“Ezra, honey, I’ve got some bad news.”
“What’s wrong, Daddy?”
“Ben died, sweetie. I’m sorry.”
Ezra walked slowly to the kitchen, where Ben lie on his back, one-inch claws pointing stiffly upward. Ezra stared at his beloved hermit crab in disbelief. And then he began wailing. Keening really. He was rocking back and forth, with outstretched arms, and screaming, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” It went on like that for minutes.
Then he walked into the living room and began kicking the sofa. He was still sobbing and screaming Nooo. Then he started yelling, “I hate you Satan! I hate you!”
Kicking. Crying. Spewing invectives at Beelzebub.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to all of this emotionality. Unlike his brother and sister, Ezra lets it all hang out when it comes to his emotions, and he can whip himself into a frenzy. We call him our drama king.
This is not to say that I didn’t think what he felt was real. Ezra loves animals and mourns each pet’s death deeply. But this was intense even for Ezra. And I wasn’t sure it was in his best interest for me to let him spiral.
I held him, and rocked him, and tried to say something comforting. Zach came up and put his hand gently on Ezra’s back and offered, “Hey, buddy. It’s okay. It’s just the life cycle.”
Ezra stopped crying long enough to turn around and scream at his brother, “Well, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay!”
Zach tried again, reaching down deep. “Do you want me to burp the alphabet?”
“That won’t help!” screamed Ezra so loudly that he scared Zach out of the room.
Ezra was miserable, and nothing was helping. I was desperate. So desperate that this came out of my mouth: “Honey, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Should we pray for God to raise Ben from the dead?”
Let’s pause here for a minute. I mean, who says something like that? I have no idea what I thought was going to happen. But I agreed with Ezra that death is not okay. It just isn’t. So I did the only thing I know how to do when things are messed up beyond my ability to fix them. I prayed. Or at least I offered to pray. I wasn’t sure what Ezra would do.
But he agreed that we should pray, and I took his hand and walked with him into the kitchen. It was a long walk, as I kept wondering if I was about to destroy my son’s faith right then and there. But when we got to the kitchen, we leaned over Ben and prayed.
“Please, Lord, please. We love Ben and we don’t want him to be dead. We know you raised Lazarus, and we know you can raise Ben. Please, God.”
We prayed it over and over, with all our hearts. And do you know what happened?
That’s right. Ben sat there just as dead as dead could be. Stiff little legs, body hanging out of his shell. Dead.
Ezra eventually went to bed, and I sat there rubbing his back until he whimpered himself to sleep.
The next morning, Ezra and I checked on Ben and I asked if he was ready to bury him. He wanted to wait until later, and we headed out the door for a meeting. When we got home, Jeff greeted us with a twinkle in his eye. “Ezra, guess what happened?”
“Yup. Ben’s alive. He doesn’t look great, but he made his way over to the water and he’s alive.”
Ezra ran to Ben, confirmed his aliveness, and then confirmed that we have raised him in a Pentecostal church. He started running around the house, jumping, squealing, and yelling, “Praise God! Hallelujah!”
He was having a moment with Jesus.
I stopped him for a minute to remind him that Ben did not look good. “Buddy, I don’t know if Ben is going to make it. Maybe God is going to heal him all the way. But maybe he just brought him back to life so that you would know how much Jesus loves Ben. And how much Jesus loves you.”
But that didn’t stop him from putting Ben in the window. “I think he needs the warmth.”
And it didn’t stop him from bringing Ben to the water. “I think he just needs some water.”
I know. If you are skeptical at heart, you’ll assume that Ben was never really dead, and perhaps you are right. But that doesn’t matter to me, and it certainly didn’t matter to Ezra. He lost his pet. He prayed, and he got it back. Surely, Jesus loves them.
That afternoon, Ben died. This time, we didn’t pray for him. Instead, Jeff dug a hole in the ground, and he and the boys buried their beloved crab.
And Ezra? He didn’t shed a tear.