My almost 11 year old son lies in his bunk tonight. He is burrowed as only a sleeping boy can do, wombat-like beneath hillocks of doona and pillow. Lean and sturdy, I see little of the toddler he once was.
Until I see Aylan, face down in the surf, echoing the repose most parents recognise: bottom up, face-planted, soles of shoes patterning outwards.
There I see the echo of my boy, now grown through the gateways of life and memory-making that Aylan will never gain. His soles will not make patterns running in the sand. His starfish fingers will never again grasp his Father’s, as my 11 year old will do this coming Fathers’s Day.
I pray Aylan grasps Our Father’s hand. That this suffering child will be suffered by the One who somehow sees redemption in a world that has so skewed its priorities.
I am ashamed. Over backyard bbqs we smile at escalating house prices, quietly smug at locked up equity while we lock up others for fear of sharing boundless plains that are not as spare as we like to sing.
I am ashamed. Our churches squabble over marriage acts and how to speak on same sex unions while Rome burns, Greek islands sink and small boys swallow sea water. It clogs their lungs: burning, gasping, splashing, their tiny star fish hands seeking purchase and sneakered feet frantically kicking.
Did he cry for his mama, do you think? As the waves broke over his head, as he sobbed and cried with fear, did she hear him and, frantically, did she try to hold him up? Did she use all of her last mama’s strength to push him, float him, hold him? To tell him not to be afraid, that she loved him, that he wasn’t alone? Did she try to sing him one last lullaby as the waves pulled them down?
I am ashamed. That I will, one day soon, have to explain to my son why we let small children drown, why we fail to love our neighbours as ourselves.
And on that final day, when I stand before Him, what answer will I give? That it seemed too hard and far away for me to make a difference? And then, if by His grace I walk on in, what then? I picture a small boy in a red t-shirt, his siblings and mother coming over and offering their forgiveness – and it is just too large and bitter a lump to swallow in my tear-clogged throat.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 18:10 NIV