Not so long ago, and yet a lifetime ago, my son and his best friend served as sentries to our neighboring homes. Dressed in camouflage, with their painted faces, makeshift army boots and helmets, and carrying their rifles, the boys would patrol the sidewalk, sometimes together and sometimes individually. And it was serious business. And they kept us safe. And what they were trying to keep out I didn’t know at the time.
In the later years of elementary school, we moved away from that neighborhood, that family, the comfort of people who lived in a crowded neighborhood with small children. We left a large part of our hearts there and though we kept in touch, visited and stayed connected, the boys’ lives grew apart. But in their hearts, I believed, they would always be together, a shared history as they approached adulthood and life and met challenges and grew and pursued their passions. Theirs was a friendship I knew would last and one I wished for all of my children.
But even a friendship so strong couldn’t withstand the challenge that is life. We lost that boy the other day. And in that loss, I realized what those little boys had been protecting us from as they stood sentry on the neighborhood sidewalk. They were guarding against growing up and growing old, against the passage of time, and against life and all of its complications, all of its challenges and all of its choices. Those little boys knew the dangers ahead better than we did.