Their son died the other night.
It had been a long, cruel battle of pain and agony. Long days at the hospital turned into months. You could see the weariness on his parents faces. It aged them. It beat them down. It left them battered and bruised.
Yet, life went on around them.
As neighbors, we were on the outside, occasionally looking in. There was the meal we stuck in their fridge, the offers of help with anything we could do, the question about their boys health. But we weren't involved. It didn't affect us. We prayed. That's all we truly had to give.
When the call came last night and FIL hurried down the stair to tell us, we were sad. The news hung in the air around us. I recalled the night, a several months ago, that he had joined us for dinner. The Game Master and Mister Smiley had been here and we threw together an impromptu birthday celebration for Mister Smiley. Game Master invited Cas down and it was good to see him laughing and trying to politely eat the enchiladas that he clearly didn't like.
He also ate three cupcakes.
I remember thinking how pale and thin he was, but I brushed it aside. Cas had been sick for a couple of years but was home and everyone said he was doing well.
It was the last time we would see him.
Days later he was back in the hospital.
Beloved called Cas' dad last night to offer our condolences. I couldn't do. The death of child is too emotional. It's too painful. It overwhelms my senses and leaves me sounding like a blubbering idiot.
As I listened to the conversation I realized the painful truth of it all. Cas wouldn't be there playing video games. He won't be sitting at the dining room table for dinner. He won't graduated from high school or tease his sister any more.
They are a family of three now, technically. But in their hearts, they will always, always be a family of four.
And that's the type of hurt that never goes away.