As I was thinking about Easter and what it means to live with the hope of the resurrection, I thought of my sweet friend, Daphne, whom I’ve known for over thirty years. Five years ago, she and her husband Philip lost their oldest child in an accident. At the time, I was the administrative assistant in Dr. Norm Wright’s Trauma and grief class and I reached out to Daphne even though we were miles apart. Over these last five years she has shared her thoughts, feelings, and the lessons she has learned through her loss with me. What I love about Daphne is that she is transparent and honest about her thoughts and her feelings and she courageously reaches out when she needs support. I’ve been amazed at the strength and hope that she has and her willingness to revisit her own pain as she goes to other parents who have lost a child and speaks hope into their lives when they most need it. I’ve been so blessed by our conversations that I asked her if she would share about living with the hope of the resurrection as a mom who has lost a child. She graciously agreed to do it. So pull up a chair and sit a spell and read her story and hear her voice…
The day Larry died was a beautiful sunny day. It was the weekend after spring break and we had all been together as a family since our oldest daughter, Mary, was home from Mississippi College. All four kids were looking forward to Saturday so they could celebrate Stephen's birthday mud riding at the lake bottom. After they left that afternoon, Philip and I decided it was too nice a day to work in the yard so we went for a walk together in the woods. We stopped in a place with huge pine trees and talked while staring up at the sky. I remember how peaceful, calm, and relaxing it was to just be lying there in the pine needles. We had great conversation and then decided to head back to the house, eat supper, and watch a movie. Phillip hopped in the shower while I got supper ready. I was just pulling it out of the oven when we got the first phone call from Stephen. I could tell by Phillip's voice and the look in his eyes that this was not a good call. He kept telling Stephen to calm down and that we were on our way. All Stephen told his dad was that Larry had a wreck and for us to please get there as soon as we could. Stephen knew at that time Larry was gone, but he didn't want to tell us that over the phone.
We grabbed a few things and left the house in a matter of minutes. Phillip got another call from Stephen and he assured him we were on our way and encouraged him to just be calm and pray. I got a call from Sally and I did the same. I happened to think to ask her who else was in the vehicle and that's when we found out about the other boys and Ashley. I told Sally to pray for her brother and Ash, try to be calm, and reminded her that we were on our way. We knew we would have very limited cell service so I made as many phone calls as I could until I lost service. Then I texted, "Don't know details. Larry has had a bad wreck. Please pray and ask everybody you know to pray." I sent this text to as many people I could think of. I started getting text after text saying prayers were being lifted and a lot saying they were praying for peace for us. I have to admit, I was a little aggravated. I had asked my friends to pray for Larry and they were telling me that they were praying for me to have peace. This would all make since in just a little while.
It was so quiet on that 45-minute drive. I continued to text and pray and let my mind wonder what the following days would include. I pictured ICU with Larry hooked to machines and possible broken bones. I would put that quickly out of my mind and asked God to help me handle whatever state we found Larry.
When we finally got there, we came upon over a mile of parked cars. It was dark so there was just a steady stream of lights. We drove in the left lane around the cars until we saw where Stephen was parked. It was very quiet. I was expecting sirens and chaos but it was all so calm. I opened my door and jumped out before Phillip came to a complete stop. He was finishing a conversation with Ashley's dad so he remained in the vehicle for just a few seconds longer than me. As I came around the back of the suburban I saw Stephen running towards me. He threw his arms around me, crying he said, "Mama, Larry is gone". We knew Ashley had been airlifted to Memphis, and Dusty was being carried to the hospital so I wasn't sure where "gone" was. I grabbed his face, looked him in the eyes and asked, "What are you telling me?" He then said, "Mama, Larry is dead." At that point, his legs gave out from under him and I had his entire weight in my arms. I held him up and kept him from falling to the ground. I asked who told him that and he said everybody. I thought he was just listening to bystanders talk and told him not to think that until we knew officially. I then looked for Sally and Mary. Phillip had gone over to see if he could get information about Larry. I finally had my children and Ashley's brother in a circle around me all hugging. I asked someone to please pray. I don't remember what was prayed but I do remember that I had a feeling of peace come over me like I had never experienced. As I stood there with my arms around my children I knew whatever happened, we were going to all be alright.
It had gotten chilly so I sent someone to get a blanket out of our vehicle. Philip hadn't returned with any news so we sat quietly in the dark. It wasn't long until he came and knelt down in front of me and held my hand.
My husband is a kind, considerate, and compassionate man. I'm not sure how he had composed himself in such a short amount of time. He had just seen our son and had identified his body and now he had the task of telling his family the news. He told me about the others involved in the wreck first. Then with so much tenderness in his eyes and voice, he apologized to me. He said, "I am so sorry, Daphne, but Larry didn't survive the accident." Time stopped.
I heard someone screaming and realized it was me. My mind spun out of control and I wailed. I'm not sure how long that went on. Phillip just held me there. All this time I had been wondering where Larry was and what was happening with him. Suddenly, an overwhelming peace came over me. My screaming was hushed instantly. I realized in that moment that I knew exactly where Larry was. It is an indescribable feeling to realize that one of your precious children is in the presence of his Savior. I sat in awe of this place. God had been here.
In the days after the accident, so many little details of that night made so much more sense. My friends had prayed I would have peace. Those prayers were answered in the exact moment I needed them to be. Our days were now a bit chaotic, but God had given us such a peaceful afternoon to get our thoughts together. Thing after thing happened that reminded me of what a merciful, gracious, and loving God I have. How did people who don't have a relationship with God handle this kind of situation? It's unimaginable to me.
Larry accepted Christ as his Savior when he was young. He understood that when Jesus died on the cross, that He died for him. Because of this, I know one day I will see my son again in heaven. That gives me so much comfort.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 states, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus." What a blessing! Jesus died but he didn't stay that way. He arose from the dead. He conquered death. Not only that, the Bible also promises me that one day He's going to come back, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV)
I am indeed comforted by these words and live, looking forward to the day I'll see my son again.