A couple in the town where I was raised had five children, all of whom were at school with my sister and me at one time or another. I will call them the Bradleys. I remember them all fondly to this day.
Sometime around the mid 1980’s, the Bradleys’ oldest child was killed in a plane crash when a couple of pilots from the local Air Force base took one of the planes out for an unauthorized joyride. She was only in her early twenties, and left behind a toddler son whom the Bradleys subsequently adopted.
In 1992, their second oldest daughter disappeared. She was twenty three-years old. She was last seen leaving work, and her car was found abandoned three miles away. Foul play was suspected, and the girl was never heard from again. No body was ever recovered, and she is presumed dead.
On December 4th of this year, just a few short weeks ago, the Bradleys were celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary. The gathering took place on their houseboat where the family stayed overnight. They awoke the following morning to find their oldest son not on the boat.
After an extensive search of the grounds, and finding his car still there, they contacted authorities. Their 43 year old son’s body was found in the lake. As far as I know, the cause of death has not yet been released.
This couple has buried two children and lost three. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like, and what they must feel living in the house where their children were and still should be, looking around and not seeing the people who ought to be there.
As I look around my house, I see Nerf gun darts all over the floor. The television is blaring in the next room and no one is in there. My son has left it on again! He gets excited and runs out, leaving the door wide open, he drops dirty clothes in the bathroom floor, and he plays his music too loud.
These things usually irritate the heck out of me. Tonight, though, I’m thankful for them because they’re signs that my son is alive, well, and safe at home.
The next time I find a peanut butter smudge on the counter top or step in a sticky patch because a spill wasn’t cleaned properly, perhaps I won’t scold, but will gently remind my son to clean up after himself.
Dirty footprints, crumbs on the carpet, scattered toys and books, the sound of Nerf guns firing in the house. These are all signs of life, evidence that my son is still here; that he’s happy, healthy and enjoying life. Sure, these things can be irritating, but the agony of not having my precious child around to make messes or noise would be absolutely unbearable.
I am so very thankful that my son is only shouting distance away right now. I will hear him singing in the shower later. I may have to tell him for the umpteenth time to pick up his dirty clothes, but when I do, I will remember the parents who would give anything to find a mess on the bathroom floor tonight.
Tonight, I will also hear my son laugh, see him smile, enjoy his company, hug him and kiss him goodnight; and in the morning I will have breakfast with him. Because my son is here, and he is fine.
My thoughts are with the Bradleys tonight, and with all the parents crying themselves to sleep again — if they sleep at all.