The tragedy for me and my family happened on September 11, 1985. Do more bad things happen on September 11th than on other days?
I had four children—two daughters and then two sons. In 1985, my grown daughters were already on their own. Living with me in Calgary, Alberta, were my two sons, Gary the older and Jimmy the younger, age 16.
My husband deserted me and the children when Jimmy was only 1 year old. We never heard from him after that. From then on I had all the typical struggles of a single parent. I raised four children on my own with no father in the picture.
I tried to be a dad as well as a mom, but it’s not the same as having a real father in the home. Jimmy never even had an ongoing father-figure in his life.
Most of that September day was uneventful. My friend Patty and I had gone to visit an older lady in our church. But the lady said something to me that day that turned out to be prophetic. She said sometimes our children will do things that will shock us. I think God was preparing me for what turned out to be the worst day of my life.
That afternoon, Jimmy went out and spent some time with his girlfriend and Dean, his best guy friend.
That evening, Jimmy was downstairs in his bed room and Gary was watching TV in the living room while I was in the kitchen cleaning crab apples. The doorbell rang and I answered the door. It was Dean, wanting to see Jimmy.
I yelled down to Jimmy, but there was no answer so I went down stairs. I saw that Jimmy was behind the door. I thought he must be hiding from me. But then I noticed his feet were not touching the floor. Then I saw—Jimmy had tied a noose around his neck and kicked the chair out from under himself. He was unconscious.
Terror ripped through my heart and then every part of me went numb. Inside I was screaming—no, no, no, no, no! Dear God, help! Please save Jimmy!
I desperately tried to lift Jimmy’s body up from that position, but he was too heavy so I yelled to Gary and Dean for help. They came running down the stairs and helped remove him from the door jam. Gary started giving Jimmy CPR while I called 911. The rescue team came quickly.
All this time I was thinking Jimmy was still alive. I wouldn’t allow myself to think he was dead. I went upstairs and put on my coat to go the hospital. That is when one of the men told me
Jimmy was dead. I don’t know if he was a paramedic, a policeman or a fireman. I was in a daze.
A paramedic gave us some sedatives, but we didn’t take them. I was in utter agony but I also felt some sense of peace, as if lots of angels were surrounding me that night.
I phoned my daughters and broke the news to them. Dean had left to tell Jimmy’s friends about what happened that night so Jimmy’s friends started phoning in disbelief. I phoned my minister, but he was not home, so I phoned our deacon. I was thankful they arrived quickly. His wife was especially comforting, and he said a prayer for me and my family.
Then we said our good-byes to Jimmy, and they took Jimmy’s remains away. The deacon asked if we would like them to stay over for the night, but I said we would be alright.
I kept praying, as I didn’t blame God for the tragedy. I blamed Satan, and it felt like Satan’s presence was there all through the house. Gary and I stayed up all night on two couches in the living room since we weren’t comfortable with the idea of sleeping downstairs in our bedrooms. We halfway listened to the TV all night since we needed some noise to hold us together.
The next day it rained very hard all day long, which is unusual for Calgary. It comforted me somewhat as I felt it was God’s way of telling me He loved us and cared for us. I felt like the raindrops were God’s tears and He was crying for us because He was feeling our pain. It made me feel that God was by our sides. I know God helps us every day and especially when we are going through trials.
Although my pain was overwhelming, I was trying my best not to fall apart. I needed to be strong for my children who were in a state of shock. They needed me and I needed them. Jimmy’s friends were also devastated by this news, and my mother was totally heartbroken. I knew God was my strength—I had to put my trust in Him.
That day the deacon and his wife came and took us to make the funeral arrangements for Jimmy. I didn’t have any clothes to bury Jimmy in. Since he had stopped going to church two years before this happened, he had given all his dress clothes away. So we went to the store and bought him a suit for his burial.
The deacon paid for the suit, which was very kind and generous of him. And he made the arrangements for the pallbearers, which was also a big help to us. We could not have done this without him.
Since there was an annual Holy Day just a few days away (the Feast of Trumpets), we arranged to have the funeral afterward. I couldn’t really study for days so I just read the Bible and prayed.
My church family was a great support; they showed their love in many ways. They spent time with us, prayed for us and stood by us with their concern and love. My physical family also tried their very best to help, but they just didn’t know quite how to help us in this situation.
The day of the funeral was very hard for me, but God gave me the strength I needed. I kept thinking of God’s promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
God inspired me to concentrate on the hymn, “God Is My Rock,” and it helped me through the day. I kept singing it all morning before the funeral. God was my Rock that day, and He is still my Rock. I felt I was in His arms, loved and protected.
It’s a beautiful hymn, and it says everything I needed to hear. To this day it is my favorite hymn. When we sing it, I feel like God is saying: “I love you Julie, this hymn is for you. Keep up the good work.”
Life after our loss
Soon it was time to observe the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day festival. I remember before we left I just felt like screaming. I guess this was normal in this situation. But being at the festival was a healing experience for me—we heard many uplifting sermons, and everyone was so very kind to us. That was so very heart-warming for me.
Shortly after we returned from the festival, when I was with a very dear friend of mine, I cried openly for the first time since Jimmy had died. God knew I needed to have a good cry.
I felt uncomfortable in my house when I was alone. I felt like Satan was everywhere hoping to torment us. I wanted to move, so I prayed to God for his direction. I felt that He gave me the understanding to see it would be best for us to do so. I could no longer afford to pay the rent there so we moved into subsidized Calgary housing.
For a long time after Jimmy died, I felt very tired all the time. I would go to sleep and have a good night’s sleep, and I would be just as tired the next morning. I learned this was a normal part of the grieving process. My body had gone through a very stressful ordeal, physically and emotionally, and needed time to heal.
I don’t recall when the tiredness finally went away. But every now and then the memories will still come back with fresh pain and then I get tired again for a while. When I do, I again pray for God’s comfort and healing of my broken heart.
I still miss Jimmy very much every day. At times I wonder what he would be doing now with his life and what type of person he would be today if he were still with us.
Of course, I will never get over Jimmy’s death, and some days are very difficult. But God makes it possible for me to cope one day at a time. Each anniversary of Jimmy’s birthday and each anniversary of his death are especially painful.
I sincerely pray that a major tragedy will never happen to anyone who reads my story. I also pray that if you have suffered a tragedy, my story will help you in some way.
What is most comforting by far is knowing God’s plan for humanity and knowing that all those who never had the opportunity to repent and come under Christ's sacrifice—including Jimmy—will be raised in the second resurrection. Then they will have their opportunity to be given eternal life! I know that one day I’ll be reunited with Jimmy!
Why did Jimmy commit suicide?
I’ve pondered this question over and over and over again. I think I understand some of the factors, but I won’t fully know until Christ returns and I can ask Him. And after that, I can ask Jimmy when he is resurrected.
As I mentioned before, Jimmy didn’t grow up with a father and never had a father figure for any length of time. The man who came the closest to being a father figure—a family friend named Art—died two weeks before Jimmy’s suicide. I just didn’t realize until too late how devastating all this had been to Jimmy.
Jimmy was prone to emotional swings, being up one day and down the next. He tended to be over-sensitive and pessimistic about life. And he was impulsive. My guess is that his decision to commit suicide was an impulsive one.
Jimmy was basically outgoing and longed for friends. There were a few times when Jimmy would let some boy influence him to do something wrong because he was trying in this way to win the boy’s friendship. Jimmy made a few youthful and foolish mistakes and he had a hard time forgiving himself or being able to cope with consequences. He really beat himself up emotionally after a mistake. It was hard for Jimmy to cope with this harsh world.
I tried to be a good listener, a shoulder to cry on and a loving mother. But Jimmy also needed a good father or at least a man he could open up to and talk things over with.
And Satan and his demons are involved in all the evils of the world (1 John 5:19). God offers us life but the devil just wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Satan especially wants to destroy all of us who are true believers in God and our families. He will find new ways to attack us if he gets the chance so we must resist him (James 4:7). We must be prepared to fight back against his demonic ways with the weapons and armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Things I’ve learned and blessings I’ve received
God can bring about good results from even the worst of tragedies (Romans 8:28). I have learned new lessons and new tools, learned other lessons more deeply and have seen many blessings since Jimmy’s death.
I found out how much others cared about me and my children and showed us godly love.
I have learned to be more empathetic and compassionate toward people in the midst of their trials. Now I am better able to comfort and encourage others.
I’ve seen how my example of faith in God and peace of mind after the worst type of tragedy has helped others to have strength, faith and courage to move forward in their lives even when they have suffered major trials. When we hear someone else’s story, we don’t feel so alone.
I learned to love God’s Word more than ever. I have especially loved how John wrote about true love. Some of my favorite verses are: 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:11 and 1 John 4:16-19.
Being a parent is the hardest job that we will ever face in our lives. Each child is unique, and when children are born, they don’t come with an instruction manual.
There is no perfect parent, and there are no perfect children. We all make mistakes and we must learn from our mistakes. We also need to forgive our children, forgive our parents and forgive ourselves.
Learn to face and change what needs to be changed. What you cannot change, give it to God and trust in Him to solve it. Remember God’s specialty is the impossible.
Although the mountains are high and the valleys are deep, never give up and keep moving forward, even if it is only with baby steps. Remember God and Jesus and all the angels want you to succeed in life. They are cheering you on.
Remember God’s promise: “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13, Good News Bible).
God is a perfect parent who deeply loves all of us as His children. He knows what is best for us in the long run, and that is what counts. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This is written in 2012 in loving memory of my son.