The doorbell rang and I got up from the couch where I was watching a Disney movie with my child who was home from school sick that day. Opening the door, I saw an elementary-aged David Palestrant and his mom, Doe Palestrant, who lived on the street behind us.
“Hi!” I exclaimed. “What are you guys doing here? I’m sorry, but Grace is sick, so I can’t invite you inside.”
“That’s ok,” Doe replied. “That’s why we’re here.”
A small, curly-headed David presented a Sonic cup to me with a bright, colored liquid inside. “I heard Grace’s throat hurts. I brought her a slush to make it feel better. Will you give it to her for me?”
A simple gesture of kindness from a young boy, served with a genuine and infectious smile.
I will always treasure this memory of David, especially now that the life of this young man was cut tragically short this week due to a car accident, at the age of 17. David was the light of his family’s lives. He was the only child of his parents, Doe and Mike. They adopted him from Guatemala. He was their beloved son. David was a member of our church youth group, and he attended youth retreats and gatherings. He loved Jesus. He loved singing and dancing. He loved supporting and encouraging the people he cared about. He loved his friends and family. And he loved being a Tivy Antler.
The last time I saw David, he was riding on a flatbed trailer with the rest of the Tivy football team in the annual Homecoming parade. Somehow out of the hundreds of people lining the streets, he saw me and singled me out, teasing me for dropping a piece of ice I was trying to pop into my mouth at the exact moment the team was passing in front of me. He called out, “I saw that, Mrs. Carlson!” and laughed. I pointed wildly at him and he pointed back at me, flashing that gigantic smile of his directly at me as the trailer moved out of sight. He had been injured that week and was undergoing surgery the next day, so I messaged him numerous times over the next few weeks checking on him. One of his last messages to me ended with, “Love ya’ll. Hope the family’s good.”
Truthfully, the family’s not so good right now. Not his family or mine, not his friends’ families, not our church family, not his football family, not his Tivy family, and not his Kerrville family. When death comes in and rips the life of one of our children from our grasp, we all cry out in anguish.
I wrote in a chapter about facing grief in my book, Grace-faced, that we have to experience grief with open hands and not clenched fists. We know, according to Scripture, that we are not alone in our suffering.
But how do we experience God’s comfort and presence when we are so weighted down with our own agony? The answer lies in the body of Christ. God sends His comfort through others. Ordinary people. You and me. The hands and feet of Christ. Jesus with skin on. Every hug, note, smile, meal, ride, flower—every kind gesture—comes from God the Father. If you want to know where God is when we are in our darkest moments, just look around. He is everywhere.
If you are blessed to not be personally affected by this loss, reach out to those who are grieving. Just be present with them, if nothing else. Show up so they know they’re not alone. Open your hands to share the comforts of the Holy Spirit. If you are on the painful end of this loss, I encourage you to open your hands as well. Receive the blessings God is sending your way through others. Don’t isolate yourself. God can handle all our feelings, even our anger and confusion, so raise those hands to Heaven and cry out to your Heavenly Father. He just wants to be a part of our process and stay in relationship and communication with us.
David was the kind of kid that I could always pick right back up with, like no time had passed at all, even if we hadn’t spoken in a while. He had a special way of being able to have a serious conversation with me, followed by teasing me, and somehow wrap it all up with an impressive degree of respect and manners. He was a special kid.
I write this message, for the love of David. I show up and surround the Palestrant family and the teens in our community in whatever ways I can, for the love of David. I hug my kids a little tighter, for the love of David. I wear my Tivy gear with a little more pride, for the love of David.
And I grieve. Oh, how I grieve. For the love of David.