I wanted to start out by saying that Bryce would have hated all of this. He didn’t like being the center of attention, couldn’t tolerate crowds, and over the last couple years had a hard time stepping foot into a church. Our family went back and forth as to what was right in honoring his memory while offering help and healing to those who mourn and we settled on the truth of Psalms 34:18 that says “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” So we stand for Bryce, in the Lord’s house, as a symbol of his brokenness knowing God was and is always close to him, both in his earthly body as well as his eternal one. We honor him by giving words to something he was unable to articulate independently.
Lord Jesus, give me strength as I step out in obedience to do hard things and tell the story I have been unable to tell. Alone I am weak but you are my strength and my helper. I stand in that strength. Be glorified through these words. In your holy and precious name. Amen
Bryce has always been my sensitive kid. Straight from the womb and onto my hip, where he spent the majority of the rest of his life. I was his person and he was my heart. As a boy he was a natural encourager. If he met someone for the first time he would go out of his way to make them smile and feel comfortable. He was sensitive to the emotions of others and always did what he could to help and never hurt. Mothering him helped to develop that aspect of my own personality for which I am immensely grateful to my boy.
He had a typical childhood filled with family fun nights, good friends, camp outs, paintball, bonfires, lots of soccer, fun vacations to the beach, trips to the mountains, Disney, family visits to Ohio, Carowinds, and lazy summers at the pool. Now don’t get me wrong, we were far from perfect and had our share of quarrels like all families but we were always together and for the majority of his years here on earth he was happy.
Faith has always been a priority for our family and Bryce was no different. I remember the day he excepted the Lord into his life as his savior. He was 8 years old and we were driving in the van just listening to music when he asked me to turn off the radio. I knew a deep conversation was about to ensue because he would often make profound statements or ask complex questions far beyond his years. He explained that he knew God was real, that Jesus died on the cross to save him from his sins so that he would one day get to spend forever with him in heaven. He asked me to help him pray so that God would know what he believed. So driving down 485 I was given the greatest gift a mother can receive. I heard my son give his life to the Lord. Shortly after, he made his public profession of faith and was baptized which was an amazing day of celebration. God used my young encourager in mighty ways during those years. He had a heart for serving the hurt and needy. When he was about 14 he went with his youth group to a men’s shelter to provide breakfast. My mama heart swelled when he returned home and told me about how he lead over 500 men in prayer as he blessed their meal. Naturally, he was elated when we told him about our plans to adopt. Bryce fell completely in love with Abram from the moment they met. Their bond was palpable. It was the one avenue of his life that he was able to maintain consistently through the end.
He was naturally gifted in academics. In his early teen years he began expressing an interest in becoming a dermatologist. It birthed from a love and fascination that so many young teenage boys have- pimple popping videos. Regardless we knew that if he stuck to it there would be no doubt he could be successful. So, for his 16th birthday I surprises him with some disgustingly delicious zit cupcakes which he and his friends had a fun time popping before devouring.
Bryce was also a very gifted artist. He used his art for both pleasure and as an outlet for expression. Whether painting, sculpting, taking pictures, and most recently tattooing he found his voice through creativity. He and I share that love and have recently created several pieces together. This week his daddy was on the website that saves all of the kids school art pieces and we found something very interesting. In the 10th grade the little stink took something I had painted and submitted it as his own work. And get this, in the description for his art teacher he made the comment that he “could have done much better job”. Not only was I plagiarized but I was critiqued.
We found out Bryce was sick on September 11, 2017 following his first suicide attempt. That seems silly to write as most people, including myself, assume signs of illness would present far before such a drastic event. What most people, including myself, fail to realize is that with mental illness there is no typical progression of symptoms. It is unlike most every other disease process. We were instantly thrust into a world of fear and confusion in which we quickly realized that the entities created to help our precious son were less than helpful. In fact we learned how abysmal they truly are.
Despite the the brain being the most complex organ in the human body there is no lab work, X-ray, or scan that pinpoints the problem and guides physicians in a course of treatment. Doctors can’t cast a vision of hope and healing related to a procedure or medication because there is such limited research and information available related to effective mental health treatment.
So what really happens to people with mental illness? We; ie healthcare, schools, law enforcement, society as a whole, expect a person with a diseased brain to fix it themselves. Listen to how absolutely backwards that’s sounds. The brain is so complex that decades of research by brilliant individuals has yielded minimal results of helpful treatment and yet societal expectation is that there be a level of personal control by the one who’s brain is sick. The part of their body that is diseased is the very part we expect them to use to help fix their disease process. Let that sink in.
In comparison there are literally no other healthcare patients expected to take this approach to healing. We don’t ask a diabetic to will their pancreas into making insulin, we don’t expect someone with liver or kidney disease to generate enough new healthy tissue that the diseased tissue becomes obsolete, we don’t look at a cancer patient and blame them because their cancer cells are smart and have metastasized throughout the body. We absolutely do not do any of those things because that would make no sense, it would be counterproductive, and shameful, and cruel. Yet here me when I say this, and I say it in love, this is EXACTLY what we are doing to those who have an illness in their brain. We judge, we avoid, we demonize, we project our own fear onto them, we bully, we dehumanize, and we isolate. People struggling with mental illness are our generations castaways. And sitting here with you all today, mourning the loss of someone who could no longer take the weight of that battle is unfortunately all too often the outcome.
When Bryce was about three years old he and I were playing and something happened that had never happened before and has never happened sense. Sitting on the floor with his tonka trucks God spoke a direct word over my son. I heard a voice in my head say, “I’ve got something very special planned for the life of this child.” That truth and promise has never been far from me. My own personal vision for that promise has morphed from a picture of Bryce living for the kingdom out of sheer abundance, to God using Bryce and his struggles as a testimony of hope and restoration, to now this. I don’t have all the answers but what I can tell you with certainty is that God is sovereign over ALL things and His promises are true. God STILL has something very special planned for the life of my child. The Lord will use Bryce’s story as a vessel for truth in a broken world that desperately needs a healer. Let us all become mighty soldiers to stop the stigma of mental illness. Let us honor Bryce through our own sensitivity, kindness, and care for those who are hurting.
I close by saying that I find tremendous comfort knowing that Bryce is no longer a prisoner inside his own mind. All of his confusion and frustration is gone. All of the lies and voices of the evil one have been replaced with sounds of eternal praise. While he was unable to access that healing in his flesh God has restored him to perfection in his spirit. He is healed.
To God be the glory.