When it happens in your family

Written by Lisa Tyson
Published on September 11, 2020

There is a week in September that is dedicated to Suicide Prevention—just one week. 

I used to think that it was something that happened to other people. It’s strange how an event—one moment in time—becomes a defining moment between the time before and the time after the happening. 

It was a crazy Friday. Our church hosts Freedom, a Disciple Now youth weekend, on the first weekend in February every year.

On this particular Friday, my husband and I were working to help prepare food for our sons’ Freedom houses. If you have ever hosted a group of teenage boys, you know that preparing food is no small task. 

Our oldest son was excited to be staying with all of his friends. And our middle son was excited about his first ever Freedom weekend. Our family volunteers for the event each year, and he had seen his brother attend in years past. Finally, it was his turn to participate. 

In preparation for the big weekend, we ran one hundred errands and made/received one thousand phone calls. 

A different call

I remember where I was standing when the phone rang this time. I knew immediately the call was different. 

I remember the look on my husband’s face as he listened to the person speaking on the other end. I mouthed asking who it was, and he told me it was his sister. 

I remember thinking: “Why on earth was she calling in the middle of the day?” I remember my husband’s question: “Are you sure?” 

Silence. 

The next question: “When?” 

Silence. 

The next statement: “Oh, my God.” 

Jim hung up the phone and told me the news. 

Silence, again. 

Now there were no words. But we would have to somehow find the words to tell our children that their cousin was gone.

A devastating goodbye

Our nephew Jordan (Jojo), chose to end his life on February 6, 2015. He was fifteen—Fifteen

It is sad to lose a stranger to suicide. 

Watching your kids mourn the loss of their cousin, and your sister-in-law mourn the loss of her son, is even worse. To watch brothers mourn the loss of their brother, and grandparents mourn the loss of a grandchild, is simply devastating. 

It is heart wrenching to lose someone whom you love.

Grief takes no prisoners. It is all consuming. It makes you ask questions like: 

Did I love enough?
Did I pray enough?
Did I listen enough?
Did I miss something?
Did I model Jesus enough? 

Our sons did not believe us at first. The previous morning, their cousin had reached out to them on social media with a nothing Instagram type post. To the boys, it was just a goofy message. To Jordan, it was his goodbye.

A stranger’s kindness

This is the pain that our boys had to carry into Freedom weekend. 

There was no better place for them to be than surrounded by friends, focusing on Jesus. In the darkness, God was there. 

And this is what happened two days later: 

It was Sunday morning. We were outside the youth area. There were kids everywhere. In the midst of the chaos, an older gentleman asked if I knew Chase Tyson. 

I told him I was Chase’s mom. He looked at me and pulled up his sleeve. He was wearing a prayer bracelet with Chase’s name. He said that he wanted to tell Chase that no one had prayed for him this weekend like he had. 

At that point, my tears began flowing freely. 

As I was sitting with Chase in church, this man came and sat down right in front of us. I told Chase who the man was, and Chase stepped out into the aisle to meet him. 

With silent tears, Chase reached out his hand and thanked the man for praying. With tears of his own, the man pulled Chase into his arms and said these words: “Life is hard, but we get through it. God is here and he loves you.” 

I watched this man hold my son as they both cried. There is no way that he could have known what had happened in our family. There is no way that he could have imagined the grief that my sweet boy was experiencing. 

Chase’s letter

I’ve tried to find this gentleman again. I’ve asked around. But no one seems to know him, and I have not seen him since. 

At this point, I truly wonder if we met an angel commissioned with the task of reminding my son that God sees him, knows his hurts, and loves him fiercely.

Over the next days, weeks, and months, the grief came in waves—it still does. Sometimes it is stronger than others. 

I don’t think that we will ever get over Jojo’s death. We move forward, but we don’t get over it. 

This past school year (five years later), Chase was asked to write a letter to someone about something he carried. He wrote his letter to his cousin, and I want to share a piece of it with you. 

Because of you, I have to wake up every morning, put on my mask, and pretend that life is perfectly normal. If you must know, your memorial was beautiful, but that song that was playing, “Forever Young” by Alphaville, is burned into my head playing on repeat, just the way you left it playing in your room while you went into your backyard to end your life and stay forever young. But the only wish I have is for you to be here again so we can pick up where we left off on our unfinished game of catch at Nana’s. The only difference between my wish and your wish is that mine is to see you again and yours was to leave us all behind. Jojo, this world is dark and full of hate. But the thing I really regret is that when we last hung out and you left I said “see you later” instead of “I love you.”

Love, Chase

 

More than a cause

Jojo is the reason Suicide Prevention is more than just a “cause” for our family. 

We will see Jojo again. But it wasn’t at his high school graduation. We won’t see him at Thanksgiving or Christmas. And, we won’t celebrate his twenty-first birthday with him. We will have to wait to see him in heaven. 

So we grieve with hope and will continue to do so until we meet him again.

Hug your people. Smile at a stranger. Practice kindness always. 

Speak words of encouragement. Extend grace. Shine light in the darkness. Be salt to a tasteless world. 

Be Jesus with skin in a world that has to bring awareness to topics such as Suicide Prevention.

Live perfectly imperfect

Get daily emails with practical and spiritual advice geared towards helping you set aside perfect and grow into the parent you want to be every day.

Lisa Tyson

My name is Lisa Tyson. I am a Baylor graduate, have been married to the only man I have ever loved for the past 24 years, and we have 3 perfectly imperfect children — 20 (rising Jr. at Texas Tech), 17 (rising Senior), and 12 (rising 7th grader). Our oldest two are boys and the youngest is a sweet and spicy girl. I run my own practice as an Educational Diagnostician working with school districts to identify and serve their bilingual students while my husband works in the Operations Department for our church. I speak Spanish fluency and I love to read and scrapbook. One of my many life verses is, “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25). I am far from an Insta-mazing wife and mom — we eat the same leftovers over and over, I forget every picture day, and I had to buy my middle child new socks and underwear when I packed all of his and sent them to college with his brother (in an effort to not forget anything). But one thing I do well is this: I remember that the Lord has lavished us with His grace and nothing that touches our family is by accident. So we press on and push through knowing that He has always been faithful — no matter what.

Read more about Lisa

You may also like…

Privacy Preference Center