Sitting at the dinning room table reading the latest issue of Car & Driver, I was having a casual conversation with my wife, Beth. The date was August 25, 1998, a busy and exciting time for both of us. I was the headmaster of a private school and Beth was a teacher at that same school, we were both preparing for the new year. Also, this would be the first year without our son, Robert.
Our son Robert. Now, after twelve years in education, I had found that parents usually fall into one of two categories. The first love their children, are supportive and think highly of them and the second criticize their children and consider them unintelligent or a burden. As parents, Beth and I were in the first category.
Robert was our only child and we enjoyed each day with him. We were, however, strict parents who demanded the best from him and praised him when he gave it. The biggest sin was not failure but lack of effort and Robert gave everything his best.
At the age of four he accepted Christ as his savior. I know this may sound young but he understood the concept of sin, salvation and God. He was never perfect (none of us are) but he took his dedication to his God seriously.
We spent many happy years as he grew up doing things together as a family. We went on camping trips to national parks, civil war battlefields and the nations capital. Summers were the best time. We would take the pop up camper and head out. We would also go to our church “Family Camp” with our tent in the summer.
As Robert grew older, he had a maturity about him that was beyond his years. He may not have been the best in every subject in school but when it came to theological and political things our conversations ran deep. I personally enjoyed our many conversations. I always told him that it was not important that he agree with me but he better be able to defend his position in clear, logical way. A lot of people say avoid religion and politics but for us it was great fun.
As Robert grew older, he grew into himself physically and mentally. As a school soccer coach I remember one year we had a good team but no goalie. This was really hurting us in games. Finally, Robert asked me if he could try. My first instinct was no because I did not view him as capable of that position but I agreed to let him try and I worked with him each day. I had played both high school and college soccer so I know something about the position. Well after a week he became a fantastic goalie. He had no fear, a good understanding of the dynamics and the moves to protect our goal. What a help to the team.
He also grew spiritually and socially. One time when he was 17 he preached at our church. He sounded like someone who had been doing it all their life. Many people came up to me and were amazed at the heart with which he shared the gospel. He was heavily involved in our church activities, especially with the youth group.
Lastly, he graduated a year early from high school all while working part time and playing sports. He received a standing ovation for the speech he gave at his high school graduation and a scholarship to a well-known Christian college.
So it was with great expectations we looked forward to Robert going off to college and Beth and I starting our new academic year.
Then the phone rang. “Hello, this is MCV hospital, am I speaking to Robert McCallum Jr.?” Yes I answered. “Do you have a son named Robert McCallum III?” Yes, I answered. “You need to come down here right away, he has been involved in an accident and you need to be here.” I quickly got the rest of the information I needed and Beth and I left for the hospital.
We had no idea how that one call would change our lives forever.