Today is a day of remembrance in our family, a day of life going on. One year ago today I got the phone call from my niece Jessica that her 18 year old brother Colton was dead. My brother’s only son, his youngest child, had been tragically killed in an accident. I was at work coming out of the bathroom, actually. I saw on my phone that the caller was Jessica and I thought it strange that she would call me at this odd time and at work. Hearing the words she said sent me into a tail spin. It’s like seeing someone walking on the freeway (or interstate), your brain can’t take it in, it just does not fit. In disbelief I asked what happened. My brother, where was my brother? I needed to see him, to make sure he was okay. I was no stranger to feeling the full weight of responsibility for him and his welfare.
Standing there in the hallway in shock I couldn’t help but notice her extreme, almost forced calm. She said she was notifying the family because her mom and dad were not capable of even talking. God bless her for taking on that arduous task. Hurrying to the office I called my sister, husband, my other brother and my kids. Bless my son, he got my niece Brandie and me on a plane that next morning for Sacramento where we spent 10 days in the home of Colton’s aunt, Lesa Johnson. Lesa’s husband Dean had died suddenly 4 years previous. Dean is the younger brother of Elizabeth, Colton’s mom. Lesa, very aquainted with deep grief, opened her beautiful home to us, fed us, loved on us and we on her and her two precious grown boys. Auntie to Auntie Lesa and I formed a deep bond. I admire her steadfast faith in a holy God Who never lets us down. He has a plan and she is safe and secure in that knowledge. Those 10 days are branded on my mind and heart as I experienced a loss as never before. Those days were filled with meeting young adults, just starting to experience a taste of freedom, come together to mourn one of their own. Hearing story after precious story of Colton’s antics in the duck blind, on the deer hunt, in the rice field and on the shooting range was balm to my soul. He was deeply loved. By hearing those tall tales one would know a gaping hole would be left in that group of bossom buddies.
In my wildest dreams I never ever expected to see my little brother carrying the coffin of his young son. It was incongruous to say the least. Against one of the most beautiful blue skies I had ever seen wild turkeys came strolling on to the grass of the cemetary as if to pay their respects to once a sharp shooting hunter who gave them a run for their money. My heart was heavy as I watched the casket lowered into the ground. Knowing I would see Colton again brought a spark of joy. Someone asked my brother if he wished he could trade places with Colton. People, stumped for words in a situation like that, say strange things. My dear considerate little brother thought for a moment then said “no”. That took the inquirer by surprise. He said no because he knew his beloved son was in heaven with Jesus and he would never want to take that away from him.
Today our family dedicates its newest member, my 17th great-nephew, to the Lord. Archer William was born last March. He made his appearance on earth early by the doctor’s prediction, but right on time by God’s plan.
The bible tells us in Psalm 139:16, “Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them”. (NASB) Standing with my extended family in agreement to make sure this little boy is brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will be an honor. We have come full circle on this October 23. Hold your loved ones a little tighter today. Make spending time with them a priority. Build memories that will last. Be there. Put your phones away. Be present. Go to all of the activities, games, Jr. High choir shows, high school awards assemblies, birthday parties, graduations, last minute pizza parties. Be there. God knows our days but we don’t. It is not by chance that you were born into your family. Love them. They need you and you need them.
Dedication of Archer William at the Flood church, 10-23-16. Dad Matt Ward, mom Wendie Ward, big brothers Henry and Miles Ward.