“Dad, you’re not going to fix everything. This is bigger than you. You can’t save everyone but thanks for trying.” – Braden
“Son, I know… trust me. This is bigger than us, but it’s much smaller than God. If we save even one, it’s more than worth it.” – Braden’s dad
Lately, I’ve been writing more frequently for some reason. When I began this endeavor, honestly I thought there would be maybe two or three times I’d “blog”. If you follow, I hope you understand there’s no rhyme nor reason in when things pop into mind. Sometimes it feels like one of those hand-eye coordination games where you hit the weasel as it pops up.
I never see a topic coming, but when a thought rears its head, I feel compelled to clock it with a hammer of a brief (and hopefully meaningful) message. I call this the “Chucky Cheese Effect”. Not really.
Since October 2018, I’ve been in transition mode. Working a full time hourly job after leaving my leadership role of over 25 years. I’ve been learning a new job just to pay the bills, keeping gas in the tank, food on the table, and dance expenses paid.
I’m still glad I took the less traveled road and wouldn’t go back for twice the price. Without the pressures and demands of my prior job, in its place have come chances to relax in the opportunity to reflect, write, and see where BradensVoice.org will go. Also to just think about the enormity of what we have experienced in the past 18 months.
Tonight as I’ve done for several nights, thoughts return to the evening before Braden took his life. He’d driven home in the dark after his final counseling session. Our counselor and now friend had called Cathy saying he was very concerned.
Braden had been on a new anxiety medication and doing, what we felt was pretty good. However, we came to learn he had the roughest counseling session ever, spending the entire time crying uncontrollably and in complete turmoil. However, at the very end of the late evening consultation, he sat up and asked his counselor a sobering question.
“If I killed myself, would I still be able to go to Heaven?”
Can you imagine being the counselor, the friend, or the parent to answer such a question? The answer was spot-on and I’d answered the same: “You can’t un-sin your way into salvation and you can’t sin your way out of it. If you trust in Christ and have a relationship with Him, you are in the Book of Life. Yes. With God’s grace, you will go to Heaven no matter the sin”.
To hear his counselor tell what happened next confirms Braden was thinking of leaving. He describes his countenance as a visible glow of peace. Braden had asked us several times if he would go to Heaven if he took his own life and we confirmed it so. He was ready.
That night, we watched a movie together and out of the corner of my eye, I watched him. He was grappling with something I sensed he could no longer deal with. He had a bat in his hand he liked to hold for comfort. He just kept spinning it around on the floor, while staring down.
I was very sad and frankly at the end of my rope as a dad. “Son, I want you to know your mom and dad would do anything on this earth we could do to help you right now”. He replied, “Dad, there isn’t one thing you can do. In fact, there is nothing I would want you to do. At this point, I don’t even want it to get better”.
I hugged him and said, “I love you son. Good night.” He replied, “I love you too, dad. Good night.” Those were the last words Braden said to me on this earth.
The next day, our son was gone.
Every step I’ve taken. Every decision we’ve made about our purpose with BradensVoice has been based upon this final experience with our son. I’ll never forget those visual and emotional final moments. The hopelessness in all our eyes. They keep me striving to help in some way to save those in similar circumstances. It’s our new purpose.
A good friend shared the well known story of the starfish. The little boy throwing starfish into the sea to save them from death on a dry beach. A man comes along scoffing and saying, “You can’t save all those starfish” and the boy replies as he tosses one more into the life saving sea, “I just saved that one”.
Recently, we’ve learned of other school districts taking on the Hope Squad model. This is a culture-changing and proven life- saving program. It’s currently in all Prosper middle and high schools and to launch into elementary schools in the Fall.
We continue to speak when invited and will do so again at Rock Creek Church to a youth group in March. Every single breath and effort is towards helping to save and make lives.
We recently set up a non-profit called BradensVoice.org which has the ultimate mission of having a peer-driven suicide prevention program in every Texas public school. We hope you will support and pray for this life-saving initiative.
Lord, the night I surrendered to you, the deal was I’d give you my life, body, and mind in order to keep others from experiencing our loss. You amaze me at the response to this prayer of surrender. I pray each and every day over those who are facing a similar darkness and that You will hopefully use us as messengers to help save even one.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.