If you looked at the pictures from Curtis and Grace’s reception, you saw one of Jacob gently kissing the head of a sleeping baby, Lawson Jacob Grubbs. His mother, Natalie, is fighting tears in the photo. It’s a touching scene, but it’s so much more than that.
I want you to know the whole story.
Natalie has been Jacob’s best friend since junior high. After Lawson’s birth I learned that, when they were in eighth grade, Natalie promised Jacob she would name her first son after him. Some might chalk such a promise up to girlhood sentimentality, but her resolve only strengthened with time.
At the end of their ninth grade year, Jacob’s drowning changed many things forever, including their friendship. All through high school, Natalie was a constant presence–beside him as he lay in a coma, encouraging him through many months of painful and exhausting therapy, faithfully praying and reminding everyone else to pray.
When she went off to college, she couldn’t be physically present as often, but her unfailing love and devotion was very much a part of what motivated Jacob to keep getting better. In so many ways, she was still near. And he remained in her heart, too. Natalie’s experience with Jacob inspired her to pursue a nursing degree.
After graduating from college Natalie married Wade. Jacob sat on the second row by the aisle. When her father escorted her toward her groom, she paused at the second row and hugged Jacob.
For years Natalie had worried that her future husband wouldn’t understand why she had to name her son Jacob. But when she told Wade of her promise, he said, “Of course. How could we name him anything else?”
At the reception Saturday, Natalie finally introduced her son to her friend. And she wept.
Jacob has never shown any jealousy toward Wade. But an interesting thing happened when Grace and Curtis began to get serious. We asked Jacob if he knew Grace had a boyfriend.
“Yeah,” he said. “Wade.”
We laughed. “No, Jacob. Wade is Natalie’s husband. Grace’s boyfriend is Curtis.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. But it happened again. And again. We began calling Curtis, “The Artist Formerly Known as Wade.” He had a great sense of humor about it. Over the following months, as Curtis got to know our family and Jacob spent time with him, the name confusion mostly disappeared. Still, from time to time, Jacob called him Wade.
Shortly after Natalie introduced Lawson to Jacob, and we’d all wiped away our tears, Jacob hugged Grace and said, “I hate to lose you.”
“You’ll never lose me, Jacob,” she said.
“I hate to lose you–” He looked at Curtis across the room. “To him.” There wasn’t any jealousy in his tone. Just quiet resolve and sincere emotion.
Fresh tears burned Grace’s eyes. “You’ll never lose me, Jacob. I promise.”
Sometimes it’s hard thinking about the fact that Jacob will probably never marry. Never have his own home and family. Even now I’m typing with a lump in my throat. But I thank God that Jacob doesn’t resent the “Wades” in his life. He will always love Natalie. He will always love Grace. And he’ll rejoice with them in the blessings they receive through the wonderful men who love them in ways he can’t.
Three weeks from tomorrow, Grace will marry The Artist Formerly Known as Wade–the man who has given her heart a home. Jacob will be there, watching, blessing, and loving a sister he will never lose.
No one can escape a love as fierce and gentle as his.
No one would want to.