When Life Is Changed Forever, Part 2
About the Guest
What does it mean to grieve the loss of a loved one? Pastor Rick Taylor and his wife, Judy, openly talk about the grief they experienced after the tragic death of their young son.
Rick and Judy TaylorApril 7, 1979 was the day "when life was changed forever" for Rick and Judy. Two-year-old Eric had fallen into a pond at the Christian camp where Rick was serving as director, and Kyle drowned trying to save his brother's life. A high number of married couples end up divorcing in the years following the loss of a child. But in the following interview, adapted from a FamilyLife Today® radio interview the Taylors tell how they remained committed to the vows they had made to each other. Rick Ta...more
What does it mean to grieve the loss of a loved one?
When Life Is Changed Forever, Part 2
Bob: Yesterday on FamilyLife Today we heard a powerful story of how one family's life was changed forever.
Judy: They said, "Can we get our trikes?" I said, "Well," and they said, "Just for minute. We'll just come right back with them." "All right, three tricycles, go down, get them, you come right back, we're leaving." So I was very anemic and very tired with this pregnancy, and I did sit down on the couch and hesitated for a moment, then got one of those awful mother feelings in my heart that something was wrong, and then I went out the door to say, "Where are you, boys?" And, at that point, Brian, the middle one, was walking very slowly, crying very loudly.
And I ran to him in the middle of the path and said, "Where are your brothers and why are you crying?" And he said, "Mommy, they're dying in the water."
As I rounded the pond, I was feeling so helpless, that I looked up into heaven and yelled at the top of my lungs, "Please don't take both of them." Eric's body came up immediately, but Kyle never came up. And I went out and got him, and I started working on him, and Eric started breathing, and, I mean, I thought I just had witnessed a miracle, and it was the biggest answer to prayer immediately that I have ever seen. But he went right into shock, and I knew he had to go to the hospital.
So I ripped myself in two, and part of my life went to the hospital to live for my son, and part of me died in the water with the other son.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Hearing, again, Judy Taylor recount the day when life was changed forever for the Taylors.
Dennis: I can't imagine making a choice like that. That is beyond anything I've experienced on this earth.
Bob: But you did come close to that experience just a few weeks ago when your new grandbaby was born, and the folks at the hospital knew right away there was something wrong, didn't they?
Dennis: Yes, we had a little girl, Molly, who was born to our family, and she didn't cry for four minutes, and it turns out she had a major problem with blood going to her brain, and it turned out to be a real tragedy, Bob, in terms of not getting what you expected. Our daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Jake, after seven days in the hospital did not come home with a newborn baby. They sent one on to heaven, and, you know, what Rick and Judy went through as a couple, I can't begin to understand or fathom, but having just been very near a tragedy as a grandfather, I guess I'd have to say I've come near, and I better understand those who have lost children. It is a heartache unlike anything I've ever known, and I know, in my lifetime, I wept more in the seven days little Molly was alive than all my days combined. I mean, the death of a child can teach us some very important life lessons.
Bob: It also puts our marriage commitment to the test. In fact, one of the things I've heard you telling people is we don't know what is around the corner for us, so we need to make sure that we're building the foundation of our marriage regularly, we're pouring into it, so that when these moments come, we are ready to face them together as a couple.
Dennis: Bob, I think, more than ever, in this culture, there is a need for young couples, and when I'm speaking of young couples, I'm talking about those under the age of 40 who are in the first couple of decades of their marriage relationship and building a family, to come now and be trained and get equipped to know how to build a godly marriage and family according to the divine blueprints. None of us are born with those divine blueprints.
We may have had a godly marriage and family as a model, we may not have come from a great Christian home, but you know what? All of us need to receive the training and be equipped as a husband and wife together so that we're building off of the same blueprints.
Bob: This week and next week we're giving FamilyLife Today listeners an opportunity to register for one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences when it comes to a city near where you live, and to save up to $100 per couple off the complete package for the weekend.
Now, the details for this are on our website at FamilyLife.com, and if you want to register either on the Internet or by phone, you just need to identify yourself as a listener in order to be able to take advantage of this special offer.
So if you're on the website, and you're registering there, you'll come to a keycode box on the registration form, type my name, "Bob," into the keycode box, and we'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, just mention that you heard about this on the radio, that you're a radio listener, and, again, you'll qualify for a savings of up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend package, and all the information about that can be found on our website on FamilyLife.com.
But what we want to spend the rest of our time doing today, Dennis, is hearing from Rick and Judy Taylor about how a couple processes the kind of tragedy that they went through.
Dennis: Yes, even though Rick's a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church here in Little Rock, Arkansas, had received training from Dallas Theological Seminary, how can that possibly fully equip someone to go through a tragedy like this, and basically the loss of a child who drowned really ultimately caused both Rick and Judy to cement their hearts to one another and, ultimately, Rick wrote a book called "When Life is Changed Forever."
Bob: Right. We had a chance to sit down with them several months ago and to talk with them about this experience and about how they processed it, and we're going to go ahead and listen back to that conversation right now.
Dennis: Rick, what does a couple do to prepare their marriage, their family, for the inevitable, because death will visit every family?
Rick: I know a lot of families don't want to take their children to funerals for fear that it might upset their children, but even of a distant relative or a friend of a friend, but there is going to come a point in time when that child or that family is going to have to face the death of someone even closer to them, and if it hasn't been something that they have come to grips with that reality, that it's something that happens to all of us through those simple ways, then when it does come, like [inaudible] says, it's going to catch us totally off guard, and we're going to be shocked, surprised, we're going to deny in any way we can what has actually taken place.
Dennis: You'd been in the ministry, you'd been a pastor.
Dennis: You'd done funerals, you'd been around death.
Rick: Yes, but I had never really accepted the reality that death is something that can come to children or to me. I always relegated it to other people. It was simple enough to say, "That's them, that's for older folks." There is something intellectually that we try to say that someone who is older has lived a good, long life, and it's time for them – although, there are many things that have been written by people who have lost grandparents and that sort of thing who are much older who say, at the same time, that's not true. You know, it's still something that's very hard and difficult.
Judy: I was going to add, also, that not a day goes by that he doesn't leave the house, when he says goodbye, he really means goodbye each time to each of our kids and to me, because he has told them and myself, not in a morbid way, but just that I never know if I'm ever going to get to see you again. So I want you to know that I love you right now, and I am glad to be your dad, and I just want you to have a good day, and he says goodbye.
And so we say goodbye in a different way than we once did.
Bob: You know, as I hear you talk about a daily saying goodbye to your kids and bringing back the feelings, there are some folks who would say 15 years, get over it, get past it. Life goes on, you've just got to kind of leave it. You're saying it's healthier not to?
Rick: I'm saying if I lost my right arm today, 15 years from now I would still not have a right arm, and I would still wish that I had the right arm, and I would be reminded almost daily that I didn't have my right arm. That's a reality of a changed life because of those circumstances. I can't ignore the reality that our lives are changed; that we are different people, and we always live with that reality.
What I can do is to learn how to respond to it, just like if I lost my arm, I could learn to live a full and meaningful life without it, but the reality of it being gone and my missing it would never go away. And I think that one of the tragedies that I see in people much like ourselves and what we went through for a while was we kept trying to get over it, get rid of it, to deny – basically, we were trying to deny the reality of what had taken place. And the more we worked at trying to get rid of reality, it was a downward spiral. There was no way of living a full and meaningful life while we were, at the same time, living in denial. We had to learn that joy – the joy of life that God has provided for us, as well as pain, can go hand in hand.
I had this crazy impression that I think a lot of us do that pain and joy are opposites, they can't coexist, and we've learned that that's not true; that we can experience difficulty, problems, pain, and still be joyful people at the same time. And that's what I'm encouraging people to realize and to think is that you do hurt, you don't deny the hurt but, at the same time, realize that God has provided a way of lifting you out of the mire of the pain.
Judy: And holding your hand through it.
Rick: That's right.
Dennis: Was there ever a moment, as you processed the pain, that you ever wondered if your marriage was going to make it?
Rick: I can answer that fairly quickly. I never – I don't remember in any way ever entertaining those thoughts or thinking that was possible. And a lot of that had to do with before the accident, before Kyle dying, though – not just then. And it had to do with the base of our relationship from the very beginning, and the reality that I knew that this woman that I had married and I love very much, she had proven to me repeatedly she was committed to me and that she was not living with me or being married to me for her convenience or to feel good only or just for her, but that when she made a commitment to me in this marriage that it was – that was a lifetime commitment, and she had communicated that repeatedly in so many different ways in the years that we had been married that I knew that even something like this – I mean, that's the way I felt. Nothing can separate us. It's a credit to her, and how she made me feel comfortable and content in her commitment.
Dennis: Judy, you've really given us, I think, a model here of something that I just want to highlight for a moment. First of all, I just want to esteem you and Rick for not quitting. You have allowed this process, this valley of the shadow of death, the whole refiners' fire in your life to purify you and to make you like Jesus Christ. And I just want to affirm you for that.
But a second thing I just want to highlight here, too, is that you have really modeled what Romans, chapter 5, really talks about, and I just want to read that here. Paul writes, "And not only this, we exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance proven character and proven character, hope." Now, listen to this last verse – "And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
And, you know, Bob, I think what this couple really bring to us today is a picture of not giving up, of not becoming embittered, but of clinging to that and of moving through the process, persevering through the trial. And it's so easy in this culture today to believe that voice, that lie of the enemy, that it doesn't matter. But the reality is, what is your life going to look like, at the end, if you believe that lie? Where is your hope? And the answer is, there isn't any hope.
If this book right here, if this book is not true, then you all will never see Kyle again. Life is a vapor that passes on. There is no meaning, no purpose to a child's death, and there is no hope beyond the grave. And the reality is Christ is alive, the Scriptures are true, and He is alive, and that is our hope, and God wants to pour out that hope within us through His Holy Spirit because He loves us. Even in the midst of these challenges, He loves us.
Bob: You know, Dennis, there are folks listening who have gone through similar circumstances and who have given up on hope. They feel hopeless.
Dennis: Yes, that's exactly right. Rick, what would you say to the listener who is being tempted to give up hope? Or perhaps they've already given up hope. What would you tell them?
Rick: I'd like to know some more about that person, but I, in one way or another, I'd try to help them to think through what is God like if He is only real on our terms? Is He really God and are we really trusting Him as God? Is that an intelligent, wise way of living life, is to say, "I am only willing to accept God if He does what I want Him to do when I want Him to do it the way I want." Then I'm God, He's not.
And, for me, I mean, that was something I wrestled with personally, and when I was not talking with Judy and wrestling with God, it was "Am I willing to accept God on His terms for who He really is and not the imaginary character I might be making Him in my mind?" And I would try to help someone think through that, and encourage them that God is who the Bible says He is. He is trustworthy, He is someone who is all wise and, for whatever reasons he took our son or took their child or a loved one, He knows what He's doing, and He has love in the back of that – behind that – and He has reasons whether I understand them or not, behind that.
Am I willing to accept that or not? Are they willing to accept that or not?
Dennis: And, for you, to really forget God and push Him away and not believe that He is all wise and all loving in what has come your way, how would you practically work that out in your life then – if you were consistent in saying, "I'm not going to follow God. I'm not going to believe Him. I'm not going to depend upon Him here."
Rick: I would be like a man fighting against the wind. I would be fighting against a reality that was there that I couldn't defeat. It would be the ultimate way of me losing hope altogether, because without God there is no hope whatsoever. And if I'm – coming back to your original question about losing hope and everything, if that's where the person is at, to throw God out of the picture, out of the equation, is to throw hope out all together – even hope of hope.
Bob: Part of the challenge you faced was trying to bring into line what you knew to be true about God's character and God's nature and the emotions that you were feeling.
Bob: And at first you said the way to do that is to pretend the emotions aren't really there?
Rick: You know, I had to make a choice in that dilemma. Either what I believed was wrong, or my feelings were wrong, one or the other, and my feelings didn't lie. My feelings were real, and I began to realize that some of the things that I believed were – I don't know if I would say totally wrong, but they were distorted. And I think through the dissonance and through the turmoil that went on inside of us between what we felt and what we believed, who God really is began to take shape in a much clearer, more precise way for who He really is.
Bob: Well, we've been listening back to a conversation we had a while ago with Rick and Judy Taylor, a couple who speak at our FamilyLife Today Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, about the day when life changed forever for them when they lost their son in a drowning accident back in 1979, a day that marked their family, really, for good.
Dennis: Right, and any couple who have lost a child, Bob, I think their lives are marked. I think that's really the message here. Why God allows certain things, why God causes certain things to occur, that's up to Him. I can't begin to answer that question now, after having been very close to a tragedy of our own in our family, but I do know this – God can be trusted, and that's what Rick was talking about was you need to get to know the God who can be trusted in the middle of the storm. It's not a matter of if the storm will come, it's a matter of when it comes.
And, you know, when it comes, if you know God, there is a chance if you trust in Him. If you don't know Him, how can you trust who you do not know? How will you fall back and lean on Him who governs the affairs of men and women, of nations, and the universe? I think you have to get to know God today, now, and that's why we're coming to our listeners and say, you know what? If you haven't been to our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference in the past two or three years, you need to come, you need to come back, and you need to sharpen your own focus of your life, your marriage, and your family, because I promise you, at that point when you do experience a crisis, you need to have your blueprints fully in your hands so that you're building on the rock of Jesus Christ.
Bob: One of the things we spend a lot of time talking about at the Weekend to Remember is how a couple can build their relationship with one another in the context of their relationship with God, because the way God designed marriage, it's not just two becoming one, but it is three becoming one in marriage.
Dennis: And it's God who designed marriage in the first place, Bob, and if you're going to experience it the way He designed it, you have to get to know Him.
Bob: That's right. This week and next week we're giving our listeners an opportunity to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember conference when it comes to a city near where you live and to save up to $100 per couple off the complete package for the weekend. All the information about this special offer can be found on our website at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY with any questions you have.
Now, if you're interested in registering, and you want to take advantage of this special offer, first of all, we need to hear from you soon and, secondly, you need to identify yourself as a radio listener. So if you call you just say, "I'm a radio listener," or "I'm a friend of Bob," that will work. If you're on our website, and you're registering there, there's a registration form with a keycode box in it, and you need to type the name "Bob" into the keycode box, and that will qualify you for the special offer of up to $100 per couple savings off the Weekend to Remember package.
So we hope you'll get the details and plan to attend one of these conferences and take advantage of this special offer before it expires, and it expires a week from today. So let me encourage you to register quickly and then plan to have a great weekend together at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.
Let me also encourage you when you get in touch with us to request a copy of the book that Rick Taylor has written that describes what they've shared with us this week on the program. The book is called "When Life is Changed Forever," and whether the kind of experience they've had is something that you've experienced or you know someone who has experienced it. This would be a helpful book to get to either read or to pass along.
All the information about the book can be found at FamilyLife.com, and you can order online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent out to you. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
And, with that, we've got to wrap things up for today. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we're going to spend some time with Dr. Emerson Eggerich and talk about the most important things that we need to be demonstrating to one another, living out for one another in our marriage relationship. You know what those are, don't you? Love and respect. We'll unpack some of that with our guest, Dr. Emerson Eggerich next week, I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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