How did he die?


Was he sick?
Was it suicide?
Was it a heart attack?
Did he die instantly?
Who found him?
Did he have a stroke?
Did they try CPR?
Who was he with?
Did they do an autopsy?
Have you read the report?
Where was he?
What is the cause of death?
Is there a history of drugs or alcohol?

Do anything of those things matter? Really? Do they matter?

He is dead. How he died doesn’t really matter to you, does it? Another family is grieving. Another family is hurting deeply. They are making plans to bury their son. They are planning a funeral and picking out a burial spot.

I, too, have questions. But I know the answers don’t matter. It is not my place to ask those questions. The answers are not for me to know.

What matters is that the parents are hurting. They loved their son. They thought he was wonderful! They loved every bit of him! They had dreams! They loved watching him play sports.  They loved hearing him play music and laugh! Oh, how they loved his laugh! They loved his hugs and smiles and phone calls and text messages.

Now they are planning a funeral.

I must pray for them. I must love them from a distance because they don’t know me. But some day, if they want to meet and talk, I am available to listen. And share what I have learned these eighteen months of grief and healing and growing in grace.

Until then… I will pray. I will pray for God’s comfort to envelop them. I will pray for their marriage. I will pray for their other children. I will pray for the young man’s friends.

My prayer today is:

Thank you, Lord, for a sweet dream of my Andrew this morning. As I wake up in tears missing my son, I pray for a momma and dad as they awake to a nightmare of missing their son and planning things no parent wants to plan. Continue to comfort and guide them today and in the days and weeks to come. Make traveling easy for family coming in and help friends and loved ones express love in kind ways. Give everyone Your peace as they grieve for their son.

Father, help them to look to your Son as the author and finisher of their faith. Wrap your loving arms around the whole family. And around our community.

And, Lord, for so many young people hurting over this, having to face the death of another young friend, I pray that they would turn to You. So many questions. So many tears. Help us “older and wiser” folks to speak Your truths in trying to comfort. We need you, Father. Be real and evident to each of us today.


And if you must ask a question, try asking, “Could you tell me about your son? What was he like?”  Or “May I tell you about one of my favorite memories of your amazing son?”

Love these hurting parents well, my friends. Love them well. And if you need help loving them well, read Friday Counseling Issues: Grieving a Child or Do NOT listen to the father of lies or What grieving parents want you to know (but may not say) or What NOT to say to a grieving family or While We’re Waiting.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 | ESV


20 thoughts on “How did he die?

  1. Pingback: How did he die? | kathleenbduncan

  2. Great post Kathleen. Fortunately, we have not had too many people ask how our son (Grayson) died, but when they do, they hear: “he was shot – murdered”. This is definitely horrific, and is usually followed by a sense of shock, stuttering, and stammering to find the next set of words. Of course the brave ones start in on: “have they caught the person?”, “do they know who did it?”, “where was he?”, “how did it happen?”, “how many times was he shot?”… None of which I have answers to, nor could I divulge any of the information I know anyway, in order to not impede the investigation. Since MOST people I come into contact with that ask anything about his death — know me — I try to turn the conversation around and talk about their memories of Grayson so I can continue to build my collective stash of “Grayson stories”. What the people that ask how he died DON’T think about is that immediately I have to once again experience the detective coming to our door, knocking, and telling us Grayson was dead – killed; and he was a the County Coroner. Fortunately, we have a very compassionate and well-trained detective on our son’s case that makes it easier to work with in regards to this process. We are still a ways out from closing this case, and have no idea how it will go, or what impact it will have; but I am sure it will only be painful and aggravating. For these reasons, I sure wish people would not ask about how he died — but in turn, would say “I remember how great he was at…” or “he was such an awesome kid, he always…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that you are building a collective stash of “Grayson stories”!

      I’m sorry for your loss. So hard. I can’t image that kind of loss. Many of the parents in While We’re Waiting also children to murder. My breaks for you all.


  3. I disagree, it does matter. My daughter died 15 years ago, so maybe since I’m further out than you, I have a different perspective. Most ask, because they want to understand and the fact is a child dying from a car accident is different than a child dying from cancer. They come from quite different circumstances.
    Where one parent had a sudden death, that came with a knock on the door, others like me went through months to years of fighting with our child, to only have cancer take over their bodies. We still both feel helpless, we both still cry out to Jesus. We both sit in a corner, rocking back and forth with tears rolling down, but it does matter, because it’s facts, it’s part of our child’s story and part of our story, and maybe the person who is asking, knows what it’s like to walk that same/similar path. I have a friend whose child died from a drinking and driving incident a couple months ago. We both now know the horror of burying a child, but I do not know what it’s like to know my child took their life into their own hand and one mistake ended it, just as she does not know what it’s like to sit beside your child as they vomit as she’s hooked up to another dose of chemo, or as the nurse wheels your child off for surgery.
    My daughter remains dead, but childhood cancer changed my life, I remain more aware of symptoms. I also have found I take my children who came after my beautiful girl (she was our at the time one and only) to the doctor less, because she had to live in the hospital for so much of her 2nd year of life. I have found that I want to keep them as healthy as possible, feed them whole foods, non-GMO, have them exercise, and take care of the bodies God blessed them with.
    Does the way one die change the fact that they are dead? No, can it change things for others though? Absolutely!


    • Yes, it matters to us.

      But how a children died should not determine our love and compassion for the family.

      In the case that caused me to write this, the young man overdosed. People were talking more about how he died and if he intended suicide or was it an accident, did he have a history of drug abuse, etc. than how to care for the family. My thoughts were, “Regardless of how he died. I want to love his family and show them compassion.” Especially in those early weeks and months.

      I didn’t want to join in speculation or gossip.

      The parents of the driver in The Accident we not at fault. They needed as much love and compassion as the rest of us, if not more! They are dealing with the additional issue of their son being at fault. Some backed away from them, not knowing what to say to the mom of a drunk driver who killed four friends. I called her and told her we loved her.

      It seems that sometimes we treat the families in these two examples as if they should be guilty or are less deserving of compassion.

      Yes, It does matter, especially to the family. And it can affect the kind of help a family needs. We did not have mounds of medical bills or years of caring for a sick child to recover from. For many bereaved parents, their child’s cause of death has brought a new awareness of an issue. And we become advocates for that issue. As you mentioned, their cause of death will impact us a parent.

      Our child were unique. Their deaths were unique. Our grief and our needs in the healing process are unique.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Excellent response Kathleen. The way my son died has been surrounded by mystery, curiosity and judgment. Never in my entire life as a Christian would I have expected God would have asked me to endure such a trial but then who am I? We would have never expected suicide to end my child’s life. We had no way to prepare or prevent such a catastrophic tragedy. I have no words to tell another parent who has lost a child to suicide/mental illness how they could have prevented their child’s death otherwise my son would still be here. It would seem that all of this has been for naught except to say I can only answer to how it has affected my spiritual life in all aspects and that I know without doubt that suicides go to Heaven if they are believers. I wish that prevention could have been as simple as what foods to avoid, etc…but even with that kind of information would I have been able to stop the inevitable? This is not to say we should throw caution to the wind. I believe we should try desperately to make things better for our children. We can think we are the best parents in the world only to find out that our best efforts are not enough. All of us suffering the death of a child would say they would have done anything to have saved the life of their child.

        I believe when we think we have some kind of control over life and death in this life we are fooling ourselves. Only God can intervene to stop cancer/illness, car accidents, …a bullet. What causes Him to do so for some and not for others in spite of faithful praying will remain a mystery until we see Him face to face. By then will it matter at all?

        In my case, telling people how my son died when they ask has been so painful that I no longer share that information if possible. I don’t think I am lying when I tell people my son’s age when asked in casual conversation if I have children and how old are they….29 forever…. I still have three children, too. As much as it matters to me how my son died, I find that when answering that inevitable question that I am only satisfying someone’s curiosity while opening myself, my son, my family to scrutiny and unfair judgment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree Miss Kathleen, the parents of the child who lost his way and overdosed NEED the love. I also understand, as I have been asked a multitude of questions, that others want knowledge in hopes of avoiding this in their families.

        I pray for the parents, friends and family of this mislead young man.



    • I agree. Folks ask because, many times, they are parents and “can’t imagine what you have gone through.” Six years out, I often reply with, “It’s okay to ask, I love speaking about my Ethan.”

      And I think that if we share the whats (when we can), the whens, the bits of it all, we will assist others … in case it ever happens to them.



  4. I think people ask that question because they are looking for a reason to believe that their own family will never have to go through this. Here’s an example: My son Matt died from a diabetes complication while swimming in the late night hours. Another parent may think, “My child doesn’t have diabetes, and he certainly wouldn’t go swimming late at night, so we are safe.” We all try to insulate our families from danger, but then we sadly learn that the best insulation doesn’t prevent all disasters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: How many children do you have? | kathleenduncan

  6. Amen Kathleen. May we all have the self-control to just let people tell as much as they want to tell, when they want to tell it. And may we all love others well. My husband’s beloved uncle is dying today. May we love his aunt – the grieving love of his uncle’s life – well.

    Liked by 2 people

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