“Finding Peace after Losing My Son,” Ensign, September 2019
Ryan was bigger than the average 14-year-old boy. He had passed me in height and weight a long time ago and loved to remind me of this. He drew people to him with his lovable, teddy-bear personality.
One morning, we had our family prayer before school, and the kids were off. A little later, I received a phone call. The lady on the line was frantic. She told me Ryan had had a seizure (so she thought) and that I was to come immediately. While heading to the school, I called my husband, Mike, who was out of town on business, to explain what was happening.
I was met in the school lobby by a woman who dragged me through the hall. My precious son lay on the floor of his classroom, seemingly lifeless, with the paramedics bent over him. He had experienced cardiac arrest. I watched in shock, a daze. I knew Ryan needed a priesthood blessing and found two schoolteachers who were also worthy priesthood holders to bless him before we left in the ambulance. A feeling of peace came over me, and I knew everything would be okay.
Ryan was eventually flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. I will never forget the dazed look in his eyes. He wasn’t the Ryan I remembered from a few hours before. We learned from the doctors that, previously unknown to us, Ryan had a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle.
My parents came to the hospital, and my dad gave Ryan a sweet priesthood blessing that promised he would fully recover. I brushed Ryan’s soft, curly hair and washed his face with a warm washcloth. There wasn’t much I could do, but I wanted to help.
A few days later, with Mike now at my side, we were told an MRI revealed that Ryan had severe, irreparable brain damage due to the lack of oxygen when he suffered the cardiac arrest. I collapsed into Mike’s arms when the doctor gave us the news. How could this be? My father had given Ryan a blessing that he would fully recover. Why was this happening?
Ryan remained in critical condition as his body was shutting down; he didn’t have much time left with us. Consumed with grief and overwhelmed by what lay before us, Mike and I went to the temple. Before we left the hospital, our kind doctor counseled me never to second-guess the answer I received because someday I would have to rely on that peace again.
Our experience in the celestial room was simple and sacred. I prayed that my will would align with God’s, and the Spirit brought an overwhelming sense of peace. We knew without a doubt that the Lord’s will was being fulfilled. Ryan was needed elsewhere. His full recovery, as promised in that blessing, would not take place in this life. His physical body would be made whole and restored but not until the Resurrection, an event made possible because of Jesus Christ. I can never deny the Spirit that confirmed this to us. As Mike and I left the temple, we felt the Savior’s enabling power giving us strength to accept God’s will, carrying us in our time of need.
Eleven days after Ryan’s arrival at the hospital, our children each said goodbye to him, and we took our last family picture through tears and forced smiles. Later, Mike and I were alone at Ryan’s bedside. As I held Ryan’s hand, I pleaded with my Heavenly Father for His Spirit to be with me. When Ryan slipped from this life and was welcomed home, it was a peaceful yet sorrowful moment for us.
As time has passed, I have never been angry with my Heavenly Father. I know that when our prayers aren’t answered in the way we hope, that is when our faith needs to be stronger than ever, enabling us to accept the Lord’s will.
I will always miss Ryan, but I know that I will be with him again someday. I look forward to that joyous reunion, when I can see him whole and well again, when I can embrace him, feel his curly hair on my fingertips, look into his sparkling eyes, and hear him once again point out how much taller he is than me. I can’t wait to tell him how much I love him and how honored I am to be his mother.
The priesthood blessing given by my father will be fulfilled. Ryan will recover fully as promised. As he waits for that glorious day, I know he is happy, healthy, and free from the harm and trials of this world. I will be forever grateful for this gift of peace Heavenly Father has given me.