It was a Sunday evening just over two years ago when I received the call.
“Could you please pray? It has been reported one of the students at the middle school took his life.”
He was a middle schooler in our community. Bright eyed, enjoyed sports and loved going to his youth group.
I committed to prayer. My daughters joined me on the bed in my bedroom and we began to pray. I began to weep. I couldn’t imagine.
As Monday rolled around, I was still in shock. If I was in shock, how was Payton’s mother, Ann, feeling? I cannot imagine. She began to lay heavy on my heart. I continued to pray.
Wednesday morning, I made my way to the middle school for the weekly Campus Life meeting. The atmosphere was somber as class and team mates rolled in, heavy with the weight of their emotions, questions and feelings. The young men seemed softer, the young girls in disbelief.
We broke out into our small groups. The girls cried. I asked the grace of God to help me comfort.
As the day went on I had Owen, Payton’s younger brother, Ann, the middle schoolers, and our entire community on my mind. I was led to go to the heart of our county and lift everyone up in prayer. A couple girlfriends, their kiddos, my kiddos and myself joined on the lawn and prayed for Ann, Owen and our community. We prayed for comfort for all wrestling with the pain and hurt.
As the viewing rolled around, my heart was tugged to go and give Ann a hug. Even though I didn’t know her all that well, this mamma had to put her arms around another mamma experiencing the unthinkable. I went. I sat with other women pouring into her. We left.
Life went on. People found their new “normal”. The kids and community healed. The report seemed to change. But it didn’t matter. A young man full of light and love had lost his life and there was a mother and younger brother, as well as a father and others experiencing the void of his presence.
Fast forward one year and a couple months later, to December 2017. Ann wanted to be a part of a small group I was encouraging. You know that moment where you KNOW that you KNOW God simply needs you to say "yes"? I had that moment. There was no doubt, no question. God had moved others and myself to pray and intercede on her behalf. He was moving others and myself to minister and encourage her.
Throughout the first few months of this year, our small women’s group witnessed Ann transform right before our very eyes. She went from a woman sometimes unable to do anything but cry and lament the loss of her son, to, in her own words, “Have HOPE again.” I share this not to pat anyone on the back, but to GIVE GOD THE GLORY for the deep healing work He did in her life through a loving and praying community.
Just around the corner was an enemy ready to steal, kill and destroy the hope she had laid hold of. Bit by bit, life became overwhelming again, the memories of Payton she would never create were vivid, the sadness paralyzing. Slowly she began to disconnect and things began to slip.
One evening in late summer, she and I went for a walk around the high school. She shared she was tired of being under the dark cloud again, and ready for change. With the fall women’s group just ahead, I invited her to once again connect with us. She did.
She came the first night with a restored joy and glimmer in her eye. She was not the same woman who sat before me earlier this year. SHE had become a conduit of hope to others, finding herself one evening going between hospital rooms of two friends in need. God had TRULY transformed her mourning into JOY. She continued, week after week, sharing, opening up – expressing the deep wounds and pains related to the loss of Payton. She shared her hope of being able to minister to others.
This evening, the dark cloud is back and appears darker, blacker, thicker and heavier than ever. She will tell you the truth, she let things slip and she feels horrible for it. She saw, even experienced, hope again. But the enemy was very crafty at causing her to believe things will never be better - she shouldn't have hoped. Hope is again gone.
For those of you reading, I ask you two things. First, please pray fervently for Ann and Owen’s future. I believe God has a glory on the other side of this unthinkable pain and heartache. Second, consider donating to help bring financial relief during the Christmas season – A SEASON TO LOVE even more those around us than we do all year long.
You can can donate via Go Fund Me, by CLICKING HERE.
Words shared from the “Celebrating Payton” event, October 2, 2018:
Payton found join in Christ's love, giving to others and making people smile. We all remember him for his generosity, kindness, and love for Christ. His life made an impact and spread a ripple that can still be seen. Payton's true legacy will come from the ripples of our lives and the choices to serve. The effects of your simple acts will provide a light and positive impact in our world.
This blog and related fundraiser have been created with permission from Ann. If you would like to send your love, prayers, and good vibes, feel free to comment.