Jeremiah opened his eyes to slits. Daylight was streaming into his room. His phone was trying to get his attention. It had rung a few minutes ago and he let it go to voicemail. Probably wrong number anyway. Now he’d just got a text message. It told him it was 7:13. It was Saturday morning, his day to sleep in.
He unlocked his phone and read the text. “Hey, just found out Yin died this morning. Don’t know much else.” Jeremiah reread the text. He switched screens to see the voicemail was from another friend. Adrian’s voice came on the line. Her voice was trembling. “Jerry, just found out Yin died. Li is at the hospital. I’m going to pick her up and take her home. Can you grab some others and meet us there?”
Jeremiah sat stunned, the phone almost falling from his grip. He ended the call and pulled up his contacts. After a gut-churning 15 minutes, he had managed to call three people. Each reacted differently but after getting through the shock, they told him they’d be there.
In just about 30 minutes, Jeremiah pulled into Yin and Li’s driveway. He’d go inside but not sure what he would do. Yin gave him a key a few weeks before when he agreed to babysit the kids so they could have their weekly date night. Jerry’s heart dropped and felt sick to his stomach. Caleb and Lisa, Yin’s two kids. Caleb just turned seven and Lisa was three and a daddy’s girl. The kids would be devastated. Jeremiah flashed back to his own childhood. He lost his dad to a heart attack when he was 13. A knock at the car window pulled him out of his thoughts.
It was Gabriel and Laura. They’ve been friends with Yin and Li since Gabriel and Laura joined the church six years ago. Jerry got out of the car and hugged each one. He unlocked the front door and let them in. The living room was a wreck. Furniture knocked over. A puddle of water from an overturned cup. Books and magazines knocked from the coffee table. Laura went straight to the kitchen and started making coffee. She dug around in the fridge and found some things for breakfast. Gabriel and Jeremiah started straightening up the living room. About that time, Carrie stuck her head in the door. “She’s in the kitchen,” Gabriel said as he cleaned up the water on the floor.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Gabriel struggled to say. “I talked to him last night. The four of us went to the movies. We talked about taking a group vacation to the Rockies….”
Jerry looked at Gabriel. Gabriel’s whole body was trembling. Tears were flowing freely down his face. Jerry stood to his feet, crossed the room and put his arm around his friend’s shoulder. They stood there in silence for a few minutes, when Laura came into the room and embraced her husband.
A car pulled into the driveway and Carrie and Laura both went outside. Li stepped gingerly from the car and fell with her arms around Carrie. They stood there as Li sobbed. Adrian stepped over and hugged Li. “Honey, I am so sorry. I will come back over as soon as I get off work.” She got back into her car as the other women guided Li into the house.
They walked to the dining table and sat down. “Li, I made some breakfast. Let’s eat and then we’ll start making arrangements,” Laura said as she walked into the kitchen.
“No. No. I don’t really feel like eating.”
“Sweetie, I know you don’t feel like eating but you need to eat something,” Carrie said as she patted Li’s hand.
“All right,” Li said too spent to argue. “Can someone go tell the children it’s time for breakfast?” she continued.
Jerry exchanged glances with Gabriel and Carrie. “Li, the kids aren’t here.”
“What, what do you mean,” Li said as terror flashed on her face. Laura’s voice came in from the kitchen, “Didn’t you say they were staying with her sister for the weekend?”
“That’s right,” Li said as the terror receded and her shoulders slumped again. “Oh God. How do I tell them their dad is gone?”
“Li, after breakfast I’ll go pick up the kids from your sister’s,” Jeremiah said.
Laura brought out plates of eggs and sausage. They ate in silence. Each person stopping at different times to wipe away tears or blow their nose. When they were done, Laura cleared the plates while Carrie and Gabriel began compiling a list of friends and family to call. Jerry got in his car and spent the twenty minute drive thinking of how he’d break the news to Jaylin.
As Jerry told her the news, she leaned toward him and buried her face in his chest. He did his best to comfort her. It broke his heart to see a woman cry. After a few minutes, she composed herself and went to get the children. Both of the kids came running into the room and hugged him. “Hey guys, your mom wanted me to come pick you up and bring you home.”
“But we’re supposed to spend the weekend with Aunt Jaylin,” said Caleb. “I know,” Jerry said. “but your mommy really needs you to come home. Aunt Jaylin will come with us.”
They all got into the car and begin the trip back to Yin and Li’s. Jaylin began crying. “Aunt Jay, why are you crying,” came Lisa’s little voice from the back seat. “Because I’m sad Sweetheart.”
“Why are you sad,” asked Caleb. “I’ll tell you later Caleb. We’re almost home.”
The kids ran into the house. “Mommy, Daddy were back.” As they got close to their mother they slowed. “Mama why are you crying,” asked Caleb. Li opened her arms and scooped them both into her lap. She hugged them both and kissed them on the head.
“You kids remember when we discussed how grandma and grandpa were with Jesus?”
“Yes, mama. They get to sing songs and eat dinner with Jesus,” said Lisa with a smile on her face.
“That’s right sweetie. This morning, Daddy went to be with Jesus.”
A puzzled look appeared on Caleb’s face. “I bet he’s happy, but when will he come home? I have my first baseball game this week.”
“No sweetie, he’s gone. When you go to heaven, you don’t get to come home. Daddy did all he could do here and now Jesus has a very important job for him in heaven.”
Lisa piped up, “Mama, can I go to my room and play?”
“Yes, you can. Caleb go with your sister, please.” The two kids plodded out of the room and in minutes were lost in play.
Jerry and Gabriel continued calling family and friends while Laura called the funeral home to make arrangements to pick up Yin’s body. Jaylin and Li went upstairs to get clothes for Yin and to dig out picture albums.
Jerry and Gabriel finished making calls and were talking with Laura and Carrie when Jaylin and Li finally came downstairs and rejoined the group. The women paged through all the photo albums and pulled a variety of pictures. Really bad ones from high school and college. Others with the whole family together on vacation or at holiday gatherings. Jerry offered to put together a slideshow for the funeral.
The kids came back several times asking when daddy was coming home. Each time, Li did her best to try and explain. The kids would seem satisfied with the answers and go back and play for a time.
Later in the afternoon, Laura, Carrie, Li and Jaylin went to the funeral home. Jerry and Gabriel stayed and watched the kids and when the women returned, the two went to pick up some pizzas. They all sat around sharing stories, laughing and crying. Around eight, the four friends left Li and her sister, with promises they would come by tomorrow, and then headed home.
Jerry got home that night mentally and emotionally beat up. He lay awake for several hours thinking about Yin, Li, the kids. This was interspersed with questions to God.
The funeral was on Wednesday. There were plenty of tears and there was much rejoicing as well. Li asked Jerry to give the eulogy. They had been roommates in college and became like family when he moved back to the area for work. He shared how Yin love hiking and the blues. But more than that he shared how Yin struggled after the death of his parents. How he spent the next few years going on trips back to China to teach English and share the gospel. And how he loved and served his family with all his heart.
After the funeral, they made their way to the graveside. Jerry, Gabriel and several other men from the church were pallbearers. The pastor read from John 11 speaking of how Yin had died but he would live eternally. Jerry’s thoughts were jumbled. He rejoiced his friend was face-to-face with their Savior but he missed his friend. He looked over at Li, Caleb, and Lisa and became upset. What was God thinking? These kids had to grow up without a dad. He couldn’t seem to reconcile these opposing thoughts.
As the service concluded, Jerry joined Li and the children as they walked to the vehicles. “Jerry, who will take me to my baseball game tomorrow,” asked Caleb. Jerry looked at Li and saw her shoulders slump at the thought of attending a baseball game. “You know what, Caleb? I’ll take you to your game.” “Cool. Thanks, Uncle Jerry.”
The next afternoon at four, Jerry stopped by the house. Caleb came running to the door in his uniform and cleats with his glove under his arm.“ You ready, slugger,” asked Jerry. Caleb nodded in visible excitement.
Caleb hit a single in the third inning and caught a pop-fly in the seventh. After the teams shook hands at the end of the game, Caleb came running over to where Jerry sat in the stands.
“Jerry, did you see my hit?”
“Yes I did. You crushed that ball.”
“I wish my dad could’ve been here.” “Me too, Caleb. But I know he’s proud of you and would’ve loved to be here.”
They began walking back to the car in silence. After a few moments Caleb spoke again. “When I see Daddy again, I’m going to give him the biggest hug ever, cause I miss him.”
“I miss him too, but you’re right. We will get to see your Daddy again.”