We drove home. We pulled into our parking spot. Nathan helped me out of the car and we tenderly walked toward our steps. My friend Megan was stopping by our neighbor’s house with her precious son when we arrived. I remember hugging her and crying in each others arms. I remember squeezing her little boy – so warm and alive. It felt as if we had been in a time capsule. We had stepped out into a brand new world. We had new eyes and the way we perceived everything had changed.
We walked through our front door. Mary and I had made a giant “Welcome Home Keller” banner and hung it on our wall. It was the only thing I asked be taken down before we arrived. It was quite a loud reminder of something of which I needed no reminder. My parents, my sister, and Mary were all home. The weight of simply stepping into a home prepared perfectly for Keller was staggering. His rock-and-play sat in the corner. The nursing pillow and burp rags were placed near the rocking chair. His crib was snuggled next to our bed. I’m fairly certain I even had his activity mat set up, complete with toys long enough for a newborn to swat. Everything was ready for a son that would never come home. A brain in such distress simply cannot process so much stimuli at once. There were many, MANY times in the following days and weeks, that (just like a newborn) I would become easily over stimulated and have to retreat for a bit in order to weep and regroup. Our bedroom became our sanctuary. Our house was soon bursting with family and loved ones. The noise and life brought incredible comfort, but it was often too much for us to participate in. So, we would excuse ourselves to our bedroom and weep all we needed. Just hearing loved ones surrounding us on the other side of the door was comfort.
I need to pay tribute to the family that surrounded us in those following days and weeks – another verse to our “love song” if you will.
I don’t think either of us had quite imagined that our entire families would show up in such large ways. The presence of each and every family member was profoundly felt, even if they were not able to be with us physically. For some reason it just didn’t cross our minds that our families would rally so quickly, fully, and selflessly. But they did. Our hearts had a difficult time processing and accepting the lavish love showered on us. We decided rather quickly that we would accept all love that came our way without protest. It’s sometimes hard to humble yourself to accept the lovingkindness of others. The Lord was working in mighty ways through everyone around us and we really needed to allow Him to work. We vowed to one day return the same love to those in the deep inside the pit.
Nathan’s parents flew in that evening and we all hugged and wept. A family from church housed them and gave them a car to use for as long as they needed. The next day Nathan’s sister, brother-in-law, and our newest niece Livia arrived. This was possible because Nathan’s other sister SELFLESSLY offered to keep the two older nieces while the rest of the family traveled. My brother also arrived thanks to the incredible generosity of my grandmother. She paid for anyone and everyone who needed aid in flying to be with us in our moment of need. My aunt flew in from West Texas to tightly hug our necks and just “be” with us. Big, giant, lavish love.
My entire immediate family stayed in our tiny apartment. Nathan and I in our room. My sister and Mary in the other. My parents on our couch and an air mattress, and my brother on a camping pad in our living room/kitchen. (The first evening he tried to use the camping pad and sleeping bag and sleep on our deck. We shared this deck with our other neighbors – two kind and unsuspecting bachelors. I believe one of them saw Caleb and just said, “Hey man. You ok?” To which my brother answered, “Yup.” I love you Caleb.)
Nathan’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece slept downstairs in our neighbor’s bedroom. Our neighbors, or rather BFNFL (Best friends and neighbors for life), gave them their own room and slept on the couch for their entire stay. Nathan’s parents stayed only 10 minutes away. The rest of our family may have been an entire country length away, but they all felt incredibly near. They were present in phone calls, text messages, meals, flowers, gift boxes, and cards. We were flooded with love.
I look at pictures, and I can transport back to those moments. I can feel the warmth of the apartment. I can hear the laughter. I can smell the food, the LAVISH amounts of food, provided by everyone in our tribe. I am so thankful for the moments that we all sat in our crowded 350ft² living room and were united in sorrow, love, and Jesus. I am so thankful for the moments of laughter and camaraderie I heard on the other side of our bedroom door. The noise of life happening around us was so deeply comforting. We couldn’t always join in. Nathan and I often needed time alone to pour our souls each other and to the Lord. We were often to weak to even sit up. We had to lay prostrate and mourn.
Our family filled in every gap. They cared for Mary with every possible ounce of love they had to offer. They put aside their own grief to pour love all over our 2 year old baby girl. We had all the time we needed to be alone and intensely grieve, without ever once having to worry about the well-being and happiness of Mary. She was spoiled a LOT, and I’m just so glad. Everyone pulled together to make decisions, and keep our apartment clean and running smoothly. It never felt crowded or burdensome – only filled with love. There are so many large and important decisions that must be made following a death. We did not have the strength to make any more decisions than were necessary. My sister, in her masterful Executive Assistant ways, booked flights, contacted funeral homes and cremation services, and even reorganized our pantry. Our family became our liaisons to the outside world. They orchestrated food delivery and meal times. We were in such a thick fog in the days following Keller’s death. I’m certain our family filled in more gaps than we are even aware. It is a gift and a blessing to be able sit in the house of mourning without interruption.
Most are not blessed with the kind of families the Lord lavishly gave us. We are keenly aware of our VERY blessed lives. We both have families who were ready to give everything they have in order to serve us in the best possible way. We praise you Lord.
We are so thankful to the Lord for placing us in families that have deep devotion to each other and a steady and abiding trust in our Creator. We are unworthy. All we can do is shout songs of thankfulness for the love He has given us through you.
We pray we can continue pour this incredible experience of love we had on others. It is the best way we know to honor our son and serve our King.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Romans 12:10 ESV
“Outdo”. I like this. It conveys a message of pouring out an over the top, selfless, and lavish love. Lord, put this love in my heart and may it always pour out on those who need it most.