Sunday morning we all attended church together and then Jake drove back to our house, so we could spend a little more time together and Shannon could mess around with the boys. Shortly after we arrived, the phone rang. It was Brent checking in again. I talked to him for a short time, learning about what he’d been up to and hearing the joy in his voice, before I handed the receiver off to Kevin, who was standing next to me and chomping at the bit to take over. When I said good-bye to Brent, I reminded him to call and let me know when they were starting back, so we would be home when he arrived. He said he would, so I handed Kevin the phone, or should I say he nearly ripped it from my grip. It wasn’t a rude or nasty behavior, it was just that Kevin was eager to speak to his lover and was all smiles as he lifted the receiver to his ear. As soon as he began speaking, he was grilling Brent on the details of what he’d been doing and when he’d be returning.
After giving the boys sufficient time to chat, I told Kevin it was time to end the call, since Jimmy’s father was paying for it again. Very reluctantly, Kevin said good-bye, but dragged it out for as long as he dared, and then hung up. There was still a smile on his lips as he turned to walk away, although I also notice moisture in both of his eyes. He went up the stairs and directly to his room, without saying a word to any of the rest of us.
That afternoon Dion and Trey had a heart-to-heart talk, at Dion’s request. Dion told Trey about everything he had done with his two girlfriends, and also informed Trey that he wasn’t done exploring what it was like with the opposite sex. He also admitted that while he still wanted to continue messing around with girls some more, he felt he would probably end up with Trey, rather than some female. He said that even though they were nice and he’d enjoyed being with them, he thought he and Trey had more in common, Trey understood his needs better and the sex was much more enjoyable. Dion confirmed he’d enjoyed what he had done with the girls, but they just didn’t understand how to please him as well as Trey did and he missed playing around with Trey’s penis too. Dion told Trey, ‘Tits are nice, but a cock is so much better and there’s so much more you can do with it, at least in my opinion’. It looked as though Trey had weathered the storm and won the battle, so he moved around the house with a renewed bounce in his step and more confidence in his soul.
Collectively, the boys had agreed to fill their final week of vacation with as many activities as they could possibly squeeze in. While I was working at school, my sons were out playing ball, swimming or taking short trips – in the car, on their bikes or walking. Whenever they needed a break from these more strenuous activities, they generally spent their time lying in the sun and attempting to enhance their summer tans, either alone or with a partner. Luckily for me, they weren’t dependent on me to entertain them.
Wednesday morning Brent called again, to let me know they would be leaving later that afternoon. I wasn’t home at the time, so Cole ended up taking the message for me. Then Cole called me at the school around lunchtime, to let me know that Brent had called and informed me Brent had told him they should be home some time tomorrow, depending on traffic and the weather. I was glad to get the news and thanked Cole for calling to give me the message. Then I went back to completing my duties for the day, with a renewed sense of hope.
Kevin was a bundle of nerves that night, pacing around like an expectant father, but he was just anxious to see his lover again. I got a kick out of watching him and it showed me how deeply he had connected with Brent. He was like the energizer bunny moving from one room to another, without standing in one place for more than a few seconds.
Thursday morning, after a restless night’s slumber, Kevin decided to clean up his room and make it more presentable for Brent’s return. I think he was planning a special ‘welcome home’ present for Brent when he arrived, so I concluded he was hoping by having the room looking nice it would just enhance his prospects.
Graham was still looking pensive, although he hadn’t made any more comments about Brent or his visions since Brent had called the previous Wednesday. We only had to make it though the day and Brent would be back, so I was actually starting to breathe normally again. The boys and I were just sitting down to dinner when the doorbell rang, so I jumped up to answer it and told the boys to keep eating. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that none of them did what they were told and either turned in their seats or followed me to the door, to see if it was Brent returning. We all suspected Jimmy’s parents were just being polite and ringing the bell to give us a warning before they came lugging Brent’s things inside. Therefore, I opened the door ready to welcome them home, but nearly crumpled to the floor when I saw who was standing there instead. It was a state trooper and he definitely wasn’t smiling. As I struggled to regain my composure, he began to speak.
“Mr. Currie?” I nodded my head in response. “Do you have a son named Brent?” With that question, I felt my stomach hit the floor, the blood drain from my body and my heart leap into my throat, making it nearly impossible for me to speak. I merely nodded again, fearing what was about to follow.
“I’m afraid I have to inform you there’s been an accident,” he announced, without showing any outward signs of emotion. Hearing my worse fears spoken aloud, I had to brace myself against the doorframe, just to keep from falling over. I choked back the lump in my throat and forced myself to speak, although my mouth was so dry I could barely ask the question that was foremost on my mind. After fighting many seconds to get the words out, I finally managed to utter something distinguishable.
“Is… is he… okay?” I gasped out. My voice sounded raspy, even to me, almost as if I’d been in the desert for days and dying of thirst.
The trooper gave me a very sad look, shook his head and spoke again. “Mr. Currie, I’m afraid he’s gone. He was killed in a traffic accident.”
Hearing that, I totally lost it and nearly passed out from the shock. However, seeing my reaction, the boys raced up behind me and were now at my side trying to support me and keep me from dropping to the floor. Even though my mind was swirling, I could hear them weeping and choking back their own emotions, while trying to assist me. The trooper kept asking if I was all right or if I needed him to call an ambulance, but I couldn’t respond, as my mind was racing over the news and thinking about Graham’s warnings. Finally, I managed to force out another question.
“How… how did it… happen?” I stammered.
“From what I was told,” the trooper began, “the family your son was with was driving through Virginia when a tire on their vehicle blew out. It caused the driver to lose control of the Bronco, which then left the highway and rolled over several times. It is my understanding your son wasn’t wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident and was ejected from the vehicle.”
“And that’s what… killed him?” I gasped.
“No, that was only part of what happened to him,” the officer announced, seemingly unmoved by the gravity of his news. “As it was explained to me, after your son was thrown clear of the vehicle, it rolled over him and crushed his body.”
With that last bit of news, my legs gave out from under me and I plunged toward the cold tiles. The trooper lurched forward in an effort to catch me, as did some of my sons, and their efforts most likely prevented me from injuring myself seriously in the process. Once they had a firm grip on various parts of my body, they eased me downward, until I was seated on the floor. Once I was in that position, the boys dragged me backward about a foot, so I could lean back against the wall for support.
While all of this had been going on, someone went into the kitchen and brought me back a glass of water, while another group of boys were trying to console Kevin. Although it hadn’t yet dawned on me, this was the third boyfriend Kevin had lost in the past year or so, but this one was gone forever. After I regained my wits, I looked up at the trooper and asked my next question.
“What about the others?” I almost whispered. “Were any of them harmed?”
Again, he merely nodded his head, but then began to elaborate. “I was told the other family did sustain injures and were taken to the hospital, but they are all expected to survive.” Although this was good news, it made me wonder why Brent was the only one who didn’t make it. I knew this was the result of an accident and it would have been impossible for anyone to have prevented it, but why just Brent. All of these thoughts were still going through my mind when the trooper asked me his next question.
“Mr. Currie, I know this is probably not a good time for this, if there is such a thing,” he began, almost apologetically, “but I need to know where you want the body taken. Do you know what funeral home you will be using?”
I hadn’t thought about this before he asked, but I did manage to tell him we had used the funeral home in town when my wife died. I then told him I’d contact them myself, a little later, after I’d had time to deal with the shock. Before he left, he did offer his condolences and told me he’d pass along my wishes to the appropriate parties, before leaving us to pick up the shattered pieces of our lives.
After seeing the door close behind him, I suddenly thought about Kevin and looked around the area to find him. I knew he would need me to be strong for him, but more than that, he would need my love and support through this very difficult time. When I eventually located him, it was apparent he was much more of a basket case than I had been and I had no doubt it would take him a very long time to get over his sense of loss. After trying to comfort him for a few minutes, I concluded he must be in shock. Knowing he would need medical attention to bring him out of this state, I asked Danny to drive Kevin and myself to the hospital emergency room, so I could have him looked at. Danny quickly agreed, and Brandon announced he would go with us, after he and Danny helped me get Kevin in the car.
After an ungodly long wait, Kevin was finally seen by the emergency room physician, who prescribed some drugs for him, which he would be required to take for a few days. Kevin began to mellow out once the medications started to take effect, so we hurriedly made our way back to the house.
Once we arrived and got Kevin inside, I asked Dustin and Nick to take him to my room and stay with him for a while, since I didn’t want to leave him alone. They were both more than willing to do that for me, and I was glad that Kevin’s two former lovers were going to be there for him. All of us were sad and affected by the news, but Kevin had been much closer to Brent than the rest of us, so he also suffered more deeply from his loss.
After checking on all of the other boys, to see how they were doing, I went to the living room and shut the door, since I needed to deal with this alone and in my own way. I flopped down on the sofa and started going over everything in my mind, silently blaming myself for having let this happen. Why hadn’t I heeded Graham’s warnings? Why had I been so stubborn and foolish? I know Brent had only been with us for a few months, but I loved him just as much as the others and I hurt more profoundly knowing I might have been able to prevent this tragedy from occurring. This just wasn’t right. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children! It’s supposed to happen the other way around. Why did God have to take Brent from us? What sense could this possibly make? If only I hadn’t picked him up that night and brought him to our home or if I’d just taken stock in Graham’s visions, maybe Brent would still be alive.
I don’t know how parents live through the loss of a child, because this was nearly destroying me. I often wondered how I would deal with it, if I were to lose a child or grandchild, and now I knew… not very well. Although I just wanted to remain there and wallow in self-pity and remorse, I knew I didn’t have that luxury. I would have to pull myself together and be strong for the boys, especially Kevin. I finally got up and made my way to the phone, in order to call my older children and let them know what had happened.
Naturally, each of them was shocked and saddened by this news and asked what they could do to help out. All of them confirmed they would start making arrangements to come to our place just as soon as we hung up, while assuring me they’d be there for the calling hours and the funeral. I thanked them for their support, told them I’d call them back later with the specifics and that’s how I ended each call.
After all of the family had been notified, including the extended family, I called the funeral home, to let them know what to expect. After telling me how sorry he was about my loss, the funeral home director asked me if I could bring some of Brent’s clothes and a recent picture of him to them, sometime in the next few hours. I told them I would and then we began discussing what calling hours I’d like to have and which church, pastor and cemetery we were going to use. I hadn’t thought of having to do anything like this again so soon, but I was familiar with the process. Previously, I’d had the primary responsibility for the preparations for both my wife and mother’s funerals, so I did have these previous experiences to draw upon.
Quietly, I slipped out of the living room and began walking around the house. First, I checked on the rest of the boys, and then I went to Brent’s room to collect the things that would be needed. I took clean underwear from his dresser, removed his church clothes from the closet (slacks, dress-shirt, tie and sport coat), and then went digging for the most recent photo I had of him. I then took everything downstairs, got into the car and drove to the funeral parlor.
The director greeted me at the door and once again offered his sympathy, and then I handed him the things I had brought with me. He set those items aside and we went into his office to complete the arrangements. I gave him the information he would need for the obituary, told him to put down in lieu of flowers, contributions could be made to the Castaway Charity Fund and we’d have calling hours Saturday, with the funeral being held after church on Sunday afternoon. He even phoned my pastor for me, to let me iron out the details of the service with him, before leading me down to their basement showroom, to select a coffin.
As I reached the foot of the stairs and began to see the displays of caskets, suddenly the reality of the situation struck me even harder. I froze momentarily, as I pondered the unpleasant thought that I’d soon be selecting the coffin that I’d be putting Brent’s body in for eternity. Although I’m a religious person and believe in a hereafter, it’s still difficult to accept the fact that I was going to be saying good-bye to my young teenage son for the final time. As I glanced at all of the various types of caskets offered, made of either wood or metal, I unfortunately saw something else – something that affected me even worse. There, under a table at the far end of the coffin room, was a large, cardboard box with a price tag on it.
Who in their right mind would put a loved one’s remains in a cardboard box? I knew some people didn’t have much money, but a simple pine box couldn’t cost much more and would seem immensely more appropriate. I mentioned this to the director and commented on how disgusting the thought was of putting a loved ones remains in something like that, so he quickly advised me those were generally only used for bodies that were going to be cremated. He said he would generally put the bodies in a regular coffin for display, and then transfer it over before the cremation took place. That made me feel a little better, but I still was unsettled by it and once again concluded a simple pine box would work just as well. However, now that I was ready to continue with the business at hand, I began studying the assortment of containers before me.
After making my selection, I also had to decide a suitable vault, into which the casket would be placed to help protect it even more. I told the funeral home director to call me just as soon as Brent’s body arrived and was ready for viewing, since I wanted to come back and check out how he looked for myself, before I allowed the rest of my family to see him. He agreed and we exchanged farewells, before I drove over to the cemetery, to arrange for a plot.
The gentleman who was in charge there was also very polite and helpful. He showed me a map of available locations and then we took a quick drive around the area, so he could point the various spots out to me. He also took me to a new section, which they had just opened up on the top of a small hill, and told me that only one or two gravesites had already been purchased there. When we got back to the office, I asked him how many plots were located in the new section and he told me. After checking to see if I could swap the few plots I already owned, including where my wife was buried, I informed him that I wanted to purchase enough plots in the new sections, so all of my children and grandchildren who wished to be buried there in the future could be. He was very pleased by the news, seeing he’d be getting a sizable commission from the sale, and we filled out the paperwork, before we both signed. Once the legal issues of the sale were settled, I decided on which of the plots would be used for Brent and arranged for my wife’s body to be transferred from its current location and placed right beside where Brent’s casket would be buried. The man said he’d have everything ready in time for the service, so we shook hands and I left, driving slowly back home.