Today is the day my son died…. And I had a strange conversation that brought memories back.
“I wish I could trade you places. Take your place and die from the cancer,” the man said.
I stared at him. We don’t know each other well. In fact, he’s really come to know me through my writing.
“Why?” I finally asked, penetrating the silence.
“I’m old. I’ve lived a good life.”
“I’m feeling older by the day.” My voice sounded strained. “And I’ve lived a good life too.”
“I would still trade you.”
Studying the depth in his eyes, I knew he meant every word. I looked away, stunned. We hardly knew each other—and he would offer his life for a stranger.
I want to be THAT good, but I’m not. I’ve never offered to trade places with a stranger, but I have wanted to take my son’s place….
He squirmed in the little hospital bed, obviously in more pain than we could possibly fathom. Maybe the doctor’s confirmation should’ve soothed me: I’d made the right decision, to take him off of life-support. But even the kindest, most humane decisions can sometimes come with a price. And for years I felt like I’d killed my own son.
I later wrote in my journal saying I couldn’t “tell you what color the sky was the day Zeke died…or tell you if it felt cold or warm the moment he passed…The truth is simply: It lasted forever.”
I’d honestly wished that we could trade. He could live a long, HEALTHY life. I could die from a diaphragmatic hernia. Everything would be right with the world. But that wasn’t God’s plan, and as odd as it is, little miracles started happening after Zeke’s death. As if he sent breadcrumbs from Heaven, signs “appeared” so I’d know that he’s okay. Because the ONLY thing stronger than a mother’s love—or the bond she has with her children—is the love of God.
And each time I’ve witnessed a “breadcrumb,” his death hasn’t been sad anymore or completely devastating: It’s been bittersweet. Now, I live my best life because I realize that he didn’t get to. So, even though sometimes cancer seems inescapably horrid, and it’s exhausting to even get out of bed, I shake it off. My boy might be looking down from Heaven—and just in case he is, I want to make HIM proud.
I pondered the old man’s words before fully responding. “I wanted to take someone’s place once. My son…before he died.”
The man’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I am too. But he’s still with me somehow. They never quite leave. I know something though; we all go when it’s our time. God knows. And in that realization is a sort of peace.”
The old man finished his coffee and looked into the mug sardonically. “It’s all finished.” He sighed. “Washed up.”
I got the feeling he referenced himself not just the cup of joe.
“Hey,” I reached across the table and gently squeezed his hand, “it’s not over yet.”
I paid the bill, walked out of the diner, and smiled up at the sky. I know life can be hard, but when it’s tough, I simply remember there’s a boy in Heaven who’s rooting for me—and loving me almost as much as I love him.
To read about the breadcrumbs and Zeke’s story, please check out his book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59048475-the-golden-sky