'It is the rest of us who need prayer'

The prayer was about being strong in faith, about guiding them along this difficult path, about allowing the family to find peace, about helping others not to assign blame, about making their relationship with him stronger in such a sorrowful time. They asked God for support.

They came Tuesday evening, one by one, tear by countless tear, long embrace after long embrace, to the place where some sense might be made of it all. To the place their pastor has counseled and encouraged and helped them countless times.

They came searching for answers.

There are none. No logical explanation. No reason that would seem acceptable.

There is this quote about the death of a small child being like a stone cast into the stillness of a quiet pool, that the ripples of despair sweep out in all directions and affect many, many people.

How true those words are today.

How ironic, too.

Those who gathered at the Remnant Ministries church on Windmill Lane upon hearing the news that the 2½-year-old son of Randall Cunningham had died after being discovered floating in a backyard hot tub mostly wandered through aisles and sat and talked quietly and prayed.

They prayed for Cunningham and his family, for their congregation, for little Christian who had died.

Information about the tragedy will surface and facts will emerge in the coming days. Those things happen in time.

Recovering from the loss of a child takes so much longer.

"We can only imagine that God figured Christian's spirit was needed with him," one church member said. "He was an awesome little boy who just loved his dad and everything his dad stood for, including the Lord. Sports. Football. He would run around here with that football under his arm shouting, 'Hut! Hut! Hut!' He would tackle all the other kids. He would always have different football outfits on.

"Pastor Randall is our role model in our faith and everything. This will be no different. I'm confident he will show us how to get through this. Only God knows why. We're all going to grieve. We are happy Christian is with God. It is the rest of us who need prayer."

He smiled a lot. My wife remembers this about Christian when working the snack bar for a local track club our son was on with another of Cunningham's children.

Christian smiled all the time on those Saturday mornings.

You can't explain the level of pain that accompanies such a thing as this. It's beyond excruciating. My parents lost my sister when she was 7. It never leaves you. There is always this sense of emptiness for the parents. These blank stares at the most peculiar times.

It's absolutely gut-wrenching.

But what Cunningham and his family have obviously discovered at Remnant Ministries is a membership devoted to them and their message. People who care deeply for them. People who want desperately to help now.

Randall Cunningham knows all about overcoming adversity, from playing quarterback at UNLV to 16 seasons in the NFL. He was in control as a player. He is not now.

There is no halftime adjustment to ease this agony, no trick play to hide the despair.

You hope like anything, then, that he and his wife, Felicity, and their children can in time discover that peace their church family prayed for Tuesday evening.

"(Cunningham) is our shepherd," said one church member known as Miss Happy. "He has blessed us in so many ways, and we're here to come together for him. Our hearts are just broken.

"There are lot of things we don't understand, but we are glad to know that God is in control of this situation because we know Pastor Randall and his family are God-fearing people."

There is no answer why in the same backyard hot tub where Cunningham has performed baptisms, where others were immersed in water to symbolize purification or regeneration and admission into a Christian existence, an innocent child is taken from his family and all who adored him. Where in the same spot where happiness and joy and futures have been planned, another's is cut so devastatingly short.

They gathered Tuesday evening hoping to discover a reason and, if not, to weep and pray and offer support for a pastor and family they have come to love and follow.

The stone has been cast into the stillness of a quiet pool, and the ripples of despair will affect many, many people who knew little Christian.

The little boy running around with a football under his arm will be forever missed by all of them.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.