Mac Engel

Babe Laufenberg delivered the eulogy at his son’s funeral. Was it God’s plan?

Luke Laufenberg, son of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, died Thursday after a new two-year battle with cancer.
Luke Laufenberg, son of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, died Thursday after a new two-year battle with cancer. Laufenberg family

At the behest of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Babe Laufenberg delivered the eulogy for his son, Luke Laufenberg.

Admittedly, Babe wondered if this was the best choice considering that Garrett “couldn’t make it two minutes” without breaking up when trying to talk about Babe’s son.

On Wednesday afternoon at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and the team’s long-time radio analyst had no choice but to prematurely celebrate the entire life of his son.

“I only get one shot at this,” Babe said as his voice cracked in front of the crowded chapel.

In 15 or so minutes, Babe displayed more strength than any parent ever should as he spoke eloquently about Luke, who died last week after a 20-month fight with cancer. Luke’s request was for everything to be normal, and everyone involved tried to do just that.

Watching a grieving family and friends memorialize Luke, it’s hard to see how this was God’s plan. It’s hard to imagine God’s plan involved the death of a 21-year-old young man, for no apparent reason.

Theirs is a loss that I cannot conceive, but, like every parent, only fear.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make sense of this,” Babe told the audience.

Babe said he figured “God needed a tight end. God needed a fishing buddy.”

We know conceptually that death is a part of a life. Knowing that and then witnessing it are different tasks.

There is a God, but when we think something like the death of this young man who had his entire life ahead of him is a part of his plan makes the ultimate creator small.

Why were the Laufenbergs’ prayers unanswered? Why does any parent, who loves and protects their child, lose them to cancer? A car wreck?

Are such tragedies part of God’s specific blue print for life? Are to we to believe that God’s plan was for Luke to die at such a young age? Or any child?

Are we to believe his plan includes such tragedy for the innocent?

Why are some prayers answered, and others seemingly unheard or ignored?

Is this the part of his plan not to meant to be taken literally, while other portions are?

My brain is not big enough to grasp his plan.

I know what fits today, or this month, does not the next.

There is a comfort in faith, but that does not mean there is explanation. A reason. A cure.

Luke Laufenberg died not because any prayer was ignored but rather he had the tragic misfortune of contracting an illness that we as people have not discovered a cure to defeat.

Whatever doesn’t work, or fit, we say “it’s God’s plan,” or, “his will.” And that we must simply let go and naturally trust it.

And then there is cancer.

When Babe, Luke and I discussed this in June of 2018, Babe recounted the following story: Luke was in hospital bed, and he asked his dad whether all of these prayers people were saying were doing any good.

“I don’t know,” Babe told Luke, “but I know all of those prayers aren’t hurting.”

Luke’s passing does not necessarily mean those prayers were ignored, or unanswered. Luke just had cancer.

Some people get cancer. Some don’t.

Some people beat cancer. And sometimes cancer comes back.

There is nothing fair about this, but “fairness” is not divine.

Maybe cancer is part of God’s will, but losing Luke is not.

Life is brutal and wonderful, often on the same day. Sometimes in the same breath.

Listening to Babe talk about his son, he captured both. The life his son lived, the fight that he endured, and the fun he had.

We can only choose to be grateful for the time we have, although expressing gratitude in instances such as these is beyond my emotional depth.

After exiting the church on Wednesday, I found a quote from the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie: “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

RIP Luke Laufenberg, and Godspeed to your dad, mom, brother and all of your loved ones. You mattered, you will be missed, and you will never be forgotten for that is God’s will.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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