Like almost every Saturday, my son was waiting for his friend, Kaleb, to wake up in a little blue house, three streets down. He’d sent him a text message: “text me when you get up, man.” And Kaleb’s reply came after . Back and forth in teenagese, that language spoken only by teenagers on cell phone keypads, they planned their day. My son set up the x-box and Guitar Hero and the battles were about to begin. At , Kaleb text’d he was on his way.
Our house is always filled with teenagers and Kaleb is a staple. He’s the kid who I made show me his identification when my son first introduced us. Fifteen then, he had a full beard and stood well over six feet tall. He looked 25. As Ben and Kaleb became the best of friends, he became on of my favorites. Wise beyond his years, he caught my sarcasm and laughed and laughed (and dished it right back), while the other teens sat there looking confused. Never afraid to sit down and talk to me, I nagged at him like a mother, cared for him like a son and he almost always took the time to say hello to me when he walked in the door.
When he laughed, he threw his head back, his shoulders rising to meet his long, dark curls and the house filling with the sound of him. His voice; his laughter, was booming. Many times, it woke me in the middle of the night. Even the neighbors knew it, from the backyard bonfires bringing a gathering of teens every time the weather cooperated.
Just sixteen, he’d recently gained the freedom a driver’s license provides, becoming the chauffer of his circle of friends. When he walked through my living room, he’d jangle his car keys purposefully in his pocket, proud of the big maroon clunker parked in my driveway. That thing was held together by duct tape and bungee chords, but it was his and that is all that mattered.
Kaleb never arrived on Saturday and it ceased being just like any other when the phone rang with the news. Sometime between gathering his things to head over to our house and reaching his front door, he collapsed. His father found him shortly before . At , blinded by grief and disbelieving of the news, my son and I drove to his house. A pastor waiting on Kaleb’s doorstep for his family to return from the hospital confirmed the news. “Kaleb was pronounced dead at the hospital. They think it was a heart attack.”
As a parent, I am overwhelmed with my inability to squelch the pain Kaleb’s friends are experiencing and completely unable to wrap my mind around what his parents are going through. I can’t help but remember how distraught Kaleb was over the holidays when my son faced a cancer diagnoses. He hardly left Ben’s side as we waited for the test results, his deep worry clearly visible in his eyes. And now the tables are turned, in the most tragic way. It all feels so unreal.
We don’t yet know what truly happened. Right now, we just know the Universe makes little sense, the world is missing a compassionate soul, the house is too quiet and young man who was only just becoming Himself is missed more than words can say.
Labels: grief and loss