Friday, December 11, 2009

John's Story...

January 2009 started out as every year has started for the past 4 years, with a 21 day fast - a family, and churchwide, "Daniel fast". Our family participates (it would be odd not to since my husband is the pastor). The fast went well, and the year was bringing great promise. The church, and our family, was excited about what God was going to do. All the while in the background, the devil was stirring.

January 22nd dawned, and everyone was excited; the fast was over. We had errands in town, so the boys and I loaded up and headed to town to meet Dave for lunch, then to run our errands. We had a great time, laughing and joking. All was well, we arrived home, dinner was prepared, more fun and family time. Then after dinner everyone went their way. The boys headed to their room for playstation and guitars. Dave was studying on the desktop computer and I was on my laptop, watching a bit of tv. Nine pm brought shower time for John. After an hour of hearing water run, my older son realized that something was not right and started banging on the door. When he got no answer, he went and got my husband, who in turn banged on the door. Still no response. Panic set in! The door was kicked in, to find our sweet son hanging from the towel pegs with his robe belt. OH Dear Lord, this cannot be happening!! Our son cannot have hung himself! Please Lord, what is going on? These thoughts and other thoughts of horror raced through my mind. My husband got him down, and brought him into the hall. Our son was dead! He was cold, and I couldnt blow air into his lungs, I tried and tried and could not get air to go in. My husband tried, no air would go into his lungs. I always thought I was a calm person in times of crisis. WRONG!! I was screaming and crying hysterically.

Our phone was dead, and I still do not know why that was, as it had worked fine when we came home. We used our cell phone to call 911. The ambulance was here in 2 minutes. Truly amazing. The EMT's started working on him, quickly loading him into the ambulance and working to get a heartbeat. They allowed me to ride in the front of the ambulance to the hospital. My husband and other son were detained by the police to answer questions.

That ambulance ride was very frightening, I am not a good rider and that dude was flying. I prayed as never before, begging God for my John to live and not die. My mind was in a whirl - why would he do this? He was not depressed. This child was the happiest kid I had ever met. WHY, GOD, WHY?? My heart and mind screamed out these questions. My spirit could not get still enough to hear God. During the ride to the hospital, they got a faint heartbeat. We arrived, and they whisked John away. I was locked out of the ER, literally, as I had gone to a door that required a card key to open the next door, but finally someone saw me and let me in. The ER doctor did not hold out much hope for my son. He told us they were notifying Children's Hospital, who would send a helicopter for John. I live in a small town, but I must say that our ambulance service was amazing, from arriving in two minutes to our house, to the ambulance drivers remaining with me at the hospital until someone arrived to be with me. One of the EMT's even prayed with me. You just don't find that everywhere.

Before I had left home, I had called church members to come to our house, a couple who we are very close with. When they arrived at our house they saw that the ambulance had gone on, and I was on it, with John. So her husband stayed with David, and she came on to the hospital to be with me. My parents and David's sister was also on their way. They both lived an hour and half to two hours away. Of course my cell phone was ringing off the hook, I NEEDED my husband with me, but the police were questioning him, and Jarrod. They had to find out what had happened. After nearly two full hours, and me calling no telling how many times, they let him come to the hospital. He was able to arrive before John was airlifted to Children's Hospital.

Just to set the time frame here, we found John around ten pm. Between 12:30 and 1:00 am, the helicopter arrived to take John to Children's Hospital. We all followed in cars, there were 4 cars. Dave and I, Dave's sister and Jarrod, Mom and Dad, Greg and Sheila. I don't even know what time we got to the Children's Hospital. We were taken back to a room, where a doctor came and explained all they had done, and what they would be doing. At the time we arrived, John was in Radiology for a Cat Scan, from there he was moved to the PICU.

John was dead when we found him. He never responded to anyone, during the 24 hours after we found him, before he was pronounced dead. They were able with machines to get his heart beating regularly, and to breathe for him with a respirator, but my son wasn't there. We were told that his organs would start shutting down, and we would need to decide how long we would keep him on the machines. But God in his gracefulness, did not make us do that, he just slowly slowed John's heart down, until it stopped beating. January 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm John died.

The intense investigation by our local police and by the state police, came to the conclusion that John did not kill himself. That he was playing the choking game ( ), and had accidentally hung himself. Of course as a parent, you never want to believe your child would commit suicide, so our minds grasped that. But still there were niggles of doubt. However, once again our God in His almighty grace, showed us that it truly was the choking game.

First of all, He helped us to recall some things that had happened recently, such as marks on John's neck, unexplained periods of staying in the bathroom too long, small changes in John's behavior. But the clincher actually came on the day of John's funeral. My sister in law, neice and myself were blue toothing some pictures from each others phones. My phone was running out of space, and so I went looking for things to delete on the phone, for more room. Under the videos on my phone, we found a video that John had made of himself, choking himself. Horrible to watch, but a confirmation that John had been playing this dangerous game.

Educate yourselves as parents to the dangers of this game. It is often referred to as "the good kid's drug" because a kid will try this, whereas they would never try illegal drugs. There are many many other names that this game is known by, not just the choking game, a very popular name for this is also the passout game. At there is a list of the many names that the game is called. Along with a list of things to watch for, to warn yourself that there might be something going on.

It has been over nine months now since John died. Our lives are forever changed because of one dangerous game, and one moment of not realizing the danger he was placing himself in. John hated to hurt people's feelings, and he would have been devastated if he knew that what he did caused his family so much sorrow. We have experienced John's first birthday without him, it was hard on me, I spent a big part of that week in bed, sleeping and fighting depression.

He is with Jesus now! I have no doubt about that, and I know that one day we will be reunited as a family.

We will tell John's story over and over. If it helps one parent recognize the signs of a danger in their child, it will be worth it. We do not know, and probably will never know, how John learned about this game. It does not matter. We are a homeschooling family, who does not get out much, and still he heard of it. Never assume your child does not know about this game. Check out the link I posted above for more information.


A post script....I wanted to add a few thoughts, I originally wrote this article around seven months after John died, I edited it to change the months, but there are things that I know now, that I didn't even a couple of months ago when I wrote this. Loosing a child is hard, and while people around you go on with their life, you often feel stuck in a time warp. As a mom these months I have just gone through, October, John's birth month, and now the months bringing the Holidays upon us, are much harder than the first few months were. You may think I am crazy to say that, but those months, I was numb, a numbness that I was truly thankful that God had given me. But living numb is not a long term solution and now I feel these special days sharply. My heart cries out still wondering WHY us? I do recognize that God allowed this, he did not cause this to happen, but it was allowed. Perhaps God being the ever wise and loving Father He is, saw down the road, things that would hurt us more than this has, even though that is hard for my mind to fathom I can think of things that would hurt as much or more than this has, so I lean heavily on that fact that God is my loving Father, and He has no desire to do evil to me.

I pray that John's story (this short version) will change your lives, and make you aware of the dangers that our children face. Perhaps someday God will give me the words to tell the long version of John's story.
God Bless Your Family.

Well life has changed for us.  We have moved away from the small town we lived in when John died, our oldest son has finished high school and is preparing for college.  John, if still living, would now be 16 and half.  I often wonder what he would be like, would he be very much taller, I never expected him to be very tall, the family was not tall.  What kind of things would he enjoy doing?  All those typical questions we wonder about our kids as babies, I now wonder about John who is now in heaven.  Loved ones have passed on since his death and I struggle with each death, thinking about them getting to see John in heaven, and missing him so much.  Memorial Day weekend is coming up and we will decorate his grave, and prepare for Decoration weekend the first weekend in June. 
I know that many people who read this will not believe like we do, will not understand our faith in God, nor will agree with the things that happened, that is ok, but this is not the place to say that.  I will delete any rude or hateful comments. 


  1. Cindy,

    I almost couldn't read your post. My tears kept flowing and the words kept blurring on the screen. You have such courage to write about what happened and to keep clinging to the Lord and His purposes. I pray that the Lord would heal your sharp pain and keep you close to Him. God bless your family ~ I look forward to meeting your John one day in the Everlasting. Love, Wardeh from CHK

  2. My heart aches for you but I want to thank you. Our little ones are just toddlers but I can now say their parents are a little more educated now.

    My prayers are with you all.

  3. Cindy,

    Words cannot express how my heart aches for you. I cannot begin to fathom all that you have gone through in these past months. I do pray that God would send His Comforter to you... and that you would be blessed. Thank you for sharing your story... I had never heard of the choking game until you shared with us. I have since talked to my teen daughters about it and will talk to my boys when they are a little older.


  4. Cindy, I love you very much. Thank you for sharing John's story with us. It takes courage and a lot of heart to have to go through this time and time again all to tell other parents to be careful about this. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Dear Cindy,

    I am so very sorry to read of the loss of your son. In spite of serving God faithfully and trusting in Him-- I have given up trying to understand how or why he permits the things he does. I have a wealth of theological explanations--but the simple fact is that He has the power and He chooses when and how to use it--and it seems so unfair and unloving. But we know that He is loving, and in the scope of eternity, our greatest sorrows will be redeemed. Our pain in the midst of His plan is almost more than one can bear but I'm thankful that He knows what it is like to not just lose a son, but to knowingly sacrifice one. May God continue to walk with you through your sorrow and know that John's memory is alive with us in Spain. (I found your blog through your review of my sister's latest book)

  6. Oh my dear Cindy! You don't know me. I found you on The Suspense Zone. We both review for Susan. My heart hurts for you, my friend. I, too, lost a child. I know what the pain feels like. A piece of our hearts died when our children died. We will not be whole until Jesus give us our new bodies. I won't tell the story of Stephanie here but would invite you to go to my blog and read, "Stephanie's Story".
    If there is every anything I can do for you, please let me know. We have become part of a group we never, ever wanted to join. May God bless you and continue to give you comfort and peace. Blessings, Janet

  7. Dear Cindy,
    My heart grieves for you and your family. What a shocking, devastating tragedy.

    I had never heard of the choking game until you told about your son.

    I prayed for you tonight.

  8. Dear Cindy,

    You're truly in my prayers! I thank God for you sharing and I pray that the year 2011 bring abundant strength and peace for you and your family. Trust Jer. 29:11 that God knows the plans he's prepared for your life. You'll remain in my prayers.

    Continue to let Jesus carry you in the mist of the storm!

    In Christ,

  9. There really are no words to write that would help. The death of a child goes deeper than anything imaginable. I know exactly what you mean by God allowing you to be "numb" for a while. We lost our baby full term due to a knot in her umbilical cord. We held her but had to let her go. We would never get to see her smile or the color of her eyes. Jesus does carry us though the mist of the storm though. I read a book called Grace Disguised that helped me a lot. I really recommend reading it. Of course reading God's promises for us help too. God is close to the brokenhearted, may he comfort you this month on his anniversary of his death.

  10. Cindy,

    This was so very hard to read and yet I understand fully why you are sharing such a horrid experience for you and your family. If only one parent or individual who reads this is touched by your family's experience it is well worth the tears you shed as you shared the story.

    I had a brother die recently, not from the choking game, but from a drug overdose. There are so many why's and I can't believe. I like you believe he is in Heaven, safely in God's arms experiencing the most beautiful things unimagineable to us. He like your son, loved life and God, that is what makes it so hard to understand...

    Will say a special prayer for you and your family.

  11. Cindy,

    It was totally difficult to finish reading your post. I could feel your pain. Since I am a pastor's daughter, reading your post made me feel like I was also part of your family and that I was there when all happened.

    Thank you for your courage and for sharing your story with us.

    I haven't heard of the chocking game... now I am aware and I have you to thank for that.

    It is always difficult to understand God's will so all we have to do is trust his hand.

    Romans 8:28a- ALL things work together for good...

    God bless you and your family.

  12. I truly admire you for sharing your story. As hard as it must be, I believe that getting the word out about what happened to your son will help others. Thank you for your strength and your willingness to educate others. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  13. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't even imagine going through what you and your family has. My prayers go out to you. I have three girls and will tell them of this.



  14. Cindy,
    thanks for sharing this tragic story, and especially your faith through it as an example to us all. I know there must still be hard days, but what a blessing to know God's grace in those trying moments. I've never had a loss like yours, but I pray for the same strength to come my way if I ever do. God bless you and give you strength. He is sovereign.

  15. Hi Cindy, Today, a friend of yours introduced me to you and your website. I sat here crying as I read through your story. When you beloved son John passed away, I had just passed the 6 month mark of my beautiful little girl, Mariana (Mar-long e-awe-na) or Mari for short, being gone. She left this earth at 8 1/2 years old on July 16, 2008.

    While the circumstances for how our children went to be with the Lord may be different, the pain and sorry and grief we feel is the same. We miss our children more than we could ever try to explain with words. For me, it's like there is a permanent hole in my heart that once held my daughter there. The hole will remain until one day I get to be with her in heaven again. I know that day will happen. It's just a matter of when.

    I too have dedicated a website in honor of my beautiful daughter. I named it I'm able to write about my grief journey and about my little girl. Through this her memory lives on through my writing so others have the opportunity to meet her and get to know her a little bit.

    I am a member of ACFW and God showed me through this tragedy He has given me the gift of writing. I feel blessed for this ability. I've been told how my words touch others. And now I'd like to say that you have that same gift I have no doubt in my mind. Your words touched me today as I sat weeping as I read about your son.

    It's hard for others to understand the loss of a child. People say I could never go through that and to be honest, I used to be one of them. But God had different plans. Mari fulfilled her time on this earth. She could light up a room with her smile. Her Caribean blue eyes could be mesmorizing. God granted me the gift of raising her just as He gave you the gift of raising John. I know that we both will get to see them someday again. That day will be a day fill with rejoicing. Maybe our children play together and talk together.

    My daughter would be 13 right now and would have turned 14 this coming December 29. It's hard to imagine that.

    If you have time, please come and read about my daughter. If you'd like to know what happened to her, there is a page at the top of her dedication site that says, "Her Hospital Story."

    My email is contact (at) mommysangelinheaven (dot) com. I hope to hear from you.

    Kristena Tunstall
    A beloved mother to an angel in heaven