February 6, 1991 started out as any other day. I was up, showered, shaved, dressed and out the door to take our younger teen-age son, Andy, to school. We were supposed to leave on a ski trip later that same afternoon. I was glad Andy could still put in a full day at Olathe South. That morning the fog was so thick I couldn’t see the neighbor’s house as I backed out of the driveway.
When I returned home from delivering Andy, I grabbed a bowl of cereal and looked down from the kitchen to the split-level Family Room where our 18-yr old son, Denny had chosen to sleep that night. He enjoyed sleeping on the couch because it was near the TV and fireplace.
Two days earlier, he had complained of a sore throat and thought he might have “mono.” Sure enough, a quick trip to the doctor confirmed Denny’s own diagnosis. Medications were prescribed and approval given for the ski trip. However, the doc was quick to add, “You can go but I doubt you will feel much like skiing.” The following day Denny didn’t do much except to hang out and rest on that same couch. He was excited about the ski trip and didn’t want to miss that trip.
Setting down the half-eaten bowl of cereal, I decided to go down and spread the blanket over his bare legs. As I approached him, he appeared to be in a perfect sleeping position. He preferred to sleep on his stomach, head turned to the left. Then suddenly, when I looked at his face, I knew something was not right. There was discoloration and a stillness about him that seemed all wrong. I shook him and called his name….no response. I quickly pulled his body off of the couch and onto the carpeted floor to give artificial respiration. I started pumping on his chest and screamed for Buelah to call 911. My younger brother, Scott was living with us and, when he heard my voice came running out of his bedroom. Scott is a certified EMT and he instantly pressed his ear to Denny’s chest. Nothing. I will never forget that moment when he said, “Dennis…..he is gone. Denny is dead!”
I still remember the first words that came screaming out of my throat, “God, this isn’t supposed to happen to me.”
What followed is still a blur as I went into a screaming shock. It was as though someone had thrown a bucket of ice water on my face while I was yet sleeping. My mind, my body, my entire being was suddenly anesthetized by shock. The fog I had earlier witnessed outside was now internalized.
My world was blown to pieces on February 6, 1991…. 8:20 a.m., the day Denny died. It has been 25 years and I can still remember it as though it happened this morning. I have tried writing about it and have used different metaphors to help describe what it is like when a child dies. There really aren’t any words that I know of that describes the feeling a parent experiences when their child dies. There are no words that can possibly carry this kind of shock.
When trying to choose a picture for my website, I asked my web designer, Joel, to look for a picture of a forest that had been destroyed by fire. I wanted a scene that had charred pieces and ashes…complete devastation. However, I also asked him to find a picture that showed signs of new growth, a sign of hope among the ashes.
This website is designed for grieving moms and dads who feel as though your lives have ended because of the death of your child. My hope is that you will share the story of your child (and picture) with me and others who pass this way. Then, as we walk together through the ashes of ruin, we might find a way to start something new that will carry the memory of our children into the future.