Yesterday I attended the funeral of 8 year old Kylie Roger who died from a brain tumor. Kylie was a friend of my son. He was also a hero and inspiration to our local community and to a larger national community of other people stricken with cancer.
Hundreds of people attended the memorial service. The presiding pastor spoke truly that everybody who knew Kylie had an image in their heads that captured what a spunky, sparkling kid he was. My image of Kylie is from a picnic where the kids were playing with a snake they had found. Three young boys playing with a snake does not bode well for the snake. Kylie, his brother, and my son chased this poor thing for hours, passed it from hand to hand, ooohhh'd and ahhhhh'd and ewwww'd. There was a huge enthusiasm about such a small garter. And my lasting image of Kylie is with a huge smile holding out his hand and a snake hanging limply from sheer exhaustion of being played with and loved too much (the snake did recover eventually and slithered away, regretting, I imagine, that some hawk didn't swoop down and rescue him earlier). But that is a great picture of the thrill of life that Kylie had. Absolute wonder and thrill.
I can't imagine the grief his parents and brother are enduring at this moment. And have endured over the past two years as their beloved battled his "brain bump". The memorial service had a great slide show. I'm struck by how much that little kid crammed into such a short life. Equally striking is the number of people that fell within his sphere of influence. Kylie made a big splash in the pond and the ripples travelled far. Very far.
During the slide show they played two recent phone messages left by Kylie to his mom. Those words caught on tape are so valuable now. I'm tearing as I think about the tragedy of listening to the last recorded voice of your child.
This was the second funeral I attended in two weeks. The first was for a beloved man who lived to be 93 and was a grandfather to me. His life was too short also and he will also be greatly missed. Life in general is persistent. But individual lives of those we love are fragile, too transient, too short. For those who are cut short like Kylie. But even for those who live well into old age.
Shame on me when I assume the people I cherish will always be here for me, assuming they will persist in my lifetime. Shame on me when I forget the fragility of life and don't play with my son until he's exhausted, or I'm exhausted (which is more likely to happen first). Shame on me when I forget the fragility of life and make the small priorities big and the big priorities small.
Among the rich gifts Kylie gave to his family, friends and community, he's given me a reminder of the fragility of life, which leads me to cherish those whom I love.
God's peace to you Kylie. And your family.