The church was packed to its fullest and beyond. There were people lined up along the periphery. The ones who couldn’t squeeze into the main cathedral were in other rooms and watched the service on their devices, as it was live streamed.
But none of this was unexpected. Over the years, Brooke and Herb, especially Brooke had collected this large community of people as she moved through life. If warmth and love were to have a face, that would be that of Brooke’s. It is difficult to pin it down, but some people are just special. She is that person. And every person she has ever met, she has made them feel special and loved. For a petite, mild mannered person, she is a force that takes one in and puts them at ease instantly. A friend to children and parents alike, she is reliable, resourceful and very real.
I first met Brooke, about 13 years ago as a co mom at the school. Our children were classmates and continue to be through High school. She was pregnant with her fifth child soon after we first met. Over the years, I’ve often heard her proudly say that she has 7 children; 5 of them she birthed, and for the oldest two, she cheated as she inherited the girls from Herb’s previous marriage.
As if 7 weren’t enough, she volunteered at every school event of all her children and eventually went on to become a preschool teacher at the day school of the very same church where we all, as in every person she has touched with her kindness and presence, had gathered this afternoon for the service of remembrance of her first born, Will Thomas.
Two weeks back, our community got the devastating news of Will’s passing. A very bright young boy, all of 21, Will, like his parents, had gathered his own village as he grew up in the neighbourhood. The masked crowd at the church was a testimony to this family’s large heartedness.
He must have been in so much pain and lost all hope that death must have seemed like a more a comforting place. One would never know what must he have been going through in his last moments. Death is so final, irreversible. He must have surely known that, he was very intelligent. He also knew he was loved, he had to know that. But then sometimes all the love in the world just isn’t enough.
As we all sat there, praying for his peace, I couldn’t help but think what I had avoided even admitting to myself: It could have been anyone’s child. What does a parent do when their baby takes such a drastic decision on their own? As much as we as parents tell our children how amazing they are and how beautiful the adventure of life is, are we saying it enough? As we ourselves wade through the occasional tough waves of life, are we making it loud and clear to them that this too shall pass? How do we know that when we tell them that no matter what the concern, they can (and must) talk to us, are we driving the point through?
As I looked around and saw so many of Will’s friends there, each one breaking down at some point, it warmed my heart to see how they comforted each other. Most of his siblings came up and shared some lighter moments they shared with him; a lovely way to remember their brother.
This day ended with the crowds moving outdoors and enjoying a picnic in the lovely weather, a great way to share the grief and celebrate his life. May Will find peace and his family find a way to accept his will.