On January 16, 1992, our youngest daughter Kathy (Jamie’s Mom) along with her younger two children (Michael and Holly) came to visit us for the long weekend. Jamie opted to attend a winter retreat with his church youth group.
Although we were a bit disappointed, we certainly understood. And, I think, a little hopeful he was making some good friends after the difficult couple years. Also, some suspected his interest in spiritual matters had dwindled in recent months. So, his initiative to go an such a retreat was a welcome option.
The evening of January 18, 1992 – the phone rang. I answered it. The voice on the other end? Our son-in-law (and Kathy’s husband), Carlton. He spoke directly.
Matter of fact: “Jamie killed himself.” Initially, I could not believe he would joke about something like that. But within moments, I knew this wasn’t a joke.
Jamie’s gone. Shock set in immediately.
I numbly told Phyllis and Kathy. Their tears… The screams… shook the street, I think.
Then, hearing the commotion, Michael and Holly rushed in… “What’s wrong?” I think they asked… By now, I’m not even sure what explanation they received. A total blur in my memory.
I remember Phyllis flew with Kathy and the kids while I drove from Kansas City to Denver the next day. The blur continued. I do not remember any part of that drive. Numb, I suppose.
As the family gathered for the funeral, we shared sorrow and loss. Jamie’s gone. We proceeded through the customary funeral preparations. Trips to the funeral home and cemetery. No dress rehearsal. Nothing prepares you for all the formal finalities.
One thing I really regret now is that I viewed the body. While I’d been to several funerals in my life, seen the bodies and it didn’t trouble me. However, Jamie’s body… in a coffin … That’s different for me. Very hard to see. I wish I’d never seen it. And I can’t seem to forget it either.
I want to remember the young gentleman from Thanksgiving instead. Sure, he had concerns. But, he also seemed to be handling them with grace and peace… maturity beyond his years.
Remembering Jamie… some memories- I just want to be fresh again. Others … just sad. What could I have done differently that may have impacted his decision? Or, if in fact, did I do anything that contributed to his decision? … That troubles me some still.
I hurt for Kathy and Carlton and the family. If it were possible, I would have done just about anything to take that pain away. We cannot walk in another man’s shoes- even though we sure would like to sometimes.
Recalling memories of his childhood with Phyllis and Kathy eases grief’s sting, I think. I remember the time he placed his foot in a tub of hot water on the back porch – he was just a toddler. He pulled his foot out fast and said, “Dumb Kid!” When he got excited as a toddler, he bent his elbows, clenched his fists, and then swing his arms back and forth.
The countless rides on the tractor or combine. His laugh… and Heidi’s, too… laughs that I hushed. And what a proud big brother. A good brother, too.
Photographs around the house remind us of Jamie’s life. His death is hard, but the manner of death is the hardest part. I think general knowledge of Scripture and trusting that God’s children cannot be lost… That brings a great deal of comfort… despite what Jamie did.
Prior to Jamie’s death, I remember a childhood friend losing his life to his own hand. We never knew if it was an accident or on purpose. But, you think about these things even if no one talks about them. Back when we were younger, you just didn’t speak of such things.
Although I’ve not spoken about all Jamie’s death that much, I’d be open to sharing with another going through a similar situation. We deal with any death. It takes time. But, this kind of death has its own sharp, deep pain, too.
I think it is important to know that time does take the edge off. Accepting the absence of a grandson, first-born grandson, is not easy. But, I am thankful God gives us memories. We’ve got some real good ones with Jamie and the rest of the family, too.
God also gives us Hope. Hope in Jesus. “…When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace...” Hope that leads us to Heaven one day… And I look forward to seeing Jamie there one day.
He reached out to me… and I remember.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
Refrain: On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
written by Heidi L. Paulec
Follow the family…Grandpa Ken married Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1).