March 28, 2008, at my brother-in-law’s memorial service, was the last place I saw my college-aged son, Kyle, alive. He headed back down to college because it was the last day of spring break. Kyle texted one of his best friends to say how bad his heart hurt after losing his uncle and they went to get some drugs.
Combined with a beer at the bar later that evening, it was a lethal combination.
The next morning, I received a call from my older son Matt, wailing, “Kyle died last night.” My knees buckled as I almost hit the floor.
In that moment, I had a realization that I’d never:
get another hug from Kyle
hear, “I love you,” from him
get his head snuggled in and against me
smell his nasty old hockey bag
I couldn’t believe it, but I miss that stinky smell. I still miss that.
Both of the hockey teams Kyle played on were going to be the honor guards and his best friends, the pall bearers. His best friend from Sydney, Australia, Steven Robertson, actually flew to Shreveport, Louisiana, to be there, to be there as a pallbearer for Kyle.
In the interim, I found out that one of Kyle’s dearest friends had been with him when Kyle went to purchase drugs that, combined with one beer, caused respiratory distress and his death.
I called my son Matthew, and I said, “Matthew, I cannot, cannot have Kenny serve as a pall bearer for Kyle. Cannot.”
Matthew’s words changed my life.
I physically felt weight lift off of my shoulders and a burden be removed. I said, “Matthew, I’m going to have to pray about that,” and I did.
The next morning, I called Kenny and said, “Sweetheart, I tell you what, I’m disappointed in both of you. Y’all made a decision that was irreversible. You’ve got a heavier burden to carry than I do. It was your best friend that died. That cannot be changed. Every morning you wake up and look in the mirror, you have to face that yourself. I can’t take that away from you, but my son Kyle loved you like a brother. I will be honored if you would stand for him, Kenny. Would you do that?” and he did.
I had to decide how I was going to respond to that devastating news.
I knew that I had to give the gift of forgiveness … because in reality, God gave it to me first, so I could give it to Kenny. On my own strength, there’s no way I could have done that. In giving that forgiveness to Kenny, I also received.
That’s how we chose to walk out together.
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