Just the other night at the hometown football game . . . the last Reed’s Run
The Garth Brooks song, “Unanswered Prayers” has always been a perennial favorite of mine. It didn’t hit me until the night before the last Reed’s Run that I was living out a line of the song at a Lakeview football game. Different from the lyrics, it wasn’t a long-lost love with whom I reconnected that evening. I am sure if anyone paid attention to what happened on the sidelines, there would have been rumors flying in the small towns that night.
It really all unfolded much earlier. About two years ago, I found my high school best friend on the internet. We connected very briefly through an email and later on Facebook. Then one day, I started noticing all the posts of remembrance. I knew my friend Matt had only one son (and several stepchildren). I literally shook as my hands did a quick Google search. When my husband found me crumpled on the floor sobbing a little while later, he knew something was terribly wrong. My worst fears regarding those messages were confirmed when I found the obituary of one sweet, Big A.
I cried. I felt crushed in spirit. “Oh, dear Lord, NO!” I cried out over and over. How could this be? Why was this cup not passed from not only my son, but my friend’s son as well? I just didn’t understand.
I wanted our bond to be shared memories of the past – the glory years so to say – but not THIS! Not a shared bond of grief and loss and of despair and heartbreak.
I did the only thing I could. I reached out electronically and shared about Reed. In the end, I told of Reed’s Run and asked if we could remember Alex at our final run. I was expecting an affirmative response because I know that lingering fear (of no one remembering their child) all grieving parents share. What I didn’t expect was the news that my high school best buddy and his wife were going to come and run the last run.
Back to that football game. When I received the text message that they had arrived, I bolted out of my seat to greet them. I ran and literally jumped into Matthew’s arms. What I haven’t shared previously is we hadn’t seen each other in twenty-three years. It was a wonderful (and long over-due) embrace.
My heart leapt with joy at finally being in arms reach of him, and my heart soared to finally meet his beautiful bride. We watched the game and cheered on one number 74. Since 74’s fan section was huge, we had three cars in convoy on the way home. I rode with Matt & Kimberly, and we shared the stories of our boys.
Sadly, neither of us ever had the opportunity to meet the other’s child. Back at home, we sat in the rental car, talked and cried, and cried and talked. With each story they told of one amazing young man, I began to feel like I was being handed the equivalent of a newborn baby swaddled in love and care of sweet memories.
In high school our heartstrings were tied as two kids who loved to laugh and who loved a good adventure, especially in historic Pensacola. But now on a crisp Minnesota fall night, we were inexplicably bound by the loss that no parents should ever have to feel.
However it wasn’t unanswered prayers like that old song, it was the unshakeable faith of two dear friends that our children’s deaths were not in vain. It was the prayers that we prayed during their lives that sustained us in their deaths. It was the same faith that compels both families to give back in the way that would be most honoring to each boy.
But the biggest bond each family shared was the sustaining power of prayer, amazing love, and extravagant grace that over the years and across the miles both of us were held right in the palm of God’s hand. It is the confidence of knowing that neither family said good-bye, because someday I am going to get to meet that sweet boy and Matthew’s going to meet mine.