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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)

TITLE: A Lesson I Learned From Lisa
By Kristen Hester
07/11/07


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As I sit on the hard pew, I try to think of anything other than where I am. I stare at my broken toe nail and try to feel disappointed that my one day old pedicure is ruined. I try to make a grocery list in my head. I even try counting the ceiling fans that spin silently above me in the sanctuary where I sit. But it is hopeless. I can’t escape that I am at the funeral of my friend’s 16-year-old son and that she is sitting on the first pew staring at the coffin that holds her son.

I didn’t know Lisa’s son. I only met Lisa, who lives in my subdivision, when she joined me on the Pregnancy Care Center Board. I immediately liked her no nonsense attitude and her diligent work ethic. I recall now the things she told me about her son, Tyler. “Hoot” is the word she’d used to describe him. The local newspaper described him as “a star athlete and honor student whose talents and awards were only outnumbered by his friends and admirers.” The article quoted Lisa as saying “He had goals. His future was bright.” Not anymore, I think bitterly. Now his body is about to be buried and his mother is without a son she adored. I am angry and sad. But mostly I am heart broken for my friend.

I learned of Tyler’s death by email earlier in the week. The message came through my church’s prayer chain and said simply, “Please pray for Brad and Lisa Davis. Their son Tyler was found dead at their home. No other details at this time.” No, I had cried in shock. It can’t be. Usually the church prayer chain consists of requests for so and so’s great-aunt in Montana who will be having surgery next Tuesday. It’s not supposed to inform me that less than a mile from my house a family’s life has been changed forever without warning.

Later that day a friend told me that Tyler had hung himself. No, I cried for the second time. As the day wore on gossip was finally separated from truth to reveal the strange reality: Tyler had accidently hung himself while playing the choking game, a form of self asphyxiation. Teens wrap a belt or rope around their necks to get a “high.” Tyler died when he fainted and his belt did not release from his neck. A senseless death for sure, but I am glad it wasn’t suicide.

At the funeral, they are calling the service a Celebration of Life. Family, friends and pastors share humorous, uplifting stories about Tyler’s life. They give thanks that he knew the Lord. They are all confident he is in Heaven. No doubt I am glad for this, but still I think of Lisa and the emptiness she must feel. How can you go on when so much of your life revolved around your son?

Lisa gets up to speak. I am amazed at her poise and her strength. She must be in shock. She says that if Tyler were alive he would say playing the choking game was the dumbest thing he ever did. She goes on to warn the hundreds of teens present to never play the game. She speaks with clarity and purpose.

After the service we file by the family. I dread seeing my friend. What can I possibly say to her? I have no words. When I get to her, she tilts her head to the side and smiles at me. She reaches out her arms and hugs me tightly. I blurt out what is on my mind, “How can you be so strong?” She puts her hands on my shoulders and pushes me to arm’s length from her. Her eyes show shock and disappointment at my question.

“Because I have the power of Jesus,” she says as if this is the most obvious answer in the world. “With full confidence I know Tyler is with his Savior right now and would not come back if he could. And Tyler will not die in vain.” She speaks with the strength of a mighty warrior, a mother on a mission.

I walk away humbled and shamed. She lost her son, yet is more confident in the promise of Jesus than I have ever been. Lord, forgive me. May I be confident in You, just like Lisa.




****************************************************************
Author’s Note: This is based on a true story. The names have been changed. Our small town has lost two Christian young men to the choking game. For more information about the choking game, go to www.stop-the-choking-game.com


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This article has been read 1104 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 07/12/07
What an inspiration in the midst of tragedy! Very moving story.

This piece was best when it felt like fiction--that's when I could really identify with your narrator and be moved by her conflict. At times it was more of a PSA, and I found myself skimming for the narrator's heart again.

I hope you will share this with your friend, and with lots of local youth groups; it needs to be told.
Dee Yoder 07/13/07
I recently read about this dangerous "game" and can't imagine why kids want to do this to themselves! But they're kids and not mature enough to realize the consequences. How sad for this family. Thanks for sharing their story.
Beth LaBuff 07/13/07
How sad! This is really well-written. What a message/testimony from Lisa!
Janice S Ramkissoon 07/16/07
I really enjoyed the flow of the story and though a sad story - Its that hope in our Saviour that gives such peace and confidence.

God bless! And thanks for sharing this with us.

Janice
Joanne Sher 07/17/07
Compelling and heartbreaking.
Kristen Hester07/17/07
*****AUTHOR’S NOTE*****
When I wrote my story, the real “Lisa” was out of town and I could not get permission to use real names. Shortly after I hit “submit” she returned home and granted me permission to use real names. Charlene Sandel, the real “Lisa” said she was honored and humbled by the story.

She and her husband Byron have established the Blake Sandel Foundation in her son's name and are aligning with GASP at www.gaspinfo.com (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play). They are creating a web site that will follow the GASP model but will include a message of faith.

Blake died this past Spring Break but Charlene Sandel is busy spreading the word. You can contact me for more information about their foundation at kris10hester@hotmail.com
Benjamin Graber07/17/07
Kristen, this is heartbreaking, but it is a message that needs to be told. Thank you for sharing it.
Father, I pray for those who have had their hearts broken in this way. Be with them in a real way, so they know your love for them and their children.
Sharlyn Guthrie07/17/07
Your piece is a reminder that God gives grace, peace, and even confidence according to our need. I don't think I could be strong either, but "Lisa" received strength from Him. Great story, well-articulated.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/17/07
I hesitated before reading because I knew from the beginning this would be a sad story. Yet you brought out gloriously the hope we have in Jesus. Good job.
Loren T. Lowery07/17/07
The real, true-life events are the most difficult to write - you did a spendid job with this topic. Your words, joined with those others in prayer will benefit many; and if it helps just one than surely the Angels will rejoice.
Joy Faire Stewart07/17/07
Your descriptions are so vivid you can feel the anguish. You have also captured the strength that only God can give the family. This story needed to be told and you did it brilliantly.
Patty Wysong07/17/07
You did an excellent job writing this heart breaking yet inspiring story. thank you.
Dixie Phillips 07/18/07
OH MY!!! Goosebump City.... What a powerful piece! I probably won't be able to think about anything else all day. Thank you for making us aware of this epidemic that is killing our children.
Sara Harricharan 07/18/07
A lesson well learned indeed! I like the honest approach to this and the realistic reactions to Tyler's death. Very well done.
Trevas Walker07/18/07
What a powerful message, and written with execellence. I hope this story does well, it was simply awsome.
Pat Guy 07/18/07
I thought I had commented on this one earlier in the week! I must have gotten distracted somehow.

This needs to be submitted!!!! This has such an important message and you've written it so well Kristen - consider it okay?

Catrina Bradley 07/18/07
Kristen, you've done an excellent job telling this heartbreaking story. Thank you for spreading the word. I had NO idea this went on. Bless you.
Elizabeth Baize 07/19/07
You did a excellent job of letting Lisa's testimony shine through such a tragedy. I was very sobered by the reality of your story.
Debbie Lassiter07/19/07
Your delivery was powerful and encouraging. I think you really nailed this topic!
Leigh MacKelvey07/20/07
I am proud of you for daring to write such a personal stroy. I know when I write from persoanl experience, it is a much more difficult article to get done in just the right way that I eant it to come across. Well done. The only suggestion I have would be to do a bit more "showing" instead of telling.But possible, it wouldn't have come across like you intended that way. Just something to think about. Wonderful job! Sorry I didn't read it sooner, just now getting around to reading!