My Daddy’s Hand

Father’s Day gift from Braden

Is heaven everything you had hoped?  Are the gates really made of pearl? Are the streets laid with gold? Is heaven real? Can we see each other again?”   – Braden’s dad

“Happy Fathers Day! Pearls and gold are only earthly creations.  I really can’t describe Heaven, but you’ll understand when you get here.  I’m joyful just knowing I’ll be here to welcome you home, Dad. And I’m ok. See ya soon!”  – Braden

I’m not a runner.

I do exercise some but I hate running.   There isn’t a single person on the planet who honestly likes to run… Of course, that’s just one opinion.  I could be wrong.

Although I personally despise running,  there’s been a lot of it going on lately.  Ever since October 30, 2018 it’s been a full out sprint. Running from reality and towards purpose by helping prevent other families from a similar loss. 

Today is my first Father’s Day without our son.  And I’ve become weary. Completely exhausted.  Every emotional and physical nerve. Spent.

To share all the experiences we’ve had in the span of eight months would be impossible here. But we write to pull out some threads of insight and encouragement.  This has not been a race we signed up to run. But we believe it’s an important one.

I’m off work all week and hoping to get some rest and re-charge, to continue the race. 

Speaking of rest, I have a phone app for relaxation to help wind down and relax at night.  One feature on the app has different narrators who read “sleep stories” designed to get the listener’s mind off their own thoughts and to relax.  It sounds weird but it really works and it’s certainly better than sleeping pills.

One of the stories is narrated by international space station Commander, Terry Virts.  He led numerous earth orbit missions and published a book loaded with photos titled, “View From Above”.  He has a passion for photography and the indescribableness (new word) of the universe.

Virts is a brilliant man and a gifted photographer. On each of his missions, he captured hundreds of thousands of images.  The photos of earth are amazing.   Yet still, although he tried on every one of his voyages to capture the expansive view of the opposite side of the space station, he just couldn’t do it.

He personally saw galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters, yet he couldn’t clearly capture and share what he had witnessed.  Can you imagine going through something so indescribable that it changed the very way you looked at your own existence… yet, you couldn’t give an accurate account to others?

I found Vert’s experience to be very interesting and personal.  Although commanding space stations isn’t my thing,  I’ve had experiences that are impossible to sufficiently describe.   

Once, I recall a fishing trip to the Texas hill country in the spring of 2007 with a group of dads from a church in Austin. We all went to a fishing camp west of Lampasas, Texas.  It was the darkest and clearest night sky any of us had ever observed.  We couldn’t even see our hands in front of our own faces much less one another as we walked along a dirt trail from the dock to our cabin.

We all looked up and tried to verbally describe the view.  The sheer number of stars was beyond anything any of us had witnessed.  Although we’d been taught and read about the universe, we hadn’t actually seen it in such a way until that night.  Such a clear view into the “Heavens”.  Well, I can’t really describe it.  Guess you had to be there.

Braden was a curious person.  He loved to watch videos about the unfathomable size of the cosmos in comparison with Earth. One he  watched over and over was by Louis Giglio how Earth’s size compared to the moon, then Venus, the sun, unimaginably huge Kanis Majoris (his favorite) and that our planet is located in just one of billions of galaxies.  Far beyond what the mind can fathom.

He was mesmerized watching that video and that’s the way he perceived his world: a lone grain of sand on an expansive sandy beach.  He was so exceptional in his ability to think deeply it was scary.  I still remember him, at a very young age asking, “Why are we here?”  I responded, “Because we’re playing cards, son.”  He repeated, “No, why are we here?”  I clarified, “Oh. Because daddy’s work moved us to Austin”.  He became frustrated. “No, dad.  WHY ARE WE HERE?”  Then he said something that still gives me a chill.  “Why doesn’t God just take us to heaven when we trust in Him?  I wish I could be in heaven with Him now.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven these past few months. Losing a child forces the question.  Is Heaven real?  We certainly hope our loved ones who pass from this life go to a place where they are at perfect peace. That’s always been a given source of peace to those left behind. It definitely applies in our circumstance.

There are two things that confirm our faith in truth. They’re both as evident as any that could be produced to a jury or judge:

First, following such an unspeakable loss, we remain standing.  Even walking forward.  None of us know how, but we have. God has answered too many specific prayers to even list here.  Some would say (or think) these events have just happened by chance. The odds of this many random events “just happening” would be like saying an orchestra of instruments “just happened” to play a symphony in perfect harmony. These are miracles through events and a community of people that would not, could not occur without our Father’s guiding hand. 

Secondly, we have been confirmed in our faith through shared experiences of fellow witnesses who have experienced similar miracles.  Have you ever talked with someone who believes something from having actually seen it with their own eyes?  Their testimony is far more credible than that of a bystander who heard someone else tell of the experience.  We have talked with so many eyewitnesses to this truth that we are fully convinced Heaven is real and not fictional.

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Recently, I finished Don Piper’s second book about his near death experience over 25 years ago and the people he met at the gates of heaven.   Don and I had a chance to meet a few months ago and he has crystal clear recall of many details of his 90 minutes in heaven.  He told me about the gates and the sound of a thousand songs being sung simultaneously but understanding each one distinctly.  He remembers the music still but can’t fully describe it. 

Of all we talked about, Don said one thing I’ll never forget. He told me he was deeply sorry for our temporary separation from our son. It’s not what he said as much as how he said it.  Like someone who had witnessed the indescribable and wanted simply to confirm the facts.

Also, have been reading the Bible on the topic of losing loved ones.  One Old Testament story tells of the great King David and how he responded when his seven year old boy passed away.  Instead of going into a hole, David worshipped and became even closer in his faith in God.  David was fully confident he would see his son again when he went home.

When we are exhausted from running life’s short but trying race.  When we have nothing left to give, we need to surrender and look up to reach for our Heavenly Father’s hand. 

Prayer for Readers

“Lord, thank you for every trial. Thank you for every tragedy. Thank you for every subtle message you share in our daily lives. Forgive us for thinking we can run life’s race on our own.  Humble us to know we can rest in You and have confidence You have prepared a home for us. Happy heavenly Father’s Day. 

It’s in your Son’s name, Jesus which we pray these things, Amen.”

Scarred and Stained

“Happy birthday, son. We miss you and we’re all hurting.”  – Braden’s Family

“I love you all so much! Please look and listen closely for what God has to say, and He will help heal your pain”. – Braden

May 8, 2019. 1:30PM.  The day before Braden’s birthday.

Lately, we’ve written more than usual. Cathy told me I’d have to write because when things get to be too much, that helps.    This week has been just that.  Too much.

Woke to rain this morning. It hasn’t slowed once. The last time I remember it raining like this was Oct 31st. That day it began at sunrise and stopped late that evening. This is a familiar rain.  Slow, steady, yet gentle with rolling thunder. No house-shaking booms though and no visible lightening strikes.

The weather guy said it was supposed to clear by noon but he was wrong.  I’ve heard it said that, other than a weather reporter, what other occupation allows a person to keep their job when they’re inaccurate 90 percent of the time!

Yesterday I finally finished a huge backyard project staining our fence.  All 17 gallons worth.  That came after another two days of preparing the wood.  The goal has been to be done for Caitlin’s half year birthday party. It’s been far over-due. It gave me a lot of time to think. Hard work helps me do that. A couple of things I observed while staining hit me pretty hard.

I took some before-and-after photos and thought, why would we need to stain a natural thing that God created from a tree? Wouldn’t it be beautiful just as it was made and without changing it? All I know is the “after” version certainly looks better than the “before” one.

Also, I was working in the corner where we have a large and quick- growing tree. I’d never noticed something before, but suddenly a memory of our son flooded my mind. On the trunk of this tree was a single scar. You see, Braden loved to shoot. BB guns, air rifles, pistols, shotguns, a home made potato gun. You name it.  He would never shoot an animal, but loved shooting targets.  When younger, he really took little time to consider the collateral damage potential.

Of course he shot clays and fixed targets, cans, and bottles. But as a kid, he also shot lawn chairs, windows, glass doors, and the occasional wall. Once he had a BB gun and failed to consider the ricochet.  Kind of expensive for dad!  He wasn’t wanting to destroy them of course. He just thought, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if…”. What happened was often I’d get mad and want to kick him down the block! But that was our boy. Very much a boy.

In 2017 Braden got a crossbow with allowance dollars he’d saved. He went online and got a nice one along with a supply of arrows. The expensive kind of course. Now, a crossbow and a regular bow are two entirely different things. A regular bow is loaded by the strength of the archer’s arm. The arrow’s range and accuracy are limited to human strength and skill.

The crossbow is engineered to exceed human strength by far and often has a scope, allowing the accuracy of a sharpshooter. It can pass completely through the target (be it prey or a bale of hay). What it will not go through, no matter how much pressure is placed on the bow… is a large and quick- growing tree like the one in our backyard.

I was there when Braden loaded his first arrow along the back fence behind our pool . I saw his intended target. I spoke up. “Bud. What do you think will happen if you hit that tree?” His response was expected. “Well, let’s see”. And with a squeeze of the trigger, he’d shot this poor, innocent, helpless, large and fast-growing tree.

At once he knew what I had already known. His expensive arrow had found its final target and would never be removed to fly free again. We had to break it off and move on to find another target.  One that would allow him to retrieve his arrows so they could be re-used for lawn chairs, etc.

At the time, I gave little to no thought of that tree. I was more concerned that my son had experienced another disappointing moment at the height of his excitement, in his very first shot with a new crossbow.

The scar on that tree is there today and will remain for its entire life. Although injured, the arrow didn’t phase it in the slightest. The leaves produced every season will give visual beauty and audible comfort to those around it by the sound of breezes and rainfall.  In fact, I have enjoyed sitting outside many mornings just looking and listening in times I need that tree. 

Now, I mention these simple observations because God does speak when I listen.  Why would we stain something that is already beautifully made by God?  I would submit we who have accepted Christ are  stained improvements as God’s children.  We are stained by the blood of His son, Jesus who volunteered to die in our place so we can have more abundant and ultimately, eternal life.  And we are so much better after than before.  I certainly was a project over-due and remain very much a work in progress.

The Bible talks about how Jesus died on a tree and when his disciples and others saw him, they didn’t realize who he was after his resurrection. That is, until they saw the scars from being pierced and nailed to that tree in their place. 

I don’t know exactly why Jesus chose to give us perfect grace, but I can testify personally that when I’m injured by life’s arrows, they don’t kill me.  They do hurt. Sometimes beyond my pain tolerance.  However, in tried and confirmed faith, I am strengthened ever more.  You can see  some of my scars. Some you can’t.  Still, they’re certainly not attractive.  We can only pray our scars might help others who need to know Jesus SAVES lives.  

We take a great deal of comfort in knowing beyond a doubt, Braden loved Jesus.  He accepted the free gift of salvation a few years before he took his eternal reward.  It was far too early for our timing and it leaves scars each of us will bear the rest of our lives.  His great “Aunt Jo” went to be with Jesus just a few days ago.  She held a special place in all our hearts and Braden held a very special place in hers.  

I thank God every single day for each moment we got to share on Braden’s 18 year journey here on earth and for Aunt Jo’s living testimony for almost 87 years.  Mostly, I thank God that we all are assured of  the Holy Spirit’s presence here and a full blown family reunion that we can only imagine.

Thursday, we mark the day our firstborn came into the world. On Friday we say goodbye to Aunt Jo.  Sunday, we celebrate all mothers for their love and sacrifice in bringing our children into this world. 

Tomorrow, we’ll see another  sunrise.  One I will be anticipating and watching through the beauty of a scarred tree.  


Family Prayer: Father. How often we look right past the little things You wish to say while we are working through life on our own. Thank you for helping open our eyes and hearts to the beauty of your creation. Thank you for taking on each one of us as your special projects and for sending your Son, Jesus so we might be stained by His cleansing blood. We pray for every one of your children and for every family facing the scars this world produces. May they look to You for healing and strength. In Jesus’ name, we pray these things, Amen.

Senior Year

Senior picture for year book

“Son, you worked so hard and deserved to see graduation day, but you never got that experience. You’ll never have your own family. A fulfilling career. A long life. A hope for tomorrow and a future.” – Braden’s mom & dad

“I do have a future, but one you can only imagine in your most perfect dreams. Please don’t grieve our temporary separation too long. It’s just a flash in time. Know I’m waiting for you and it isn’t sad here. I’m excited and anticipating our reunion! Try to stop focusing on what tomorrow could have been, and remember to have joy in what today already is.” – Braden Thomas Speed

May 2, 2019.  Graduation is in the air.  The Class of 2019 is roaring to get out and move into the next phase. Many parents are mixed about that.  Most are relieved they’ve gotten their kid to a huge milestone in life,  but with it comes the uncertainty.  Are they ready? Are we ready?  What if they don’t come back?  A mixed bag of emotions.

Remembering my senior year in small town Brownfield, Texas. Every student looked forward to the summer break ahead. Freedom at last! Swimming, riding bikes, family camping vacations. For younger ones it was Vacation Bible School and playing at the grandparent’s house. For older kids, summer jobs, and lazy days recouping from the pressures of the school year. Recharging for the next.

Teen readers: I’m sorry to inform you. Summer break used to be a full three months. Over time, somehow that’s become more like two. Most of the last weeks now are in preparation for the approaching Fall season. Band, cheer, track, football, or whatever other expectation schools and parents place on kids for tomorrow’s performance.

The year we graduated, BHS seniors (including myself and my twin brother) were looking toward a very different summer break than we had in previous years. CLEP testing, pre-college prep and plans, finding a roommate, financial preparations, student loans, scholarships, and car payments. Should we keep our current relationships or make a fresh start? Where would we live? Would we find a girlfriend? Would she be “The One”?

Could we do this thing called “Life” on our own… WITHOUT our parents?

The last year of primary education is likely one of the most pivotal in a young person’s life. Granted, preparing for Fall band, football two-a-days, golf team try-outs, and the like are stressful. However, senior year means preparing to leave home, without the safety and protection provided from the outside world. It brings on a vastly heightened level of uncertainty, anxiety, and let’s just admit it: Fear of uncharted territory ahead.

Nineteen years ago. May 9, 2000. 3AM. College Station, Texas. Cathy woke me calmly yelling, “It’s time”! Braden Thomas Speed was ready to come into the world. A short four hours later, he arrived.

Our hospital room had an east facing wall of a huge window, the curtains fully opened wide to the world. I still recall the doctor saying, “You’re blessed. Your son will get to have his very first sunrise this morning”. I was the first person to see the top of his head as he entered into this world and just as the sun rose over the horizon. It was an absolutely gorgeous and perfect beginning. I heard his very first breath on this planet. Like we all do. With our very first breath of air, we cry.

I knew right then I’d forever remember the blessing God gave me as a new father. To be there. Very present in that special moment. I was first to hold him and believe me, the tears rolled when the nurse said, “Ok, Daddy. Come with me, we’re taking your son to the nursery.”

In a flash. Our lives can change. Ours certainly did.

Cathy’s first Mother’s Day fell within just a few days of her first child’s birth. What an immeasurable blessing and one she well deserved. This month will be tough for us all. Expect we’ll have our traditions to hold dear. Still, it just won’t be the same. It’s what everyone tells us will be our “New Normal”. It certainly does not feel normal.

I have to be honest at the slight risk of offending friends. This year, I have to scan quickly past pictures at prom or groups of students preparing for college. I trust our friends get it. Watching as parents experience the sheer joy, pride, accomplishment, and angst of seeing their babies growing successfully into adulthood churns too many memories. Thoughts of missed tomorrows.

Braden’s high school graciously offered a senior page in his honor. The gesture touched us beyond words. The school wants to remember him and to acknowledge his life will serve a purpose. He thought others would quickly forget him if he was gone, but he didn’t realize his tomorrow would be in heaven while other teens might find some hope. That’s certainly our daily prayer.

I’m nearing the end of my professional career in just a few years. My goal? Retirement, of course. That’s my “Tomorrow”. Pretty shallow, admittedly. All our lives, we each focus ahead to “That Day”. That event. That promotion. Whatever the driving change that makes us want to get out of today and move on to tomorrow. We think tomorrow will certainly come and somehow it will be better.

I have too many good friends who have worked all their lives to achieve seniority and ultimately, to move onto that sweet and perfect place we call retirement. Several have made it. Yet, sadly we have lost so many to early death or loss of health long before achieving their dream.

On October 30, 2018 I stopped looking at tomorrows as I had before. We had a wake up call. We’d looked past today with preparation and expectation about a tomorrow which would not quite look like we thought it would.

Recently I had the privilege to meet Don Piper. He wrote a book called “90 Minutes in Heaven” which tells of his near death experience and visit to heaven. When my friend introduced me to Don, I’ll never forget his response. “I’m so very sorry to hear of your temporary separation from your son”. Then, Don said something else. “Braden is not sad. There is no sadness in heaven. Just know he’s fully aware you’re coming and he’s greatly anticipating that day”. I must confess, that’s a tomorrow I long to see.

Looking back, I’ll never forget the beauty of that very first sunrise with our baby boy and the radiance in his young eyes that outshined the sun. Braden’s life was amazing. It just didn’t become the tomorrow we had envisioned. God has His Way and plans which are not always pretty, yet still, certainly perfect. Along the way, He gives us signs if we will just slow down and see them in that moment.

Storms and rainbows. Laughter and tears. Sunrises and sunsets. He constantly wants us to know we have tomorrows right in front of our eyes every day.

Now, we look for hope and beauty in a simple sunset. Ultimately, tomorrow’s hope is knowing a peace beyond this temporal world and one where we will reunite with our son and live eternally with our Creator.

“Looking east I saw a rainbow. Looking west, I saw this.”

Prayer for parents, students, and our graduating Class of 2019

Heavenly Father. we pray over each and every person reading this right now. Please help us remember to take each day for exactly what it is. A gift from your hand to us. Help us not to look past the moments given to us towards what we falsely perceive is yet to come. I pray for every graduating senior and ask they surrender their futures into Your capable hands. Grant parents and their families peace beyond any understanding as they enter into uncharted territory. For You are the Author and Navigator of our lives if we will simply stop and listen. We praise You for all You are and may our lives be lived to please You and only You for it is in Your Son, Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Easter Saturday

“I’ve had some things I need to share but just can’t form my words. Why can’t I get this out!” – Braden’s Dad

“Mom has a lot on her heart she needs to share. Wish I was there with y ‘all for bluebonnet pics this Easter. My Love,” – Braden

With our first Easter without Braden comes floods of memories of the Hill Country, taking family pictures in the bluebonnets and Easter egg hunts.

April 19, 2019. This was literally the first day since October 30, 2018 when the sun came out and has stayed. It just so happened to also be Good Friday. The day we celebrate God’s only son, choosing to die for us and three days later, rising to affirm the free gift of eternal Life. I find the timing of that warm sunshine to be just one more in a thousand “God Moments”. And no, they are not coincidences.

Since posting last, I’ve struggled with what to write and frankly if I should do so. Since we began sharing our story, we have remained committed to sharing only when we feel clearly led. So we just wait and listen for any message others might find meaningful.

With the sun out this weekend, my list of To-Do’s grew. Stain the fence, mow and fertilize the yard, pool chemicals, oil change for the cars, etc. As I was busy with that list, Cathy was in the living room typing. I asked what she was doing on the computer. After all, we had things to do for spring clean-up and summer was on the way.

She responded, “I’m writing something. I need a couple of minutes.” Later, we all went for supplies at Lowe’s and stopped at Starbucks, While I waited outside, I read my wife’s post on Facebook. It moved me so deeply, I knew this was what needed to be shared.

These are her words:

Anyone who has ever met me knows this has been the hardest year of my life. And I’ve had some rough ones. Today I’ve been thinking a lot about Easter SATURDAY… The day nothing happened.

Before the big event that truly changed everything, there’s Saturday, when we prepare for Easter. We mow grass for egg hunts, easter outfits ready… dye the eggs… We celebrate Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified and Easter Sunday, the death defying, grave defeating, hope and joy inspiring day of His resurrection. But Saturday is silent. And I will never again see Easter Saturday the same.

Never has Easter SATURDAY spoken to me like it does this year. It was the day when hope seemed lost. It was all over, and there was no reason to think anything would change. Disciples were alone. Everything they had believed in seemed lost and their souls were crushed. No answer seemed possible. The crowds had gone home.
The Saturday after Good Friday is the only day in over 2000 years that not one single person on earth believed that Jesus was alive. No one could understand God’s plan. This year, that day speaks loudly to me. While we wait to see what on earth God’s plan could possibly be. I’ve been an extremely unwilling participant in His plan this time. Mine seemed so much better. I’ve had quite a few arguments with Him.

Right now it’s still Saturday and heaven feels quiet. Why did there have to be a Saturday in between the day every hope and dream seemed crushed, and the joy and answers God had planned? It’s hard to figure out what to do on Saturday, hard to hold onto the belief that God has to have a plan. But if Jesus could be found in a grave on Saturday, If He could be found in hell itself, is there anywhere that I can’t find Him?

So I have chosen today to trust God’s promise that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”. Even though I don’t like this plan I’ve had to live, I will choose to believe our “Sunday” is on the way. And know that His work on the cross was finished, but His plan for me is not.

A Father’s Eyes

“I miss you, son. Sadly, I too often missed ‘you’. Why couldn’t I have had eyes like your Heavenly Father.” – Braden’s dad

“Don’t be ashamed to cry, dad. God wants you to know everything will be okay. Life can be cloudy. Rainbows will come after the rain.” – Braden

“Tears mirror how God used the flood to cleanse the earth and Jesus baptized to wash away sin. Welcome the tears. They will paint your life with color again.” – Sarah Feuerbacher

I’ve had some things weighing very heavily on my heart for several weeks and known I needed to just write about them. That’s been cathartic these past months, but this time I just couldn’t seem to get the words to come together. I hate procrastination, especially when I sense urgency in a message, but have been guilty of putting this off. I promised honesty. This message is very important for parents and particularly, fathers. Here goes.

Spring Break 2019. Our family’s first without Braden. We arrived at Broken Bow, Oklahoma late last Friday night. The cabin unit was the last one available online at a property many encouraged us to visit. The cabin’s named “Seclusion”.  Perfect to get away from the world. It’s the only structure within twenty acres of the others in a densely forested expanse of pines and hardwoods.

I’m not sure why, but our first night there was really rough for me, emotionally. Probably for several reasons.

First, I was thinking of how much Braden would have loved being there. Maybe we would have gone to a cafe for breakfast or gone fly fishing together.  In reality, more likely he would have slept until noon and then been on social media. It was always my dream to go fishing with my boy but it didn’t happen. Maybe we’ll get to do that together when we meet again.

Second, Friday night we received a note from a local family counselor, Sarah. She has been asked to participate in a follow-up Town Hall meeting about teen suicide prevention in our community. Cathy and I may also get a chance to participate. No clue what we would say but feel certain God will let us know, if so. We’ve also had the mother of yet another young man reach out. She lost her 16 year old boy just two months ago.

Last, the school district is bringing a suicide prevention initiative to our local schools. Very encouraging. Guess that’s why it was such an emotional time. Although our son isn’t here, the Holy Spirit is moving and other teens and families might not have to go through what our family has experienced. THANK GOD!

But it’s not just Friday night. It’s been over a month now. I just can’t understand why I’m crying daily now. My wife has been crying every day as well. God, Why can’t this get better?

Isn’t crying a strange thing? 

Have you ever wondered why only humans cry?  I really never gave it much thought until recently when it started happening to me daily. Often without so much as a conscious thought. Tears just begin streaming from my eyes while driving to work or when I turn to enter a room, or when I smell my daughter’s hair while we hug. It can even happen when I see another kid who looks lonely or appears to be left out. Or “different”.

Why in the world would that even make sense?  Crying. Isn’t that just for the weak?

Honestly, I’ve never liked it when my wife or children begin to cry during a conflict. I’ve selfishly concluded it was somehow by choice. A way to gain emotional leverage. But I don’t think that anymore. I now realize crying is a completely involuntary response to life. To hurt. Pain beyond words.

Why did God, in His infinite wisdom add crying to his human creation?  I don’t have the answer but maybe part of the reason was He knew us too well. He knew we’d face pain at times more than we could handle. Pain beyond words or explanation. That certainly describes what we feel now. And I see more clearly, it was how Braden felt before he left. Pain indescribable. Even tears couldn’t heal his hurt, though.

In the Bible we are told God produced a rainbow so we would have a physical reminder of His unconditional love and assurance. It means we can know He’s here and He’s never going to hurt his children. Maybe tears are like rain. A way to make rainbows. I just don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask that when I see Him.

Our five senses are all we really have physically. Sight, Smell, Hearing, Taste, and Touch. But blind, deaf, or impaired people may not have one or more of these senses. What all people do have though are emotions. They may not be visible or apparent to others as they can be hidden by choice. I’ll admit having hidden my emotions, sometimes unhealthfully, and not expressing them openly.

Of all the organs God created, I think the eyes are perhaps the most unique and sensitive. Not only physically, but emotionally. Seeing something can instantly send messages to the brain and I submit, to the heart. Similarly, our eyes can weep. They can absorb images our brain records and can’t be forgotten.   Eyes also serve to judge others, too often unjustly.  

I will confess, my eyes too often led me to judge my son harshly. I saw him hurting and I couldn’t do anything to help him. I watched as the light in his own eyes went dim over the years, after being rejected and misunderstood much of his life. I didn’t understand him and could’t accept him unconditionally, which is a father’s job. Although it’s easy to place blame on the world, I was a large part of his world. And I didn’t do my job well.

The eyes of God are forgiving and non-judging.  He loves his children beyond any words we can even comprehend.  He even loves fathers who fail at times to be unconditional in their own love.  He loves us enough to give us the unique ability to cry.   He loved us enough to send His ONLY son as a self sacrifice.  I think God wept when He watched His boy die on a cross.  He wept from a mixture of sadness and from joy, at knowing we would be able to have hope after such a loss.  

One of the best memories we have of Braden is his eyes. Although that light faded in the days and years before he left this world, I find solace knowing without doubt, his eyes are beaming right now and I long to look into those eyes again some day.

Who knows. Maybe we’ll finally go fly fishing.


I urge you to pray as I have begun doing, that we may look at our kids as God looks at each of us. Rather than pick on small things to criticize, think of them as imperfect creations our Heavenly Father has entrusted us with. Take pride in them and quash the urge to over-correct. Pray for God’s eyes and God’s arms to guide lovingly.

Dads: We have the most important job in our families. Take it more seriously than the one at the office. Don’t be ashamed to cry. Your kids need to know that its going to be okay. Although it may scare them a little, they will learn that life brings pain but rainbows always come after the rain.

I love the words to a song by Brandon Heath.

Give Me Your Eyes

Step out on the busy street.
See a girl and our eyes meet.
Does her best to smile at me.
To hide what’s underneath.
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie.
Too ashamed to tell his wife he’s out of work, he’s buyin time.
All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared.

Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see, everything that I keep missing. Give your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

Prayer for Readers and those forgotten

Lord, thank you for revealing some things through tragedy which have long been hidden in me.  Please open the eyes of parents, teachers, and others to look beyond the surface and into the hearts of the hurting. Make us bold in lifting up the lonely and bringing hope.  Help us all to lean on You and your promise.  Thanks for that hope in giving us your Son.  

Thank you for praying friends and our brothers and sisters in Christ. And thanks for rainbows. We give you our love and praise in Jesus Name. Amen.

Every Corner


“Dad, remind people to just simply S-L-O-W — D-O-W-N.  Remind them to be LOOKING for those who need someone to give them hope. Thanks for listening. I love you”. -Braden

“I’ll certainly remind people, but I’ll also take this advice into my own heart as a father. Son, I’m sorry for being too late in getting it.” – Braden’s dad

“Our boys had many similarities, they could have been friends. Goofy, hilarious, creative, and loving.  There are so many like them still alive today, it’s tragic ours had to leave before eyes and hearts would be opened to see the need for change”.   –  Christian’s mom (Wendy)

Summer getaways are one of my favorite things in life. If we’re honest, most of us revert to our childhood when we go on vacation.  In all our years raising two kids, I’ll admit to my excited anticipation when planning a special family trip.  It’s just so fun to think of new ways to make unique memories.  I’ve always considered it making “memory deposits” into our family “heart bank” so those can be drawn upon for the rest of our lives. Especially, during difficult days.

Our last Speed Family Vacation we’ll ever take with Braden was to Destin, Florida in the summer of 2018.  His last summer trip before life got real and plans began forming to move to the dreaded, “Adult Phase”.  Sadly, his heart was not totally in it and he often chose to stay in the condo rather than joining us on the beach or parasailing. Still, we wanted so much to cheer him up and to bank happy memories before his senior year ahead. Lord knows he needed deposits in preparation for the coming year.  Prom.  Graduation.  College prep/ planning.  Life…

After a few days in Florida, as we returned towards our home in north Texas, a thought struck me that maybe he’d like a surprise side trip to see New Orleans. That would be fun.  I joked that the steering wheel just kept fighting me and veering south. Honestly, looking back, it was me not wanting to return home where he would spend too much time in his room, feeling alone and sad.

Have you ever been on a vacation where it’s an all-out effort to make fun happen but one of the party is absolutely miserable? It might be your spouse (Cathy, that was not a reference to us…).  It may even be an invited friend.  I’ve not read any studies to support this theory, but my bet is that often that misery maker is a teenager.  I was one myself for five years and my parents would attest to this fact.

We settled into the hotel and decided to stroll the French quarter to see the “other side”.  You know, “Let them see how bad some people have it so they can really appreciate what THEY have”.  I’m probably the only one who’s done this.   It was really disgusting, especially during a hot June day on Bourbon Street.  We all agreed, they needed to take a big tanker of bleach and scrub that part of the city with a giant Brillo pad.  Cathy and I soon realized this had been a bad idea and I tried to navigate everyone towards the river front and Jackson Square. Still not great, but hopefully better than this!

As we veered to a hopefully safer place, we passed a young man sitting against a wall at the Famous Door Lounge [please don’t judge, we’d already realized this area had been a bad idea].   I guess him to have been maybe 18 years of age.  This young man was obviously homeless and clearly in a very dark and isolated place. Honestly, I thought little of it.  After all this was Bourbon Street, which they must have modeled after the downtown district of the Biblical cities of  Sodom and Gomorrah.  After we’d walked about two blocks past the stranger,  Braden, who was dragging behind, yelled, “I have to go back!” Being my selfish thoughtless self, I returned the yell, “Why? No!  We are not going back. We’re leaving now, c’mon, speed up!”

Let’s just say this was one of those memory deposit opportunities which quickly became a significant withdrawal for the whole family. I’m not proud but I am at least truthful. Braden was beside himself with sadness already, and I had pulled the plug on any remaining chance for “fun” this vacation. Cathy spent some thirty minutes talking with Braden as I impatiently paced and muttered. I mean after all, we needed to get on with having fun because the clock was ticking!

I later came to learn that Braden had seen the deep sadness in the young stranger I had so casually dismissed just minutes before. He’d felt the need to talk with the boy, to give him some sign of hope. You see, when you have experienced pain and loneliness, you can see it in others immediately. You have a “radar” for them.  Cathy and Braden did go back to find the young man. When they got there to give him all the cash in our pockets, the boy was gone.  He had left his belongings on the sidewalk, but as they placed the money into the notebook he left open on the sidewalk, Cathy glimpsed some of his writings.  “Even though life seems to hold no hope for my future, I can’t let myself give up”. They knew they had done the right thing as they hid the money in his book and prayed over him, before returning to find me.

I will forever regret not turning around and listening to my son’s heart, and changing our route from what I wanted into what he knew he needed to do. That was to help a fellow suffering human being.  From Braden’s perspective, even if coming into that person’s world was brief , he wanted to believe it could make a difference. Even if a very small one.

Last week, I joined a group of local educators in Provo, Utah observing youth from elementary, middle, and high schools who have implemented a program called “Hope Squad” on their local campuses to educate kids on how to be “radars” for signs of depression and personal crisis in their peers.  These kids are trained in how to be a safe and trusted place for others. Where they can feel comfortable coming into their dark world. They are then able to help navigate in a lost place.  Basically, to find support, care, and to know they are valued.

This isn’t just another “Flavor of the Day” program.  Over a 15 year span, schools that have implemented the Hope Squad model have taken suicide statistics to almost zero.  You really can’t argue with results like these.

Observing our school leaders and teachers attentively learning and asking questions about how to  bring this program into our local community moved me profoundly.  That’s an understatement.  I wept more these last few days than I have in several weeks.  Perhaps, if we’d had this in place before October 30, 2018 our son could have been walked out of his darkness by a caring peer.  We can’t look back, but I certainly have been.  My new friend, Wendy Tyler was there to make her own son, Christian Tyler’s death somehow purposeful as well.  Wendy and I came to know each other November 3, 2018.

Only four days after Braden’s death. Wendy led the “Prosper Out of the Darkness Walk” the morning of Braden’s funeral.  I was in a complete fog that day but something compelled me to have friends and family join me to walk for our son.  It was important.  I still really don’t remember much about that day nor how I was able to actually put one foot in front of the other, but I do know the Holy Spirit took each step for me. In faith. (see “Surrender” post).

Wendy is an educator but she was there primarily as an observing parent who experienced the loss of her son, wanting his life to make a difference in the lives of other teens and their families.  Her son, Christian had an amazing gift of humor.  He and his friend put together a short video that had over 12,000 hits called Sold Out.  She shared Christian’s video with me and I had a much needed laugh. What a talent!  His and our son’s lives continue to make a difference months and years later.

Our two boys were what I consider to be soldiers fighting a real battle in this world.  But they weren’t the only ones in the war.  Every day, we all pass by them somewhere.  They’re in every school.  Every church. They are working beside us at our workplace. They’re possibly even in our homes. They’re on every corner, but we must be looking.

Trust me.  When we find them and if we step into their life, our culture will change from selfish to selfless.

What Can We do?

Parents: (Ok… Dads); take a lesson from a dad who lost his son.  A dad who was more driven to keep on a plan and to “make” a memory.  Slow down.  Stop pushing.  Remember, your kids are the ones who determine what they consider to be memory makers.  If they think stopping to pray for a stranger on a street corner is more of a memory than going to point at a statue for a picture, give them consideration.  They may put memory deposits in YOUR heart bank.

Teachers and Educational Institutions:  If you want to truly make an impact on the current rate of depression and suicide, I strongly encourage you to explore “Hope Squad”.  We have included a link on the Resource page.  I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t buy and this is a tried and true model for school culture change.  If interested, contact us or go to the Contact Us link on the Hope Squad site.  If you would like to discuss with myself or Wendy Tyler, drop an email to

Church Ministers: We have talked with so many people who face uncertainty about this sensitive topic.  We challenge you to face the ugly reality and to speak into it rather than allowing the topic to be swept under a rug.  Your 21st century congregation is very keen and perceptive. They need your leadership and clarity on this topic.

Face it.  Kids are dying from self choice and the epidemic is real.  Ask yourself:  Am I uneasy about the topic of suicide?  What am I doing as a shepherd to my flock in speaking and guiding in this treacherous area of their lives? Do I understand and do I lead on this topic from a scriptural perspective?

Readers:  It’s been almost a month without writing.  When I began this blog, I promised it would only be updated if/when I felt clearly compelled by the Holy Spirit to whom I surrendered the night of October 30, 2018.  I have heard and read from readers who have encouraged us to post more frequently and that is certainly my desire as well.  However, I have to stay true to my commitment.  That is to follow His direction, period.  You can trust that when I write, it’s only my hands, but God’s words. Please send any specific prayer requests and I commit we will pray over them as a family.

Our prayer: Lord.  You amaze us beyond any written or spoken words.  Thank you for those you bring into our lives.  They have lifted us up and also trained us up during a very dark time.  Thank you for bringing sight in our blindness.  We pray over every reader and every family facing a similar path.  We ask that you provide them comfort, wisdom, and peace beyond any understanding they could fathom.

Help us also to open our blind eyes to others who need us desperately to see them and to come into their lives as lights in a dark world.  We know the lost and lonely are on every corner.  Let us find them and walk with them out of the darkness.  In your Holy Name, amen.


“There’s an insane person yelling at the top of his lungs at 3:30am!” – Neighbor: Oct. 31

“LORD, I CAN’T MOVE! I CAN’T SPEAK.! I CAN’T EVEN BREATHE! What do you want me to do with this!?” – Braden’s dad: Oct. 31 5:30am

“God simply wants you to give up and allow Him to use you.  He loves you and I love you, Dad… see you soon.” – Braden

With two kids who I helped bring into the world, I’m constantly thinking about my own youth, in perspective with theirs. Mine had it’s trials but for today’s teens, it’s extraordinarily difficult. Not sure I could do it. As an adult, I roll out of bed every so often and think, “Why? How long can I do this?”  It’s interesting and somehow comforting to know most humans, if they were honest, think this from time to time.

We all face the drudgery of the daily grind, schedules, demands, and “stuff” in our daily lives. It often feels like we’re fighting an unending battle.  I’ll be honest and admit I feel that way.  Not always, but sometimes.   I certainly know that’s the way our son, Braden felt much of his life.  We sincerely believe he would have been a mighty warrior for God’s Kingdom, an overcomer.  Sadly, he became a fallen warrior, far too early.

Think about this. When do armies decide to give up and surrender to the enemy? Soldiers and their leaders exhaust every human effort feasible.  They use brilliant strategies, military tools, and battle tactics. Too often they even lay down their their own lives for the sake of success.

But when do they decide to surrender?  I submit that it’s only when they finally come to the realization they are simply defeated, and there is no other option but to quit.

That’s where I was at 5:30am October 31, 2018.

Throughout the night I sat on the stoop outside Braden’s room just so I could feel like I was there with him somehow. I felt he shouldn’t be alone while complete strangers worked in his room upstairs.  He was gone, but still it was important as his dad to be there.  Isn’t that what dads do?

I literally have never heard sounds emit from my mouth as they did throughout those eight hours sitting in the dark.  I yelled at God in anger.  I yelled at the kids I never met, who we had prayed would come into his life. I screamed at the teachers and the schools I felt had failed him.  And I yelled at myself.

More tears were shed in those few hours than all my years combined. When I finally ran out of tears for a moment and as the dawn was just beginning to break, I took a deep breath. I was completely exhausted in every way.  Then… immediately rain began to gently sprinkle on my head. The timing was like a thing out of a fictional story but it was real. I’d run out of tears and Heaven had taken over.

I distinctly recall saying aloud, “God…what do you want me to do with this?”  Then I released all my muscles and fell into a fetal position saying, “I give up.  I surrender.  I know I’ve told you that before, but I literally can’t move another muscle or even continue to breathe unless You do it for me.  I want to hand over control of this weak and flawed vessel.  Use my brain to think and my legs to walk. Use my heart to feel and my voice to speak.  You made me so you’re probably better suited to effectively use me.”  Then, the sprinkles turned into rain.  It rained all day long that Halloween day. It was a gentle yet steady downpour.

I had finally surrendered.

Growing up, we attended church regularly.  First Baptist Church of Brownfield.  We had the old hymnals and they were worn thoroughly. The songs were traditional, unlike today.  Being a typical boy, I wouldn’t sing. But I listened.  I recall the hymn, “I Surrender All”.  Back then, it was just another old hymn with too many verses.  Not anymore.

Like many of those hymns, they have come to mean much more to me now, having fought the battles of life for some time.  I realize God speaks through a variety of mediums.  Hymns are just one.  Now, He also speaks through me, however only when I truly surrender ALL of myself to His Will.

Parents, Ministers, and other Warriors

Here is where we usually try to share some insight so readers  might have some tools, action plans, or strategies. Something perhaps to impact the world where they do battle.  Folks, I don’t really have any better strategy at this point but to offer my honest testimony and encourage you to surrender if you haven’t already.

Throw in the towel.  Give up.  You simply can’t win.  We can’t impact depression and suicide in our own power.  Believe me, if we could put that in a bottle or a pill, it would have already been done long ago, and it would cost more than anyone could afford.

Ironically, the only solution is free and only needs to be requested.   I’ve come to clarity that the one and only way to win our earthly battle is to give up and surrender control to our Creator.  I hope parents and churches will come together to bring God’s children to this conclusion sooner rather than later.

All to Jesus I surrender.  All to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. 

All to Jesus I surrender. Humbly at His feet I bow. Worldly pleasures all forsaken.

Take me, Jesus, take me now, I surrender all.  I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior.

I surrender all.

Prayer: Lord, we pray as we have since first we began writing over every person who reads these imperfect words inspired through your Holy Spirit.  We pray for those who are feeling defeated to surrender not to the enemy, but rather to their Creator.  Re-Create in us all a life worth living in abundance of your presence and assurance.  We also pray over every fallen warrior in this earthly battle and for those left behind to move forward one day at a time. Thank you for taking over my life and I ask that You keep me out of my own way that You may be eternally glorified.  Amen.

P.S. to Readers –Before leaving, we encourage you to take some time to check out updated Resources page and to provide feedback as well as any suggested links.  Thanks for following and sharing with others who may need a word of hope.