The call came in the middle of the night when Dave and I were sound asleep. It was the phone call every parent dreads. Our youngest son, Andy, then 16 years old, had been burned in a bonfire accident and was en route to the K.U. burn unit.
I had just had major surgery and was on total bed rest, doped on strong pain pills, so Dave made the trip to the medical center alone that night. His call reassured me that Andy would live but that he had been burned on his torso, arms, neck, and face (up to his eyes).
Dave spent the night with our son, and his morning call described what had happened. Andy had played a double-header that night with his Kansas City baseball team. We normally never miss our kids' games, but Dave had stayed home to care for me.
After the game, several of the ballplayers had gone to one of their homes for a bonfire. When the fire dwindled, Andy grabbed a can of gasoline and tossed it onto the embers. The flame threaded up the gas and caught Andy on fire. He dropped and rolled in the dirt, and his teammates quickly rushed him to the local hospital. It was their personnel who called to say an ambulance was taking our youngest to the burn unit.
Several of Andy's teammates came to visit, but the first one, Andy's closest friend on the team, passed out when he saw our son. The next day I coaxed Adam, our middle child, to drive me to Kansas City. I was not prepared for what I saw. Andy's lips were crusty, and the tips of his ears were black shavings. He was red and pussy and in tremendous pain.
Once a day he was taken to the debreeding tank where his burns were scrubbed to cut away the dead and infected tissue. From his room we could hear other patients screaming in pain during that process, but we never heard Andy. The burn victims were given medication to make them not remember the debreeding, or else -- as we were told -- the nurses never would be able to get them to return to the tank.
Andy healed from those wounds. He was left with a small scar on his wrist that lasted for a few years, but it too faded.
We all know there are more ways to be "burned" than literally. Friends bail out, finding a new "best buddy." Boyfriends and girlfriends are betrayed by their lovers, leaving behind a wake of guilt and remorse as they gave too much of themselves and now feel cheated and dishonored. Parents fail to parent, and step-parents make it clear whom they prefer. The result? Unbearable pain and scars.
This month a friend of ours will be released from the penitentiary. Steve was the babysitter for our sons when they were younger, an exemplary young missionary who was devoted to the Lord.
He became a pilot, intending to distribute food to the needy in foreign lands, and then he was arrested, "burned" by a 10-year old whom he was helping, a youngster who had enough emotional issues to single-handedly keep a psychiatrist in business.
When the police came to arrest Steve, he thought it to be a cruel joke. The young lad had accused him of sexual abuse.
No need to spend money on an attorney, everyone thought. With a pastor for a father and a stay-at-home mom, money was tight. Also, Steve was innocent. A court-appointed lawyer would do.
So when the sentence -- 15 years in the penitentiary -- was announced, none of us could believe it. Least of all Steve.
But now we are celebrating. Emails are flying from all of us who know this man and his family, excited that even his cellmates defended him, saying that they are convinced he is innocent because of how he has represented Christ daily in his tenure in the penitentiary.
Comparing the scars left by Andy's literal burn to Steve's emotional one, I think I would take Andy's any day.