When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. – Cherokee Expression
The video monitors in the funeral home displayed pictures of Alex’s life. Different images would display every five seconds. Many of the pictures were taken before the cancer arrived. Other pictures portrayed a courageous young man fighting the vicious disease.
The images showed birthdays, vacations and weddings. Life was moving along and Alex was in it. The last image in the montage was a message Alex wrote in the sand. It said, “Alex Was Here.”
It’s hard to understand why these parents had to bury their 17-year-old son. What was the point of God bringing my son’s friend into the world only to be taken so soon?
Hospice was set-up for Alex at his home several months ago. A hospital bed was brought in and, with it, a certain understanding. In the last two weeks of Alex’s life, Andrew, my son, and several other of Alex’s friends came to visit every night. The friends played video games, ate pizza and talked about what happened in school that day. I think the attempt to feel some sense of normalcy was needed by everyone.
These visits might have provided the best comfort of all. During these visits, Alex was still there – being a teenager, too.
The World Cries
The funeral was held in the afternoon out of consideration for the school day. When I arrived, I sent my son a text message to let him know I was there. He replied back to tell me he was waiting inside. While I felt sadness for Alex and his family, I came to the funeral to support Andrew. My child was hurting and I felt desperate to do something.
Andrew greeted me with a hug. He told me he was asked to sit in the front row along with Alex’s other friends. I gave my son one more hug and then let him go so he could join his friends.
Standing by the front door of the funeral home was Alex’s mother and father greeting guests as they arrived. I was taken aback by their composure and sensitivity for others. They both wore their dignity with grace and poise.
I had never met Alex. He and my son become friends after Alex become ill. As I was introducing myself to his parents, I attempted to allow my hand to linger a little longer on theirs and to say with my eyes, “I can’t begin to imagine what it must feel like to lose a child; however, I know your strength and faith are incredible.”
A priest and a rabbi presided over the funeral together. All of Alex’s friends and family came together under the name of God to celebrate his life. Prayers were spoken, music was played and The Rite of Committal gave Alex to God forever.
The Point of Being Human
Andrew left the funeral with his friends. They were going to celebrate Alex’s life by sharing one more dinner together. There was nothing more I could do for my son. He was taking the best medicine he could for his pain.
He didn’t need me to comfort him or to make things better. Things are what they are and my son is now old enough to understand this. We are born, we live and then we die. The point of being human isn’t to change this cycle, but to love as much as we can during it.
Our lives will be measured by what we write on our hearts, not by what we write on our resumes. Our lives will be defined by the times when someone asked for our love and we gave it. Our lives will be shaped by the times when we asked for love and then received it.
God created humans with a capacity to love. He loves us so much that He wants us to feel the magic and beauty of love, too. Our ability to love is what separates us from the other animals. Our purpose, then, is to extend this love to ourselves and to anyone else with whom we feel safe, connected and have the desire to share this precious gift with over and over again.
Fathers, make time for your daughters. Mothers, hold on tightly to your sons. Husbands respect and support your wives in whatever they decide to do. Wives, tell your husbands how much you love them. The point is not to hold the love for yourself, but to turn the love outward and cover others with its splendor.
Love was Here
Driving home from the funeral I was still trying to reconcile why God, who loves His children so much, would take one away so soon. The fear Alex must have felt during his last days and the agony his parents experienced as they watched their son die is almost too much to consider. My anger tells me the cycle was definitely shortchanged this time.
However, my faith reminds me the cycle, and the duration of the cycle for each one of us, is also part of His plan. Our lives are indeed a gift. We show appreciation for the gift by expressing love as we go.
The meaning of the message Alex wrote in the sand finally occurred to me as I waited for Andrew to come home that night. Perhaps one reason Alex was here was to teach my son that love does live beyond family ties and romantic interests. Alex was here to show Andrew that the love shared among friends has the power to change lives – even when a life is taken too soon.
Alex Was Here. And my son, along with others, received the gift of his love and felt the power of Alex being human.