But what frequently happens is a parent makes time for the child only when it is convenient. We begin to have many excuses for not doing the little things the child wants, like sitting down to look at the little ramp he’s built for his toy to drive over.
In his young mind, the ramp is a major accomplishment that he wants only you to recognize.
Instead, we tend to live in the grown-up world and feel that buying the child a bicycle or a dirt bike or, finally, a truck, are the things that show our love.
We have the pressures of work, paying bills, keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table that justify coming home and doing the things that are important to us.
I can’t help but wonder how many times a son has said to his father, “Daddy, will you practice pitching with me?” And how many times a mother has said automatically, “Son, don’t bother your father, he’s had a hard day at work.” And the father sits there without saying a word, thinking that the child can understand that answer.
It somehow becomes so easy to forget what giants we are in his eyes and what joy it brings to his heart, shown by the sudden smile on his small face, when he hears instead, “OK, son, where’s the gloves?” If you play for only 10 minutes, you’ve grown a foot taller in his eyes.
Even though you frequently read about a child dying, we tend to believe it always happens to the other guy. Somewhere in the back of our minds we believe it won’t happen to us, so we fail to realize those little things that are so important to the child.
But when it does happen to us, suddenly, all the little things you should have done, all the little things that would have made him so happy, become so clear.
Only then do you realize how final death is, and all the wishing, hoping, praying and crying will never change the fact that he’s gone. You find yourself, for just one split second, thinking that maybe he’ll come walking through the door and that it was just some cruel joke, or that the phone will ring and it will be him.
You feel that if he would suddenly appear, you would just hold him, kiss him and tell him you love him without any questions, because to ask, it would just cause him to vanish again.
You can’t help but think of the joy it would bring to your heart to be able to once again just sit and watch him talk, study the curves of his face, the shape of his eyes, to watch the way he moves, the way he combs his hair, to hear him laugh.
These things, even after more than a year, you finally began to realize will never happen again, at least not in this life.
So I have only one message for my son, and one that I hope fathers of the world will hear.
Jason, all these things I’ll do with your little brothers, and when I get to heaven, I won’t be bringing a dirt bike, but son, I’ll play catch with you any time you want.
Jim Herring’s son Jason, 18 at the time, died in a traffic accident.