by Tom Wyatt
Blake, our six-year-old son bore witness to his brother’s death. Johnny was only four when his body was smashed by a large truck that ran over him. To say that Blake and Johnny were close would be a gross understatement. They were best buddies and they never fought. They had a bond that was unbreakable… even in death. Blake’s spirit was as damaged as his brother’s body.
After the accident Ruth and I were inconsolable. We stopped talking. Blake did his best to take care of his mom and dad. He began using phrases that Johnny used and do things that Johnny did in an effort to try and cheer us up. To see this little boy try and take on this responsibility was sad and painful.
The child psychologist our pediatrician recommended never gave us specifics about what she and Blake talked about but did give us suggestions that we would implement. It wasn’t until the civil trial, when the doctor took the stand, that we heard things that cut us to the core and made us hurt for Blake because we were hearing for the first time, in his words, the depth of his pain.
He never cried, that is, until we took him to see Santa. There we were at the mall with our new daughter and Blake decked out in their Christmas clothes. After the picture was taken of Blake and Kelsey on Santa’s lap my wife took Kelsey. Santa asked Blake if he’d been a good boy. “No,” Blake responded. “I know you’re going to talk to God tonight. Can you please bring my brother home? We only had one Johnny and God has enough angels.” Santa began to cry, the ‘elf’ began to cry as well as the photographer.
We took him home and when we got there, finally, his tears flowed. We sat on the couch. We all hugged and let him cry-it out. Unbeknown to him he saved our marriage. We were ready to split up. We hadn’t so much as even hugged since Easter Sunday. Blake’s Christmas wish was for his little brother to come home but what he got was his mom and dad back. It wasn’t a merry Christmas, but now, at least, the future held promise.
About the Author: Tom Wyatt earned a M.B.A. from Washington University and began his career as a stock broker then later as a small business owner. Following the death of his four year old son, Johnny, on March 5, 1991, Tom became very active with Compassionate Friends. He currently writes and shares articles and poems for Bereaved Parents of the USA. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Tom has been counseling bereaved parents pro bono. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children; Blake (27), Johnny (4) and Kelsey (20) and two grandchildren.
Reprinted with permission from the
National Newsletter of Bereaved Parents of the USA,
A JOURNEY TOGETHER