Andrew Allen was just seven years old when he passed from this life on October 22, 2022, after a brief fatal illness. The shock of his death continues to reverberate through his family, church and community in Pikeville, KY.
Andrew and his family (parents Josh and April, and sisters Ella and Chloe) visited us this past Spring. We had a great time together visiting and seeing some of the sights, including the Vulcan statue that overlooks Birmingham. The fifty-six foot tall statue, constructed in 1903, depicts Vulcan, Roman god of fire and the forge. Andrew was amused, as only a seven year old boy can be, that Vulcan wears an apron, but no pants. Andrew chuckled the whole visit over Vulcan’s “backside.”
We ended the day with Josh leading a family Bible study, including hymns, scripture reading and prayer. Andrew surprised us that evening by quoting the twenty-third psalm flawlessly. Even at his young age, he was taking Bible study seriously.
Everyone who knew Andrew knew he had a sweet and kind spirit about him. When his elementary school friends drew pictures of him to take to April and Josh, the main thing they remembered was his smile, a boy who was a friend to everyone. Sometimes he had a big toothy grin, but most of the time it was a little straight smile that was his trademark since his birth.
At his funeral, there was a beautiful display with the words, “A small life walked by leaving footprints on our hearts.” The hundreds of people who came to comfort the family and join in remembering Andrew demonstrated very clearly that his “small life” had an outsized impact on everyone he met. And if we had not been forced to step out of our routine by the tragic circumstances, we likely would not have realized this.
Jesus emphasized that even the smallest things done in his name are noticed by the Master, and more importantly, they matter. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35–36). “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). No matter how small we may be, we can make an impact.
As we sought comfort in Andrew’s death, our hearts immediately went to David’s grief at the death of his child, when he said, “now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). This was a common response, because it really does matter, and losses such as this bring home the fact that we must be prepared to live this life in such a way that we will have a grand reunion.
Having Andrew’s “footprints on our hearts” reminds us that everyone matters, even if they are not our loved one. Our Father notices everyone. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6–7). There are many among us that are not important in the eyes of the world, but they are important to our Father, and should be to us. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
Grieving for Andrew has been hard. He was much loved. What do people who do not know the Lord do? How do they begin to cope? Paul encourages as he writes, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). He comforts us, and we comfort one another.
One small life, yet he blessed so many, often just with a smile. Will we be inspired to live better by this one small life?