As a pastor and as a father I have had more than a few occasions to contemplate the incomprehensible heartache of losing a child. Without fail those efforts have ended the same way -- the utter absence of any ability to understand such a tragedy. The complete futility of trying to put myself in another parent's shoes. Is there any worse nightmare? Over the last few days as I have read the numerous texts, Facebook posts and other words of condolence, I find myself in that same state of contemplation, only to awaken suddenly again to realize that this time the parents are Pam and me. Most of the time it is simply a bad dream from which I am longing to awaken.
There are, of course, the questions of how and why. There are the thoughts of this little thing or that little thing that could have changed the course of history, but did not.
And, there are the questions about what lies ahead. I know that I will not be -- I cannot be -- the same person I was three days ago. Pam and I are all too aware of the statistics for marriages that are tested by such tragedies. We are determined not to be a statistic. Indeed, we hope our family will be closer and stronger on the other end. But how that can happen is at this point a mystery.
God has taught me so much about loving others over the past few years, but I wonder whether -- not whether, but how the loss of my son will change who I have become. Will I become more sensitive to the pain of others, or will I be tempted to measure their circumstances against the horror of this time?
People say that some day Pam and I will be able to really minister to others from this place. While I am sure that is true, that day seems so far away.
Mostly, this time is a ping pong match between complete denial and utter despair. My mind drifts and then the elephant shifts his weight back onto my chest.
All I really know now is that I am so thankful that I know God and that I have the prayers and support of family and so many amazing friends. I do not see how we could make it through this without you. Pam, Christian, Dani and I are so thankful and grateful for each of you. I am sure Jonathan is too.
John is the Executive Pastor at Heartland Church in Carrollton Texas.