Regardless of the cause of death, the pain and grief felt by the parents and children that loved them very often are all to similar. This is especially true when the deaths of the loved one is traumatic, unexpected, premature, or somehow preventable. My dad was murdered in cold blood when he stopped to help the driver of a stranded vehicle on a cold December day. Yet, my experience could be strikingly similar if Dad had been killed by a drunk driver, died from cancer, or killed while serving in the armed forces. It is not the cause of death which defines the level of pain and grief of the loss that is experienced. The impact of the pain and grief we suffer is correspondent to the personal emotional loving connection that has been broken along with the level of dependency that has been lost.
There is nothing I can say that can take away the agony we all feel with the loss of a loved one, or the pain felt from other tragic times anyone may have experienced. I can only hope that by stepping outside my comfort zone and sharing my experiences, I can somehow help show that we all have a choice on how difficult times we experience will define us. In James 1:2-4, James, the brother of Jesus, imparted to us:
“when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
I know that this seems absurd to consider any tragedy an opportunity for great joy. Nevertheless, there are infinite examples of how God has made use of tragic events to provide magnificent transformation on our lives and the lives of others. As Theodore Roosevelt maintained, the life of a survivor is an impactful life, a life that is often desired and admired:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
If God had not had me step outside my comfort zone, sometimes way out, I would have never opened my thick skull to how much of a difference we can each make if we reach out and open up to someone else that is experiencing their own tragedy. God gave me a choice, and although I had to work through some difficult times, this choice has allowed me to honor Dad and keep his memory alive today in a very positive and productive way.
It is important to know that this is not a journey that we have to experience alone, it is vital to understand that just resisting grief will only prolong the natural process of recovery. Failing to grieve will at best prevent you from moving on with your life, and at worst can lead to the darkness of depression which can lead to a lost life. It is my hope my story will help others see that there is hope, there are incredible people out there willing to share their stories so you can know you are not alone, and that Christ is there for you if you choose.
Although I miss my dad, to wish that this had not happened to him would be as though I was wishing it happened to someone else instead. I just could never wish such a terrible thing to happen to anyone. Consequently, I understand I have to do my best to trust in God and watched for God to use this tragedy as “an opportunity for great joy”. One such opportunity took place on Father’s Day, 2015, when the following memorial was posted by my daughter for her grandfather. Although it does not replace the loss of my dad, I hope you can see the “great joy” and peace that God has given me, through my daughter’s words:
“Reflections for Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter: It is amazing how someone whom you have never met can have such a huge impact on your life. The legacy of Patrolman Thomas Carpenter is far greater than anything he could of done in this lifetime. He was able to give me the gift of the most amazing father anyone could ever dream of having. My grandfather, Patrolman Carpenter, raised a man who respects, accepts, and protects everyone who he comes across. My grandmother, his wife, was able to keep his memory alive and instill the values that he believed to be important for their children to know. Patrolman Carpenter is a hero to me and I am blessed that he was able to raise a man who is the most amazing dad in the world. I wish I could have met the man who gave me my father to tell him Thank You. But it would never be enough.”
 New International Version (NIV).
 New American Standard Bible (NASB).
© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.