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September 29: Gone Without Warning

I’ve been thinking about small children who left the world too soon. Thursday, September 29, was the anniversary of both my 3-month-old nephew Wyatt’s death (one year ago) and the passing of my cousin Anita’s 15-month-old son Trey (five years ago).

It’s worse, now that I’m a parent, to imagine the brain’s attempts to sort through the confusion of something like this. For instance, what would I do with all the things? The little shoes? The new outfit from the resale store? The book, Bad Dog Marley, torn and taped from excessive use? Worse, the obvious potential in the child, just beginning.

I can’t imagine it.

Scavenging for Flowers

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Catching Hope about three gifts I received while walking Elkhart.

One of those gifts was the extravagant beauty of a yellow mum on a metal table with no protection or security. I saw it again this week, but there was something more that caught my eye this time.

Someone had set a food carryout box on the metal chair to the right. The lid was closed, which led me to believe there was still food inside (why not throw it away otherwise?) but I didn’t investigate. On top of the carryout, a leathery tan hood cradled a sprig of the yellow mum flowers, apparently plucked from the pot nearby.

I studied this scene, confused. I’m still confused.

I replayed possible scenarios in my head.

Someone walking down the street with carryout. From a restaurant? Maybe. Something about the scene made me think of a food pantry. Perhaps the carryout was for a friend. Maybe the person’s mother?

Then the walker spotted the flowers, the same ones that drew my attention a few weeks ago. Perhaps they stopped, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and quickly picked a stem. It was cold. The flowers were wet. The walker set the food down on the metal chair, and wrapped the flowers in the hood.

The scene didn’t suggest vandalism to me as much as suspense. A lovely surprise for someone.

But then what?

Gone Without Explanation

What would make someone leave food and flowers just picked? I imagined possible scenarios, but none of them allowed me to get past the following thought.

Anyone who carefully picked the flowers would not likely leave them in the street to go grab a coffee. They would take them along. Unless something happened without warning.

Only later, when I looked at the photo on my phone, did I see something more. Could that be blood on the hood? If it was, I concluded in retrospect, it was fresh, not yet brown. This solves nothing, but raises more troubling questions.

Perhaps this is a trivial story to set beside real life tragedies, since I don’t have proof that anything tragic happened. But it reminds me that the most difficult questions in the world are about the pieces left behind unattended. The confusion about why such a thing would even happen. The questions of what might have been.

What brilliant flowers on Mother’s Days and balloons on birthdays and apples on school days might there have been had a child bright with purpose, youth, and health not stepped from our view without warning? (For someone unable to have a child, the questions may be as bad or worse.)

Perhaps, in all of these cases, there is an explanation invisible to those of us on this earth. Maybe there is a piece of the puzzle we cannot comprehend because we are unable to see past the glass.

Perhaps, like Wyatt and Trey, the walker just moved on, to something much better we cannot see, a place where food, warmth, and flowers are never scarce.


Head over to the Curator to read my brother William’s Sonnet for Wyatt.

Below, note the final episode of the podcast interviews with Gary Yoder. If you have not heard the previous episodes, you can access them below as well.

Save With Sets

I’ve just added a new discounted set: the two books about Haiti. Blue Christmas recounts my own experience in Haiti in 2010, helping at a makeshift cholera hospital in the mountains of the north. Kidnapped in Haiti recounts the 62 days of captivity experienced by 17 missionaries in 2021. Instead of $31.98 for the books separately, the set sells for $28.



6 thoughts on “September 29: Gone Without Warning”

  1. Thank you for this post. I found it interesting that you were having these thoughts on Sept 29…… here in Canada Sept 30 is Orange Shirt Day, to commemorate all the Indigenous children who survived the residential schools amd especially all those who didn’t survive them. So my thoughts have been on all the children who left this earth too soon as well.

  2. Losing a child is the worst because you just can’t help what would have been. I’ve had two miscarriages and I often would it would have been like to have had five children running around the house instead of three.

    The mystery of the food container and flowers is definitely a strange one. The Nancy Drew in me wants to figure it out.

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