Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Daddy's Eulogy

This is the eulogy Bob gave at Robbie's service in Virginia.

May 26, 2005 – January 16, 2007

Before I begin, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming out today. In some way, everyone in this room helped shape Robbie into the special little boy that he was. This was either directly, by watching him grow, keeping him in the nursery, or, most importantly, praying for him. Or, for those of you who never even met Robbie, you, too, helped shape Robbie indirectly by shaping Lauren or me along the way.

Our son, Robert Emmet Byrne, III, was born on May 26, 2005, in Charlottesville. From the minute we welcomed him into the world, we knew he was unique – his eyes were wide open, and he was taking everything in all at once. Everything interested him. From those first moments, we realized how special our boy was and we immediately dedicated him to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last summer, as Robbie started to know me better and better, he started calling me by his name for me – Dadoo. But he wouldn’t just say it; he would sing it. Da-dooooooo. You could ask him what the cow says, and he would moo. Ask him what the cat says, and he would meow. Ask him what any animal said, and he would make the noise. Ask him what Robbie says and, without missing a beat, he would say . . . “Dadoooooo.”

In the past few months, Robbie changed considerably as he grew from a baby into a little boy. He loved for us to read to him. For instance, I would sit down Indian style at night with him with a book, and he would have me read. On one of the last nights we were together at home, I read him the book “Green Eggs and Ham,” which is a fairly long book. I read him every word. I then set the book aside and asked him to get another book. He stood up, grabbed “Green Eggs and Ham,” and I read it again. He did that one more time, and God gave me the grace to say the words – “I will not eat them in a house, I will not eat them with a mouse.”

But Robbie had another favorite book – his little picture Bible. Every morning he would see his mama sit down on the rocking chair with her Bible. He would then go and get his Bible and read through it. We were also teaching Robbie to pray. Every night, before dinner, we’d say grace, and end our prayer with “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Robbie started saying Amen with us, and he would say it loudly and proudly before every meal. Lauren would say that when he was really hungry and ready to eat lunch, he would skip the formalities and just say Amen. And just last month at Christmas, Robbie heard the pastor say Amen during the Christmas Eve service. Robbie, in response, blurted out “Amen.” It was a sweet and funny moment.

And in the past few weeks, we started using a Christmas present for me – it was a bicycle seat that we attached to the back of my mountain bike. Robbie would sit in the seat, and I would pedal away through the rolling hills near our home. Two Saturdays ago, I went for more than 40 minutes and headed home because my legs couldn’t pedal any longer. I took Robbie off the bike; he just looked at me as if to say “what are you doing? We were just getting going.” I reassured him that the bike was not pedaling itself and that we had to stop before Dadoo had a heart attack. He threw a fit, ran to his mama, then fell asleep in her arms.

And that was where heaven on earth was for Robbie – his mama’s arms. Robbie adored his mother, and she was exceptional to him. She met his every need, and she constantly showered him with attention and affection. Though he loved me dearly and made me feel that I was the most loved father in the world, he loved his mama with all of his heart and soul and couldn’t bear to be away from her for even an instant. When he looked in her eyes, he saw an angel. When she looked in his eyes, she saw an angel. They were both right.

Our hopes for Robbie were huge, and our plans for him were unfolding. His potential was just endless – he could say the entire alphabet, A through Z, and he could count from one to ten. Let me correct myself, just a couple of weeks ago, I started with one, and he would do the even numbers. I was only half paying attention and, after he said “ten,” I said “eleven.” He then said “twelve.” I was shocked because I hadn’t taught him that. But more importantly than those things, we saw his character unfolding. In the world of play in which children live, Robbie lived well: he shared, he helped, he cooperated with other children.

These are just a few of the thousands of stories I could say about my beloved son. He was special, and we poured every ounce of everything we had into him. We loved him with all our strength, and we prayed daily that God would love him, protect him, and use him in mighty ways as a Godly warrior.

Then the storm hit. Last Tuesday was a devastating and staggering day when we lost our little boy. The storm was a mighty storm. The roof of our house shook violently. The lightening flashed around, the waves crashed around us, and the hail shattered the windows of our shelter. The thing we loved the most was ripped out of our arms, and the storm was going to destroy us. But our feet were firm, because the foundation of our house was built on a Rock.

When a storm hits, the first thing you do is run for cover, and you will run to that thing that means the most to you. That thing, to me, was my faith in Jesus Christ. Bob McCay, Lauren’s father, shares that same faith with me. And we began the drive from rural Alabama back to Tennessee, Bob kept trying to assure me. “There are no accidents with God,” he said. “Trust Him, and Trust His Word.” I said “I will trust Him, but he had better be telling the Truth.” Through my tears, I kept saying that to myself—you had better be telling the truth. You had better be telling the truth. You had better be telling the truth. And then I heard a small, faint voice speak through the storm: “I Am.”

After we returned to Tennessee, I got my Bible and opened to the book of Job. For those of you who don’t know the Book of Job, Job was a wealthy man with a healthy family. He was viewed as the most righteous of men, but God allowed Job’s sons and daughters to be killed; He allowed Job’s property to be plundered; He allowed everything Job had to be taken from him. The remainder of the book is based on conversations Job had with his three friends, and God, in the end, steps in and answers the men.

Job and his friends asked the same questions that all of us asked when we learned of Robbie’s passing: How could God allow this to happen? How could a God who claims to be good let this happen? So I ran to these words for comfort and shelter in my time of need, and I looked at God’s response to Job’s question. But then I saw that God’s response was a long series of questions to Job – where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? In essence God was telling Job, who do you think you are???

When I read those words, I was furious. How dare God say that? I have dedicated my life to Jesus Christ, and His response was, “who do you think you are?” I screamed out, I am your son, I am a prince, and I deserve an answer!”

But then an incredibly wise friend pointed out my error. He said, “Bob, you’re missing the story; you’re not seeing God’s answer. God’s answer was not in the questions that He gave Job. God’s answer came in the very last chapter of the book, when God restored everything to Job twofold. He blessed Job with health, family, and wealth, and Job lived a long and prosperous life.”

Then I realized the story – God is powerful, God is mighty. As Benjamin Franklin said, not a sparrow falls to the ground without the notice of God. God is so powerful that he is bigger than we can possibly imagine; he is better then we can possibly imagine; and, because of his grandeur, he does not need to answer us. But, as all-powerful as God is, He loves us even more. He loves us dearly and, even though we don’t deserve an answer, He will give us comfort and peace to find the Truth, and the Truth will set us all free. He loves us more than He loves himself, and He sent His Son to die on a cross for each and every one of us in order to prove that point. Lauren and I can now truly take to heart the words spoken by Job, “I have heard of you by the hearing of my ear, but now my eye sees you.”

Many of you here today have told me that what happened to Robbie is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. And though many of you here today share in our grief, you may think that what I am telling you about God’s love is just tragically foolish because there is no God and no good God would allow this to happen. For those of you, I say that I cannot look out a window and prove that Jesus Christ exists. I can’t write out a formula on a piece of paper to show that Christ is the Son of God. But I can tell you this – right now my wife and I are being challenged in an unimaginable way. Our world is being torn apart in this storm, but we have run for comfort to our Lord Jesus Christ. And He is embracing us. He is holding us. He is gently caressing us, lovingly wiping away our tears. He is tenderly whispering in our ears that he loves us. He is gently reminding us that our little boy is with him in heaven. That is a peace that truly transcends all understanding.

So I challenge you. Find your shelter before the storm hits. Build on the Rock, Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, reach out to Him – He doesn’t require much from you to welcome you into His Kingdom. He will love and hold you, and He will carry you through the storm. Assess yourself and realize that things like this don’t just happen to other people, because things like this don’t happen to us. They can happen to you as well, and when they do, you won’t find comfort in alcohol, drugs, money, or anything else. You will find comfort only in Christ.

In closing, I would like to say thank you for coming. You are all asking questions at this time, and I beg you to ask any of the pastors and Christ Himself for answers. The answers are there, and they are sweet. Jesus Christ is the way, the Truth and the Life. Without Him, we have no hope, but with Him, I can undoubtedly say that one day I will again be riding my bike with my little boy in heaven with legs that will never tire.

We’ll never forget you Robbie. We love you, and we always will.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Got to start somewhere

Well, here I go. I'm joining the already-crowded world of blogdom. Not sure if I have anything to add, but I love the idea of preserving memories for us (and others) to enjoy down the road. If there's one thing I've learned this past year -- don't hold back. We are not promised tomorrow. So, make the best of today.