What my son taught me in life that comforts me in his death

Pastor Cameron Walcott // March 3, 2022, 10:56 pm

Screenshot 2022-03-04 at 6.40.17 PM

Pastor Cameron and seven-year-old Caleb at their favourite American restaurant in Singapore in 2014. All photos courtesy of the Walcott Family.

My firstborn son Caleb – my amazing, brilliant, godly, athletic, 13-year-old son and best friend – went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up the next morning.

And ever since then, nothing has made any sense. Nothing has been okay.

I read a book, I check Facebook, I watch a TV show, and something makes me think of him. And the hurt comes rushing back.

I pray, and can’t stop praying, for God to somehow turn the clock back to October 5, 2020. I can’t stop telling God how much pain I’m in, and how unfair everything seems.

One of the last father-son photos. Caleb was 13 years old in this photo taken at their home in Michigan, USA, in July 2020.

And yet, there is hope.

There is hope because Jesus walks with us in our pain. There is hope because Jesus died the death that I should die, so I can have the life that He has. Jesus died the death Caleb should have died, so that right now Caleb is alive in His presence.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Caleb would have made an incredible mark on this world if the Lord had given him more time.

There’s also no doubt in my mind that Caleb did make a mark in his short time here, including what he taught me during his life that is helping me cope with his passing.

Lesson 1: Not blaming Father

When Caleb was in 4th grade, he was the star of basketball team. It was our first year back in the United States. 

However, there was only one problem. Caleb would score a few points every game, but the rest of his team had trouble scoring at all.

The author coaching his son, Caleb, then 13, during a 7th grade basketball game in the US in February 2020.

And for a competitive 10-year-old like Caleb, each of these games became his “Super Bowl” – he wanted so badly to win.

Finally, in week 7 of our eight-game season, we got our big chance to finally get one win.

I was going to be coaching the game, so Caleb and I arrived around 10.40am for our 11am game.

Caleb decided not to give in to his selfish thoughts of loss and devastation … he chose to comfort me.

Except …

The game didn’t start at 11am. It had started at 10am. I had somehow mixed up the timing, which is extremely unusual for me. 

When Caleb arrived, his team was trailing 20-10, heading into the last period. We put Caleb in the game right away. He scored 10 points in those six minutes, scoring over and over. However, our team ended up losing 21-20.

In the one game that his team could have won, I brought him late and he lost because of it. 

He was devastated, sobbing on the way home. I felt terrible. I told him: “Caleb, I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I can’t believe I did this. I’m so, so sorry.”

And Caleb, in the middle of his sobs, stopped himself and gained his composure. “It’s okay, Dad. It’s okay.

“Don’t feel bad. It wasn’t your fault. It’s just a mistake,” he told me.

With two-year-old Caleb in the creche during a service at Cornerstone Community Church, Singapore, in 2009.

Ten-year-old Caleb, one of the most competitive kids in the world, decided not to give in to his selfish thoughts of loss and devastation. 

I shouldn’t blame my Father, even when I think He made a mistake.

In that moment, he realised I was hurting too, and chose to comfort me. He chose to show compassion on me, the one who should have never made this mistake.

He could have turned himself over to selfishness, but he didn’t. He really cared.

And when I start to give in to my own selfish thoughts, to think of how uniquely horrible and unfair this all is, I remember Caleb’s example.

He didn’t blame his father, even though I had really made a mistake. And I shouldn’t blame my Father, even when I think He made a mistake.

He thought of others when he could have stayed in selfish pity. I should do the same. 

Lesson 2: Lying here until Daddy comes

“I can’t move!” Caleb said, lying on the ground in pain. “I can’t move until my Daddy comes!”

Caleb was eight years old. We were living in Singapore at the time. Evan and I were playing catch on a small patch of grass, while Caleb went to the nearby playground with a basketball.

He was practising his “slam dunks” and apparently tried to hang on the “rim” after throwing the ball through. He slipped and fell down on the padded surface.

A neighbour came walking towards me, waving.

“Is your son playing over here?” he asked. “He fell down – he said he can’t move until you come.”

If Daddy hadn’t come to the rescue, Caleb was not going to get up.

I ran over to the other playground. That’s when I saw Caleb laying on the ground, writhing in pain.

“My arm hurts,” he said. “I fell on it.”

“You’re going to be okay,” I told him. 

I picked Caleb up and took him up to the house. Delia and I looked at his arm. We couldn’t tell if it was broken or not, and Caleb tried to be brave.

“I’m okay,” he told us. 

Except …

He wasn’t really okay. Within the next couple of hours, he couldn’t move his arm.

We took him to the hospital, and discovered that he had indeed broken the left arm. He was going to need a cast and a sling.

Caleb was such a little champ, though. Despite four weeks when he couldn’t play sports and do his favourite things, he never complained. He kept a smile on his face. 

Caleb (seated) with the cast around his arm and sling around his neck. Despite four weeks where he couldn’t do his favourite things, he was still the best eight-year-old big brother to Anna (now eight) and Evan (now 13).

Caleb (centre, aged 13) with siblings Anna and Evan at the Adventure Down Under Zoo in Kentucky, USA, in July 2020.

During that night of the injury, I asked Caleb why he had told the friendly neighbour he couldn’t move or get up without me.

“I needed you to come,” Caleb said.

“Well, what would have happened if Daddy hadn’t been able to come?”

“Well,” Caleb replied, “I guess I would still be lying there!”

I’m overwhelmed by pain … Every dream I had for Caleb has been shattered, just like Caleb’s poor little arm.

I always thought that was a funny reply. If Daddy hadn’t come to the rescue, Caleb was not going to get up.

I’ve been thinking of this the last few months. And I realise that right now, I feel much like Caleb did in that moment.

I’m overwhelmed by pain. I’m overwhelmed by fear. Every dream I had for Caleb, every plan I had for our family, has been shattered, just like Caleb’s poor little arm. I’m lying on the ground, paralysed, with no plan of what to do next.

I’m lying here, until my Father comes.

I’m not expecting Him to take all the pain away on this side of eternity. I’m not expecting a nice and neat fairy-tale ending. The loss of Caleb is going to leave scars that won’t be healed on this earth.

I am overwhelmed by the feeling of missing my amazing son, my best friend. Sometimes I break down when I realise, again, that I won’t be seeing him for the rest of my natural life … I am overwhelmed. I am broken. I am shattered.

I still pray: “Lord, bring Caleb back,” or, “Lord, please bring us back in time … Let it be October 5 , 2020, again. And don’t let October 6 happen.”

That day in 2015 when he broke his arm, Caleb put all his faith in me to solve his pain. The truth is, what I could do was limited. I didn’t know exactly how to respond – I didn’t even take him straight to the hospital! I did my best to help him, but had no power to fix a broken bone. Yet, in his simple childlike faith, Caleb trusted his father to know what to do and lead him out of his pain.

If Caleb could trust me, I can trust my perfect heavenly Father, who knows exactly what I need. 

And if Caleb could trust me, I can trust my Father. My perfect heavenly Father, who knows exactly what I need. I’m going to keep lying here, waiting for Him. Waiting for Him to bring healing, waiting for Him to bring comfort, waiting for Him to bring peace.

So just like Caleb told me, I’m saying to my Father: “I can’t move without You. If you don’t come, I’m just going to keep lying here. But I know You have come, and I know You will continue to come. And I will move where You want me to move. I’m waiting for You.”

I remind myself that Caleb is now with this perfect Father. Caleb will never struggle again. He’ll never experience fear or death or suffering. He’s been made whole – he one day waited for his earthly father in his moment of pain, but now no longer has to wait for his Heavenly Father.

And the same Father who is giving Caleb perfect joy and peace is also going to meet me in my pain. He’s going to meet our families with His comfort and peace and strength and even joy.

“I’m lying here until You come.” 

Lesson 3: The terrible veggies are giving you strength

When Caleb was two years old, he was absolutely full of life. He had one overriding passion in life, and it was food. 

He would walk around the house, begging for food in his toddler language: “I eat chicken!” “I eat ice cream!” “I eat bread!” 

Pastor Cameron (right, with a visiting minister) baptising Caleb at East Coast Park in December 2013. Pastor Cameron was based at Cornerstone Community Church in Singapore from 2005 to 2016.

However, Caleb had one giant trial in his life. 

Every time we would give him a little bit of carrot, or even lettuce, Caleb would start to cry.

“No!” he would scream.

It didn’t matter what type of vegetable we gave him, Caleb resisted. This lasted for several weeks.

If I just gave him all the ice-cream, he would be happy today but unhealthy in the future.

Now, as a good father who wants the best for his children, I had it fully within my power to take Caleb’s vegetables away. After all, I wanted him to be happy, and those vegetables were making him sad. I could have decided at any moment to remove this trial, and just give in to Caleb’s desires.

However, my wisdom as a 30-year-old father was much greater than that of two-year-old Caleb. I could see what he could not see. I could see that teaching him to eat vegetables would make him healthy and strong in the future.

I knew that if I just gave him all the ice-cream he could eat, he would be happy today but unhealthy in the future. Teaching him good eating habits, and teaching him to obey his parents and eat what he was given, would be much better for him than giving in to his childish demands.

If Delia and I hadn’t insisted that Caleb eat those carrots, he wouldn’t have become the disciplined young man that he was. He wouldn’t have become a strong athlete. So even though it caused Caleb distress while sitting in that highchair, we insisted that he eat his vegetables.

Caleb was a brilliant little toddler, reading at a very young age, and singing along to VeggieTales. With his mum, Delia, in 2008 at the lift area at their home in Tampines.

And after a few weeks, Caleb submitted to his fate and learned to eat vegetables. I can’t say that carrots or lettuce or tomatoes ever became his favourites. But for the rest of his life, he ate whatever he was given. He never lost his passion for food and became both an adventurous eater and adventurous cook. His body was strong and the vegetables did their good work.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Sometimes, we are just like two-year-old Caleb. A trial or obstacle comes into our lives, and we think that it’s going to kill us. We look to God, our Father, and say “Take this thing away! Give me deliverance! I can’t take this pain – I can’t take this pressure – I can’t take this loss! No, no, no!”

When the miracle doesn’t come on our timeline, we begin to wonder if God is really listening to our prayer. Perhaps we start thinking He doesn’t love us, that we must have upset Him and He is punishing us by making us continue in our pain. All God has to do is take away the trial, and when He doesn’t, we’re just left in confusion. We’re left crying out for help that doesn’t seem to come.

Just as my 30-year-old wisdom was greater than Caleb’s desire, God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than my own.

It is absolutely true that God has all the power necessary to take away the pain and bring perfect release. And as a Good Father, the Perfect Father, God wants you to be full of joy. He wants to see you smile. He wants you to be blessed and experience His favour and joy.

So why doesn’t He just take the vegetables away and give us the ice-cream?

Especially when the “vegetables” are not just trivial pain or the pressures of life. We all go through times when we’re overlooked for a promotion or mistreated by someone we trusted. 

But what about when we go through true, devastating tragedy? What about when your child is diagnosed with cancer? How do you handle it when you grow up in a home with physical abuse? Or what do you do when your brilliant, godly 13-year-old son – your best friend – just doesn’t wake up one morning? Certainly a Good Father shouldn’t let that happen.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Certainly He should show up, and He should do the miracle, when you’re lying on the floor of your son’s room, sobbing and asking God to resurrect him as his lifeless body is beside you. What kind of Father would let His children go through such pain and not help when He can?

But this is where we remember the Word of God and the promises His Word contains. He is good. He is working on our behalf. And His wisdom and His ways are so much greater than our own.

You see, just as my 30-year-old wisdom was greater than Caleb’s two-year-old desire, God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than my own. His ways are so much higher (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Caleb, then 11, and his mother, Delia, during a prayer meeting at The Cornerstone Michigan.

My Father can see what I cannot see.

And as painful as it can be to understand, and as awful as our circumstances can be, the Father knows that all of these situations are working in the favour of those who love Him. The Father knows that this “light momentary affliction” is the very thing that is working an eternal glory that we cannot even understand. The depths of our pain will be reflected millions of times over in the heights of the glory we will experience.

The Father is saying, “These vegetables seem terrible today, but they are blessing you. They are giving you strength.”

The Father is saying, “If you could just see what I see, you would know that this trial, this darkness, this pain, is giving you strength. It’s working a glory you cannot even understand. These vegetables seem terrible today, but they are blessing you. They are giving you strength.”

The reason God allows our trials to stay is not that He doesn’t love us. It’s not that He’s deciding to stop blessing us for a season. It is in your weakness that He will give you a strength you never had before.

The very vegetables that seem like an unimaginable challenge for us are being given to us by our Father for a good purpose.

He also comforts us in our trials. He cries and sorrows with us. Even as He is doing a million good things through the pain we suffer, His heart is sad to see us sad, is broken to see us broken. He continues to be with us even in the pain He allows for our good.

This excerpt from I Love You, Little Mister: A father’s struggle towards hope in the ultimate tragedy by Cameron Walcott is republished with permission. In Singapore, the book can be purchased at Faithworks Bookstore. It is also available on Amazon.

Go to Caleb’s website for more information on his life, or to book Pastor Cameron for a speaking engagement.


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About the author

Pastor Cameron Walcott

Cameron Walcott is the Pastor of The Cornerstone Michigan in the USA. He previously spent 15 years as a missionary to Asia, and was based at Cornerstone Community Church in Singapore from 2005 to 2016. Cameron is married to the lovely and talented Delia, and they have three children together.