She said Bryce was in critical condition.  I asked over and over what happened, but she couldn’t tell me over the phone.  She gave me the address to the hospital in San Marcos and told me to hurry.

My brother-in-law Chris once told me something he learned during a survival hike in Utah.  The first 4 seconds of a traumatic situation are the most important from a mental standpoint.  You decide within 4 seconds whether you will survive a situation or not – this decision may be made either consciously or subconsciously.  

Twenty minutes later we walk into a spinning, noisy, suffocating emergency room.  I’m so hot, but I’m shivering.  Where is Bryce?

The nice lady at the desk calmly stood and said, “We are going to take you to the CCI waiting room.”  How did she know it was us?  Did I say something to her? I can’t remember.

CCI? Cardiac Care ICU?  It must be his heart, I think.  Something happened with his heart.  Do I have the names of Bryce’s pills written down?  Should I call his cardiologists in Dallas?

Then we are being led down an empty hallway and into a small, quiet waiting room.  No, no, no, no.

Please do not close that door behind us!                                                                                   

Erik is saying over and over, “What happened?  Just tell us what happened.”  Three nurses and a doctor come in and close the door.  The doctor says, “It’s the worst possible thing.”


Someone is screaming.

We cry, we fall. 

Where is the verse in the Bible that says God will not give us more than we can handle?  I’ve heard it my whole life, quoted it to others.  And until this moment I believed it.  But THIS I cannot handle.  God knows this is not something I can survive.  Doesn’t He?  I’ll find that scripture later.  It’s probably highlighted in pink or yellow in my Bible.  And underlined.    

The timelessness of the situation is hard to remember.  Minutes or hours?  I want to just cry, but we have to ask what happened.  Will knowing what happened help this make sense?

The same nurse I had just spoken to on the phone said Bryce was at the river in San Marcos and jumped into the water and never resurfaced.  She said friends tried to find him and then the first responders got there in minutes and pulled him out of the water.  They worked on him on the bank of the river and then brought him to the hospital where they did all they could.  He was pronounced dead there.  But he was gone at the river.

She said hospital policy is to send a patrol car to our house to inform us, but she preferred to have us come to the hospital so they could provide us with more details, as well as assist us in seeing his body.

Oh the tiny things we become grateful for.  The bitter medicine we must swallow to make us feel better.

Hand in hand with sorrow I go.  I must see him.

We came to the room where he lay, covered in a sheet and his long legs hanging partially off the end of the short bed.  The nurse said, “Do you want me to pull the sheet down, or do you want to do it?” 


I said, “Please just do it.”


“Can you please close his eyes?” I asked the nurse.  She said she would try again.  But she couldn’t. 

Those precious eyes, green and translucent.  Not ready to be closed, so still and peaceful.  This cannot be real.  I’ve never seen him so still.  If I stand here long enough I know he will look over at me. 

Erik and Lexi are at the door.  They can’t come any further.  I want to run, but I have to look some more.  I have to make sure.  I watch his chest to see if it’s rising and falling.  I see the blood under his head.  It must be true.

“I’m so sorry, baby.”  I can only cry and touch his soft, curly hair.  I want to remove the sheet and examine his chest and his arms.  But I’m too scared.  Can I hold his hand?  I think I’m going to fall down.


It’s been 27 days and I’m still standing in that room just looking at him.  I’ve slept, showered, eaten, visited with friends and family.  I’ve said goodbye to his body at the church.  I’ve wept buckets.  I’ve hyper-ventilated and broken down to the point I think I might be insane.  But through all that, I’m still standing right there in that spot, looking at that sweet boy and waiting for him to wake up. 

God knows! I told Him a long time ago that this is not something I can handle.  I told him the loss of a child is not a burden I could ever carry. 

And the truth is, I can’t.  And He knows.

In moments we think we will implode.  Or die along with our child.  He doesn’t let us.  And why?  When all we want is to absorb that pain and that death.  Why won’t He let me die along with Bryce?  That would be the only thing that makes sense.

But in His grace…He doesn’t allow more.  Only enough to ground us.  To demonstrate His great strength.

He only lets me cry so much.  And then I have to brush my teeth.  I can only writhe in sobs on my bed so much.  And then he lets me think about what I’ll wear to the funeral.  Thank God for His great strength.

And it is Great, my friends.

I’m amazed that I can get my girls back to school.  I can cook dinner with the help of mom.  I can talk to Erik about his job and the decisions he’s making.  I can take care of the life insurance and the hospital bill.  How can life go on?

But it does.

That is how I know God is real and how I know His word is true.  Because in this moment He is all or He is nothing.

Jesus, You are all or nothing.

In this moment He is everything.  He has to be.  I’m clinging onto the hem of His robe.  I’m asking for a miracle. That we may live.  That I may breathe and that my daughters may continue to live.

Merciful God, there is nothing now but you.  Please soften the blow and help us see a way out of this darkness.

6 thoughts on “Sorrow

  1. Oh Jennie- I sit hear reading this and crying with you. Our lesson in our adult Sunday school class last weekend was on that very verse and the author said It was meant to relate to temptations, not horrible situations put upon us. I had believed it too….. But lately I believe that when life knocks us to our knees, and we don't think we can take another step, let alone breath, God is there for us; to carry us, and for us to lean into, not away from. I'm continuing to pray for you and you sweet family. I hope that your community surrounds you all in love and is 'there for you' in these darkest of days. In Christian love, Shanna Nail (longtime friend of Betsy)


  2. Jennie,
    As I read this, my heart sinks into my stomach, a knot forms in my throat, and tears well up and roll down. People say “time heals all wounds”. I don't believe that. I don't think time is what heals anything. It's what you do in that time that mends those wounds but they may never heal. My hope and prayer for you all is that you will continue to rest in His peace, His strength, His love, His comfort, His joy, His plan for your future. Use His when you can't seem to find your own. Find comfort knowing that so many people are still thinking of your family and praying for them. I know as the weeks pass by, the phone calls, messages, and casseroles may become less and less, but please know that the thought of your sweet family will cross our minds often. And when they do, a prayer will be said for you all. With love and deep sympathy, Julie Felpel


  3. Hi Shanna, you're exactly right! That is not actually a verse in the bible. I looked for it this week and it's not there. I Cor 10:13 talks about temptations. Wow! But God is good. I appreciate your words and your prayers for my family. Love, Jennie


  4. Jennie, I had no idea you lost your son. I am so terribly sorry. Like you, I've searched for the verse, I mean, it's written in fancy script on wooden boards to hang on our walls so it must be in the bible. What I have found is that God is the only way we survive, He's the only One strong enough to carry us, He's the only One solid enough for us to lean into and He's the only reason. Period. He's the only reason. He doesn't promise more than we can handle, but He does promise to never leave us and to walk beside us and to carry us when we can't take another step forward. Bless your heart, bless Erik's heart and bless your girls' hearts…I'm just so sorry. I will be on my knees for your family.


  5. Jennie, I don’t know how you have made it through all this pain…but I know God is the one who has given you strength to love on little by little. There are no words to comfort your heart and every time I see your posts my heart pounds harder and harder imagining all that you and your family have gone through. May God bless y’all and comfort you every moment throughout life.


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