Sometimes, we just don’t have any good answers for our children, especially when death is concerned. Sometimes, we just cannot make the pain go away. I had to fight myself against issuing generic platitudes to my grieving son because no answers were sufficient for the questions that he had when he lost his best friend suddenly.
Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.Richard Bach
I have four kids and two stepchildren that are the center of my universe. My youngest son, and third child, has suffered a tremendous loss at only the tender age of 13. His best friend and sidekick died. For the sake of his family’s privacy, I will call this young man Daryl in this article. Daryl will be remembered by more than his family. My son is going to make sure of that.
Daryl was a bright thirteen year old boy that liked to play video games online and basketball outside of my house with the local neighborhood boys. My son, Nolan bonded with him quickly over their mutual love for Kobe Bryant, dark humor, video games, and attitudes.
Daryl had fought and overcome cancer three times in his short little life. He had most recently gotten the stats to indicate he was beating it again.
You never heard him complain, but he had a life filled with pain. He would be missing in action during the worst parts, but continually stayed in contact with my son via online messaging. My son was not one to talk about it. Like many boys are apt to be when it comes to emotions, he dealt with it in his own way and still does.
When COVID came around, Daryl was confined to his room. His immune system was already battered so his parents weren’t taking any chances by not issuing a strict quarantine. They spent the summer playing video games online and plaguing each other with dark jokes and pranks. They were showing their love as boys will.
Three days before school was to be let back in session, Daryl’s mom went to wake him and found that he had passed away in his bed. Though he was beating the cancer, he had passed away from a sudden aneurism.
Nolan found out later on that day and came to tell me right away. They had played on the X-box the night before and he seemed fine, my son told me in shock.
As grief tends to do, it had a delayed reaction on Nolan. He would forget for a moment and then he would go to text him and remember. He would get online and remember.
I believe the grief took a toll on his immune system because within days he was fighting a huge swollen gland from a sudden bout of mono and strep throat. Days after getting on antibiotics, he developed a mono rash. He ended up missing the first two weeks back to school.
I didn’t realize how deep the friendship had gone until I took him to school on his first day. Signing him in, the office staff all gathered around and hugged him and told him how sorry they were. It seemed that the boys were something of a duo at the school.
A few weeks later, I came home from work and went to greet all of the kids, which is my routine when I come in the door. After I greet the animals, of course.
I found Nolan in his room thumbing through a journal. He told me that for art class they all had to keep an art journal with drawings, thoughts, and the such. He said that after class the art teacher had given Daryl’s art journal to him.
Without me even telling him, he told me that he wanted to make a copy for himself and carry the original to Daryl’s mother. The image of the young boy’s self painted image in the journal made tears well up in my own eyes. Not to mention the fact that my teenager, famous for no empathy towards anyone but himself within our household, was showing empathy towards Daryl’s family.
I took the journal to work and made the copy. It was filled with what you would expect from a thirteen year old boy being forced to journal, but I knew the gift would be a priceless artifact given to a grieving mother. Another link to a love like no other.
This will not be the last time my son experiences a tragedy. I am proud of the way he has handled this loss and the way he continues to keep Daryl’s memory alive by talking about him. All too often, people try and drown pain away by ignoring it. Only by dealing with our emotions will we ever truly heal from any heartbreak or pain.
There is no explanation for a life cut that short. I won’t lie and say it’s part of a plan I’m not privy to. The only thing I can say for sure is that where he went has to be so much better than what he went through here during his short, pain filled existence.
Hold your loved ones tight. We never know when a moment will be the last.