to show him the music

Last Tuesday night …

It’s getting late. Brooke and I are cocooned in my bed. She’s turned out all of the lights, leaving nothing but the glow of our small screens illuminating the room. Curled into my arm, she is playing a game on my phone. I have my laptop perched on my knees.

I’m reading an article about London McCabe, trying desperately to gather the scattered threads of my thoughts into something coherent. Brooke sees the photo of little London, smiling out at us from the screen.


{image is a photo of London McCabe smiling, showing his toy helicopter to the camera}

“Who’s that boy?” she asks.

“That’s London, sweet girl.”

“Is he autistic?” she asks.

The tense of the verb … is. I don’t know what to say.

“He was autistic, baby, yes.”

“Will he be my friend?” she asks.

My heart aches.

“Oh, honey, I think he would have been a wonderful friend, but he died.”

She asks how he died. I try to sidestep the question. I tell her that I’d rather not talk about it. She doesn’t back down. I don’t want to lie to her, but the truth – that his mother threw him off of a bridge – is not a truth that I can bear the thought of her carrying. Not yet.

She begins the list. This is what we do. She lists the people we know, or know of, who have died. And the animals. Family pets, friends’ pets, always the list. But then she says something different.

“So he’s in Heaven now?”

“Yes, baby,” I say, “he is.”

“He is what?” she asks. She needs to hear the words.

“He is in Heaven now,” I say.

She stares into the middle distance gathering her own threads. And then sews them into a comforting, reassuring, beautiful cloth.

Tuck is there to show him.”

“Show him what, Brooke?” I ask.

She’s quiet again.

I say nothing. I’ve learned to wait.

“The music,” she says.

I try to ask her another question. I yearn to hear more, but she shuts me down.

“All done talking,” she says.

When my friend, Jeni’s son, Tuck died two years ago, it was awful. His loss both shook and steeled the faith of so many. Of course Brooke was among them. I didn’t see it then, but of course she was.

At the time of Tuck’s passing, Katie was hard at work raising money to buy him a new keyboard for his hospital room. Telling her that he wouldn’t live to see it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

This is what I’d written that day.

[Katie and I] talked about Heaven. About what it must feel like there. I said that I was sure that there was no time in Heaven. That Tuck wouldn’t miss his family because it would feel like just a second of being alone. She said, “No, they’re with him there, Mama. Even though they’re not, they are. Heaven is like that.”

We decided that it must be filled with music. That Tuck could play whatever he wanted and jam with all the other musicians up there. For the first time she smiled. “Mama, he doesn’t need the keyboard now. They’ve got one that’s WAY cooler than anything on Earth. And it doesn’t need to plug into his laptop. Heck, it doesn’t need to plug into anything. He can play the clouds!”

I ended that post with this …


You will be desperately missed. But please know this .. You changed us all. You brought us together, and that ain’t no small thing. Play it sweet in Heaven, kid.

Brooke never met Tuck.

She wasn’t there for my conversation with Katie.

She’s never read my blog.

I don’t remember ever saying it aloud.

But she knows.

She knows that he is in Heaven.

And she knows – knows – that he will be there to show London the music.

Of course she does.



Image is a photo of Tucker playing for his guest, Gavin Degraw

Love you, Jeni. Please know that your beautiful Tucker is still changing the world. Heaven is like that. 

15 thoughts on “to show him the music

  1. This was so painfully sweet to read. Brooke has been listening and absorbing life for years. She just kept things to herself until she was ready to let us in.

    Love you,

  2. Thank you for this. Last night I got the news that a student of mine was hit by a car and died. You and Brooke have given me a shred of light in this dark day. Heaven is like that.

  3. I’m in a fit of tears, but this was so beautiful to read. Your children are amazingly intuitive and I know Katie is right…. Heaven is like that. May sweet Tuck and precious London enjoy heaven’s beautiful music… Together.

  4. Playing the clouds. Thank you for putting into words somehow just what I needed to read to try to find something…I am still in shock over London’s murder. I don’t know him or his family, yet his death hit me so hard. Your girls are such gifts, thank you for sharing them and their wisdom with us. Out of the mouth of babes.

  5. I have not commented in a very long time, but I cannot believe it has been 2 years since Tuck’s passing. It almost seems like yesterday when you were posting about the keyboard and Katie raising money. What Brooke said was just amazing and beautiful.

  6. Just want to say Thank You for this post.. I realize that my Joseph has a connection to heaven…but he is noverbal so he can’t tell me..Brooke confirms it..

  7. Jess. WOW! Yesterday I was gathering up “Heaven” books. Didn’t know why. Do now. My sister loaned me one. A friend gave me one. And she gave mine back to me.
    Brooke blows my mind, over and over. Thank you for sharing her w/ us so generously. This post made me cry.
    Yeah, heaven is like that.

  8. ❤ ❤ ❤

    brooke puts things beautifully.

    and i am blown away that katie GETS it in a way that took me much, much longer to be able to verbalise; it took a dying friend to tell me before i really understood that we're here, living our lives, but who we are without the earthly limits, that us is over there at the same time, because there's no time at all over there.

  9. This is truly beautiful. Beautiful in the end, but so tragic in the beginning. That one would make such a decision for another human, that they wouldn’t think of someone else’s fear, loneliness, that they would be so consumed with themselves. I see connection in London’s eyes, and it pains me to think that his mother didn’t, that she felt so disconnected, that she felt he was a shell.
    May your words continue to spread the deep truths about Autism, may your love shine through all the world tries to muddle.

  10. Love this. Any post that mentions Tuck makes my spirit soar (I just love keeping thoughts of him near). But this post reflects hope and insight on so many levels that it takes my breath away. And, of course, Brooke is responsible for it. No surprise for me there. XOXO

  11. Hi my daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the same time Tucker was sick . They became friends and supported each other through mail and texting . Does anyone have the original video of Tucker and Gavin ? Thank you ! God bless Tucker 🙏💚

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