One year ago today, November 17th, 2019, I sat in a parking lot with my son, Parker.
It was a Sunday evening, and he was grounded for breaking some ground rules we had put in place earlier in the month. We had been watching football together all afternoon when he asked me if we could go somewhere to eat because he was hungry and bored. Erica was working because someone had called out. Kylie was at school. I was hungry and bored, too, so I said yes. I proposed Manor Buffet, which was one of his favorites.
As I remember it, the conversation on the way to eat was a little more candid than usual. In some ways it was a conversation we had already had fifty times, but this time felt a little different. I was a little more direct, he was a little more open.
We sat in the parking lot for at least ten minutes after we got there because the conversation wasn’t done yet. I tried to explain the why’s behind the what’s of our house rules. I tried to cast a vision for the rest of his teen years of discipline and good choices and high standards that he could latch onto. He pushed back a little, but not in a rebellious way. Like always, it was in the sweet and kind manner that he did everything in life. He was always sweet and kind.
I have replayed that conversation in my head a lot over the last twelve months. Not because I thought it went really well or really poorly, just because it was one of the last extended conversations I ever had with him.
There is still no headstone at Parker’s grave.
Covid is partly to blame...everything takes longer these days. But the main reason is that I dragged my feet in getting it ordered. Those were conversations we didn’t want to have and decisions we didn’t want to make. It was never the right time to talk about it.
The marker is still there at the gravesite from last November - a small picture of his handsome, smiling face - but there should be a headstone there, and in a couple of months there will be. We put our deposit down on it a few months ago and just last week I drove the signed, final proof over to the folks at the funeral home.
For those of you who have visited the grave and wondered why there was no headstone yet, we appreciate your grace for this.
As I think back to that evening outside of Manor Buffet, there was no satisfying closure to our conversation. It had felt like a long day, and we were both hungry and excited to see if we could each eat eighteen dollar’s worth of shrimp, chicken, sushi, steak, fried rice, and dessert.
As the conversation came to an end, I remember him suggesting that sometimes he wondered if our rules were too strict, and if we were punishing him for doing things that weren’t a big deal.
I remember explaining to him why I wanted him to finish high school with a sound mind that leaned on faith and friends, not substances, for the highs and lows of life. I tried to cast a vision for us enjoying long lives together where we had a great relationship and battled on the golf course for decades to come.
I remember him saying (in his own sweet, kind way) that he understood, and that he wanted to honor us while not always agreeing with us.
I remember telling him that while these conversations weren’t easy, that we would never stop having them with him. That his mom and I loved him too much to brush them aside. That everything we did was because we wanted the best for him in every area of his life.
He knew this, and I know he appreciated it. He was loved well and he loved us well.
We sat quietly for a few seconds before I broke the silence.
“Love you, bud.”
“Love you, too.”
“Let’s go eat.”
And so we did. We tried and failed to get our money’s worth at the buffet while watching his Eagles blow a halftime lead to the Patriots in an eventual 17-10 loss. The final bill was $43.04, including tip. We probably only ate about $11 worth of food, but it was absolutely worth it.
Six days later, his soul was with Jesus.
Four days after that, we buried his body in the grave that will soon have a headstone.
And here we are 356 days later; still hurting, still hoping, and still clinging to God and to each other to get through each day without him.
In the end, we decided on a fairly simple headstone with his name, date of birth, and date of passing on the front. There is also a small cross in the upper lefthand corner, symbolizing the faith Parker had in Jesus as his creator and savior.
On the back of the headstone, we landed on a short phrase we feel captures what we loved most about him. It will read:
“Pman...Too sweet and kind to ever be forgotten”
Monday is the first anniversary of his passing, and it will be a tough day, for sure.
Thanks in advance for thinking of us and praying for us. We feel your love and we are so grateful for it.
Never hesitate to reach out to us. No bit of encouragement is too small. No “How are you doing today?” is ever asked at the wrong time. It all matters.
I think I can speak for Erica and Kylie when I say we are doing fairly well, all things considered. Most days are filled with more glimpses of joy and hope than you might expect, but some moments are worse than you can imagine.
We miss Parker so much. If you knew him well, you no doubt miss him, too.
He was too sweet and kind to ever be forgotten.