At the end of last summer, we tragically lost a student, classmate and friend, Caleb Schwab, as he was about to enter 5th grade at HCA. We have spent this past school year learning how to deal with our grief and seeking to understand God’s greater plan in the midst of our sorrow. Shortly before Spring Break, we held a special ceremony in which we dedicated playground equipment built specifically in Caleb’s memory. The following thoughts were shared by our Chief Administrator, Rick Lukianuk, as he reflected on the meaning and significance of that ceremony.
Yesterday morning I watched a group of brightly colored balloons fly away against a Pacific-blue sunlit sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them until I simply could not see them anymore. Unfortunately, that was a lot sooner than it would have been in my younger days when I didn’t need the 3.0 reading glasses just to read the expiration date on the milk. I probably lost track of them even sooner due to the tears in my eyes, but the tears weren’t from squinting. They were tied to the loss of our dear Caleb Schwab last summer in a tragic accident. We were celebrating his life and legacy through the dedication of “Caleb’s Corner” on our elementary playground. The celebration was attended by all of our East Campus staff and students.
The way the wind was blowing, I realized that I had no idea where any of the balloons would land, if at all. How long would each stay in the air and who would find the balloons at the end of their journey? Would they know where they came from and what they represented? Who would find them? Why had the balloon been released in the first place? Obviously, someone had put helium in them in order for them to be buoyant. I wondered if the individuals that sold them, inflated them or brought them knew how they were to be used. Did they think the balloons were going to a birthday party or an office celebration? Most likely, they believed these balloons were going to be used to celebrate something. When they heard about the ceremony, would anyone wonder why they were being used to reflect on a tragedy? Or would they have understood that we were celebrating a life and its positive effects on so many in so short a time?
Like the balloons, I am sure the Schwabs had no idea where or when Caleb was going to land on the day he was born, how long he would reside here or who would be affected by his life. The answer is complex and it is tied in with both his life and his passing, just as it is and will be for all of us. The length of his time here on earth neither defines Caleb nor determines his value. It is an abstract number tied to a real person, just like the first balloon to land may have a more profound effect on those who find it than the last one to land. And just like the helium, the balloon and the event all combined to give meaning to the journey of the balloons, the timing, location and faith of Caleb’s life all combined to give him meaning and purpose.
The Bible is clear that we do not know the number of our days. It also states that God’s wisdom makes ours look like foolishness. God initiated Caleb’s life and God called Caleb home. The timing does nothing to lessen his impact on all of us. In fact, if you believe in a God who provides a purpose to every life, then Caleb’s life was maximized in God’s Plan, whether or not we can understand that. As I said on the day of the balloon release, we will not cease to celebrate Caleb’s life because a ceremony has ended. We are only beginning to understand the effect his life has had on each of us, and that will continue whenever we reflect on what God is trying to each us through these events.
And so the balloons have landed. I cannot see where and I do not know when. However, the picture of their flight is seared into my memory along with a young boy who always asked if it was time to play, loved his family and God his Father with all his heart, and will always cause me to reflect on the meaning and purpose of a life full of a child’s faith.