The Day my Parents had to Say Goodbye

Picture of Dan

According to Webster’s dictionary, “bereaved” means “suffering the death of a loved one.” . With July being Bereaved Parents’ Awareness Month, I found it fitting to write about my own parents as they lost their eldest chid, my brother, in a horrible accident. The death of a child goes against all that seems natural. So, any vulnerability I risk in speaking about some of the most intimate thoughts and emotions my family experienced, paying tribute to those who have suffered this loss is well worth any discomfort I may feel.

I remember the day clearly. I was at a friend’s house having the last sleepover WEEKEND of the summer before my 7th grade year began. We were stationed in Hawaii at the time, so my parents flew to a neighboring island to spend time together before the busyness of a new school year began. But the day before I was scheduled to go home, my parents showed up at my friend’s house to pick me up. I was thoroughly confused as they were not even supposed to be on the same island as me, let alone at my friend’s house to pick me up early! But instead of giving any kind of attitude about leaving, I recognized a deep anguish in both of their faces and decided to wait to see what was going on.

We got in the car, drove away, and no words were spoken. My dad looked straight ahead, my mom quietly sobbed in the backseat. Silence. The kind of silence you dare not break.

My dad finally parked at Hickam Air Force Base, always a place for my family to go relax or walk along Pearl Harbor. When my dad finally looked at me, he radiated pain and complete heartbreak. His eyes, red from lack of sleep and a constant flow of tears. He quietly said, “Remember how we talked about Dan’s salvation the other day….” And instantly, I knew.

I remembered that conversation well. My brother recently began to seek the Lord again in his personal life, something he had not done for many years. My parents were elated because they could rest assured he knew Jesus as his personal Savior. And now… that was of the utmost importance as it was our only hope to hold onto.

My brother, who had been living in Oklahoma, suffered a tragic accident at his home by falling onto a glass coffee table and was refused medical treatment at a local hospital because of a lack of insurance. He was told he would be fine, given pain medication, and discharged. He died two days later.

My dad was awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call detailing the events that occurred. He described that moment later as feeling like he had been shot.

No matter how my parents wished they could run straight to where he was, an entire ocean separated them from their boy. As soon as my parents told me what happened, we went home, got our suitcases, and sped to the Honolulu International Airport. Despite flight delays and cancellations, we finally arrived in Oklahoma 24 hours later. The funeral home closed hours before we arrived, but a kind woman stayed until we could see Dan. The moment we walked in, we all crumbled. I don’t know how long we stayed there that night, but it would’ve never been long enough. I knew at that moment my parents would never be the same.

Twenty-two years have passed since that day. My parents found unshakable hope in the Lord and peace that only He provides, but they are not the same people they were before that day. That pain of losing a child cuts deeply, and in a way that really cannot be explained. I know the pain of losing a sibling, but I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.

Related article: “The Valentine’s Day That Forever Changed Me”