By Bradley Burck-
Sitting in a crowded restaurant on Father’s Day, I heard my cell phone ping — a new email had just arrived. It was Sunday and I was surrounded by family, enjoying a day meant to celebrate fatherhood, so I was not about to look at it. But at that moment, I heard a little voice in the back of my mind say, “You need to read this.”
As I read the message, my eyes filled with tears. It was from my friend Pablo, who works for Forever Changed International at our home for orphans in Guatemala City called Dorie’s Promise.
The message simply said:
There is not a good way to say this. Alex passed away today in the morning in the Guatemala Hospital. We praise the Lord that he is in a better place. I personally prayed over him and in the name of Jesus Christ. I declare that he is happy with eternal life in Christ.
Alex was my friend. If you ever met him, I’m sure you would consider him your friend too. Every time I went to Guatemala, I made it a point to go to the “special needs” room and sit with Alex and talk. His eyes and smile just lit up when people visited him.
While I know my words and stories and songs never really communicated much to him, I always felt like sitting with him was where I belonged — like hanging out with an old friend. Ours was the type of relationship where words didn’t matter, just the company was enough to fill the loneliness and pain and strangeness of life that I think we both felt.
Alex’s smile always made me smile. His big bright teeth, open mouth, and arms reaching always greeted me, and never stopped during our time together. I knew there was a kid inside Alex just waiting to explode out of the body that trapped him and his words and thoughts in this life.
I actually skipped the second part of Pablo’s email when I read it at the restaurant. It wasn’t until later, when I was a little more collected, that I finished reading it. I can see Pablo praying over Alex’s degenerated body and imagine God reminding Pablo that He’s got this one, and that Alex will soon be with Him. I smiled at that and the thought of Alex — tall and strong and full of laughter running down the streets of heaven. His hoots and hollers ringing though the sky.
Doc Castro wrote to me and explained what had happened. Alex had been deteriorating for the last few years. As he got older and grew, his physical problems progressed. Doc put him in the hospital a week ago because of intestinal complications. He had an “abdominal band” that was either formed at birth or resulted from an appendicitis operation he had almost two years ago. Ultimately it was this “band” that led to Alex’s passing.
While in the hospital, they determined this band was causing the small and large intestines damage and needed to be removed. Last Monday, Alex went through that operation. There were complications, so Alex really struggled through the postoperative period. His struggles made recovery impossible, and he passed away early on Sunday, June 16, 2013.
I can say without hesitation that everyone at Dorie’s Promise Guatemala will miss Alex. As Doc reminded me in his email, “At age 17, Alex was happy and relaxed due to the loving care at the Dorie’s Promise home. Thank you to all the friends who supported and loved him. He was special. He is now in heaven, thanks be to God!”
So, Alex — during these days after you’re gone — I am selfishly wishing you were still here. But deep inside I know you are in a much better place. You have a new and wonderful body, a beautiful home, and are surrounded by the love of a Father who loves you more than I ever could.
Goodbye, my friend, my dear sweet friend Alex — I can’t wait to see you again!