On a department store rack years ago, there were five brightly colored ties —so bright and childish that many shoppers probably passed by them with laughter, and maybe even some with disgust. However, a grandmother and an aunt who both loved fabrics happened to be shopping that day in that store and had the thought that these unusual ties would be useful and meaningful one day. So right then, they purchased all five of them, and kept them safely hidden away in Virginia until that day.
And then that day came. As family and friends gathered in our home in Texas, my sister ushered me very quietly into our bedroom and opened a package before me. The house was so busy with preparations and deep conversations that I almost didn’t recognize the importance of the moment. And there they were—the five ties that she and my mom, who was now deceased, had purchased years prior to this day. Only a single moment in time could have tied those two moments together. A single thread with the passing of a six-foot, eighteen-year-old child joined a Virginia shopping trip and an unveiling in my bedroom in Texas. I was immediately in awe and thankfulness standing with my sister in front of those gifts.
Who would have known that, years before our Robert passed, these two godly women would buy five SpongeBob Squarepants ties for this day—for these men—these five men. The ones pictured wearing the SpongeBob Squarepants ties. The ones asked to wear the ties. These five men who were willing to wear the ties.
This group comprised a future son-in-law, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, and a big brother. They are men of integrity who would now act as the honorary pallbearers for their Robert. I was not smart enough to know that I would need five strong men, five loving honorary pallbearers, five men to wear five SpongeBob Squarepants ties...purchased in advance to honor my son. That was only in God’s plan.
Life Unexpected. I did not expect those ties. I did not expect that visual blessing. There could not have been a more brilliant display for that day. Each tie had different artwork celebrating the quirky, hilarious, yellow cartoon character that Robert adored. SpongeBob Squarepants was a part of his life like a childhood best friend. If Robert could have ever seen these five strong men in these funny ties, it would have caused spontaneous, loud laughter straight from his wheelchair-bound body.
I did not have the privilege of meeting Stephen Hillenburg, the American animator who created SpongeBob SqauarePants. It would have been a cherished moment. I wish he could have met my Robert and had the honor of knowing how his character brought extreme joy and delight to his life. When he died in 2018 at age 57 of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, I can only imagine and hope that he had an idea of how his character brought joy in the most devastating circumstances. I am thankful for a man with special creativity that showed up on five ties that were purchased in Virginia, for five strong men, for my son’s funeral service in Texas.
Our lives are intertwined on this journey. Sometimes we are informed along the way of the incredible people who do extraordinary things for us. Sometimes we will not know until years later, if at all. Even one singular event can gloriously weave into a lifetime tapestry of blessing and deep meaning.
I am in awe of this story of five ties. It reminds me each time I see this photo that there is a plan...even in the darkest hours...to bring hope. The plan is a good plan, even if I don’t see the thread that joins the fabric together, yet.
I am thankful for the threads that appear so beautifully in the fabric of Robert’s life...and mine.
Listening Library: Smile (Nat “King” Cole)
“25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.“
(1 Corinthians 12:25-27 ESV)
Smile though your heart is aching Smile even though it's breaking When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by If you smile through your fear and sorrow Smile and maybe tomorrow You'll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness Hide every trace of sadness Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying Smile, what's the use of crying? You'll find that life is still worthwhile If you just smile
Songwriters: Charles Chaplin, Geoffrey Parsons, John Turner
Smile lyrics © Bourne Co., Bourne Co