7 years ago, on September 16th, my 16 year old son Sean was riding his bike. It was a beautiful, lovely September day. He was hit by a vehicle. My husband is a firefighter/first responder and he was paged to the accident, not knowing that it was Sean, but knowing it was Sean at the same time.
A friend of ours kept a journal of the events of that fateful day and the events that were to follow. She gave me copies of this journal recently and I am going to share some of her thoughts with you all, to give glory to the Lord who carried us through these days, and has been carrying us every day since.
“It’s been about 2 1/2 weeks since Sean Stanton got hit by a car while riding his bike and died the next day. Of course, there are some moments about that week that I’ll never forget, but I want to record a few things because I know how time goes by and some of the details slip away.
Monday, September 16th about 6:10 pm Katie called and said, “Listen, Sean’s been hit by a car and is going to be life flighted to Hurley and I need to bring the girls over.” She came over with the girls and then left to go to the hospital. Rich called a few minutes later….I asked about Sean and he said, “It’s bad, it’s bad” and then gave the phone to Katie. She told me that she got to see Sean and bent down to pray for him and was all bloody when she stood up. She also begged me to spread the word to anyone/everyone to pray! She said, “Pray specifically that he’ll live because he might not! (ugh!) and that he doesn’t have a head injury, that his neck isn’t broken, that he won’t be paralyzed and that he’ll have a full recovery.”
So, we prayed, emailed others to pray, etc. While I was gone in the evening, LP called and talked to my husband… not good news….brain damage, internal bleeding and the Doctor at Hurley Medical Center, told them to prepare for the worst. LP went to get the Stantons’ other kids so they could all be together.
So we tried to sleep but it was nearly impossible. I texted them at midnight that I was thinking of them with a heavy but hopeful heart and Katie replied that” they were waiting to get test results to see if he is brain dead or not” Oh, I can’t imagine how her night went. I tried to sleep but got back up at 1pm and came out to the living room to pray…of course, I wanted God to choose to glorify Himself through healing Sean…stunning the medical world, etc. I found out later Katie stayed up all night singing to Sean. Oh, how hard that memory will be…but hopefully somehow precious as well. Rich said he thinks he finally slept around 3 a.m. for a bit…in the room with Sean.
Tues 9/17: I took S & B to the children’s museum and while we there in the music room Katie texted @ 11:43am: “He’s gone.” I read it and gasped then covered my mouth and started to cry. I think S asked, “Is it about Sean?” and then after I nodded, “Did Sean die?” I told her yes and that we had to go. I dropped off B and came home and cried with my husband…he hugged me and I cried…although he was choked up, too. Of course, we couldn’t eat and felt totally shocked…it was surreal…unbelievable and heartbreaking. We felt utterly helpless as to how reach out to the Stantons…we assumed they’d be home later that night and we’d see them but we didn’t know that Sean was being sustained on life support so his organs could be donated. After a long, sad, confusing day, (people were posting on Sean’s FB to keep praying…he’s still alive…ugh…it was awful.)
Finally I talked to LP, who called Katie to find out what was happening and then it was clear…yes, he’s gone but being sustained till the organ donor team could come. Meanwhile, lots of email and fb messages going back and forth….. Todd Wilson*, after I emailed him about Rich being so strong for his family, “I hope God never asks it of me.”
Wednesday, September 18, 2013—I had decided the night before, (after talking to LP again) that I would drive down and hope to see them. They had been told 24-36 hours til the organ donor team would be in place. She also said Rich and Katie had welcomed Sean’s friends to come and see him…Rich referred to it as a “living visitation”. I guess most of Shepherd’s Cross Country team came down and many others. The girl Sean liked came down and her mother posted on Sean’s fb page that they had their “1st and last kiss” – ugh—so sad. So, I arrived at 10 and found Katie sitting by Sean’s bed with her sister. We hugged and cried and then she introduced me to her sister and started telling me how things had gone the day before as far as people coming to see Sean, as well as just reminiscing and telling funny stories about Sean.
This is where the really powerful memories became etched on my heart—seeing Katie and her mom weeping together, holding each other with really no words, seeing M & D just sobbing as the reality would hit them afresh and then Rich strong, comforting, rock solid– reminding them of God’s sovereignty while heart broken himself….wow. He reminded them that God could have made Sean or the driver, (a believer—which was so comforting for them I think.) go a little faster or a little slower but for them both to be there at that exact moment was basically a divine appointment. Rich reminded us all, (as he spoke to his sons), that our tears are for ourselves and that Sean is in a better place.
I went to Sean’s bedside and held his hand and arm and looked at his face thanking God for the 16+ years that we all had him and for his sweet spirit and kind heart.
Katie said that morning as we sat by Sean’s bed that they knew he was already in heaven but I’m sure they, like me feel thankful for those bedside moments…seeing Sean still warm and still breathing, although not on his own…it was far more peaceful and comforting than seeing him in the casket. I know that’s the whole point of a viewing…seeing that the person—their soul and spirit—is gone and that what you see is merely a ‘shell’… this earthly tent. JC wrote something about this on facebook and mentioned that his dad reminded him that people think about us as “having’ a soul but in reality we are the soul and we have a body. Anyway, I just felt thankful for every moment that I shared with the Stantons by Sean’s side that morning. I told them how very generous it was for them to share Sean and those moments in the hospital with anyone who wanted to come. Even while I was there one of them was on the phone with someone from MP who wanted to know if people could still come or if they wanted people to stop coming and they said if people want to come tell them to come. WOW!
Then my dear friend wrote this in a letter, when she shared this journal with me:
We are praying for your whole family as you remember, hurt, and grieve together on a deeper level this week. I’m guessing it never really gets any easier to go on without Sean. We love you guys and are thankful for your friendship and are humbled as we watch you move forward in life with such deep wounds and pain. Watching you “keep on keeping on” in your faith after losing Sean.. well, it’s a gift to those around you to see you “suffering well” (reference is from a Piper article I read a while back…actually it was written by another guy Marshall Segal, who writes for DesiringGod.org…”Few things fortify the soul against Satan’s deception like watching another Christian suffer with persevering faith. When we watch others walk through the valley of the shadow of death with purpose and joy in God, through ups and downs, their faithfulness and endurance inspire fresh hopefulness and vigilance.” It’s a great article and of course, made me think of you both.) One of the most powerful images I carry with me, (that I didn’t write about in this journal entry) is of you guys singing with hands held high In praise to our loving Father at Sean’s funeral…“Praise you in the Storm.” It is seared in my heart and mind…witnessing your faith…trusting God despite the horrendous circumstance that you were facing.
I’m so sorry Sean is gone….so sorry you didn’t get to watch him continue to mature into adulthood and see him become an Uncle, (a doting Uncle I’m sure) to your precious grandkids or become a dad himself one day. He certainly would’ve been an amazing husband and father!! He was one of the warmest souls I have ever known.
This is me – Katie—speaking now—what a precious gift my friend has given to us by sharing with us this journal—by continuing to show her love and concern. One of the ways that God ministered to us then and now– is through His body of believers—people who came along besides us and helped us and ministered to us. I wrote my own version of these events in my blog, “The Gift of Grace”, where I talk about God’s presence which sustained us and still sustains us.
I wanted you all—people I have met and people I have not—to know that God is real. He is real. He is love– even during the worst times of your life. I am praying for all of you reading this blog, right now, that you will know God and be filled up with His love which has no end. I am praying that you will be encouraged!
*I used Todd Wilson’s full name as he is a public person, as a Christian author and speaker.