Even though it was thirteen years ago, I remember it as if it happened yesterday … someone called me to say that John Giles’ son was missing. The next day I was told that the body of Micah Giles had been found in his father’s Jeep, off I-65 just north of the Alabama River.
He was four miles from home.
As a father of three, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child. I’m told it is a pain that never fully goes away, but it is a pain that you can live through.
John and Deborah Giles have lived through it. They do know what it is like to lose a child and yet not lose hope. What they experienced and what they learned through the loss of Micah are lessons that they decided to share. In Called Home, John and Deborah recount what they were experiencing as they searched for their son and how they handled the tragic loss after Micah’s body was found.
In May 1999, as the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, John Giles was heavily involved in the most intense battle Alabama has had in the fight against gambling. While the Alabama State Legislature had just passed a bill allowing a statewide vote on a lottery, the gambling interests lost their big prize when a bill to legalize video gambling that would have opened the door to casinos was defeated in the Alabama State Senate.
Because John had played such a visible and strategic role in opposing gambling, there was some concern that Micah’s death was not an accident. In fact, later that year a staff member at the Christian Coalition received a phone call from an anonymous male caller who said, “Tell John Giles to get out of town and out of the way of legalizing gambling.” He went on, “We know all of this began when his son Micah was killed on I-65. I don’t guess any of us will ever know what happened that night, will we?”
John has concluded that the individual who made that call was simply exploiting the loss of his son in an attempt to get John to pack up and leave and that Micah’s death truly was an accident. The caller obviously did not know John or Deborah. They are not the “pack-it-up” or “pack-it-in” type of people. They suffered through the loss of a son, but they never lost hope or faith and they never surrendered.
This is the essential message of Called Home…don’t give in to the sorrow and pain, don’t lose hope, don’t live life despairing and don’t give in to the temptation to live life asking “what if.”
John recounts that as he and Deborah drove to the wreck site, she said, “Let’s make each other a promise right now before we get to the wreck and as we walk through all of this, let’s never say ‘what if’.” John wrote that saying “what if” could possibly be the most tormenting thought process that a person can get drawn into. It is a dead end street that leads to emotional death. You never heal.
This book is not just for parents who have lost a child, but for anyone who knows parents who have. Oftentimes we want desperately to be able to say just the right thing to encourage or comfort, but we simply cannot find words adequate for the depth of the need.
John wrote, “What people need during this time is not some eloquent speech, mini-sermon, or Bible verses thrown at them.” What people really need in a time of loss is to know you are sorry for their loss, you love them, and you are there for them. So don’t worry about what to say, just show up. Being there lets them know they are loved.
People say that you never get over the loss of a child. But John writes that you can have a normal healthy life after losing a child or loved one. He wrote, “Nothing in life should hold us captive or imprisoned.” He and Deborah live each day looking forward to the day of reunion that is promised in the Bible. He wrote, “There is a distinct difference between never getting over the loss of your child and looking forward to a reunion. One is temporal and one is eternal; only we can make that choice as to which path to follow.”
Suffering is the hardest of teachers. “When one walks through a dark valley in life,” John wrote, “… it deepens his stride.” John and Deborah know this with certainty.