Our Patrick

Posted on: January 11, 2012

Dear Friends,

On December 20th, my husband and I received the double shock that our 19 year-old son Patrick had died, and that it was apparent he had taken his own life.

I will never be able to describe to anyone, ever, the slap of such a shock, the depths of such pain, or the dreadful questions that plague a parent’s heart following such a call. They are the worst. For five days my heart was crushed with the pain of my son’s pain, and stung by the question of how we could have missed it.

Five days later, on the 26th, our daughter, an ER RN, made a connection between a head injury her brother suffered the day before Thanksgiving and his death.   Patrick was in school at USF in Tampa, 2 hours from home.  His work schedule didn’t allow him to have Thanksgiving off, but he was able to get home for a few days before, so we had a ‘Thanksgiving Lasagna’ one night, a ‘Thanksgiving Stroganoff’ the next, celebrating early with his siblings so he could be with us.  He was happy, and told us he was doing well with his two part-time jobs and two classes at school.  He said he was finally getting a killer cardio workout because he had to run at top speed to retrieve cars as a parking valet all day.  He had the usual fun with his siblings, and as he was our biggest prankster, he hacked my FaceBook status (again) while he was here.  He told us he liked his church and his small group fellowship in Tampa, and was having a conflict with one person, but was working toward resolving it.  All seemed well and we looked forward to his return the week of Christmas.

He left for Tampa with kisses and hugs and promises of seeing him in 3 1/2 weeks.  Forty minutes later, he called saying he’d been in an accident on I-75.  Bill and Dan went to make sure he was okay. He’d lost control of his car in the rain, hit the guardrail several times at highway speed, swerved back into traffic and hit another car.  No one in the other car was injured, but Patrick hit his head on the steering wheel and driver’s door window.  Bill and Dan changed his tire, checked his car, and checked him for signs of concussion. Patrick called Kate to ask if she thought he might have a concussion. She told him it was possible, gave him a list of things to watch for, and told him he should check it out. I had told him that morning that there were plenty of funds in the HSA account for medical needs.  For whatever reason, our beautiful kid did not get checked out, or connect any of the dots when he began displaying erratic behavior.

From Kate: I’m not exactly sure why it took me almost a week to put the pieces together – probably because of shock – but I realized something I think would be helpful to many of Patrick’s friends and family who are struggling to make sense of this, trying to figure out why no one saw this coming.

I am currently working at a large research university where staff has been frequently and thoroughly educated on the findings of recent research on traumatic brain injuries. I’d like to share some of these findings with you:

When a person comes into the emergency department for a bump to the head, standard procedure is to perform a CT scan (if the physician is concerned) and then, if no bleed is found, discharge the patient home. However, new research is finding that healthcare professionals are missing a huge piece of the picture. We are just now discovering that while nothing is showing up on a CT scan, MRIs of recently bumped heads show abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, the emotion/reasoning center of the brain.

When someone suffers a bump to the head (whether it results in concussion or not), there is between a 30-80% chance (the research is still new) that in the following 2-3 months they will experience the following symptoms: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, difficulty relating to people, depression, suicidal thoughts and lack of impulse control. Students’ grades drop, people break up with their significant others, lose jobs, etc. They have personality changes and these short-term symptoms wreak havoc on their lives. There is abundant information available by Googling head injury and depression.

On December 28th, Kate and Dan drove to Tampa to take care of final details for us, for which I will be indebted to them for the rest of my days. When they finished, they spoke with Patrick’s friends about Kate’s thoughts. Everyone’s reaction was the same.

Kate: As soon as I started reading the symptoms of brain injury, each friend expressed shock and said I was describing Patrick’s behavior since Thanksgiving exactly. He could only sleep 2-3 hours a night, he couldn’t concentrate on school, he became withdrawn and distant, he had developed a persistent headache. They said his personality in three weeks had suddenly negatively changed.

For me, this has been the missing puzzle piece. Everyone who knew Patrick – and many of us knew him very well – have said the same thing: Patrick wasn’t unhappy, he wasn’t depressed, and he certainly wasn’t suicidal.  He was suffering from post-concussive symptoms.

Patrick’s altered behavior was apparent to friends, but naturally no one made a connection to the accident.  One friend said he’d become erratic so quickly that he thought he might have started taking drugs.

For me, I feel like I was shot through the heart with the initial call, and then rolled into ICU, being sustained moment by moment by tubes of God’s grace, like a feeding tube or breathing tube keeping me alive.  All my heart could do was lay immobile and be taken care of by others who held me and tried to make sure I ate and drank. Learning of the TBI symptoms (traumatic brain injury) poured a Saline of truth over my broken heart and washed away questions that I think would have plagued my me until the day I die.  He had watched us rescue siblings when they experienced a few crises, and we felt confident he would also call us if he needed us. The thought that he would not was excruciating to both of us. The last thing Bill said to him before he moved was that his room would always be waiting.  To know he wasn’t hiding failures and pain from us all semester soothed some of my pain, but learning the symptoms of a TBI was also very painful and triggered the grieving process afresh in me.  I imagined all the stress and pain he must have faced running as a valet and keeping up his other job and school on so little sleep, pushing himself to do better, not realizing he was injured.

Patrick’s natural temperament was Melancholy, so he set high standards and took life seriously. We watched him over the previous year pull overnight shifts and still go to class the next day, or go to school when he was sick when we advised him to stay home. He was Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, his favorite character and the only movie that I know of he bought for himself.

And here the keyboard disappears into yet another blur of tears – our son left a note. I can’t share it with anyone outside our family. I don’t even know what’s appropriate or not appropriate these days, but I asked Kate and Bill to help me know, and they said I should share the gist of it.  He wrote that he was very sorry for the pain he knew this would cause all of us, that he loved us all very much, that he knew he was very loved, and had been given a loving family. But, he could not understand why he was so deeply sad inside all the time and could not go on.

He thought of others first in so many decisions, and to read he was concerned for us in his final thoughts is more than I can even process yet.

January 5th was my first venture out of this safe and loving cocoon of home.  I took Joel, 16, to get a hair cut, pick up some books, and I thought I would treat him to a trip to Wal-mart to spend a gift card he received at Christmas. I ended up bursting into tears when an employee was trying to help me, trying not to draw attention to myself while looking for a place to escape.  Looking back on it that night, it felt like I was trying to push an IV pole across a busy street still dressed in my hospital gown, while cars whisked past me honking and speeding.  My goal was to get my weak little self all the way across that street, and I did, but sat down and cried on the bench once I got there.  Not so good.

Later I read three notes from three different friends who didn’t know each other, but all said the same thing – that I must come to a place where I accept that God is completely sovereign, and that though this was never His design, He still saw it in advance, and was able to protect Patrick from the accident as well as the injury – but didn’t.  If anyone who could have protected him and changed the outcome, it was God.  But, He didn’t.  And yet He loved Patrick many times more than all of us put together.

Reconciling God’s love for my son with His sovereignty in allowing this outcome clicked something into place in my soul, like a bone that had been broken that just got set, or an alignment that allowed me to stop walking stooped over.  Something inside settled, and I could sense a new soothing, as though the Lord administered a spiritual pain med.  For the first five days my heart had been crushed with the pain of my son’s pain.  When I cried out to Jesus to take my crushing grief, He did.  Once we learned of his head injury symptoms, I was weighted again with my son’s pain and a barrage of what-ifs and whys (I had been protected in accidents and greater dangers, why hadn’t he?, What if we had thought to visit him between Thanksgiving and Christmas – we might have seen it?  Why this, why not that?).  I know that I must pass through these unanswerable questions as part of my healing process, but since allowing myself to accept both God’s sovereignty and love simultaneously, I’ve been at new level of peace.  I still cry many times a day, but I’ve been able to say each day, This is Patrick’s story with You, his God, and I will not demand that You tell me the whys of his story.  I will keep trusting You and wait for You or him to tell us when we see him again.

On December 24th, the day after his memorial service, but before we learned of the TBI, someone wrote to remind me of Isaiah 53, that Jesus bore my griefs and sorrows, and they encouraged me to cry out to Him to take my crushing sorrow.  It sounded like fiction, that it would be impossible to have the crushing, crushing weight of grief ever leave me.  I’d been hurting so deeply and dropping to a couch or the floor sobbing in fits since we heard.  After 3 hours of gut-wrenching sobbing before my family was awake, I reread my friend’s note, and called out to Jesus, that if it were true, if He really did take my crushing sorrow on the cross, would He please remove it?  Bill found me shortly after that prayer, surrounded by a mountain of tissues, still softly crying.  He held me tight, prayed for me, spoke words of truth to me, and asked me never to grieve that way alone again, that I must find him or wake him when I started to slide.  Since that day, Day Five, I’ve no longer been crushed with overwhelming grief.  We still have many tears – we both cry alone and cry in each other’s arms.  I cry with the kids, with friends who come by, and, last week on my first venture to a store I cried all the way down the aisle, through the parking lot and into the car.  But it is not the same crushing grief that gripped me for the first five days.  It didn’t return.

We don’t have enough words or even adequate words to express our gratefulness to all who have been praying for us. Friends dropped everything in their lives the week of Christmas and pulled together the most beautiful memorial service that ever was.  More friends stepped in to run our home, cook our meals, field calls and posts, and pray and cry with us.  We’ve been showered with flowers and gifts, people in high places set events into motion to assist us, and people we had never met reached out to us as with one heart. We’re still just learning of acts of service which were done for us.   If you have sent us an email or card, we’re still in the process of reading them all.  If you sent flowers or gifts, they’ve all been extremely beautiful.  A family member will be coming over in the coming weeks to help us acknowledge them all.

I tend to process my lessons and joys, and I see now my grief, through writing.  This note is a compilation of many notes penned over the past three weeks, some to myself, some to family, some to friends.  We know many outside our family are suffering over this tragedy.  We’ve talked about what is appropriate to share and how to communicate, and decided as a couple to publish this note here.  If you know anyone who has been suffering with us and you think this would help to comfort them, please share it.

Today, January 11th, I still feel like I am in the ICU unit of God’s hospital. Even though I can sense God’s grace sustaining me, I still have a gaping hole in my heart.  Each day I bleed a little less, “come to” a little more, and my wound closes a tiny bit.  Bill and I have been healing the slowest.  I think our hearts will eventually stop bleeding, but we will bear a Patrick-sized scar for the rest of our days here.  Our adult kids are each balancing normal stages of grief with ongoing commitments, facing ups and downs, good days and low days.  They have stayed close as they grew up, calling or texting each other regularly, but are staying even closer now. Bill and I are still learning of things they did to shield us during the first week.  They bore a very heavy load together with their spouses.  Joel remains a soft and Sanguine blessing, processing healthily I think, being a strength to me, and even playing a few tricks on me to make me laugh again. We are comforting one another daily, and to the degree of healing we are intended and able to one day reach while we yet live is our united hope and goal.

We know that grace is being administered to us through massive amounts of prayer and due to no strength of our own.  We know some of you will carry us in your prayers as the weeks turn into months and years. We are immensely thankful. I am particularly thankful to the God who sees everything in advance and loves our children more than we do.  And I am thankful to Jesus who actually, really and truly bore our griefs and sorrows on Calvary, and who actually, really and truly gives sustaining grace in the darkest valley.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

Sustained by grace, Bill and Mardy for all our family

33 Responses to "Our Patrick"

Thank you again… i really have no words except to say my heart is still feeling your pain from the loss of Patrick… you are still in my prayers, and this letter as well as the sweet soothing comfort of God’s Spirit is comforting me and showing me much through all of this…. He is sweetly sovereign, and deeply loving. He is the Redeemer… gloriously beyond my imagination or understanding. Love and Prayers to you all.

My prayers go up for you and and your family. Your honest, skillful writing as been a blessing to me over and over. Thank you for sharing your heart. God is using you in this terribly painful time in your lives.

Thank you for sharing the story of what happened with those of us who didn’t know. I have been and will continue to pray for your family. May God bless you and continue to be your guide as you traverse this new path set before you. I am still so very sorry for your loss, but am thankful that God is showing Himself to be faithful and true.

Loren Fleeger

I will be praying for you. He will be faithful. Praying for you….

Dearest Mardy,

Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Even from afar, I have struggled with, “God, how could you allow this?!” I have prayed and wept for you many times, knowing you would give nearly anything to hold your precious son again. I have had to come to rest with the fact that this was not His plan and that He too is weeping for you. I am so comforted to hear how God has come in for you and has given some understanding into this horrible tragedy. I will continue to pray for you and Bill and your children, and all those who have been affected, for God to bind up the broken hearted as only He can.

With much love,


Thank you for sharing this. Your story put words to my own grief over a recent loss. And the way God used your family and friends to administer grace to you was heartwarming. . .

Mardy, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers here in SE Florida. I wish there was a way I could help you but please know daily I petition the Lord to comfort you all and grant you His peace. –Love, Nancy Robbins (HOPE Homeschoolers)

We love you and your family. We are praying whenever you come to mind.

Bill, Mardy, and family,
I am deeply sorry for your loss of Patrick. I had the horrible job of telling you that Patrick has passed. I have spoken and met with some of your family and friends through this terrible time. Although I have not known everyone for a long time, I can say that the love you guys share for each other is amazing. You are truly blessed to have such a loving family with such caring friends. I am sure Patrick is looking down from Heaven, and someday, you all will reunite with him. God Bless you all. Sincerely, Detective Danny Rhodes, Tampa Police Dept.

Thank you so much for sharing. We are all praying for Patrick and your family.

So, so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing. We heard through MOMYS and just wanted to let you know that we will continue to pray for you and your family that God holds you tight and comforts you with only the LOVE that He can give. Praise the Lord for the friends and family that was and is by your side!

I feel your pain. Thank you for reaching out to me. You expressed your feelings far better than I have ever been able to do. I am so grateful that you were able to do this. I hope to get your address and write you. I lost my brother in 1969. . I am a life-long friend of Jennifer Bertani’ Walley’s mother. I will be on touch. God ‘s blessings on you and your family.

…And the very Hand that shields your eyes from understanding is the Hand that will be holding you for miles……

What edifying words. What comfort from our Heavenly Father. What unspeakable rest we find in the knowledge of his sovereign love for his children. Thank you so much for sharing this deeply personal letter, Mardy. I don’t know you or your family very well, but I have prayed for you since this started. I am blessed by your words and your humble account, not only of your pain, but of the embracing arms of our savior. To him be all the glory for ever and ever. In him we have our being, and in him, your beautiful family will be whole again, when you all see him face to face.

I have already had the opportunity to share his story with multiple people in Colorado. Praying for all of you.

Wow….thank you for putting your story in writing…as ususal…in your most beautiful honest way! I am blessed just reading how much you and Bill have impacted so many people….and have remained faithful…even when things didn’t turn out the way we all would have wanted. God will…and has already used you in mighty ways through this whole situation. And He will continue to use you for His glory! You WILL get well enough to move from God’s ICU into Progressive Care…and in time, into whatever the new state of living without Patrick life brings. No, it will never be the same but God will give you what you need….when you need it…to get through the day….to inspire the tons of people that God brings into your life….to live on moment by moment….
Love you soooo much!!!!! Denise

You and your precious family are being visited in ICU from afar via my prayers. Love to all of you.

My heart absolutely breaks for you and your family. I don’t think that I have ever met you in person but you are well known and respected in the homeschool community. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you and your family.
Hugs:o) Jane Northrop

Dear Mardy, how hard this must have been to write and yet so many are already being ministered to through it. Thanking Jesus for the comfort that He is bringing to you and your family. Continue to pray for you all. Love ya!

I’ve never met you or your son. But your story has touched me deeply. I want you to know I have prayed for you and thanked Jesus for sustaining you. As someone who deals with athletes I am glad to have gained this knowledge of the concussion and depression relationship and will be studying it in more detail. You sharing your story may save other children and parents from this tragedy. Thank you for sharing and God bless you

Dearest Mardy and Bill,

Not a day goes by that I don’t have thoughts of our wonderful Patrick. The loss you both are having to endure is unfathomable to me. I continue to pray for the gapping hole in your hearts to heal with God’s mending love and that you can move forward with your lives once again. I love you all and will do anything I can to help you through your pain. Just call me and I will be there. Until than, stay strong.

Your story caught my eye when a mutual friend posted a reply on FB. I read your story with tears streaming down my face. I too am a mother. I cannot imagine the tremendous loss you feel. I know there are no words that can lessen the pain and though time may lessen the sting, there are some wounds time cannot completely heal. I know it doesn’t make sense to lose someone so young. However, I believe that some souls are just so precious to God that He cannot stand to be separated from them for another second. I have no doubt your Patrick was one of those special souls. God knows your pain. He once lost His son and only He can comfort you in a way that surpasses all understanding. I pray that He keeps you and your family wrapped in His loving arms.

You don’t know me, but a friend of mine on FB had posted a story that Patrick was missing and for everyone to pray. Since that day, I had been thinking and praying for you all at different times and when Patrick was found my heart broke for you all. As I read your post, tears streamed down my face for the hurt your family must be going through. I have children as well and can’t fathom the heart wrenching pain of losing a child. I can only pray that as each day passes the pain will be less and less and that God’s overwhelming grace and mercy’s are afresh every morning! There will be a great reunion in Heaven with your sweet son some day. Hallelujah!

I’m the friend of a friend of a friend… Our 19 yo son, Christian, went home to be with the Lord 10-26-11. It was a stupid accident. The pain was incomprehensible. Healing comes only with the Lord. We have an amazing God who brings blessings, hope, peace, and yes, even times of joy out of catastrophic loss. Friends have told us of dreams and visions. Christian has the same message in all of them, “This place is AMAZING! Don’t mourn for me. You all will be here soon!” I DO believe we will all be together soon. I believe Jesus IS coming VERY soon. I had a vision of my husband and I being reunited with our son in Heaven surrounded by our body of Christ. I thought to myself, “We are all the same age. We couldn’t have all died at the same time! This must be a picture of the Rapture.” My next Bible reading was Ezekiel 12:21-28 in which God proclaims, “It will not be long before these visions are fulfilled!” The next time you see your son, it will be FOREVER! As I worship at our alter at Calvary Chapel, St. Pete, I know my son (and my miscarried daughter as well) are just on the other side of the veil, worshiping the King of Kings with us, looking at His wonderful face! They are sinless, and FULL of joy and peace. We will all be there soon. Take heart, dear sister. It is better to be in the valley with the Lord, than on the mountain top of joy without Him. I DON’T like how I got here. But I am blessed to be here. And I will carry this, with the Lord’s help, for His Glory. I pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to minister to you and your precious family as you walk out this most difficult road.

I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, my heart goes out to you. At the same time, I thank-you for sharing this. My son is going through these same symptoms, he’s at university. He’s depressed, has insomnia and has spoken of suicide. He had a serious accident and hit his head on the window. He was taken to the hospital 4 hours later and released saying he was fine. After 3 years of physio, and no explanation they settled with him for an insurance claim. My question is, what do I do now? How do I help my son? He’s flying home from university and going to the doctor, where do I start?

Lena, Since our experience, we’ve had several parents write about traumatic brain injury to their children – from sports, from a mugging, from a fall or accident. It is very much in the news and in medical research right now as personalities seem to change, particularly with frontal lobe injury. One thing I’ve learned and would encourage you to keep in mind as you walk through this with your son – is that your son is not his brain. Your son is still your son. And his brain is an organ of his body, like a stomach or liver, etc. When an organ is damaged, it affects everything it’s in control of. If your son’s new struggles are related to a TBI, it helps to keep reminding yourself, this behavior is due to an injury – this is not who my son really is. Secondly, you’ll want to be his advocate, if he will let you, and google everything you can about his symptoms and TBI. Look for doctors in your area that specialize in it. I do have a friend in Florida who is going through this very trial with her adult son who was mugged and his head hit the pavement. I know she would be more than happy to chat or email with you. She is very understanding and compassionate and has some experience. If you send your email address to me via, I will put you two in touch with each other. I am praying for you today. Please keep me posted.

I have cried for you many times and your struggles and faith has encouraged me in mine. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you! I am still healing, and God is still faithful.

Dear Mardy and family, Patrick is never forgotten, he’s in my thoughts a lot, reminders pop up, i miss him as we all do.. it will be two years in a few days, i can’t find his facebook page, wish it could stay up forever : ) You have been so forthcoming with details and i haven’t gotten to you all to tell you mine from that time, life gets so busy and i just wanted to give you time, and some healing, so i think i will now. Patrick had come to visit me again right before leaving for tampa that thanksgiving time, i’d see him every couple months or so, we had a great visit, we talked about everything, we trusted each other, and then he was on his way again : ) then a call from Daniel , did i know where Patrick was ? i had emailed Patrick a few days before, he always wrote right back, was strange he hadn’t yet, maybe he had gone out on boat with his roommate? How could he be Missing??? i look at the post online, and updates, oh, he’s fine i’m sure …but kept checking it…. then the call from detective Danny Rhodes, as i was on Patricks cell phone, a little concerned i gave him all info i possibly could, even let him into my email accounts to check anything he needed, just find our Patrick i said !! then i let Dan know i had done that, no news yet. he could be hurt somewhere maybe i thought–.. then the unbelievable shocking update came OMG !!!.. i started screaming, cying, swearing words i never use!!!, over and over, — when i finely pulled myself together i called Det. Danny, i said what happened?? was he murdered? what happened!! he was still on seen and said it looks like a suicide but we’re not sure of anything yet, i said NO WAY IN HELL !!! NOT IN A MILLION YEARS !!! then he said, Dawn, i’ve got to go, still lot of work to do here, so sorry for your loss. I KNEW SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED !!! THAT IF THIS WERE TRUE THEY WOULD FIND OUT WHAT !! WHY !! everything !!! and i knew Patrick, would never EVER kill himself !! he was so excited about life!! ! his future!! his future fun, friends, the right girl some day, everything !!!! the most clean cut, loving ,thoughtful, sweet, handsome, great kid !!! i NEVER doubted….. i waited …….. despite what many people would say, like you never really know someone sometimes, NO!!! i knew Patrick!!!, i waited …..and then the answer came, i knew it would, in his loving sisters search for the truth. i had my answer.— One day we will all know and maybe understand why God took our Patrick way too soon. why he couldn’t have a full wonderful life right here that he deserved and share it with all of us….. Heaven must be amazing ….. I love you Patrick , thank you for being my dear friend.,, GB you and all your family and friends : ) May God keep giving you all more Blessing to count as he has me : ) , Dawn : )

Dear Mardy, someday I’d really love to meet you. You were an answer to prayers that you never knew took place deep in my heart. A friend shared your blog with me, and it was the beginning of understanding a mystery in our own world – that our teenage daughter had a TBI and subsequent symptoms of bi-polar behavior. The doctors had not steered us properly and we were walking through a journey of the unknown; a two year journey of our own suffering – in which we did see intimately that God’s Sweetness Met Our Suffering. Through your hurt, you wrote and shared.. and blessed me – and our whole family. I wept and wept as I read your blog entry… and then wept again as I felt it important to read to the entire family who were part of this struggle – weeping so hard that I had to pass it to another family member to continue to read it aloud.

Now, four years later, she and I are going to share our story with others, and I found this helpful post. Thank you for your tender and beautiful heart, wanting to help others. Thank you for using your painful journey in life – and deep trust in God’s sovereignty – to help others.

I have prayed for your sweet family over the last few years.. You have blessed me beyond measure.


Rhonda, That is such an amazing note. Thank you for sharing everything you did. I look forward to meeting you soon, not that I realize we don’t live very far apart. Thank you for praying for us. It’s made the world of difference in our lives. Many blessings, New Friend. Mardy

i knew the moment i read our Patrick had gone to heaven there was NO WAY he had killed himself, thanks to Kate we found the whole answer, but i want you all to know i still think about him like he was here yesterday, talk to him, know he hears us, and love this kid so much and always will. Love to your whole family, miss you, Dawn : )

We miss you, too, Dawn. You are precious. I hope we can see you sometime. Much, much love.

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