This past Saturday my Eden Prairie Police Chaplain pager went off. It read “[Dispatch04] medical: please call asap dispatch regarding a medical. 4 year old not breathing.”
I’ve been a police chaplain for almost two years now, and no amount of training prepared me for reading those words. In the past two years I have been to numerous death scenes, counseled people contemplating suicide, and worked with families whose children had run away, but this was different. I knew when I read the words that this child was not going to breathe again. Chaplains aren’t called in for joyous occasions when a child who was on the brink of death is revived. Chaplains are called in to assit a family in their time of greatest need.
As I picked up the phone to dial the police department my heart trembled. I didn’t want to hear the dispatcher tell me that it looked like the child was going to die. But, that’s exactly what I heard, and I was summoned to arrive at the house as quickly as possible.
When I arrived at the home two of my favorite officers were waiting outside. One of them is the Seargent who heads up the Police Chaplaincy program. He is a godly man who is passionate about seeing our community transformed. His eyes told me all that I needed to know. The child had indeed died. He told me that the family was in shock. They were angry. They had asked the officers to leave the home. The paramedics had come and taken the body to the hospital. What was left in the house was a family that was broken, in need of a healing that will take a long time to come. My Seargeant wasn’t sure that the family would want to see me, but he asked the subordinate officer to go to the door and see if it would be okay if I came into the house to talk with the family.
A shaken up Grandpa answered the door. This house was full of people — Both sets of Grandparents, an Aunt and Uncle, Cousins . . . It looked like a party was going on. (The family was preparing for the First Communion Celebration of an older son. The boy who died had been in bed sick with a cold. He choked to death in his room.) But instead of laughter and smiles, the house was full of concerned looks, tears, and anger. The first thing I heard was one of the Grandmother’s saying, “Get him out of the house, we don’t need another stranger here.” The Grandfather said, “This one is okay. He’s a chaplain.” He then introduced me to the father who had just lost his precious four-year-old. The father embraced me. He held me tight as if he didn’t want to let go. As if holding onto this stranger might somehow bring his son back. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Why would God allow this to happen?”
Nothing prepares you for that question. All I could say was, “I don’t know. But, I know God loves you.” And with that, his wife called him to tell him it was time to go to the hospital.” Nine words. That’s all I was able to give him. I pray that God will give this family peace. That this family will feel God’s loving arms wrap around them. That a mom, who lost her son the day before Mother’s Day, will be able to forgive.
It’s said that 80% of marriages in which a child dies end up in divorce. I pray that this precious family will be able to overcome this tragedy. Please keep them in your prayers. There were three sons, this was the youngest. Two older brothers who didn’t know that their brother had died when I was at the home were going to find out the sad truth at the hospital less than an hour later. I can’t imagine what this family is going through.