On Good Friday, 1994, just before midnight, my telephone
rang. On the line was my brother, he told me that my 16 year old nephew,
Dustin, had just died in a car wreck. Instantly my heart felt like it
was in my stomach. My brother told me that there wasn’t any need for
me to come down that night and I told him I would see him in the morning.
I then told my wife and can remember crying in her arms.
The next morning, as I drove the 22 miles to my hometown,
it just felt like a dream. I just kept thinking of my sister and how
she must be handling this tragedy. As I walked into the house, I hugged
my sister and told her how very sorry I was. As the day went on, I just
watched her and her husband and kept thinking of my children, Ryan,
who is one and a half months older than Dustin, and my daughter Tara.
I couldn’t imagine losing either of them and how would I handle such
a situation; they mean so much to me. My brother and I went with my
sister to the funeral home to make arrangements; again I thought how
hard this is.
The next few days, thru the visitation and funeral, nothing
seemed like it was real. I continued to watch my sister and see her
torture and worried about her. I knew that she believed in God, but
was not a regular churchgoer. As prayers were said, the ones that affected
me most were the prayers of healing for my family. My parents were torn
up, especially my dad. Dad loves sports and Dustin was a very good basketball
player, as my son was a very good baseball player, and my dad loved
to watch both of them play.
You often hear of sightings and people hearing from the
loved ones passed on. Over the next couple of weeks, my sister’s family
experienced this. As I listened and watched their struggle, with the
loss of Dustin, I thought a lot about these experiences they were having.
I come to my own conclusion that God will open up any avenue possible
to help with the healing process that we have asked him for. If it takes
sight or sound to help heal and bring comfort in the loss of a loved
one, then that is what God will let us have, to be able to begin to
heal. I believe that this is what my sister’s family needed to begin
As the years went by and I watched the struggles of my
sister, in dealing with her loss, I often wondered how much she turned
to God. I began to notice more healing as she began to share some religious
items that seemed to help her. One of the hard things of healing for
her was watching my son, Ryan, grow and then go on to college and play
baseball, it just made all of us think of what Dustin would be doing.
But as time went on I noticed that my sister and her family were coming
out of their shell of hurt and that they were opening up more with all
On June 15,2000, my phone rang at 3:30 in the morning,
it was my daughter, Tara. She was yelling in the phone, "Dad get over
here, Ryan has just killed himself.” I instantly went numb and questioned
her and she told me that he had hung himself. I told her I would be
right there. I told my wife and then got dressed. Later, I remembered
that I didn’t shed a tear at that time, I believe it was because I was
Once again I was in my car and everything seemed to be
a dream. As I drove the 10 miles to Ryan’s apartment, I just kept wondering
why? When I arrived my daughter came running up to me and I held her
and told her everything would be ok. I went to their mother and asked
what had happened. She told me that she had been talking to him and
we realized in her talk with him what might have been the trigger mechanism,
but if there was any deep emotional problems that we might never know
what really caused him to take his life. As we talked to his friends
and people that had seen him that night, we realized that if there were
deep seeded problems, no one else knew about them, he had been his cheerful
self with everyone that night. Only an incident that happened on his
way home must have been the start of his anxiety and pain.
As things settled down and I headed back home, I remember
thinking why? He had a good job that he really liked, a girlfriend,
lots of friends, and had just bought a new car. He had had some tough
times, as most kids do, but it seemed like he had just got his life
on track and had even seen his future ahead of him. I realized at that
point that this is something that could tear me apart, trying to understand
As I arrived home, I hugged my wife and we cried. I told
her about the circumstances that led up to him taking his life. Somewhere
in time, I can’t remember when, my wife told me that this was tearing
her up, she couldn’t imagine what it was doing to me, since Ryan was
just her stepson. Ryan had lived with us since he was a sophomore in
high school and she had grown to love him. She then told me that she
had called my brother and he was going to go tell my parents.
I then went out and sat on our back patio, it is very
peaceful there, our yard is full of flowers and it is very relaxing.
It was then that I spoke to Ryan. I told him that I didn’t understand,
but if there was that much anxiety and pain in his life, at that time,
I did know that the pain was now gone and it would never bother him
again. I told him that I felt he made the wrong decision, but it was
his decision and I would somehow learn to live with it. I told him that
I would not drive myself crazy trying to understand and that when we
met again, he could tell me, or I might not even care at that point
I then turned to Jesus and I was angry. I asked him how
could he let my son do this. What had he ever done to deserve this,
or was I that bad a parent that this was my punishment? Jesus knew that
I believed and that I knew that he guides our lives, but I couldn’t
understand this. I was mad and upset and I blamed Jesus for this. All
I could do was ask him, "Why?”
As my family started to arrive at my house, my pastor
also arrived. As we all gathered in the living room, my pastor said
a prayer. In the prayer, he said that we don’t always understand and
that now he asked Jesus to start healing our family. As I listened to
the words of prayer, I realized that I should not be angry with Jesus,
that I was going to have to have his support in helping to take away
this terrible pain that I felt. As that first day came to an end, I
asked Jesus to forgive me for my anger and to help ease the pain and
to maybe give me an answer to the question, "Why?”
It took some time, but as I look back, I realize that
Jesus was healing me. It all began the very next day. Before we went
to the funeral home for visitation, I felt moved to write a Father’s
Day message, since it was that coming Sunday. I didn’t know at the time
why I felt so strong about that message, but I realize now that it was
a part of my healing process. At the visitation, I gave my message to
my pastor to read on Sunday to my church family. The visitation put
me in a dream state, nothing seemed real and I would stay that way for
The next day, at the funeral, everything seemed like a
dream. I don’t remember anything that was said. At the end, Ryan’s mom
got up and spoke and I don’t remember what she even said. I was to speak
after her at the very end and I had no idea what I would say, if I could
say anything. As his mom got done, she said there was a song that Tara
had picked out to play. I remember listening and at the very start of
the song it got my attention. I realized that Jesus was letting me know
what my life was going to be like from now on, thru the words of this
The chorus was this: "Every step I take, every move I
make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you. Thinking
of the day, that you went away, what a life to take, what a bond to
break, I’ll be missing you.” I have a copy of that song and from time
to time I will play it. Ryan loved music and I get a feeling of closeness
to him when I hear those words.
When the song ended and I stepped up to speak, I was
really nervous. I spoke first to his friends and told them that they
were still a part of our lives. After I spoke to them, I stepped back
from the podium and paused for a second.
Later as my wife and I talked, she said she wasn’t sure
what I was going to do, but when I stepped back up to speak, she said
she had never heard my voice stronger or steadier. You see, at that
point in time, I felt like Ryan wrapped his arms around me and even
though I did not hear his voice, that feeling made me feel like he was
letting me know that he had heard me and that everything was going to
be ok. I also felt the presence of Jesus with me.
I stepped back up to the podium and I explained that
I had written a Father’s Day message and had given it to my pastor to
read at church the next day, but that I would like to share it with
everyone now. I didn’t have the paper in front of me, but I felt that
I could remember the words since I had just written them the day before.
I told everyone that this was very important to me and
it was my true feelings. This is how it goes: "We are so proud when
our children are born and we hold them for the first time. As they grow,
especially when they are little, we constantly hold them and remind
them that we love them.
As they get older and into school, we are so proud when
they get good grades and do well in school. As they begin to play sports,
boy can we brag on how good they are. Our children make us so proud
of them, even when they have trouble in their lives, we still love them
and worry about them.
But one thing that a lot of us fathers do, is as they
get older, we don’t always grab them and hug them and tell them that
we love them, as often as we should. So on this Father’ s Day, the day
that we are supposed to be honored, grab your children, hug them, tell
them that you love them, because tomorrow you may not be able to.”
I had a hard time saying the very end of that message,
but I was able to and then I went back to my seat in tears. As I sat
there, I felt strength grow and some pain go away. I knew that Jesus
was working on me and that Ryan was there also. I’ve never felt stronger
or more aware then I did at that time.
As we left for the cemetery, my parents were with me
in the car and I explained to them how I was feeling. At the cemetery,
I felt like I absorbed every word that the minister was saying, it was
as if all my senses were awoken. I’ve felt strong ever since.
I feel that one of the reasons Jesus gave me this strength,
at the time he did, is because he felt the concern that I had for my
parents. I know how hard it was when we lost Dustin and I was really
worried about them now. I felt it was important for them to see the
strength I had gotten, so they would not worry about me.
The Monday after the funeral, I told my wife that I wanted
to go see my parents because I was worried about them. We sat that night
and talked about everything and especially how I felt and how strong
my religious beliefs and faith was. When we left that night, we got
in the car and my wife put her hand on my leg and said that she felt
that my parents would be okay, because they were drawing off of my strength.
As time passed by the Lord put in front of me a lot of
different poems. All of these poems had religious themes to them and
all of them touched me and made me feel better. There are two poems
that really touched me. The first one hit on exactly how I was feeling,
it’s called: SOMETIMES I WANT TO CRY: "There is love in my sorrow, there
is love in my tears. Give me the courage and strength, through the coming
years to hold on to yesterday’s memories, so all may know the love in
my heart and the love from my soul.
Sometimes I want to cry but if I shed a tear for that
precious child no longer near, just know that I need a little time to
fight back the tears.....and I’ll be fine. Oh, I want the rainbows but
don’t want the storms, I want the roses but I don’t want the thorns.
Oh sometimes I want to be weak and lean on you to find comfort and strength
in all I say and do. Lord, sometimes I want to cry but if I shed a tear
for that precious child no longer near, just know that I need a little
time to fight back the tears.... And I’ll be fine.
When I get to heaven and I see my little one, standing
before Jesus, God’s only son. I’ll have no need for tears or memories....
For we will be together for eternity. Just to think of that sweet day....
Sometimes I want to cry. The last part of that poem really touches on
how I feel it will be like when I leave this earth. I will see my son
again and I probably won’t even want to know why things happened, because
I will just be glad to see him again.
As I had said earlier, when everything first happened,
I asked Jesus Why? The next poem that I found helps me understand that
question. It is called: THIS CHILD OF MINE: "I’ll lend you for a little
while a child of mine,” God said. "For you to have the while he lives,
and mourn for when he’s dead. It may be six or seven years or twenty-two
or three; But will you till I call him back take care of him for me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you and should his stay
be brief, you’ll have his lovely memories as a solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth must return; But
there are lessons taught below I want this child to learn. I’ve looked
the whole world over in search for teachers true; And from the throngs
that crown life’s land, I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love nor think the labor
vain? Nor hate me when I come to take this lent child back again? I
fancied that I heard them say, "Dear Lord, Thy will be done. For all
the joys thy child will bring the risk of grief we’ll run. We’ll shower
him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may. And for the happiness
we’ve known forever grateful stay. But should thy angel call for him
much sooner than we’ve planned, we’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
and try to understand.
After the first time I read that poem, I instantly read
it again and realized that Jesus was answering my question. When I read
this poem I felt more of the pain lifted from me. I do believe that
we are all of God’s children and he can call us home at anytime. As
the first Christmas without Ryan got closer, I knew that it would be
different without him with us. My heart was heavy, but I knew that I
would be surrounded by family and we would all make it thru the holidays,
we had done this before.
Once again, Jesus brought a poem to me, this time thru
my daughter. She had been touched by this poem and wanted to share it
with me. Of all the poems, because of that, this means the most and
is once again what I believe.
The poem is called: I’M SPENDING CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS
CHRIST THIS YEAR: " I see the countless Christmas trees, around the
world below, with tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting on the
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear,
for I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year. I hear the many
Christmas songs, that people hold so dear, but the sounds of music can’
t compare with the Christmas choir up here. For I have no words to tell
you, the joy their voices bring, for it is beyond description to hear
an angel sing. I can’ t tell you of the splendor, or the peace here
in this place, can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior, face
to face. I’ll ask him to light your spirit, as I tell him of your love,
so then pray one for another as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your hearts be joyful, and let your spirit
sing, for I’m spending Christmas in heaven, and I’m walking with the
King. Jesus has been healing me by bringing poems and people to me,
he has surrounded me with a loving family and a loving church family.
In doing this, Jesus is healing me by reawakening my faith, spirit and
I have always believed that Jesus always has his hands
on us and guides us in our life, even in times that we are not aware
of. Now, sometimes we may shake his hand off of us and wander, but because
we truly believe, we always come back and ask him for forgiveness and
he accepts us back, with a lesson learned. I believe that Jesus guided
me back a number of years ago, back into his house that I had wandered
He did this to renew my faith, because he knew what I
would one day be facing and he was preparing me for this time in my
life. I do understand that no matter how tragic our life can be, you
cannot afford to turn your back and close your heart to Jesus, no matter
how upset you may be at the time.
You need to face him, open your arms to him and open your
heart, so he can enter into your spirit. Without that, it can be almost
impossible to face your grief alone. He heals all of us in different
ways, but he will heal us when we ask, we just have to truly believe.
He has taken the terrible pain from my heart and made me stronger. The
thoughts and memories of Ryan are those that bring a smile to my face
and make me glad that I had him with me as long as I did.
Because Jesus has renewed my faith, I was able to answer
a question once asked of me about Ryan going to heaven even though he
committed suicide. I believe that it was a sin, but my Savior is a loving
and forgiving Savior.
He died for our sins and showed us that as long as we
believe that he will forgive us and let us be by his side in heaven.
I know that Ryan believed. When I was approached, by a friend, and given
his condolences, he said that he had been hearing good things about
how I was doing.
He said that I must have someone upstairs watching over
me. I told him that I had two people watching over me, Jesus and Ryan.
After he walked away, I realized that I had on a chain that had been
Ryan’s as a symbol of his arms around me.
As soon as I got off work, I went to the jewelry store
and bought a cross and put on the necklace, I’ve never taken the chain
off since. Jesus has also strengthened my spiritual gift. When I took
a test, to see what my gift was, before I started I wrote what I thought
my spiritual gift was.
I wrote, "The ability to make people feel good about
themselves and life.” When I took the test, it come back that my spiritual
gift was Encouragement. By Jesus strengthening my spiritual gift, it
has helped me to remain strong for my family. It has allowed me to open
myself up to people to show them how my faith has helped me heal.
It has allowed me to share the poems and thoughts that
I have, not in a way to look for sympathy, but to give encouragement
to people that may be going thru the same circumstances that I am. T
hat maybe my story will be an inspiration to them, so
that they can start their healing process and understand that they are
not alone. They can see that Jesus is working with me and thru me, to
make me strong and face my circumstance.
Now, there is still an ache in my heart, not a terrible
pain, but an ache. I believe that Jesus will not touch that ache, it
is there because I have lost my son and it will be with me till I meet
him in heaven one day.
So when I shed a tear, it is not of pain, but because
I am at a point, that I really miss Ryan. They are tears of Selfishness
and Jealousy. Jesus understands and I’ll explain them so you can understand.
Tears of selfishness--Ryan is not only a child of God,
but he is my son. I am selfish, in the fact, that I want him here with
me, not at the side of God. I miss him, he should be walking thru my
door, wanting to play golf or showing me something he has gotten or
just stopping by to say hi.
He belongs here with me. Tears of jealousy--I’m jealous
of Jesus. I believe that heaven is the most beautiful place we will
ever see. I believe that it is full of love, joy and happiness. I believe
that the very special things that we enjoy on earth, we get to do in
heaven. For instance, I love to play golf.
When I get to play heaven’s golf course, Jesus will let
me be so good, that even Tiger Woods won’t be able to get on the same
course with me. So when I say I’m jealous of Jesus, it’s because he
is getting to do what I loved to do. Jesus is playing with and watching
Ryan play baseball.
Right now, Jesus is up to bat and Ryan is on the pitching
mound and he has that smile on his face, that he always had, because
he knows that he is about to pitch his best pitch, a curveball to Jesus.
That is why I’m jealous of Jesus.
Now Jesus knows and understands all the feelings that
I have. I know that Jesus will always be there for me and that he will
keep working for and with me. Jesus will keep his arms on me and continue
to guide me. The one thing that I truly understand: Faith--it can keep