Friday, December 17, 2010

Judging Unrighteously

Please excuse the way I smell. I've been crawling around in the sewer lately.

Imagine your child was just gunned down in the street by an unknown assailant. Wanting to read everything you can find about his death, you go online and read the newspaper's website account. Then in the comments section, you find some anonymous poster has written this:

Why should I care about some thug getting himself killed? Let them all kill each other.  Get it over with and Good riddance.”

This was the first of similar comments left on the website of our local paper, The Sacramento Bee, after the first account of the shooting of my teenage grandson. In my last post I recounted how Jesse had sneaked out of the house for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night because he wanted to spend time with his girlfriend. As the two of them were walking toward home, a car containing two or three occupants pulled up.

Since I wrote that last piece, one suspect, an illegal immigrant, has been arrested (two more are assumed to have fled to Mexico), and we now know a bit more of what happened at the scene.

A young Latino male on the passenger side of the car leaned out and asked Jesse, “You bang?”

Jesse said no.

Who you claim?”


The assailant pointed to the red sweatshirt visible beneath Jesse's open parka. “Then why you wearin' the colors, man?”

Jesse shrugged. The car pulled away.

Jesse and the girl watched as the car circled back again and stopped beside them. One of the men stepped out, leveled a shotgun at Jesse, and blasted him in the gut at close range. Another shot was fired at the girl as she turned to run, but the beads hit the pavement and some of the ricochet hit her in the foot. The car sped off.

Neighbors heard the gunfire and rushed out of their homes to help, but Jesse was pronounced dead at the hospital.

There was no mention in the newspaper article of the shooting victim being a thug. The piece described him merely as a fifteen year old boy. Yet several more readers jumped in with similar ugly assessments: Glad another one's dead...Got what he deserved... What do you expect...

The reporter who wrote the story told me the comment section is not a place she recommends.  I should have listened.  It is an ugly sewer of unwarranted judgment filled with people who have no concern for the feelings of others.  In Jesse's case, there seemed to be some automatic assumption that because it was a drive-by shooting, both the shooter and the victim were members of opposing gangs. People wasted no time piling on a poor dead kid who the cops later said just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and wearing the wrong damn shirt.

In my previous post, I mentioned that Jesse had gang wannabe tendencies. I was not entirely correct about that.  It's true Jesse told his father he was thinking of joining a gang, but it's now believed he said that just to irk his dad. Nothing could make Tommy Jones lose his cool faster than hearing that his son was headed down that path, and Jesse knew how to push his father's buttons.   The detectives on the case affirm that Jesse had absolutely no ties with any gangs or gang members. The reality was that Jesse wasn't even remotely acquainted with anyone in that world.

According to a school official, quite a few middle class students who have no real affiliation with any street gangs have of late been wearing the clothes and affecting “claims” for no other reason than to mess with their teachers and parents. It's all make-believe. Jesse Jones was no more a real gangster than your kid is a real pirate.

If the unauthorized wearing of gang colors gets parents and faculty torqued, what these kids don't seem to realize is how much it infuriates real gangsters to see punk high school kids on the street acting as posers. That alone may have been poor Jesse's undoing. A white boy wearing the colors of a local Latino gang might as well be tagging on their turf.

The news reported that Jesse was fifteen years old, and that he and his girlfriend were walking home at two in the morning. That was enough, somehow, for readers to assume Jesse was a worthless punk who had it coming to him.

In reality Jesse wouldn't have been able to even qualify for the label "punk." He was impish and playful, but known to be very respectful to adults. There was nothing of the sullen street tough in him. The most common description I've heard from his classmates was that he was nice and he was funny.

I don't think I've ever seen such an avalanche of unrighteous judgment as I have lately on the various media comment boards. Opinions very similar to those left in the Bee's comment section also appeared on the local NBC affiliate website after the story appeared on the nightly news. 
Judge Not Unrighteously
Jesus commanded us to not judge by outward appearances, but here was an entire subset of citizen writers not even waiting for a description of the victim's appearance. Barely informed about the matter, they nevertheless weighed in with knowing verdicts both on a dead boy and on his parents.

Although some letters expressed sympathy for the family, those expressions were very few and far between. While some readers were anxious to blame an innocent child for his own death, many others unloaded their venom directly on the boy's parents. Below are excerpts from just some of those comments. There are literally dozens and dozens just like these:

Why were those teenagers out walking around in the middle of the night when they should have been in bed? Their parents were not doing their job. I'm the mother of three girls, and they would never be allowed out alone at night.”

"Wow. 2 teenagers out walking at 2am.  Nice parental control."

Where was this boys parents? What kind of parents allow their children to be out at 2 in the morning?”

It is sad the guy died but a good parent would have not let their child roam the streets at 2am.”

Two teens on the pathway to gangland are gone due to a shooting, there will be more until the parents start doing their jobs.”

Call me a protective parent, but, if parents weren't so afraid to be a bit more in control, maybe these things would not happen.”

The child would still be alive if the parents knew where he was. My son would NEVER be out in the streets at that hour!”

I blame the parents 100%. Why is your child walking the streets at 2:15am? You have no one to blame but yourself.”

What in the world are 15 yr olds doing out and about at 2 AM? You wanna have your kids killed young - let them run around all hours of the night.”

A 15 year old kid walking the streets at 2 AM, whats wrong with this picture. Being in a home where the mother and father actually care about their kid would have her home before midnight and in bed. Wrong color and crowd doesn`t extend a young persons life.”

No teenager should be allowed to come and go as they please. What kind of parents let their children do whatever they want?”

These kids should have been in their beds asleep. The parents are to blame for this. I always made my kids sleep at night.”

This boy would not be dead if his parents had done their duty. It's the parents fault their child died. Parents, MAN UP!!!”

Why are the parents not arrested for allowing there children to be out at 2:15 am walking around in a gang infested area?”

Yes, the parents should have been arrested!! Who lets their kids stay out all night?”

You've gotta blame the parents on this one. At 2:04 am 15-year-old kids should be at home, not out walking the streets.”

What the heck were children doing out at 2am Parents need to take responsibility OMG Really come on people!”

What were those children doing walking around on the street at two o'clock in the morning? Where in the world were their parents or gaurdians? This is a complete and total outrage!!!”

Who lets their young kids walk the streets at that hour??? I don't care what area they live in, they need to be home or supervised. I could not live with myself if I knew I let my kid cruise and he/she was shot.”

My question is what parent would allow their child to be out on the street at 2AM?
Is there something wrong with this picture?”

Yes, There Is Something Wrong With This Picture
Jesse's parents did not “allow” him to be out roaming the streets at all hours of the night. Jesse lived with his father and his stepmother -my daughter Amy- who both enforced a strict curfew on Jesse. Jesse had to be in by 8:30 on school nights and 9 o'clock on Weekends.

But Jesse recently took to defying his curfew, sneaking out after everyone else was asleep to go and meet up with his girlfriend. Tommy and Amy tried every punishment imaginable to keep Jesse in line. They took away his cellphone; they sold his Xbox. They threatened to have him locked up. They offered him enticements if he behaved.

There is no punishment or reward great enough to overcome a teenager's first love. All kids in love for the first time think they are Romeo and Juliet. Parents can't possibly understand; they're just in the way. The threat of punishment holds no power.

Jesse slipped out his window that night two weeks ago, not looking for trouble with any gang, but just to see his girlfriend.  It should be noted that neither the neighborhood where Jesse lived, nor the area where he was killed are "known gang areas," as many assumed.  They are both quiet middle class neighborhoods.  The suspect had to drive some distance from his own home to the quiet intersection where he gunned down my grandson.

In California, police can't act on the report of a runaway until the child has been missing for 48 hours. So many a night after discovering Jesse gone from his bed, Tommy and Amy did what any parent would do when their child is missing. They bundled up their newborn baby against the cold and drove up and down every street in the neighborhood; then every street in the neighboring neighborhood, searching in vain for the recalcitrant teen.

They never found him those nights, but he usually showed up the next morning or after school, unrepentant and secretly planning to disappear again a night or two later.

Now that Jesse is dead, his father, Tommy, has of course been second guessing himself over and over. Had he been too hard on the boy? Had he not been hard enough? Maybe he should have backed off, been more lenient? Should he have spent more hours searching for Jesse in the dark? Did he try hard enough?  Did he tell Jesse he loved him often enough? Was there anything more he could have done to prevent his son's death?

The answer, of course, is there was absolutely nothing that Tommy, Amy, or anyone could have done for Jesse that would have prevented this tragedy. Jesse was ignoring the family rules. He didn't fear punishment from his parents, and he certainly wasn't expecting any danger on the street.

I ask you again to imagine it was your son brutally murdered in the night, and now you can't eat or sleep or stop blaming yourself.

Then imagine what it must have been like for Tommy to see the words of those strangers hammering at him over and over, accusing him of contributing to the death of his own child. I wonder what magical parenting skills these commenters think could have worked in this situation? Do they even know what it's like to have a boy who simply will not be corralled? More than likely most of them, if they even are parents, have not yet experienced what it is like to parent a teen. If they think two-year-olds are difficult, just wait. Teenagers can act exactly like two-year-olds, but they're much, much bigger and harder to control.

For those judgmental strangers to assume that a child who is out all night is out there with the smiling approval of his parents...well I hardly know what to say about such astounding ignorance. Having countless judgments like that directed at a man already beaten down by grief can come close to killing his spirit. Just knowing there are people out there thinking and saying such awful things about you when you're already devastated by your child's death is destructive to the soul. It makes the living wish that they, too, were dead.

The remarkable thing is, I don't believe any of these people had any idea of the damage they were doing  to this poor family. They scanned the newspaper article, felt a touch of outrage, tapped out an anonymous remark, then moved on, never to return. I don't think it occurred to any of them that the actual parents of the actual dead boy would be reading their heart-piercing words. They just thoughtlessly threw them out there. Hit and run. Grab, stab, and and move on.

Recently the Sacramento Bee transitioned to a new comment section format, and happily, during the turnover all those old comments dropped off the website. Still, the damage to the feelings of Jesse's family is considerable.

Jesse has a real father, a real mother, a real stepmother, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents; all still grieving over Jesse's death. Really grieving. Those thoughtless comments continue to haunt, twisting a knife into their hearts.

My parents and grandparents have all passed on, and though their deaths were sad, they were not unexpected. This one is different. The senseless murder of a child you know is a tragedy that remains with you every minute of the day. One thoughtless remark, let alone dozens, can have a soul crushing effect.

Jesse's funeral was attended by hundreds of his fellow students, so many that the funeral chapel was too full to hold them all. These kids were average everyday schoolkids who loved and cared for Jesse, not his "fellow gangbangers” that one commenter predicted would show up to “decorate his grave with gang indicia.”

For parents to learn their child is dead is hard enough. To hear so many strangers believing he was a criminal who “had it coming to him” is unbearable. I've seen the toll all this has taken on Jesse's father, his mother, Jessica, his stepmother Amy, and his saintly grandmother, Carol. Had you been at the grave site with these good people as their little boy was lowered into the ground it would have broken your heart.

As tenuous as our own relationship was to Jesse (we are only his step-grandparents, after all) even Connie and I have been affected in sudden and surprising ways. Any little reminder can set us off.

I was at the grocery store check stand recently buying a bag of groceries to take to Tommy and Amy. I was looking down, pulling out my money, when I heard the young bag boy ask, “Paper or plastic?”

Paper, please,” I replied. Then I looked up and saw the boy's nametag. His name was Jesse.

Out of nowhere, tears welled up in my eyes and I wept all the way back to my car.

Yesterday Connie was in the bedroom watching the Christmas movie “Prancer” on TV. There's a scene where the young girl, Jessica, has been found after her father and others have been out all night frantically searching for her. Her father says to her, “I realized how hard it would be without you if you went away, Jessie.”

Connie turned off the TV and sobbed for literally hours.

The Two Dollar Burial Plan
Someone who cares about Jesse set up a memorial fund at the bank she works at to help with Jesse's burial costs. My daughter Amy asked me if I was allowed to mention this on my blog.

Hell yes, I'm “allowed”! I can say anything here I want to.  I can even say "hell" like I just did at the beginning of this paragraph, and I can say it whenever the hell I want to. (Longtime readers will recall I once used the word “poop” in the title of one of my entries, so yes, I live on the edge and I make my own rules.)

Jesse's relatives have contributed what they could to his funeral and burial costs, but this is not a family that has a lot of extra money. His grandmother, Carol, gave up her meager retirement savings, but there's still five thousand dollars immediately owing, and all that crushing debt falls squarely on the shoulders of Tommy and Amy.

If there's anything worse than finding out your child just died, it's at the same time learning that you have to somehow come up with a huge amount of money just to bury him. It's horrible.

They say trouble always comes in threes, so just two days before Tommy was notified of the death of his child, he was also notified he was laid off from work for the season. Tommy's job kept him outdoors, and there had been so much rain in October and November that he had only worked a few days here and there as it was. So for Tommy and Amy, money was not only short at the time the news came of Jesse's death, it was practically non-existent. Happily, Tommy has more work lined up starting in March, if they can hold out that long.

The third bit of trouble that came was when their car broke down on the way to the viewing.

Tommy can fix the car himself, but the part is unaffordable at this time. I and other friends have been driving Levi to school and helping out in other ways.

On December 9th Tommy got his first unemployment check in the amount of $900.00.

Their rent took $800.00 of it.

Needless to say, no one in that household is thinking about Christmas. Even if there was money, they don't feel like celebrating. The only thing on Tommy and Amy's minds is Jesse, and the cruel manner in which he was taken from them. That's all they can think about day after day.

(Luckily for the younger kids, I had already bought their Christmas presents from Connie and me weeks before, so don't worry, they won't be going without. Taryn is getting her dream gift; a Disney Princesses Bath Set; while I got Levi a pair of those cool moon shoes.)

I was just over at Tommy and Amy's place and looked through their kitchen. The only food in their cupboard is the food I had brought over from my own cupboards. I'm doing what I can to see the kids don't go hungry, but man, that was a shock.  Amy never reactivated in the church since her own teen years, so her family doesn't have church resources to draw upon.

Amy has been hustling ever since all this happened trying to hook up with some community resources that might be able to offer a little assistance, but it just seems to be too late in the season; everyone's overextended at a time when there is so much unemployment in the area.  Although she's labored heroically trying to find some way to take care of her little family, Amy has not been very successful.  The local food bank was recently completely destroyed by fire, leaving a lot of needy people without basics.  (Arson is suspected, as there had been some grumbling neighbors afraid the food bank was attracting riff-raff to the area.) 

After two weeks, The Jesse Dean Jones Memorial Fund has taken in a grand total of three hundred dollars. Jesse's classmates took up a collection at school and brought in about a hundred dollars more.

We are extremely grateful for all those donations.  But let's face it, this family is in trouble, and $400.00 won't satisfy the funeral home. So the way I see things, it's now up to you and me.

Brother, Can You Spare Two Bucks?
I'm asking everyone who reads these words to contribute two dollars to the Jesse Jones Memorial Fund right now.

Why only two dollars? Well, I know how these things go. Many's the time I've meant to contribute to some good cause or another, but usually I couldn't spare the twenty or fifty dollars I felt the cause deserved. So I put off making that donation with the intention of contributing twenty bucks or more “next month.”

What usually happened was that time got away and that good cause ended up getting nothing from me, and probably nothing from a lot of other people whose good intentions were just as productive as mine.  But I think most anyone can come up with a couple of dollars on the spot.  Besides, if every one of you reading these words contributes just two dollars, that should be enough.  Here's why:

This blog has attracted what I think is a phenomenal number of readers lately;  just since August it averages out to over 5,000 readers for every essay I post.

Adjusting for the September and October entries which attracted an unusually high number of readers, and assuming a number of repeat visitors to the site who come back to read older posts, I think we can still expect between 2,500 and 3,000 people will read this current entry. If those people contribute just two dollars each, I believe we can make the Jesse Jones Memorial Fund overflow. That would get the burial debt off the backs of Jesse's parents and maybe even have enough extra for them to buy some food, pay the heating bill, and fix their car. God didn't give me this bully pulpit for nothing. How do you feel about helping me do some good with this thing?

Just so you have no excuse to put this off until later, I've thought of three ways you can donate your two bucks so you can take care of it right now without delay. (And if you're reading this a month or more later, it's still not too late to let your donation trickle in. Two bucks is still two bucks, right?)

If you're hooked in with Billpay, this is the easiest. Go into your Billpay account and scroll down to the bottom where it says “Browse for Company Payees.” Click on the “W” then find Westamerica Bank.

It will ask for Payee name and number. The reason for that line is the system assumes you are paying your own bill, so really, just ignore that part. You'll find two locations listed for WestAmerica Bank. Click on either one, it doesn't matter.

Enter this account Number: 0601083371
Enter this name: Jesse Jones
Enter this amount: $2.00
(You will not be penalized for adding a buck or two more, by the way.)

That puts your donation directly into the Jesse Jones Memorial Fund that goes toward paying off Jesse's burial costs.

Sending Cash
If you aren't a BillPay user, or it sounds too complicated, there is a safe and easy way to send money through the mail. Simply tear out a page from a catalog or magazine ad and wrap your two bucks in that page, then place that in an envelope. Anyone holding the envelope up to the light to see what's in it will not be able to tell there's money inside.

A page from the Figi's catalog works great, because all those pictures of cheese make great camouflage. I know you have at least one Figi's catalog on hand. They've sent me four since November because they must think I'm an idiot (I do like cheese, but come on, I'm not about to pay $17.95 a pound for it).

If you don't have two dollars on hand right now, send one dollar. Conversely, if the smallest bill you have right now is a five or a ten or a twenty, you have to send whatever it is you do have on hand. (Sorry, I don't make the rules. You should have been better prepared.)

Address the envelope to:

Tommy and Amy Jones
934 Carro Dr. Apt 3
Sacramento, CA 95825

The first two bucks cash has already been received, as last night I hit up my home teacher while he was here.  So the pump is primed.  Who's gonna be next?

If you prefer using Paypal, you can transfer the money directly to my Paypal account, and I'll see that the Jones family gets it.

Go into your paypal account and click on the “Send Money” tab near the top. Enter my email address which is

Now, this next step is important: The open tab reads “Purchases.” Click the other one, the one that says “Personal.” If you don't do that, Paypal will charge a transaction fee, and you don't want that.  Click Personal, then “Cash Advance.”

Don't Be Afraid To Spread The Word
My October 31st post garnered an astonishing ten thousand hits before November was half over, but that was an admittedly extraordinary topic and I don't expect to see that many readers again. Since this post I'm writing now is off topic, it may not get very widely circulated.  But even if it sees only a couple of thousand hits, that's no small bananas. We can still make a big difference in these worthy people's lives.

One reason the October topic did so well was because 572 people shared the link to that article on Facebook. Think of the impact we could have if some of you were to repost this link with a heading such as “Would you give two dollars to these people?”

You Can't Feel Love When You're Feeling Judgmental
There is a very good reason Jesus taught us not to judge people and situations we know nothing about. Unrighteous judgment prevents us from obeying the great commandment that we love one another. It simply is not possible to love anyone while holding them in judgment. Judgment chases out love. The two cannot co-exist in your heart simultaneously.

Dozens of strangers may have judged Tommy and Amy without cause, but we can erase all that hurt by showing them there are thousands of other strangers out there who love them.

Thank you all for the good you are about to do.  I'll report the results here on Christmas morning.


Afterword: The Balloon Incident
One more story before I go.

Many people believe that the spirit of a departed person continues to hang around until the body is in the grave.  I'm one of those people.

At the conclusion of Jesse's graveside service, after Jesse's casket had been lowered into the ground and the cover placed over it, Jesse's weeping mother, Jessica, released a handful of helium balloons into the air. This was to symbolize the letting go, the release of Jesse into the arms of God.

But it went horribly wrong. A sudden gust of wind carried the balloons straight up and smack into the high branches of a nearby tree.  The balloons stuck there, strings and branches tangled together. There was no way those balloons would be breaking free and flying off. It was an awful disappointment.

Or so I thought.

I was later told by family members that after a family get together on Jesse's birthday a couple of months back, Jesse had taken a handful of helium balloons out to the front yard and let them go. The wind immediately blew them smack into the branches of a high tree. There was no way those balloons would be breaking free and flying off.

So when the same thing happened at Jesse's grave site, it was taken by his loved ones as a sweet sign from the mischievous boy. "Jesse isn't gone," said his mother, Jessica, "He's still watching over us."


Donnell Allan said...

I am so sorry to hear about the comments you and Jesse's parents have had to endure. I think that when people hear about a tragedy, they think of some way to emotionally protect themselves from the horror of it by believing it can't happen to them because they are better people than those involved. This means that victims and parents are blamed in horrible ways just at the worst possible times.

My friend, Ann Palizzi , is the mother of Kristy Palizzi Ragsdale, whose husband shot her twelve times in a church parking lot in Orem. Ann quickly learned not to read comments following articles about the case.

I, too, have a son named Jesse and he, too, used to sneak out at night and run around. My heart goes out to you so very much. I cannot even let myself think what it would be like to lose one of my grandchildren. Blessings to you.

Steven Lester said...

I would suggest that this sort of thing, so horrible as it is, will never stop happening until the Second Coming Itself. The amount of agony that we must feel individually and collectively until then is staggering to the mind and heart, and it all is supposed to become much worse than it is today, right now. When will it all end? Only Father knows, unless he has told His Son since the Son's statement of ignorance was given two millennia ago. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

I am a little confused about Amy's inability to receive help from her bishop, now that her family really needs it. I assume she remains a member of record. That still remains significant in the Bishop's eyes. Heck, even if she weren't a member, it would not matter because in matters of charity like this, the Bishop is considered to be a shepherd of the whole community located within his ward boundaries. The help offered is free and fully ample to fill up those shelves of her kitchen. She may, however, have to swallow much pride to ask for it. Based upon your description of her: loving and caring but headstrong as well, that might require much from her, perhaps too much right now. The help is there, though, whenever or if it is requested, at any time in the future.

Steven Lester said...

One more thing: the balloon story sounds too perfect to be false. I feel too good about it. The Spirit? Maybe. What a beautiful ending, truly.

Dave P. said...

My family was incredibly fortunate when my oldest brother died suddenly at the start of 2005. The only news about it was his obituary in the paper and a private guestbook online, where we received an outpouring of love from family and friends alike.

But while at this point I can't fully understand the feelings of your family, I know full well just how rotten people can be on the internet. It's nearly impossible to write anything without getting a greater amount of hate than support. People give in to mob mentality, most especially when they can hide behind the double-edged sword of anonymity.

Piper said...

I think part of why people write things like that (specifically blaming the parents) is to convince themselves that they are safe. 'If the kid had bad parents, then my kids are safe because I'm a good parent.' 'If that kid was in a bad neighborhood, then I'll be safe because I live in a good neighborhood.' 'I don't have to be scared because I am fundamentally different from the people who are at risk for that sort of thing.'
As long as they can blame someone's bad choices then they can feel safe because they feel like they can prevent it from happening to them.
That said, even though there is an explanation for those sorts of comments, it is still a rotten thing to do.

Anonymous said...

A cousin of mine (a recently returned missionary) recently made the paper in another state when his car slid on black ice hit and killed another man (also a recently returned missionary) who was trying to dig another car out of the snow which had also slid off the road.
The comments section was full of negative remarks about my cousin, who was simply one of the many drivers in hazardous road conditions that fortune frowned upon. Some of the vilified him simply because he was a young man from California (As a Californian who has been out of state, I am familiar with prejudice against Californians outside of the state).
My heart goes out to the families and friends of the young man that died, but I know that this whole incident must have been incredibly difficult for my cousin.
May your family find peace despite the adversity.

Anonymous said...

Very good writing... good read.

CJ said...

I understand the urge to condemn others' judgments, but, truly, is it really healthy? People will think, and say, what they want. Their opinions may offend you. Their conclusions may seem unfounded. But so what?

The real issue here isn't whether this boy was in a gang. Many kids are, in fact, in gangs. Again, so what? Their decision to affiliate with a gang doesn't make them bad people. His death wouldn't be any less tragic, or any less pointless, if he had been in a gang. And maybe he was; many teenagers have secret lives their parents know nothing about.

I have several friends, as an adult, who are fine, upstanding members of society. Most are in law enforcement. What does this group of friends have in common? They were all, as teenagers, affiliated with gangs. Again, so what?

What's wrong, here, isn't people's assumption that he was in a gang. What's wrong is their conclusion that, therefore, his life matters less, or that he somehow "deserves" what he got. Many die, who deserve life. Many live, who perhaps, according to someone's calculus, deserve death.

It does a disservice to Jesse, and his life, to focus on this one aspect of it. Had he been the craziest gang bangin' teenager ever, he still would've been the same person: a wonderful person, who obviously mattered a great deal to all who knew him; a precious blessing on this earth; a senseless loss.

You and your family are in my prayers.

jen said...

I agree with Piper. People say things to comfort themselves. If they can find a reason why this child died, they will feel safe that their child will live. If they can find reasons to dismiss the dead child, again, their child is safe.

Knowing that doesn't ease the pain. I'm so sorry. For your loss. For the remarks. And for the financial troubles.

It might not be the right time, and it might not help you at all, but the book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" helped me through some very tough times.

Thinking of and praying for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this follow up. I'll be sending a contribution on Monday.

Frederick said...


This was a wonderful post, and a great reminder at how we need to avoid being judgmental, even in the face of such hurtful comments.

You and your whole family are still in my daily prayers. I also will be donating to this cause and hope your blog generates some helpful assistance to your daughter and her family at this time.

I wish I lived closer and could provide more support. I feel utterly incapable of expressing in words anything meaningful or helpful.

I've been reading histories about the early members of the church and some of the persecutions they faced. I cannot understand what it would be like to suffer such atrocities, so needlessly. It is my prayer that somehow we can gain a better understanding of the love our Savior has for us through these trials. One thing I do know is that Christ suffered for all of our pains, afflictions, sicknesses and transgressions.

Anyway, it has been my experience that those who seem to suffer these extreme hardships are also highly favored and loved by the Lord. I think that is how we become better instruments in the hands of the Lord, that we might comfort those and be a strength to those who are in need.

In any case, I guess what I am trying to say is that your family must be very special and very blessed. Though I know that doesn't make it any easier to endure these trials.

I also think Jesse is blessed and is also still engaged in the work of salvation for his family. Clearly it seems he sent a little message of comfort at his funeral.

My prayers are with you.

Calimom said...

You and your family continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for letting us know about your daughter's needs. I hope that by Christmas you will be able to report that your readers came thru for her!

Emily A. said...

This post led me to tears. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for sharing this message and for giving us the chance to serve. It feels good.

Unknown said...

I want to reiterate again that I am so so sorry for the loss of your grandson.

This post made me so sad for your family and what you're going through. I'm so so sorry for the callous comments made by people about Jesse and the circumstances of his extremely tragic death. I really wish people would think before they spoke/wrote.

If people just took ONE moment to put themselves in the shoes of the person they're writing to, it would really truly help all of us. I know that I used to not think before I wrote, and I was very judgmental but I took a couple classes in college that really opened up my world view that there are ALWAYS circumstances outside of a person's control. Your daughter and son-in-law had no way to control Jesse, there was NOTHING they could have done.

I'll be mailing as much money as I can spare to Tommy and Amy, and I'll be thinking of all of you this Christmas.

Chris Brewer said...

When I hear of such hurtful comments I am always so embarrassed because I feel that the same negligent behavior could come out of me one day if I am not paying attention. The bad in others is always in some way a reflection of the bad within yourself.

You were right Alan in your characterization of those people as just not thinking. They were unconscious when they tapped out those comments. If it was there situation they would expect compassion from the universe and receive the same cold response.

I hope my donation will be of some help. My heart goes out Tommy and Amy.

Emily A. said...

I am returning to report. I just sent something in the mail. It makes me really happy. :D

andrew said...

this has caused me to think twice about anything i say in anonymity. thank you, and may god heal your wounds

Anonymous said...

I got here from Koda. I am so sorry to hear about your loss.

For christmas, my kids got 2 dollar bills in their stockings. I will have them read this article. Especially the two older ones. I have a 15 year old daughter, and she gets asked to sneak out periodically. I only know of one time she has done it. I hope that by sharing your grandson's story, she will gain a better understanding of our concerns for her safety.

Anonymous said...

We get the same thing around here: any time there is a story of sadness, misfortune, or tragedy, the ignoramouses come out of the woodwork with their cheap shots and quickie diagnoses, that often extrapolate considerably from the true story. Apparently, reading comprehension is no longer being taught. Now that's sad too. Bad enough to have the tragedies of life, but to add to them with sloppy thinking and meanspiritedness is just awful. Yes, may God heal the wounds of all who were hurt by what happened.

AnneMarie said...

Brother Waterman,
I realize that I am coming to know this story a few years after it's occurrence, but I wanted to send my sympathies as I know that Jesse's family must continue to struggle with his early absence.
I happened upon your blog a couple of months ago. I found that your writings gave voice to mine and my husbands feelings regarding some aspects of our religion and we began a daily early morning habit of reading one of your articles together. Thank you for sharing, it has been wonderful to know that we are not alone!
One of my biggest hang ups with this culture is the judgement that is so freely leveled at others by those who feel themselves to be somehow better. I am sorry for the added pain those awful comments caused. I used to work in a group home where the residents were teenage girls, wards of the state who had multiple run ins with law enforcement. These girls all had substance abuse problems and nearly all of them had gang affiliations. Now I guess, many would feel that these girls lives are worthless, as they judged Jesse's to be, but not me. I see in those girls young people who have not had many opportunities, often no parental involvement, but sometimes parental guidance right into that lifestyle of drugs and gangs. Those girls, like all of us, are our Heavenly Father's children and they deserve our best efforts to show them kindness and love to help rehabilitate them. I never felt the Spirit more than when I was in the presence of those girls trying to love them as Christ would.
Thank you for this blog and for sharing your personal stories.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Annemarie, I've made a note to myself to mention this in the announcements of my next post, but knowing me I'll forget to see the note, so if you would kindly PM me on Facebook for a reminder, I'd appreciate that.

Arlo's Daughter said...

The biggest problem with this entire world is that so many unrighteously judge others. Why is it that people have to try to make a name for themselves or leave their mark on the world through eveil deeds? I am years late in finding you, but your words are timeless and still find their way into the hearts of so many. Donation for family, along with message, into your Paypal account tonight. God bless your loved ones that through these last few years since Jesse's passing, the family has found some measure of peace.