I went to my friend Randy's funeral for his 3 year old son. It was hands-down the hardest thing I have ever sat through. It was also one of the most powerful testaments to the power of God I have seen. Randy's brother said a few words about how he didn't know Drew personally, only through videos and cards and letters and phone conversation. It made me feel like I was in the same place--not really knowing him, but knowing him by association. He showed a video he had of Drew as "The Heavyweight Champion of the World" with a Rocky theme which Drew used to love watching with his dad.
It was heartbreaking, yet amazing in capturing the joy and innocence of a child. Running, playing, doing cartwheels, just being a kid. I have the same videos of my daughter...if you're a parent, you probably have those pictures or videos, too.
Then Randy spoke. I honestly don't know how he found the strength to do it. Since I knew him, he has grown to know God in a similar vein as I have. It was amazing to see this man I had known as a carefree, easy going guy, now expressing his own relationship with God. He talked about many things, but these are the things I came away with. He talked about the day of the accident, and all of the amazing people he met, who helped him, his family and who tried to save his son. He talked about the people at the hospital, strangers who came in to pray with him.
The EMTs and ER doctors kept Drew alive while his mom was being flown in to the Emergency Room. Randy asked them to keep him alive so Marcie could say goodbye. While he was waiting with his son, Randy remembered the day of his son's baptism, how his Pastor, Troy, had taken him around to the congregation and even outside the church, and introduced Drew to the world: This is Drew Michael Taylor: A Child of God. And so, as the doctors, nurses, EMTs and others came to speak with Randy, he introduced them: "This is my son, Drew Michael Taylor, a child of God."
Finally, Marcie did arrive and she was told the news. In another display of strength, she asked the doctors if his organs could be donated. The docs said no, there was too much damage. She asked again, saying, please, there must be some way Drew can help one more person. Again, it took a strength and a courage I cannot even imagine, to even think of this at a time like this.
Randy and Marcie went in to say goodbye to Drew. And then he was gone.
Then Randy had to tell his eight-year-old daughter, Lauren, that her brother was gone. I don't know how I would have handled it. This is how Randy handled it. He got down on his knees and prayed. He asked God to give him the strength and wisdom he needed, because he recognized that this was going to be the most important moment in his life, the moment that defined him as a father. When he told his Lauren, he did it with the strength, the wisdom, the grace and the love of the Holy Spirit.
In the days that followed, people asked the questions one asks, the same ones I did: "How are you and the family holding up?" "Is there anything I can do to help?" One of his friends asked, "What have you learned from this?" At first, I thought it a harsh question. I don't know if Randy did or will experience the rage and disappointment I felt with God when I heard. I suspect it's impossible not to. The thing that struck me was his response to the question. What he learned is the meaning of life. Randy said it all boils down to three things:
The people you love
The people who love you
What can you do for God
...and with that, he left the pulpit, sat down with his family, waited to hear the preachers words, and went out to send Drew Michael Taylor, Child of God, home to Heaven.
Many things have occurred to me since then. I don't think that I take a lot of things for granted, and I have a good grasp on how much God has blessed me. Still, it gave me pause and made me consider how I could spend my time here loving my family and friends more, and better. The other thing that I saw was how God never allowed Randy to be alone. I think at times like this, the worst part is when we are alone in the midst of it. Randy didn't have that. The EMTs, the doctors, the chaplain at the hospital, a local congregation that showed up to help and pray with his family as they recovered from the wreck, the local community, the schools where Randy and Marcie teach, and especially his own church. In all of these people, God made His presence not just known, but felt.