It was July of 2000. It was hot. Real hot. Perpetual heat only made worse with high humidity. There was with no relief in sight. It was the long hot summer on steroids and I had just accepted the reality that all my grass and rose bushes were toast. Even walking from my house to the mailbox left my clothes soaked in sweat. I constantly, along with everyone else, begged God for rain.
And then, it finally happened. A drop. Then a shower. And then a down pour. It didn’t last too terribly long but it came. It cooled the air slightly and I was beckoned into my back yard to watch the final drips evaporate from the trees.
As I walked out my door I smiled at the now-normal sight: Robert, a 5-year-old neighborhood boy, once more on his knees next to our tiny, shallow goldfish pond. He was slowly stirring things up with a stick.
Robert is one third of a triplet group and one of six children. Because of a recent and horrific tragedy, his family had moved to our neighborhood and into the ‘big house’ on the cul-de-sac. Only seven months earlier, on December 30 of 1999, while the rest of Robert’s family were out running post-Christmas errands, the triplets were in their house with their older sister, Chrissy, and a babysitter. It was a typical day and the three of them were running back and forth from the bedroom (where the TV was) to the kitchen (where the chocolate chip cookie dough was).
Then, suddenly, likely from the Christmas tree lights shorting, a fire broke out and quickly consumed the house. Robert and his sister, Julia, got out, but the third triplet, Sara Michelle, lost her young life.
How does a family relocate and properly mourn the loss of a precious life as well as everything that they knew as ‘normal’? How do two 5-year-olds grieve their triplet not being an arms reach away anymore? How do they process such a dramatic and untimely disaster from which they escaped? Does that take months? Years? A lifetime? Kids think so concretely that, honestly, all they can do is the next thing.
The grieving family would live in our neighborhood for only a short time, but Robert’s frequent visits to my back yard made a lasting impact on the way I looked at life.
He began casually, noting the obvious: “It rained, Miss Karen,” he said, his southern drawl pronounced.
“YES! Yes, Robert, it did. God finally sent rain.”
“We’ve been praying for rain A LOT, haven’t we?” he continued as he slowly chased the goldfish with the stick.
“Yes, I am very thankful for it,” I said as I looked at him with my hands on my hips, not being fully prepared for how I was about to change.
He continued in his slow, Alabama twang, “Did you THANK Him?”
I stood still, stared at him and he stared back at me as he waited for my answer. I managed to grin slightly and replied honestly, “No. No, not yet. But I will now.”
And I did.
And I still do.
And thank YOU, now 19-year-old Robert, for planting a seed in my heart that dramatically moved me from thankfulness, to thanking Him.
I hear that Alabama twang inside my head more times than you could ever imagine. To some, that may be semantics, to me, it’s life.
BTW, I miss our talks….