From the minute they’re born, we watch our children grow and learn.
We share their every experience--their first smile, their first tooth, their first first steps and all of those special times that are benchmarks in their lives.
Soon they’re off to school, learning and making new relationships with friends and school staff.
By the time they reach junior and senior high school, most have a peer group they identify with, often prompted by shared activities such as sports. The friendships are solidified as everyone works for a common goal. And when kids have the great fortune to attend school in a small district such as Guernsey, some of those friendships remain long after the day diplomas are handed out.
Advances in technology have made it much easier to maintain those friendships and even though everyone may live in different areas, they are able to share daily experiences through social media.
And even though the accomplishments are much different once they’re adults, seeing our kids continue to have all those “first” experiences is still gratifying for us to watch.
But some lessons that life deals out are not fair and we cannot explain them, though we certainly wish we could. And even though we know our children must endure some painful situations, we wish we could somehow protect them from those times, because when they hurt, we hurt.
Joe and Randy, our two youngest sons, graduated three years apart. Despite the many years we wondered if they would ever be civil to each other, they’ve actually become good friends and they’re both lucky to share and be a part of an extended group of friends despite miles between their daily lives. They’ve been able to get together with those friends fairly often over the years, coming home for holidays and family gatherings. Over this past July 4th, most of that group was home for a few days, floating the river and spending some time just hangin' out and likely talking about all those things that I still don’t (and don’t want to) know about. Joe’s class celebrated their 20th anniversary of their graduation over the Fourth, so we were able to see many of their friends.
We scarce could have known that in less than two months, we would all be saying a final goodbye to one of those friends.
Saturday marked the second time in four years that Joe has had to serve as a pallbearer for someone from that immediate circle. For all the times we’ve watched him deal with life’s ups and downs, these two experiences have by far been the hardest. It’s a role you just can’t quite picture your son having to fill. Our pain is multiplied because we hurt for the loss ourselves, but we especially hurt as as we see the effect it has on him and all of these young people. There is nothing we can do and nothing we can really say to make anyone feel better. It is just one of those very difficult life experiences that we know no one can escape. It is a part of life--but it’s a part of life that we’d just as soon put off.
Watching those young men carry their friend to his final resting place Saturday made me realize that they are no longer the little boys that played football or rode bikes or went swimming. Life is no longer about who has the coolest shoes, or the hottest girlfriend.
And though as painful a situation as it was, we also know that this is too another passage for all of them. Both of the young men we’ve lost have been due to an entirely unpredictable situation. A shared experience of this magnitude will strengthen the bonds between all of them. It demands their attention--reminding them that life is precious and cannot be taken for granted.
As parents, we all support our sons through good and bad and will continue to do so. But it is a blessing to know that the connections made so many years ago continue to this day and beyond.
For us, it is a comfort to know that despite distance and time, these kids will always....be there for each other.