At least twice a week, Joey Lowe and his father walked, hand in hand, a half-mile to the grave where Joey's mother lay.
Now he must grieve alone.
On Joey's last visit to the cemetery Wednesday evening, a bolt of lightning struck his father.
Bobby Joe Lowe died at the feet of his 8-year-old son and is likely now to share a grave next to Joey's mother.
In October, Joey's mother, Laura Fauver, died during the night while her son lay asleep in an adjoining room. He went to live with an aunt and uncle, but he was unhappy there, they said.
"I asked him what he wanted," said Donald Fauver, Ms. Fauver's brother. "Joey said he wanted to be with his father."
He got his wish, but only for four months.
Joey, with his mother's blond hair, his father's dark eyes and a ready smile, never really knew a child's carefree life. Both his parents were substance abusers, family members say, and had little money to provide for him.
But they loved him, and he forgave them their flaws, according to the relatives.
"He didn't have the greatest life," said an aunt, Patricia Fauver, "but he adored his parents, no matter what he did without."
Joey's parents grew up in Irvington. Ms. Fauver was once a beauty -- blond, thin and athletic, "probably the prettiest girl in Irvington," Mrs. Fauver said. Mr. Lowe, 11 years older, was immensely likable and friendly.
But they were an ill-fated match, Mrs. Fauver said. "They weren't good for each other, but they loved each other madly," she said. Each was incapable of helping the other fight off addictions to drugs and alcohol, Mrs. Fauver said.
The pair, who never married, were a frustration to their family. Mr. Lowe once worked in construction but was rarely employed in recent years. Ms. Fauver relied on welfare, according to her brother. Delinquent with their rent, they were constantly moving from apartment to apartment around Irvington and Arbutus.
Patricia Fauver said her sister-in-law had a premonition of her own death.
"She told me that if anything happened to her, she wanted me to take care of Joey," Mrs. Fauver said.
In October, something did. The family isn't clear on what finally killed Ms. Fauver, except that it was related to her substance abuse. She died at age 28, on her living room couch in an apartment in southwest Baltimore. Mr. Lowe woke Joey up late that night to tell him that his mother had died.
The third-grader went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Fauver, who had two younger children of their own. But he didn't get along with his cousins and was clearly unhappy, Mrs. Fauver said.
"He had all this anger bottled up inside." Never once, she said, did she see him cry over his mother.
He got his wish to return to his father around the first of the year.
They lived with Mr. Lowe's sister-in-law in an apartment in Irvington.
A neighbor and friend of Mr. Lowe's, Russell Warfield, says Mr. Lowe was a doting father.
He said he never saw any evidence that Mr. Lowe had problems with drugs or alcohol, though Mr. Lowe complained of having cirrhosis of the liver. Mr. Lowe's family declined yesterday to speak to reporters.
At least twice a week, Mr. Warfield said, the father and son walked to Loudon Park Cemetery, often leaving flowers at Ms. Fauver's gravesite.
They had just done so Wednesday evening, when a violent storm erupted. The two ran for cover under a pine tree to escape the pelting rain. That's when the lightning struck, splintering the great tree and then, apparently, surging through Mr. Lowe's body.
Later, paramedics would find burn marks around his neck, caused apparently by lightning passing through the St. Christopher's medal he wore.
Mr. Lowe, 39, fell to the ground face down but lived long enough to ask his son to turn him onto his side. Joey did as he was told, but then his father stopped breathing.
The two had passed a mausoleum each time they had come to the cemetery, and that's where Joey ran for help. Employees called medics, who arrived almost immediately. But by then, Mr. Lowe was dead.
"An act of God" was listed as the cause of death in the police report.
Joey is living with relatives now, and the Lowe family and Fauver family expect to get together to discuss who will care for him.
"I really want to try again," Mrs. Fauver said.