Lessons on the Loss of a Son

Updated: Nov 4

This time last year I received that phone call that every parent dreads and while other parents were preparing for graduation, proms, weddings and family reunions, I was preparing for a funeral. My 27-year-old son, Kyol had died in a car accident along with two other promising young men. Since that day, I have talked very little about it. I have talked very little about it because what do you say anyway, because it won’t change anything, because you don’t want to be made to feel like a victim and my personal favorite, because there’s something deep inside that isn’t quite ready to give up on the thought that this is all just a sick joke and any moment your child will come walking through the door. Well, of course I know Kyol isn’t coming back but I am learning a lot about life and about myself. I thought sharing some of what I am learning would help someone else as they go through the difficulties and even tragedies of their life. There are many lessons, but here are five.

It’s a Short life

The first and obvious lesson is that life is shorter than we realize. Who doesn’t know this, right? But in actuality few of us live like this is indeed the case. Take it from a dad who has preached his son’s funeral, committed his body to the ground, pronounced the benediction and helped cover the grave with dirt – You don’t have time for some of what you are doing. You don’t have time to argue. You don’t have time to be bitter. You don’t have time to be jealous. You don’t have time to be petty. You don’t have time to work all the time. You don’t have time to not say, “I love you.” You don’t have time to live someone else’s life. You don’t have time to act like you don’t love when you really do. Be more selective with how you spend everyday and with whom you spend it because you don’t have time to waste.

Sorrow keeps showing up

Sorrow has a lot of faces (guilt, anger, confusion, regret, loneliness) and for all those people that tell you, “It’s going to get better”, well – THEY LIED. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t go away. What will happen is that God will show you over and over again the separate miracles that are a result of your sorrow. These miracles won’t ever replace the sorrow but they will give you something more life giving to focus on and you should do exactly that – focus on those separate miracles and stop waiting for the sorrow to end.

Strength is available

The truth is sometimes a contradiction. Here is the truth. We are always and at the same time stronger than we realize and not as strong as we thought yet always as strong as we need to be. Allow me to give you permission to just be you. Forget trying to be strong. Just be you. The notion of, “when I am stronger then I will….” is a myth. Strength is added as we go. As you go back to your life, your job, your children, your dreams, God will provide you the strength you need.

Sight can’t be selective

The first time I saw my son was moments from his birth. Ten fingers, ten toes, perfectly healthy and quite perfect. The last time I saw my son was in a body bag with a charred body, only recognizable by his dad. I have no regrets in unzipping that body bag, after having been warned that I would never forget what I was about to look at. I will never forget what I said to my brother who stood there with me. Three words – “That’s my son!” These glimpses or views of my son reminded me of life and how we should NOT see people. Too often we see people in terms of events and not in terms of people and relationship. We see the greatest successes or greatest failures in a person’s life and then use those events to define them. Remember, King David in the Bible? We define him in terms of Goliath (success) or Bathsheba (failure). But in between those events was the real man – “a man after God’s own heart.” It is the memory of the “in-betweens” that we find life and joy. Stop viewing people from the lens of birth and death because God always sees us as his child.

God’s sovereignty is a guarantee

God is still God and He is still a good God. I wouldn’t want his job. I can barely hold my little world together so it hardly seems feasible to question He who has the whole world in His hands.

Perhaps, you can add to my experience and even help me. What lessons have you learned during your greatest loss?

I welcome your feedback.

821 Word Plaza
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Call: (252) 442-2925
Fax: (252) 442-3894
james@jamesgailliard.com

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