Last night, I sat on my youngest son’s messy bed, and we said our nightly prayers. I went first, as usual, and he followed up, mentioning a little boy’s name I had never heard. When he was finished with his prayer, I asked who so-and-so was. He explained that he is a student in his fourth-grade classroom, who was crying during class yesterday morning. The teacher asked him what was wrong, and he said his dog had died. My heart immediately went out to the young little boy, facing what may be his first major heartbreak in life.
I was immediately whisked back to my own first heartbreak. First grade. Mrs. Zahn. I recall my mom waking me up early on a school day with tears in her eyes. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but in as few words as possible, my mother told me our old dog, at 14 years of age, our black and white English Setter, Brett, had passed away early during the night. She went on to say my dad had been getting the grave ready and asked if I wanted to say goodbye before school.
I am not sure why I remember this, but I wore overalls that day. With a plaid button-up shirt. I also recall standing at the edge of a large hole in our backyard. My dad carefully wrapped Brett in an old blue blanket and lovingly picked her up and hoisted her stiff body into the ground. With, what I am sure were tears in his eyes, though it was hard to tell in the early morning darkness, he covered her up and we said our final goodbyes to the first dog I had ever known.
Brett was my parents’ baby before I was their baby. When I was born, she basically thought I was hers and stood watch over me whether in my crib or playpen or out toddling around in the backyard. She was my first playmate, my first sibling, my first furry mother. She became my best friend, and saying goodbye to her in first grade was one of the saddest days I recall from my youth. My mom wrote a note to my teacher that day, explaining the situation so she would understand if I seemed a little unlike my typical self. It was a sad day.
Yesterday was a sad day for Waylan’s friend. Knowing Waylan had digested that scene of one of his buddies crying in the classroom and remembered to pray for him that night nearly brought tears to my own eyes. Waylan has such a tender heart and when others hurt, he hurts. I truly believe that. Sometimes I wish I could toughen him up, only to save him from the pain and heartbreak I know comes from being an empathetic soul.
But if I had the choice, would I really change any part of my son? Absolutely not. I know it will be a difficult road, and he will likely feel things others don’t. But that is what makes him so special. His ability to see past his own pain and walk directly into the hurting atmosphere of others. To sit with them in the hurt. To be that friend who doesn’t walk away when life gets real and times get tough.
I don’t know if Waylan said anything to his friend or gave him a hug during school. I don’t know if he offered to sit with him at recess or tell him he was sorry for his loss. What I do know is this. My son prayed for that little boy who lost his best friend early yesterday morning. And that is a beautiful thing.
Many times we don’t know what to say to others who are hurting. I am convinced that saying anything, even if it comes out clumsy and awkward, is better than saying nothing. Others can tell where your heart is, and if you are hurting due to their hurt, I think they appreciate that.
And we can ALWAYS pray for those we know are hurting. That is truly the best gift we can offer them, lifting their name gently and lovingly up to the Father who loves them more than all the world. He knows their heart, He feels their pain, He wants to comfort and protect and take it away. But He also knows that part of life is death. And those early losses are some of the hardest we will ever face. God wants nothing more than to wipe those tears away and replace them with warm and loving memories of a friend who now is free of pain, hurting, and the ravages of old age.
I wish I had a friend like Waylan on that day so many years ago when my best friend, Brett, passed away. Someone to hug me and just be there. Someone to help absorb the shock and heartbreak my little girl self had no idea how to process. Someone to mention me in their nightly prayers as they knew I was hurting. A true friend.
That little boy may have lost his best friend yesterday, but I truly hope he knows he has another friend in my son. A praying friend. Which is, quite honestly, the very best kind of friend to have.