First off, when tragedy strikes, a family doesn’t spread out, but gets closer. Any last week family disputes disappear and focus is suddenly on the present. Like a pride of lions protecting their own, they join together as one group and provide comfort and support for each other. They put their normal lives on pause, traveling long distances from different places, to rally together as one big family under one big roof.
Maybe it’s just a wonderful small town tradition, but Day Two of tears begins with the word of the family’s tragedy spreading throughout the local community. How they came to know or how they were told doesn’t matter. What’s amazing is how they respond. In small town tradition, the food began to find its way to the home of the brokenhearted. Tons of food, paper plates, and drinks. Anything to make the family’s day a little bit easier.
There was private advise and counsel given by others who were, and will always be, going through the loss of a child. Sage advice it was, but made special that individuals were willing to share personal experiences from their own darkest days.
The community came out in full force for the family night at the funeral home. The family’s initial gathering of strength at home was further bolstered by the hundreds of distant family members, friends, and coworkers who stood in line for a chance to express their sorry, share yet another tear and a truly meaningful hug.
The burial was private and very difficult.
The service at the church was standing room only. Again, hundreds of people amassing to show their love and support for a grieving family. The service was as good as it gets when it’s for a young man taken from this world far too soon. Answers are given, but hard to swallow.
The old man took any remaining flowers back to grace the young man’s grave site. A small temporary plaque hidden amongst rows of old ones. The plot was hard to distinguish from the old ones, except that the newly turned soil had yet to settle.
And the sky continued its tears of rain.