For the Kid’s Sake
By Aubrey Jayroe
It happened suddenly, unexpectedly. I was traveling, as usual, and I found myself in East Tennessee. I had arrived at my destination and was sitting down to enjoy a pizza when the phone rang. Trent, my son, was calling with the worst news that I could expect to hear—my wife was in the hospital with a heart attack.
I called the airlines for a flight home but it was too late, so I drove to Nashville where young men from the church picked me up to bring me on to Memphis to the hospital. Arriving at 5:00 AM, I did not fully know what to expect except that I knew that the situation was bad. My wife never recovered and died two and one-half hours later. All of a sudden everything came crashing in. It was so intense that I went into shock and was unable to grasp much for a couple of days. My companion of over twenty-eight years was gone, leaving me with a son at home, a church to pastor, a district position, and an office to run.
One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was the birth of my son. I recall the day in the hospital when the nurse brought him to the door for me to see. I stood by my dad and said, “We got us a boy!”
And did we ever. He grew up fully and totally a boy. He got dirty, sweaty, and bloody and was loud and active. But I enjoyed almost every minute of it. He is an adult now and is in the church. He serves as my associate pastor. He also works with me as office manger in the accounting office. I have always been proud of him, but never more so than when he gave me a granddaughter.
When my wife died, Trent was still at home. He had been to-college and was living with us. He was very close to his mother and they spent many hours at night talking. Dad did the dirty stuff—worked, provided, counseled. But mom was close and heard the voice of pain, suspense, and joy of her son.
When my wife died Trent grew up quickly. The day she died, we drove home from the hospital. He no longer talked like that little boy that I had watched grow up in our home. Something had happened to him.
When a death happens to a spouse or when there is a separation or divorce, it affects children regardless of their age. Trent was twenty-two years old, but now he was without a mother.
This was more traumatic than a divorce. In a divorce, many times there is still a parental relationship even though it may be strained. When a parent dies, he or she is no longer there.
I sat with Trent the day after the funeral and talked to him. I was not used to sitting for lengthy periods of time and talking to him—that was his mom’s job. Now I had to consider him and his needs. I had to respond to him even though I was not as comfortable as I should have been. I tried to be considerate and look beyond my hurt and pain and loss. I had to mask my feelings for his benefit. If I cried, I tried to do it alone. I was not trying to totally hide all my feelings, but I sensed I had to be strong for him. During this time we learned to talk to each other.
Three months later Trent knocked on my bedroom door at three o’clock in the morning. All he wanted was to talk about was girls. He had met a cute girl at the holiday youth convention and could not get her out of his mind.
She was five years younger than trent, but still he was attracted.
I am not at my best or brightest at three in the morning but I listened. My son needed someone to listen. So I learned to listen, not just to his words, but to his expressions and emotions. To get help, I read books for inspiration and assistance. What do I do next? How do I handle this situation? I had to have an open mind to be able to help him.
Dads are supposed to have all the answers. I told him that losing his mother at his young age was probably more traumatic than me losing my wife. Sound strange? Maybe so, but this is true. I would be blessed to find another wife; he could never get another mother.
I had to be happy for him and I encouraged him to call the girl he had met at the youth convention. He did and they started meeting. She lived on the other side of the state and he wanted to go visit. That was OK until it became obvious that he was recovering from his loss quicker than I was—then it bothered me. I know now that this was not good on my part.
Trent needed to be happy and I should have recognized it quicker than I did. In the first twelve months after our loss, my son and I only had one argument. It was during the holiday season and he wanted to visit his girlfriend. I wanted him around for selfish reasons so I said no, and for no good reason. It escalated from there. Fortunately I walked out of the house for about thirty minutes and stood in the snow. I cooled down and understood that he also had to have a life and needed to go on from there.
Our kids need us, even when we hurt. They need to be loved more when there is a loss or disruption in their life. We may be hurting, but we have to give them love and support. The loss of a spouse is difficult to handle, but when children are involved, the surviving parent must look beyond self and reach out to help his children.
I cannot say I was the best at doing this, but I certainly tried. Trent has been married for almost seven years and has a beautiful wife and daughter. He and I are very close. We are together almost every day. I am glad I woke up to understand that some things have to be done for the kid’s sake.
From, “Pentecostal Herald”/June 2009/Page 50-51, by Aubrey Jayroe
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