When Papa George mentions his oldest son George Bryant, he always tells how at age three, he could sing How Great Thou Art word for word. As he proudly tells this story, his eyes twinkle and his face fills with light.
In his far away look, I can tell it is George Bryant’s face that he sees. But in the next second, his eyes grow moist and his voice cracks with an ancient sorrow that is never put to rest. Papa George lost his little boy to leukemia before he was four-years-old. Fifty three years later, he still misses and grieves his little boy.
Last year, Memaw and Antique Daddy and Sean and I were all going somewhere in the car. Memaw and Sean were in the backseat. We were talking about how Sean loves seeing the garbage truck come pick up the trash. Memaw recalled how her oldest son, Billy Wayne, loved garbage trucks.
Her face filled with light and her voice sparkled as she recalled how he used to tell her that when he grew up, he wanted to be a garbage truck driver. “I told him that if he wanted to be garbage truck driver, I wanted him to be the best garbage truck driver he could be.” And in the next second, she began to softly weep. Memaw buried her oldest son in 1975. He was 27-years-old. Thirty-three years later, she still misses and grieves her little boy.
Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear friend, Margaret. She was 58-years-old. I sat in the pew of this beautiful tiny Catholic church and watched her 87-year-old father, tired and hunched over with the burden of grief, walk slowly up the center aisle as the organ droned and the church ladies sang. I thought of how for all the remaining days of his life, he will miss and grieve his little girl.
I know that death teaches us about life, but what is to be learned when a parent buries a child?
There is a flaw in God’s divinely created universe. Parents ought not to have to bury their children.