My little town is walking through a horrible tragedy. Actually, tragedy may not be the right word because it implies that the event was accidental. This event was horrific and intentional. The brutal abuse and murder of a 2 year old boy. It really didn’t seem like it could be true, but as I looked into the faces of those that were first-responders on the scene I knew that the unthinkable had come to our little community.
Because Brandon seemed to have no family, a sweet young woman organized a candle-light vigil. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up on a very hot Tuesday night but there were no parking spaces anywhere nearby. Families with children close to Brandon’s age walked quietly through the parking lot. They seemed to be holding them closer tonight. Dozens of stuffed animals were organized neatly in the back of an ambulance in memory of Brandon. A banner to honor his short life was covered with messages from strangers that wish they could take him in and love him. People like me that wish they could turn back time and show a scared little boy what it feels like to be safe. We all had a need to honor him and show that we cared even though it wouldn’t change a thing.
I had another reason to be there. My husband. He’s a pastor and had the great challenge and honor of speaking at the vigil tonight. I know his tender heart and I knew this would be hard for him so I stood in the back of the crowd praying for wisdom and strength as he stepped to the podium. Five minutes later I was in awe, once again, of the authenticity and depth of his faith. He candidly told everyone that he sat in front of his computer all day hoping and praying for the right words to say but that they never came. He finally decided it might be because there are no right words for such an awful tragedy. Pastors are expected to have all the answers, or at least think they do, but he didn’t have any. I love that he isn’t afraid to admit that. I also love that he wasn’t afraid to say what he did know. That Jesus loves children. That He weeps with us. That He prays for us when we have no words. But mostly, that we have the hope of a future where there is no pain, no tears and where children aren’t abused.
He ended by reading the end of Revelations and I found myself wondering what good could come of this terrible thing. I looked around at hundreds of people and simply prayed for love. The kind of love that reaches out to people around us. The kind of love that pushes through the walls built to keep us isolated and hidden. The selfless and sacrificial love that Jesus modeled. Would that kind of love help to heal and change people? I think so. It happened for me. Could it happen for the parent across town that is at the end of their rope and taking it out on their child? Could it happen for the woman sitting across from me at work that has given up on life? What about the teenager that has only known violence and drugs. Do I believe they can change? I do. It’s the hope of Christianity. So, as I left a very sad event tonight, my prayer was that all of us gathered in memory of Brandon would take it upon ourselves to bring the hope of heaven to earth. That love would rise up in the face of evil and that his little life would make a change…in me.