Born March 1, 1972 | Died February 6, 1991
I can still recall the exact moment the nurse laid our newborn son on the white sheets of my wife’s bed in St. James Hospital, Chicago Heights, IL. That is the moment when the full weight of this new responsibility hit me. The nurse turned to me and said, “He is all yours now.”
At the time of his birth, I was pastor of a small church where the structure of the church and parsonage was physically attached. This meant I could run over from my office and help with the care of our new baby boy. I had the pleasure of feeding, changing, bathing and playing with Denny more than most dads. Across the years, there was a special bond between us as I taught him how to ride a two-wheeler, throw a ball, play football, fish, and much more. He carried my name and we were very close. We had a great father and son relationship.
My pastoral calling took me to Indiana and finally to Kansas, the place he loved the most. When we arrived here in Olathe, he told me he wanted to live here the rest of his life. He was active in school and community sports such as baseball and football. Then, he took up long-distance challenges such as you find in Triathlons. He was very good at all three: swimming, biking and running, often placing first in his age division.
Looking back, I have very few regrets with the way I related to him as I watched him grow. I have wonderful memories of watching him play in all the sports in which he participated.
He developed into a handsome young man and had a smile that could stop a young girl’s heart. He was an affectionate boy and always gave me a hug or touched my shoulder or back when we were close. He never ended a phone conversation without saying, “I love you dad.” He loved his home and I can recall coming home just in time to watch him dance around the kitchen with his mother, dipping her down so that her hair nearly brushed across the floor.
Our lives here in Olathe were wonderful until February of 1991 when he became ill. A quick trip to the doctor revealed he had, “mono.” We were supposed to leave on a family ski trip and the doc had given his permission for the trip but had warned Denny wouldn’t feel like skiing. Then, on February 6, at 8:20 in the morning, when I tried to waken him, I discovered he had died in his sleep. That is the precise moment when everything changed for me, my wife, and Denny’s younger brother, Andy. It was my, “Oh my God” moment when the light of my heart was blown out. He was only eighteen.
It has now been 25 years since we lost Denny and we think of him every day. We grieved until we thought we couldn’t cry another tear. We had no desire to live and prayed that God would take us out as well. The pain was unbearable. However, we have somehow survived by finding safe people who allowed us to share the unbearable burden of pain we carried. We have discovered the truth of the Chinese proverb, “Sorrow shared is sorrow halved.”
We are determined to keep the memory of our son, Denny, alive by helping others who are on this road of grief and suffering.