Friday, May 24, 2013

Grant the Great

The past couple weeks have had the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Within a two-day span four friends announced news of a new baby on the way.  Delight!  Another friend proposed to his perfect mate in the most romantic way (you can see his awesome video of it here).  And we made a last minute decision to book tickets to CA to visit my family next week (instead of later in the summer).  So much to be excited about and look forward to.

Then there was this past week....heart shattering with the loss of our dear friends' 6-year old son Grant and the devastating situation in Oklahoma.  I just came back from Grant's wake and funeral mass on the east coast and my mind is just reeling.  His death rocked us to the core (I'll share more about how this impacted our own family in a later post).  And every time I start crying in the grocery store because I'm overcome by his loss, my mind goes straight to his parents Joe and Bridget and his siblings, whose sense of loss is magnified by the thousands. 

And God.  God who weeps with us and feels every stabbing pain that splinters our heart is there in the midst of both.  An artist knitting in a life-filled womb, and building hope into a lifetime of together, he receives our thanks, and praise, and pleas for all is well as we bask in the highs.  And He is there in the darkest hour too, turning all is lost into the opportunity for something new.

For all of you that have and continue to pray for Grant and his family (and ours), we thank you and wanted to share a bit about him from the funeral.  The Priest knew the family well and his words at the mass were a beautiful tribute to him.  He described Grant as many Artist, a Theologian, a Defense Attorney, an Olympian, and many others.

I won't share the whole letter from the family about who their son was, but here are some bits and pieces about "Grant the Great"...

"He was a sweet, sensitive little boy with a heart for serving and sharing  It gave him great joy to divide his candy equally among eager siblings, to offer dessert to a sibling who had lost his, to give money to the poor, to give away a prized possession saying "I want you to have this".  He was given a gift for compassion and would advocate for amnesty even for a sibling who had wronged him.

He loved being from a big family. He wanted to be home and home was wherever the family was.  He loved cuddling on the couch and surprising us with acts of service.  He was the first to say, "Thank you for this great meal, "Thank you for taking us here", "Thank you for the work you do, Dad".  He loved playing sports with his brothers, wrestling, playing board games, collecting bugs, and jumping from the stairs into his Dad's arms.  He had a special place in his heart for his baby brother Luke and was always delighted to hold him.  He had a special love for animals, and was so sad to see others suffer.  He accepted apologies quickly, responding with forgiveness, a hug and an eagerness to get back to playing together.

Looking back, in many ways, the Holy Spirit was preparing us that the soul entrusted to us 6 1/2 years ago would be returning home to his Creator.  In the past 3 months, we were blessed with more carefree timelessness as a family than we have had in years.  We read Little Pilgrim's Progress together this past month, a story about children on their journey to heaven.  Grant couldn't wait and read the whole book himself.  He was so excited to read the final chapters this past week, with the children arriving in the Celestial City.  Grant said that this life was just "God's hotel", a stopping place on our way Home.  When his sister asked him this past week where he would go if he could go anywhere, he enthusiastically said, "Heaven."  When Holly asked again where he would go on this earth, he persisted in his same response, "Heaven.".  We were all able to hug and kiss Grant and tell him we loved him during the Sign of Peace at Mass two hours before his accident.

He would have been so grateful to the scores of medical personnel who gave all they had trying to save him, to those who let his mother fly on the helicopter with her dying son, for the priest who was there in minutes to administer Last Rites, to Fr Rathan, who spent hours with our family during the longest 36 hours of our lives, saying Mass at Grant's bedside twice, administering his 1st Holy Communion and Confirmation, taking the name of his favorite saint, Padre Pio.  He would have been grateful to each one of you, for the support, love, faith, and hope you surround us with and the mercies that are new each morning that remind us of God's love and presence."

As Bridget spoke at her son's funeral, she described the difficult conversation they had with their children the night Grant passed away.  Grant's story had quickly spread all over the internet and there were thousands of people all over the globe praying for his recovery.  Praying for a miracle.

The kids asked with so many people praying for Grant how could he not be healed.  In that moment the Holy Spirit gave them the analogy of Grant's life being like a little tea light that's is now a grand chandelier....

"His little tea light on earth touched many.  In his dying and death, he brought us all to our knees because it was the only place to go.  He was surrounded with thousands of prayers from family, friends, and strangers that transformed his little tea light on earth into a chandelier in heaven that is touching so many more."

The priest who was with the family at the hospital described this scene at the time when Grant's condition and his future were completely uncertain.  Joe (Grant's dad) came into the hospital room and said, "Well, there are three possibilities. The first is that there's a miracle and our son rises from this which case we'll give praise and glory to God.  The second is that Grant lives but will forever be which case we'll give praise and glory to God.  And the third is that God takes Grant which case we'll give praise and glory to God."

And so we do.  We thank you God, for taking Grant.  We thank you that he did not have to suffer through the rest of his life here on earth, and for all the ways his precious life continues to touch those near and far.

Rest in peace, sweet Grant.  You are home at last.


  1. Absolutely heartbreaking and yet so glorious at the same time. What a precious gift sweet Grant was to his family and will continue to be to all who hear about him. Reading what his family wrote about him was an inspiration to me--we should all learn from Grant and the example and love he left behind. God promises to use everything for our good and I am blown away yet again by His unfailing mercies. Love and prayers to the Thill family and I will continue to pray for them.

  2. He is a beautiful child. I was praying a rosary for his family after I saw that he passed and my heart was so achy for his family. I cannot imagine the lose but cling to Mary to comfort us Mom's. Love and prayers to his family and to yours.

  3. What a beautiful little boy. I read this in tears and I'm amazed at the faith his family is showing. They sound like a wonderful family. Still sending prayers!

  4. Continued prayers for you and Grant's family. The Lord put Grant on this earth to make an impact, to inspire and to lift up and by reading your thoughts and feelings about him and about what the family wrote about him, it looks like he did just that. What a special little man.

    Have a wonderful time visiting the CA family. Give them all hugs from me! I can't wait to have a new little cousin photo for my frame.

    Love you!

  5. He and his family and your family have been on my mind. I am so sorry for this to have happened but what an incredible little life this boy had on his short visit. His soul is always watching over his family, I have no doubt. His family's strength is astounding. Love your family now, for now is all that matters. Right now.


  6. Thank you for sharing a little bit of Grant with us. I am very touched by his faith and the faith of his family.

  7. May Our Father give the strength Grant's family needs. May Grant rest in peace.

  8. hes absolutely beautiful,and his story is so touching,sending prayers that god may give you moments of peace during this difficult time,and may he bless and keep you all forever..


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