My sixteen year old, youngest son and I pulled into the driveway one night on the way home from youth service at church. William was suffering from a significant muscle tear in his hip, a baseball injury. Even more, though, he ached from the heart pain of loss. He had dreamed for years of getting to play on the same team with his older brother, Tennyson. He was finally on the team, but the second game of the season, injury occurred. William got a hit between second and third, and barely made it to first base because of the tear that happened somewhere between the swing and the first hard steps to the base. I remember after he was injured; he looked at me with the shock that only the heart of hope can show. I remember the dirt and sweat on his face, and the quiet question of “Why?”
The injury that was to last two weeks had already turned into four weeks, and the short season of high school baseball was turning quickly into days instead of weeks. Everyone was telling him that it was okay, that they prayed for him, and that it was just a game. However, no one addressed the dream slipping away that was his real pain, much more than the injury. The pain was in his heart, not in his hip. And it would be “okay” was no balm for him—as it really isn’t for most people.
As we came close to the driveway, he let his torn heart loose: “Everyone tells me it will be okay! It’s not okay and prayer is no good. If God did this, then God is cruel. If God couldn’t stop it, then God is weak and I have no need for God or prayer or all those stupid people who think they are helping me. They are just helping themselves to feel better!” By then, I had come to a stop in the driveway. He got out and slammed the door, walked down the drive to his old car and locked it, I guess, for something to do.
Over our garage is a light that hangs from the wall and casts a semicircle light on the drive. I had gotten out of the truck and walked through the light to its edge as he came from the shadows to the edge of the light. That is where I met him. He and I stood there together. I had said nothing, really not knowing what to say. He then said, “I don’t mean all those words, but I know you could hear me and deal with it.”
I put my hand on his close-cropped hair and said, “I don’t have any answers, but I do know that I’m staying with you through this. I’m in it with you.” We then went in the house.
His body finally healed. He got to play the rest of the season with his brother. They still talk about it as a great memory.
Last night, William and I were talking about the memory of that night—now a whole decade ago. He told me that my words themselves did not matter so much. In fact, he didn’t remember them. What he did remember was that he knew that I meant what I said. He knew I wasn’t speaking from memory, quoting anyone, or trying to correct his thinking. Instead, he said that he knew I was talking to him, to his heart out of my own; that me being truthful with him is what he remembers. He said that he always knew that he would get that heart from me—that I was with him. “That is what mattered to me,” he said.