We spend a lot of time in recovery talking about what it means to be real – what it means to be authentic – what it means to be true to who we really are.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult parts of getting better – of becoming whole – of becoming a new and different version of ourselves. Because of that, or in spite of it, facing reality is also one of the most necessary parts of moving forward.

But, as you very well know, recovery isn’t just about drugs or alcohol. It’s not just about codependency or addictive and compulsive behaviors. Recovery is about walking alongside the least, the lost and the lonely. Recovery is about dealing with the parts of life that hurt. And as some of us know all too well, recovery is about dealing with grief, loss and pain.

Death is ubiquitous. We expect people to die. But we expect people to die from old age or cancer. We don’t expect people to die from freak accidents. We don’t expect people to die when they were out trying to have a little fun. We don’t expect to bury our children.

As Dave Matthews put it in his song Gravedigger:

Now you should never have to watch
As your only children lowered in the ground
I mean you should never have to bury your own babies

And yet this is what life presents to us. Twice in the last month I’ve watched helplessly as friends of mine have had to bury their eighteen year old sons. I’d love to sit here and lament what could’ve been. I’d like to tell you what was in store for them and what their futures might have looked like, but I can’t.

What I can do is offer a glimpse into the grief and turmoil they’re going through. When all they want is an answer from God to the question “Why?”, I have nothing to give. But they do.

One of my friends has been very vocal and very forward about the grieving process. I know he’s not alone. I know there are others out there who need to hear that it’s okay not to be okay. This is a picture of grief. I’m sorry if you find yourself in it, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it.

This story begins on Wednesday evening 19 July 2017. What follows is a series of stream of conscience processing. This healthy form of putting things out in the open helps everyone as we journey together through loss and mourning.

…this has been the absolute worst day of my life! Not because I lost some money, or lost my keys, or lost my phone, but because I LOST MY SON!
And in losing my son, today I have lost my happiness, my joy, my purpose, my strength, my health, and one third of my fatherhood. I’ve lost my security because I’m afraid to sleep, afraid to leave the house, afraid for my family to leave the house, afraid to allow those I love to get too far out of reach.

And to my sweet, loving, life filled [son]. I MISS YOU SO MUCH. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. I will never say goodbye. Only, until we see each other again. Roll Tide, bud.


My call from God is to be a pastor. It is one I serve with great honor especially when I walk alongside those who mourn. On this day I had to do what I have done many times before as a pastor, only this time I had to do it while mourning myself and working through the deepest darkness of my life.

I had to write an obituary for my own sweet [son]. I had to plan a celebration of life for my son and also hope it will serve him right. All while trying to care for a devastated wife whom I love more than anything and understand where I am in my own grief. Grief that started the day in much anger especially when on the way to the funeral home I had to pass the home of the person who my son was riding with on his fateful night. But an anger that subsided while at the funeral home when a calming spirit came upon me. I later learned of the prayers being lifted by the wonderful district I serve as they were holding a special service at that hour.


I love you [sic]. I miss you [sic]. Never goodbye. Only until we see each other again.


First time I’ve had to take an emotional stabilizing drug.
First time my friends have arrived from out of town to attend something other than a wedding or casual get together.
First time I’ve ever questioned God’s motives.
First time I’ve ever gone to the hospital as a victim visiting the other victim.
First time I’ve had to hold my sweet mother to help her stop shaking.
First time I’ve had to share a horrific personal story with my brother.
First time I’ve gone to sleep knowing that when I awake it will be the day I formally return my son back to my creator God.

Never goodbye, bud.
Until we see each other again.
I love you. I miss you.

I apologize in advance if you see me tonight and all I can say is thank you. Know that my feelings for you go way beyond a impersonal “thank you.” I love you all!

Tears brought on by seeing the wind blowing outside my windows and knowing [his] face would never feel the breeze again.
Tears brought on by seeing our fire pit outside that he loved to spend evenings at and knowing he wouldn’t be around the fire with us anymore.
Tears, once again, at the absence of his truck in the driveway because it’s been at a family members house since the accident.
Tears brought on by people asking me how I want the pictures laid out, the line placement in the Service, what food I wanted on my plate, things people were doing for me because they love me but petty things that I REALLY DIDN’T CARE ABOUT. So, I finally said, “I don’t care! Just do it!” I said that because I was given permission earlier in the day that I didn’t have to make any decisions and, besides, I wasn’t in the frame of mind to do so anyway.
So, I then began to get angry. 

And God was still at work! You don’t see a bunch of Tennessee fans wearing crimson and saying Roll Tide. But tonight you did!
I love you [sic]. I miss you [sic].
Never goodbye.
Until we see each other again. RTR


Tomorrow I would like to awake, get showered, dressed and go to work. Attend meetings, read emails, visit churches, return phone calls and talk to pastors about ministry. It’s my new job and it’s what I have awoken ready to do for the past few weeks.

But, tomorrow, I can’t. And I weep because I want to.

My body won’t let me. My mind won’t let me. My heart won’t let me. My soul won’t let me.

So I continue to weep for my [son]. I weep for the greatness he was and I weep for the greatness he was going to be. I weep for my time with him and I weep for the time I no longer have with him. I weep for his smile and I weep for his stubbornness.

But I weep knowing that each tear makes me better. Each tears mends my wounds. Each tear makes me closer to being ready for ministry again. And for that I am excited.

I love you [sic]. I miss you [sic].
Never goodbye.
Until we see each other again. RTR


…I knew we had another emotixhausting day. I made up that word, as you can tell. It means the feeling of exhaustion as a result of extra emotional activity. If you have been to see a therapist, psychologist, or counselor you know what I mean.

A good friend who happens to be a great counselor opened her doors to us today. She cleared two hours out of her busy calendar.

I promised MH to take her to see his cross so I offered if anyone else wanted to go. A resounding YES! So, we loaded up the van and headed to Sevierville to #celebratebraddog. Stories and laughter continued to be shared. We arrived to the cross, got out of the van and held each other while thinking of [him]. It was a great moment and gave me one of my few smiles of the day.

We came back to the house, the girls left, and my tears came back. Dang, I thought I was doing better.

I love you [sic]. I miss you [sic].
Never goodbye.
Until we see each other again. RTR

This is real life. This is what grief looks like. This is what pain looks like. And this is a reminder that pastors are people, too. In recovery we are all the same because we are all human.

It doesn’t matter whether we work low-wage, low-skilled jobs 80 hours a week or serve as senior executives in Fortune 500 companies. Addiction is indiscriminate. Grief is indiscriminate.

We are all susceptible to the full spectrum of human emotion because what we share at the most basic level is that we are all human. We all matter. We are all of sacred worth.

Every life lost is a life that matters. We all matter to someone, and we all matter to God.

And I am confident that the one thing my friend Jason hasn’t lost is his faith.

Even in his darkest hour, he was able to say things like:

I know God is at work and that God will continue to work in powerful ways.

I know this will be difficult to avoid, but I pray that no parent has to write their own child’s obituary. That no parent has to sign that paperwork. That no parent has to meet with me in the future to plan a celebration of a life short lived.
But, if it does happen I will be able to say, I understand. And I will be able to say that God is at work and that God will continue to work in powerful ways.

Their is pain, anger, disbelief, and a whole host of emotions none of us ever want to have to deal with. But we deal. We may never get over it. But we deal. We learn what it means to live with a new normal. We don’t like it, and we don’t have to. We just do because that’s the next right thing.

And we can do it because there are people who have been there before. There are people who know what it’s like. We’re not in this alone. We’re not meant to be. We don’t have to be.

Thank you, friend, for allowing me to share your agony with others.

Helplessness is next to Godliness

They say that cleanliness is next to godliness
Keeping a clean and ordered lifestyle
Grants a break from the chaos of life
The more ordered our life, the closer we are to God

They are wrong

God does not need our order
God does not need us to be clean or pure
God will take us as we are
God loves us as we are
God meets us as we are

And when we find ourselves in the pit of despair
When we hit rock bottom
When we discover that rock bottom wasn’t even close to as low as low can go

What do we do?
We cry out to God
Those who don’t believe in God
Those who don’t know God
Those who’ve fervently denied an existence of God
Cry out to God in their deepest, darkest hour

The same is true of a newborn child
A child can’t do anything on its own
But sleep and cry
So that’s what it does when it needs something
Cry out to something bigger than it
Cry out to something greater than it
Cry out to something that loves it unconditionally
Cry out to something that will take care of it
Cry out to something that will give it what it needs

It is not cleanliness that’s next to godliness
It’s helplessness

Helplessness is next to Godliness



– Alex Walker

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