When Kristina Lancaster woke up Saturday morning and looked out her window, she saw white ribbons tied around the trees along her street in Round Lake.
That was yet another example of the outpouring of support from the community after the death of her son, Alex Lancaster, 12, a 6th grader at Big Hollow Middle School in Ingleside.
Alex died Wednesday after practicing a Batman stunt in his bedroom, the Lancasters said, declining to give more details. The couple have two other children, Emma, 10, and Mason, 7.
"This has been such a horrible tragedy for us. It was something that was absolutely unexpected," said Jude Lancaster, Alex's father.
"When a husband or wife dies, (their spouse) is called a widow or widower. When a child loses a parent, he's an orphan. What am I called?" Kristina Lancaster said. "There's no words. I don't think anybody can put a word to that. Because it's not supposed to happen."
Kristina Lancaster, who serves on the Big Hollow School District 38 school board, said she's been amazed to find out how many people were touched by Alex.
Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil Friday night at the middle school, with the participation of Boy Scout Troop 188 of Lake Villa, and Cub Scout Pack 679 of Ingleside.
School officials brought the Lancasters a scrapbook of letters written by classmates, teachers and school staff.
"I remember you having a smile on your face and never, ever a sad face," one classmate wrote.
"Not many young people have the gift of touching so many lives. Alex truly had the gift of character, love and perseverance," a school social worker wrote.
Alex was on the school's honor roll, and was active in the newspaper club -- for which he designed a logo, wrote and edited -- ski club, book club, as well as set design and backstage crew for the school's theater program.
Nancy Ward, Alex's reading teacher at Big Hollow, said Alex was a remarkable boy.
"He was intelligent, very creative. He loved reading. As his reading teacher, he was a joy," Ward said. "He was just one of those students that had all the qualities of making people happy. I don't think anyone can remember him not having a smile."
Alex used to say he wanted to become a Lego designer and find a cure for Parkinson's disease, to help his grandmother. He loved to take things apart and put them back together, and shared a unique bond with his grandfather Bill Geister of West Dundee.
"Since he started to walk, he was his (grandfather's) shadow," Kristina Lancaster said.
Jude Lancaster said Alex was an independent thinker who didn't care too much about what people thought of him.
He had a drive to do the right thing, like speaking up on behalf of kids who were being picked on, Jude Lancaster said. "It was just something he really believed in," he said.
Last week, Alex taught his younger brother how to tie his shoes. During Christmas break, he had planned to watch all three Batman movies during a marathon session with his dad.
Public visitation is from 2 to 6 p.m. today followed by a celebration service at 6:30 p.m. at The Chapel, 25270 W. Route 60 in Grayslake.
Alex loved funny T-shirts with goofy sayings like "Homework Kills Trees" and "Bacon Boy." For that reason, the Lancasters are asking people to wear funny T-shirts for Sunday's service. Alex was a Chicago Bears fan, so Bears -- though no Green Bay Packers -- jerseys are welcome.
"He hated anything with buttons. We want the celebration to be something and somewhere where Alex would want to be," Kristina Lancaster said.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alex Lancaster Scholarship Fund, c/o Dr. Christine Demory, Big Hollow School, 26051 W. Nippersink Road, Ingleside, IL 60041.