Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
A few months back, my girls asked me how my dad died.
I knew this question would come at some point, and I suppose then was as good a time as any. But it’s still a crummy thing to have to tell your children.
My dad died five years before my oldest daughter was born. Neither one ever knew him.
They know he is my daddy. They know he is Grandpa, but I can’t help but feel that he’s only that guy in the pictures Mommy talks to them about. I hope I’ve given them a sense of who He was, and that he would have loved them. But it’s difficult for children to “get” something like that.
He would have been an amazing grandpa.
I was cooking dinner when the conversation came up. “How did he die?” Ella, my seven year old, asked.
I’m a strong believer in telling my children the truth. They know if they ask Mommy a question, they’re going to get the truth––in an age appropriate way, of course––but they’ll hear the truth, nonetheless. Still, how do you talk to children about something as terrible as murder?
“Well…girls, Grandpa Rick was killed…by another man,” I said willing myself not to get emotional.
A look of confusion crossed each of their faces. “But why would someone want to kill him?”
“The man who killed him was really mad at him, and he chose to do something really, really bad,” I told them. “His name is Anthony.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of someone called that before,” said my five year old, Avery.
“Yea. And he’s in prison. Do you know what that is?”
“It’s where Satan is,” Avery said.
“Well, no it’s kinda like jail. Do you know what that is?”
Ella jumped in. “Yes, it’s a place they put people who do really bad things.”
“That’s right. But do you know what?”
“It is so, so sad and so horrible what happened to Grandpa Rick, but…God has done good things with this horrible thing that happened.” They both looked at me, quizzically. “You see, God takes our bad things and turns them into good things. God changed the man who killed Grandpa Rick. He now knows and loves Jesus. And guess what he’s doing in prison? He’s telling other people about Jesus, and they may come to know and love Jesus too. That’s a good thing!”
“But how long will he be there?” asked Ella.
“Anthony will be in prison for the rest of his life,” I said.
“And then we’ll get to see him in heaven!” said Avery.
“And Grandpa Rick too!”
“Yes, honey. Jesus saved Grandpa Rick right before he died. But that’s not all God did to make this bad thing good. He also changed Mommy. He saved me, too. And you know how I write now?” They nodded their heads. “Well, God told me to write about what He did, to tell others about what He can do in their lives.”
Just about that time, I could tell that was all I needed to say. They got it. Well, as much as a five and seven year old can get something complicated like this.
They finally knew.
While the conversation went well, I still couldn’t help but think well, that sucked. You’ll have to excuse me for my candor, but it just did. It sucked.
I miss my dad. And I hate that he’s not a part of my children’s lives.
But still, instead of wallowing in what I don’t have, I choose to see what God has done through his death and press on, making myself available to be used by God as He continues to use this testimony for His glory and the good of myself, my dad, and my family.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for redemption.