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When a Child Dies #6 . . . Jenny

2012 February 14
by Mike

For today’s post in this series, I’ve asked my friend Rick Ross to write about the journey he and Beverly have been on since the sudden loss of their daughter, Jenny Bizaillion. Here are his powerful words:

– – – –

Two years ago today, my family was halfway through the roller coaster ride of our 31-year old daughter Jenny’s struggle for her life. The previous week she had gone to the doctor, been diagnosed with the swine flu, and sent home with a prescription of Tamiflu.

Three days later, she was much worse. At the hospital we discovered that she had been misdiagnosed. Actually, she had Group-A strep, and it had gone untreated for days – throwing her body into septic shock. It ravaged her body like a wildfire. After a cruel battle, she went to be with Jesus on February 22, 2010.

As my wife and I walked down the ICU hallway after leaving Jenny’s room, Beverly asked, “What do we do now?” Being the task-oriented person I am, I thought she was referring to making arrangements. But what she meant was, “How do we do life now?” “How do we take our next step?” “How do we breathe our next breath?” Beverly is a licensed marriage and family therapist, so she knew that grieving would be difficult physically and emotionally. But as she later said, “What I didn’t anticipate was the spiritual eruption. Death created a spiritual earthquake and left me searching through the rubble to find the remnants of my faith.”

Paula D’Archy once said, “I know this, you can’t die from crying . . . or I’d be dead.” Never having been a crier, I have now come to appreciate her words over the last couple of years. Just a couple of weeks after Jenny’s death, my oldest son, Josh, a minister in Memphis, TN, called me one Sunday morning and said that we, a family of ministers, would be “playing wounded” for a while. He reminded me of how Emmitt Smith played one of his greatest games with a separated shoulder. And I totally understand and agree with what Josh said, as two years later we continue to “play wounded.” But many are the times I have thought that I would rather play with a separated shoulder than with a broken heart.

Still, I often think of something Jenny said several years ago as she struggled with secondary infertility. She said, “I want people to remember me as someone who, even when she didn’t get her way, praised the Lord.” And that is what we as a family choose to do. As Beverly has said, “Our family has been called to do hard, so we will do hard.”

Being a minister, I have come to view grief in a totally different light. Grief that, too often, I had naively assumed passed in a couple of months. I had mourned the death of my father and my father-in-law. But I had never known grief – not like this. Now, when I hear about a teenager killed in a car wreck or a young mother who died of breast cancer, my first thoughts go to the families. Oh, what grief!

Paul asked the question in 1 Corinthians 15, “O death, where is your sting?” I can tell him. It is piercing the hearts of people who lose loved ones. Oh, I know that through Jesus, the sting has been ultimately removed. But it sure feels like a swarm of killer bees right now.

There are so many spiritual things that I used to KNOW that I don’t know anymore. Lots of things I once had tied up – that now look like a fishing reel when it has “bird-nested.” But I am taking the advice of a fellow minister, John Scott, who told Beverly and me to “learn to be content in the mystery.” I am learning to live the words of Anselm of Canterbury, who once prayed, “I do not try to understand you so that I can trust you. I trust you so I can understand you.”

Some people have insinuated that they will be glad when Beverly and I “get back to normal.” I know they mean well and only have our best interests at heart. But what they need to know is that this IS our new normal. Our lives have been forever changed by the events of two years ago. In some ways, even for the better. I am a better minister today as I walk with the bereaved. And my faith has been put to the test in such a way that I no longer wonder how I would respond in the face of real persecution. I have learned what trust REALLY means. That word is huge to me today. Trust. And hope. And peace.

So, back to Beverly and me as we walked out of ICU that day nearly two years ago. We stopped in the hallway and looked into each other’s eyes. She said, “Remind me what we believe.” And I stood in that moment speechless. It seemed like an eternity, although it was only a second or two. “Remind me what we believe.” And in that moment, with all of the theological positions and views I have often thought were so important, only four words came from my mouth: “The tomb is empty.” In THAT rests all my hope and all my peace.

I close with my daughter’s life verse. It is Romans 15: 13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

40 Responses leave one →
  1. Jeff Pierpont permalink
    February 14, 2012

    One of the most powerful testimonies I have ever read. Thank you.

  2. Nan Deal permalink
    February 14, 2012

    So profound. Thank you for posting this. As I approach this Friday. Three years since Connor went home I too wrestle with God. Some people could just not handle that. But I limped along not praying or singing. Some theology thrown at me just pierced my heart. But I have settled into God still is God. His grace is present in this suffering. And faith hope trust and love are all I’ve got. Prayer is a mystery or I should say the unanswered prayer of healing my son on this earth. But I agree when we wrestle and struggle in our faith it becomes stronger. At least that is the journey I am still on.
    Selah. Nan

  3. Steve Smith permalink
    February 14, 2012

    This is so powerful on so many levels! Thank you, Rick. Thank you, Mike. Thank You, Jesus.

  4. February 14, 2012

    Nan – Yes, theological certainty tends to crumble before such crippling losses. I love your line: “But I have settled into God still is God. His grace is present in this suffering.” Thanks.

    Tomorrow, there will be a guest post by my friends Carole and Dane Altman.

  5. Pam Cope permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Thank you for sharing. Jenny lives!

  6. February 14, 2012

    This is an article I can send to dear friends who lost their children. Only those who have lost a child can fully be present with this kind of pain. It is good our Father in heaven knows this pain and can be there for those who have touched the depth of this loss. Thank you for posting, Mike.

  7. Lauren permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Rick —

    EVERY time I hear this testimony, I marvel at God. I marvel because I’ve seen how you and Beverly have chosen to pursue, claim, and walk out a no-matter-what kind of faith. As you have chosen this way of living and serving, countless people have been taught how to walk the journey of grief. Thank you. You are so lOved!

  8. Deanna Brooks permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Thank you! I’ve never lost a child…I pray I never do. A little over 2 years ago I dropped a note to a friend whose 2 year old child had died 30 years earlier…I had forgotten the exact date, but I happened to “hit” it…and she responded, “Thank you so much…I had been sitting here thinking…wondering if anyone other than us ever remembered that K lived.” Blessings on you and your family.

  9. Carol Woods permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal & painful journey. Blessings to your family.


  10. Danna Townsdin permalink
    February 14, 2012

    WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your heart. It strengthens MY faith to hear and see how you and so many others walk this indescribable journey. Praying peace and comfort and the sweetest memories over you.

  11. Anna Bolton permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Thank God for the empty tomb, thank God for the strength you as a family have drawn from this, thank God for the strong faith you still hold on to. May God be with all of you as you take it day by day. We love the Ross family and are always in prayer for all.

  12. Tish Deffenbaugh permalink
    February 14, 2012

    For those of us who haven’t experienced the loss of a child, Rick, you just put a new, clearer perspective into our view. For ur unspeakable loss, I am so deeply sorry.   Jenny’s life reason continues on thru you and Bev, Jenny’s husband and beautiful daughter, and your extended family, as each of you struggles to keep your eyes on Jesus and that empty tomb.  The tomb is empty and heaven is brimming over with Jesus and Jenny!  Blessings.  And blessings to you, Mike, for posting.

  13. February 14, 2012

    “The Tomb is empty.” Indeed! What a powerful testimony this is.

    And as a fellow member of this club, I cannot agree enough when you say: “Some people have insinuated that they will be glad when Beverly and I ‘get back to normal.’ I know they mean well and only have our best interests at heart. But what they need to know is that this IS our new normal.”

    Grace and Peace,


  14. Holly Williamson permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Thank you! As a parent who lost a child just a few day short of a year ago.. This was a great testimony. I get all my strength from God. My faith is in him. I will see my son again.

  15. Pam permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Such Mighty words! The tomb is still empty!
    God is forever showing me WOW moments, and your words were WOW to me today.
    I think my Neal even patted me on the back as he grinned at me and said You are getting it Mom!”

  16. annie permalink
    February 15, 2012

    Rick, I thought of you & your family on the 4th, & will on the 22nd—every year, now. Our first grandchild was born on the 22nd, last year. After saying a joyfilled prayer to God for His Goodness in giving us a healthy Eliot, I couldn’t help but plead, “and please, please let him outlive his parents & grandparents in years of life & service to You, LORD”. Thank you for your powerful testimony, & know that you have a cousin who often prays for you, Beverly, & all your family. I look forward to going to your class at Pepperdine—just to give you a hug.

  17. Rosie Sutherland permalink
    February 15, 2012

    I have no words of wisdom….except that I love you both & your family. And will continue to lift you up in prayers. Rosie

  18. Carolyn Edwords permalink
    February 15, 2012

    Your abiding faith is there — deep down — and never left you. Thank you for reminding us over the last 2 years that God is worthy of our praise — always — no matter what!! We love you all!

  19. Susie permalink
    February 16, 2012

    You live a wonderful testimony to your precious daughter. Thank you for walking beside people that have lost a child.

  20. Rhonda Coleson permalink
    February 16, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

  21. chris george permalink
    February 16, 2012

    since 1989 my wife and I have been dealing with the loss of our oldest child. I am a minister and she is a children’s therapist but pain is still pain. We can tell you that it never goes away but you do learn to breath again. People can be very hurtful but they just don’t know until they have lived it how shallow and piercing some comments can be. We trust God everyday to work a reunion in our family someday and in that we rest and hope. God bless all of you who are struggling with this pain. He is the great healer.

  22. Kristy Mckenzie permalink
    February 17, 2012


  23. February 19, 2012

    Powerful words, Rick!!!
    Will be thinking of you and Beverly on the 22nd!!!

  24. February 21, 2012

    Remembering tomorrow’s anniversary. Blessings, dear friends.

  25. Rachel H. permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your testimony with me. In your grief, I’m grateful for your encouragement. I needed this today. May God continue to bless you with supernatural strength, love and peace.

  26. cami permalink
    February 22, 2012

    Very touching. Thank you Lord fod speaking to me through this message!!

  27. Sheila R. Barrett permalink
    February 23, 2012

    Thank you so very much!

  28. Phyllis Stromquist permalink
    February 27, 2012

    May the Lord God bless you and keep you both.

  29. Greg S (@GregSeeber) permalink
    March 1, 2012

    Not sure why God brought Jenny to my mind this morning … i’m a complete stranger … but I googled and found this blog. Very thankful for these words … and I remember where I was when I first heard the story 2 years ago and was touched so deeply by this event and by this family. Greg in Knoxville, TN

  30. August 10, 2015

    You have surely travelled through your valley very well.

  31. Pam Willisms permalink
    February 23, 2016

    Powerful and honest. Thank you.

  32. Marsha permalink
    February 23, 2016

    Well said!! I lost a grandson in 2004 to HLHS, a heart deformity, after 5 1/2 months in ICU. Then a dear friend lost her son in Iraq in 2006. She later said to me, “It is like having your leg cut off. The wound will heal but I will always walk with a limp.” I thought that statement portrayed very well the grief that will always be there.
    In 2004, when we lost Tate, all I could listen to were songs that proclaimed “My Redeemer Lives”. All other statements of faith moving mountains, stirred me to anger. So I stuck to my bottom line that I know my Redeemer lives and he loves me. I can never understand until I see HIS face and then I don’t think the “why’s” will even come to mind in the presence of his Glory. I just trust.

  33. Martha Cortinez permalink
    February 23, 2016

    Thank you for your wonderful words. I lost my son when he was 16 yrs old. An I remember asking my husband. How I’m going to live without him? After 15yrs I give all the glory to our Lord! Cause he show how to breath again! God bless you and your wife!

  34. Karen Sparks permalink
    February 23, 2016

    This is a powerful testimony and I thank you for sharing. My 2 angels (ages 8&9)were murdered by the hands of their father almost 4 months ago and then he committed suicide. I can’t even begin to tell you how traumatic and painful this new journey is. My new normal hurts to the depths of my soul but I know the Lord goes deeper still. My babies are with me every day! I can honestly say I know and feel your pain. We grieve forever because we love forever!

  35. February 23, 2016

    OK, I am very humbled by the significance of the impact of this message. May we all be grateful for the time we have in God’s creation before we go to be with him. That is our confident hope.

    Thank you,
    Randall Williams

  36. Betsy Williams permalink
    February 23, 2016

    I still miss her. Praise God the tomb is empty. Jenn is playing my little angel that God got to hold first. So glad to know she’s helping take care of her!

  37. Mary Stacy permalink
    February 26, 2016

    Thank you so much, prayers to you both, the intensity of it all just comes back and slaps you in the face sometimes and it has been 33 years since I lost my angel.

  38. Shea Reust permalink
    February 28, 2016

    We lost our son Jared May 5th 2015 and at first I was angry with God for taking him away he was my youngest son he was only 27 years old and then after praying and talking to God and my husband we turned it into a blessing instead of looking at what God took away we looked at what God has given us he is giving us 27 years with Jared 27 precious years that we wouldn’t have had if God hadn’t given up to us so we are blessed that God gave us those 27 years and we will never be the same the parent is supposed to go before the child apparent never expect to bury their children but your story was inspirational and thank you for sharing

  39. Sheila Redding Barrett permalink
    February 23, 2017

    Thank you so very much ! I hope I can keep this to RE read, ever so often. I share in your grief as I still mourn the great loss of my precious and only son, Brent Barrett age 22 on 10-11-2010. May God’s Holy Spirit continue to bring you great comfort, peace and joy unexplainable, and most of all much hope !!!! Until we meet our children once again!!! Again, thank you so very much,
    Sheila Redding Barrett

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