In 1972 I was introduced to a young man from Indiana who had been brought to Washington to become Executive Director of the American Conservative Union (ACU). I found Larry Pratt to be a man of character and principle, and one with whom it was easy to work. We got along very well. Indeed many people confused him with me and vice versa. I recall a prominent Member of the House of Representatives taking me aside and whispering the strategy he and others had come up with to win on the gun issue. He treated this conversation as an extension of an earlier conversation off the House Floor. The problem was I had had no such conversation with this Member. He thought he was speaking with Larry Pratt.
During the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami Beach, Florida I was having breakfast with Dan Thomason of Scripps Howard when along came a gaggle of young kids. I heard one of them telling their mother excitedly, "There's Daddy"! I turned to Dan and said, "Honestly I've never seen these children in my life." The children drew closer and closer waving their arms and saying "Daddy, we love you. We miss you." Then as one of the older children came within 15 feet of where I was seated he let out a scream and proclaimed, "That's not daddy!"
Later that day Larry Pratt and I teamed up to work on the effort by liberals to change the delegate structure of the Convention, to accord more power to liberal states. In fact, over the years I could count the instances with one hand in which Larry Pratt and I have been on opposite sides. I was pleased many years ago to commend Larry to my long time friend, California State Senator Bill Richardson, Chairman of Gun Owners of America. He and Larry hit it off. Indeed, Larry has worked for Gun Owners, running its Washington Area office for some 30 years. I guess we have been together hundreds of times on issues facing America.
I mention all of this as background for the real purpose of this commentary. Thursday my wife Joyce and I set out for Springfield, Virginia and the Harvest Presbyterian Church, which is about 45 minutes from our home. But for my handicapped permit I would have had to walk a fair way as the Church already was crowded when we arrived. Soon thereafter several school rooms were used for the overflow crowds. The school rooms were equipped with television so people could watch the service. You see, the funeral service was in loving memory of Luke Pratt, who missed his second birthday by a few days because he drowned in a backyard pool. Still pictures and videotape were shown of precious little Luke. Luke's father is Eric Pratt, who often represented Larry Pratt at our Coalitions meetings. Eric and his wife Stacy have nine other children, including a newborn.
After some preaching by the pastoral team at Harvest, hymns were sung (including one by 14-year old Daniel Pratt). Eric and Stacy then appeared behind the pulpit, holding hands.
Eric spoke ad lib for perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. I don't know because I was so taken by what was said that I never looked at the time. Eric did all the talking but Stacy made it clear she agreed by the frequent nods of her head. Eric displayed a greater act of faith than I personally ever had witnessed. There was no bitterness--no blaming God or each other, which I have seen all too often in similar situations. While clearly Eric and Stacy were in mourning and already missing little Luke, Eric profusely thanked everyone who had come to the Church in the middle of a busy afternoon. He described the kindness people had shown him and his family during the week. Encountering the death of a precious two-year old one can truly understand that death is an insult to God. We were created for life and the only thing that God did not create, as revealed in the book of Genesis, from Holy Scripture, was death. That came as a consequence of sin.
The Pratts understood all of that. Eric caused us to be riveted to our seats when he explained how God had prepared him and Stacy for Luke's death. Luke, they said, was an independent little boy who seemed to require less love and attention than the others. But beginning two weeks ago, Luke wanted affection. Luke constantly wanted hugs. Indeed on the very morning when he left this life, he crawled into bed with Mommy and Daddy (something he was not accustomed to doing) and wanted to be held the longest time. Tears came to my eyes when Eric was describing the chaotic scene when the paramedics arrived. Eric was convinced in his own mind that they would revive Luke--and he said so. But their three-year old said, "No, Luke has gone to be with Jesus in Heaven." Their child understood even though they didn't. All during the ride to the hospital Eric said he believed Luke was going to come back to life. He did not. Their three-year old was correct.
What an act of faith Eric and Stacy showed the world by their acceptance of what happened. Of course they are crying on the inside. Stacy told us that God works in mysterious ways. When Eric is coming apart she has strength and when she is coming apart Eric has strength. They told of the time almost two-years ago when Luke was presented to the congregation and was baptized. So they know he has gone to a better place - a place with no grief, no pain nor sighing, only life everlasting. Their example was not unlike Job who after he lost everything said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Eric and Stacy understood that this was God's child. They were simply custodial parents. Now with nine other children they have so much to look forward to. May God bless them. May God ease the pain for Larry and his wonderful wife. They also showed us great faith with their attitude. May God grant all of the living Pratts many years!