Illustration of a man in a black suit and black trousers. He has brownish hair and is looking down. The perspective is from behind. The background is purple and there is an arm on the man's back, comforting him.
Writer Wayne Hilliker writes about a tragic death and a sacred moment. (Illustration by Aad Goudappel)

Topics: June 2024, Spirituality | Relationships

After learning of the death of his son, a bereaved father made a stunning phone call

How one conversation turned into something sacred


Late one afternoon, I received a call from a good friend of mine, the mother of an 11-year-old boy.

She and her husband had just given him a brand-new bike. Then came the knock at the door every parent dreads. Two police officers told her their son had fallen off his bike and, unnoticed by the driver, under the wheels of a bus.

She was in a panic. She couldn’t bear to tell her husband, Allan, that their only child was dead. I rushed over and stood outside, waiting to tell him myself. Allan rounded the corner, walking briskly my way. Softly, I said, “Allan. There has been a traffic accident. Your son has been killed.”

He grabbed my shoulders, threw me off the walkway and yelled, “Liar!”

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He rushed into his home. There, he insisted his wife tell him it was not so. Her tears said it all. Allan slumped into a chair and wept.

Later, after I had driven Allan to the morgue to see his son, we were sitting in his living room with a police officer. Allan told the officer he wanted to talk with the bus driver. Noticing the troubled look on the officer’s face, Allan looked directly at him and calmly said the driver would be agonizing. Allan wanted to share comforting words.

The officer hesitated. But then compassion ruled, and he dialed the driver’s number and handed over the phone.

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Silence in the room as we listened to the phone ring. Finally, the driver picked up. Allan, struggling to form words, haltingly told him who he was.

Then: “I just want you to hear from my own lips that you are not to blame for the death of my son.”

The driver wept.

Such a moment felt like I was standing on holy ground. One phone call had turned into something sacred.


Rev. Wayne Hilliker is a retired minister in Kingston, Ont.

This story first appeared in Broadview’s June 2024 issue with the title “A Tragic Death, a Sacred Moment.”

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