The line of mourners resembled what one might expect to see at the funeral of a well-known celebrity or political leader. But it wasn’t. Instead, inside the funeral home were the bodies of four little boys, in matching white caskets, lined with white satin. How did they get there? Love.
Six days earlier, it was a cold December Saturday afternoon and they’d just finished playing at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Greater Lawrence, Massachusetts. Seven friends, all boys, ranging in age from 7 to 11, decided to check out the ice on the Merrimack River on their way home.
First out on the ice was the oldest, 11-year-old William. He skated some 25 feet from shore and, with his buddies watching, suddenly disappeared into the icy waters below. Immediately his 8-year-old friend, Mackendy, rushed out onto the ice, taking off his coat in an attempt to give “Willie” a lifeline. When William pulled on the jacket it accidentally pulled Mackendy into the water because he was smaller.
The other five boys, watching from the bank, locked arms forming a human chain and moved carefully out onto the ice to help William and Mackendy. But as they did, the ice broke around them and suddenly all seven were in freezing water. Although the depth of the water was only about 6 to 8 feet, it didn’t matter because of their small size.
Ivan, who was closest to shore, made his way to the bank and ran for help. The others tried holding hands and desperately struggled to stay afloat. Nine-year-old Francis later told authorities, “I was hanging on to (7-year-old) Christopher, but he started to slip under. I tried holding on to his hand, but it was like he let go.”
Ivan found a 63-year-old man who lived nearby, Jacques Fournier, who came with a rope to help rescue the boys. Mr. Fournier told reporters, “I ran to the river with rope. I tried to throw rope to them. The ice was breaking. They looked very calm and were saying, “Sir, hurry up.” I was angry with the rope because I couldn't reach them.
When authorities arrived, even though they were battling floating ice, driving rain and mud, they rescued two of the boys. The other four were pulled from under the ice and were unconscious when taken to area hospitals where they later died.
At the funeral, the Superintendent of Schools in Lawrence said the boys were adventurous and had “a great love for life. All of these boys shared a sense of responsibility to each other and to their friendship.” 10-year-old Christopher, one of the survivors said, “They were my best friends. We built clubhouses together and rode our bikes together.” In short, they loved each other.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Remember: sometimes, the greatest examples of love come in the smallest packages … like a baby in a manger.
© 2013. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.