It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the death of a child and the impenetrable grief accompanying such a horrific loss.
Grammy Award-winning Christian artist TobyMac knows that pain. His son, Truett Foster McKeehan, died in his Nashville home last October at the age of 21.
In a song released Friday called “21” the grieving father opens up about the tragic death of his firstborn son, and it’s a powerful portrait of grief and faith.
Though details surrounding Truett’s death have not been made public, one only has to listen to TobyMac’s new song to grasp the searing grief his passing left behind:
The lyrics are raw and aching as TobyMac sings against a dark and stormy backdrop, offering a painful portrait of a grieving parent’s heart:
Why would You give and then take him away
Suddenly end could You not let it fade
What I would give for a couple of days, a couple of days
Is it just across the Jordan
Or a city in the stars
Are you singing with the angels
Are you happy where you are
Well until this show is over
And you run into my arms
God has you in heaven
But I have you in my heart
The music video flashes clips of Truett performing on stage and smiling at the camera as it comes to a close, and ends with a Bible verse from Luke 15 about the prodigal son: “…and while he was still a long way off, the father saw his son and ran to him.”
In a Twitter post about the release, TobyMac opens up about the process of writing the difficult song and the season of grief his family is enduring:
“Until something in life hits you this hard, you never know how you will handle it. I am thankful that I have been surrounded by love, starting with God’s and extending to community near and far that have walked with us and carried us every day. Writing this song felt like an honest confession of the questions, pain, anger, doubt, mercy and promise that describes the journey I’m probably only beginning. The rest is yet to come.”
And through the questioning and struggle to understand God’s plan, TobyMac says he’s leaning on his deep faith and trust in Jesus:
“One thing I know is that I am not alone. God didn’t promise us a life of no pain or even tragic death, but He did promise He would never leave us or forsake us. And I’m holding dearly to that promise for my son as well as myself.”
— TobyMac (@tobymac) January 10, 2020
Though many parents, mercifully, may never know the pain of burying children, “21” depicts grief—and the desperate faith in the One who holds and heals broken hearts—in a way anyone who has ever loved a child can understand.