They take you in as if they’ve known you for years and make you feel like of their own. They tease you, joke with you, save a spot for you at the Thanksgiving dinner table, support you and love you.Because you’re now part of the family – that’s what you do.
I remember when I first met his aunt and uncle. Terry and Linda. Terry was a gruff-voiced mountain of a man, but when he smiled at me, I knew he was one of those big men who wound up being teddy bears. Linda was a woman after my own heart – she invited me in with a hug, insisted that I eat, then shooed me out of her kitchen when I tried to help her clean, which is exactly what I would have done.
Terry and Linda had three sons – Terry Jr., Chad and Ryan. Craig and Chad were not only cousins, but close friends. Chad’s wife, Lisa, soon became a close friend of mine. Their three young children – Cade, Conner and Cailey – were like nieces and nephews to us.
On Monday, we received a phone call telling us there had been an accident. Terry had taken Cade and Conner fishing, and Cade had fallen into the freezing water. Terry jumped in to save him, but they both drowned.
Losing a loved one is never easy. When it’s a child, it’s beyond difficult. Losing them both is indescribable.
There are designations for those who have lost spouses, or children who have lost parents. We call them widows, widowers, orphans. But what do you call a parent who has lost a child? Shattered. Heartbroken. Confused. Devastated. Inconsolable.
We are all asking, “Why?” We will never get an answer, an explanation of why we suffer this loss. We will, however, not suffer alone. This family will stand by one another today, tomorrow, and every day afterward. This family will love each other, hold each other close, and rely on each other and their faith to get through this day, and the next, and the ones that will follow. Those days will be hard, and some will be harder than the previous. We will have days where the sun shines and the pain lifts for a moment, and we will draw strength from those days that will help us endure the days where our heart aches and we can’t breathe.
Because we’re family, and that’s what we do.