Excerpt from Obituary
Jonathan was born in Van Nuys, Calif., on July 11, 1974. After leaving California at the age of seven, Jonathan also lived in Idaho, New Hampshire, and Arizona while growing up. As an adult, he spent time in Utah, Florida, Texas, Washington and Wyoming before moving back to California. He loved moving around, meeting new people and learning about the world.
Jonathan was a man who desired peace and had great compassion. He admired and appreciated people of all races and their cultures. He was extremely loyal and always willing to help anyone who was in need. Jonathan was never one to hold grudges and was quick to forgive. He was self-educated, enjoyed acquiring knowledge and looked forward to helping children learn. Jonathan was proud of his family and thought it was great to be part of such a large and diverse group.
Excerpt from the “Life Sketch"I Gave at Jonathan’s Funeral.
When giving a life sketch, one usually begins at a person’s birth, but because our wonderful and much-loved son took his own life, I want to first speak of his passing.
I said to Jonathan a few times during his adult life, “Jonathan, because you disappear from time to time, and we don’t know if you’re alive or dead, I want you to promise me that if you do ever die that you will come back and tell me. He always promised me that he would. Because of Jonathan’s severe depression, he took his own life on Friday, March 5, 2010.
Jonathan kept his promise. I had some profound spiritual experiences that brought me a sense of peace amid the shock and sorrow. These experiences began on Saturday morning, March 6, 2010, at 5 AM when I was startled awake from a vivid dream in which a blond-haired woman spoke to me and said, “I have some very sad news I have to tell you.” I couldn’t go back to sleep, and I began thinking about Jonathan and wondered if the bad news might be about him. It was.
But Jonathan doesn’t want us to dwell on how he died. He wants us to reflect on how he lived his life under great adversity.
Jonathan was born during a very hot summer in southern California on July 11, 1974. He thought his birth date was really cool and always said 7-11 were his lucky numbers. He liked being able to say he was a California boy.
Jonathan was our second child and oldest son. I have many precious memories of him hugging his older sister Ali when he was a little boy and rocking and playing with all the children who were born after him—Andrew, Ben, Annie, Kat, Elizabeth, Rebekah, Angela, Matthew, and Michelle. When his nieces and nephews were born, he loved to hold and play with them, too. He always had a tender place in his heart for babies and children.
Jonathan was born with some physical challenges. It was difficult for him to learn how to crawl and walk and he had to have speech therapy for three years before other people could understand what he was saying. When he started school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. He suffered great emotional pain and humiliation from kids at school and church who would continually make fun of him. Feelings of depression set in at a very young age, but he turned his personal pain around by developing a kind and compassionate heart towards other. He was always ready to fight for and defend the underdog.
Jonathan’s depression led to addictions to alcohol and drugs, and his addictions led to even more acute depression. My son Ben and I wrote produced a music album for him called, Wings of Glory, Songs of Hope and Healing from Addiction. After Jonathan finished listening to it, he said, “I like all your songs except the ones about the Savior. I don’t think I need a Savior.”
His addictions continued.
A few years later, Jonathan desperately decided he needed to get off drugs. He called me and asked for another copy of Wings of Glory. As we sat in the car together that day, he turned on the CD player and said, “What song do you think will help me the most?” I turned on “The Way Back—You Have a Savior.” Jonathan sat listening to it as tears ran down his face. When it was over, he said to me, “I know I can never stay sober without Jesus Christ in my life. I’ve tried to do it on my own for years, and it never works. Jonathan did get sober, and he helped others get sober, too.
Even though Jonathan was extremely depressed, he refused to go back to drugs to mask the pain. He pushed forward the best he could climbing his “Mount Everest” day after day. I’m sure only God really knows how hard he tried to accomplish the goals he would continually set for himself. He always had a dream to pursue.
Jonathan’s mind was brilliant. He questioned everything and sought answers to eternal truths. He was an extremely deep thinker and his quest for new knowledge never ceased. He loved being a writer, and the stories and essays he wrote were filled with great analogies, symbolism, and imagery. He was also a self-taught artist and would draw intricate drawings to go with the stories he wrote.
Jonathan loved to teach others the principles that he believed were true. One teaching I will always remember of his is about following first impressions. He said, to me, “Mom, you have to learn to follow your first impressions. If a thought pops into your head to do something nice or say something nice to someone, do it immediately. Don’t second guess yourself or put it off. Do it as soon as you possibly can. First impressions are so important. Always follow them."
He didn’t just tell me this once. Every so often he would ask again, “Mom, are you following your first impressions? You really need to do this.” I am now trying to follow my first impressions.
I learned so much from Jonathan. I know there is a life after death, and we will see our loved ones once again someday. Family relationships can be an eternal reality. I know we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and a personal Savior who will always be there for us. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In closing, I now want to say to Jonathan:
You have been my son, my teacher, and my friend. I am proud to be your mother.
I will not say, “Good-bye,” but only “See you later.”
You are now free to go fly on your own Wings of Glory.
I love you.
Jonathan’s funeral was in Boise, Idaho, but we also held a memorial service for him at our home in Cody on Sunday, March 21, 2010. Although the people in our area did not know him, we wanted everyone to know how much we loved and valued Jonathan as our son. We also felt it was important to have an open discussion about suicide in our community. We wanted to help others who have had to, or would have to someday, face this same kind of sorrow.
Jonathan in Boise, Idaho, 2014
AFTERWARD: MY HOPE FOR A BETTER WORLD
Excerpt from my memoir, "Freedom from Addiction: A Mother's Story of Hope,"
which is about Jonathan, who lived a struggling, unselfish, heroic life before he died.
Purified Through Sorrow
I have always been profoundly affected by Jonathan’s courageous life. I am now profoundly affected by his tragic death. Death has a way of crystallizing what’s really important and putting everything into proper perspective. A quote my father helped me memorize when I was young takes on even greater meaning for me now: “Sorrow is the solvent in the chemistry of character which precipitates all the unworthy elements and leaves the soul pure.” I can feel my soul being purified through my sorrow. I am a better person because of my son Jonathan.
Jonathan taught me so much about real life. Through him, I learned to take off my self-righteous glasses and look at all humanity with eyes of compassion. Because of him, I was forced out of my comfort zone and made to walk in paths I probably never would have walked. In spite of him, I rose to face the challenges he put in my way day after day—which made me incredibly strong.
I now understand how short and unpredictable life really is. Every day matters. Every minute matters. Every person matters. As a woman, a wife, and a mother, I see more clearly what my defined roles should be. I have been seeking, trying to implement, and writing about balance between these three roles ever since I married and became a mother. After thirty-eight years, I now understand the key to a happy, fulfilled life is the balance I have been earnestly seeking all this time. Jonathan has been an integral part of everything that I have learned.
Help Those Who Are Suffering
As a woman, I have learned that I have a responsibility, as Jonathan always challenged me, to reach outside myself and look for ways to help those who are suffering around me. I can’t just sit in my warm, comfortable house and keep the blinds—and my eyes—closed. When there is a need, I must use my gifts, talents, and resources to help take care of that need. When the demands are seemingly too great, I can pray for God to renew my strength so I can keep going—and I know He will. While I can’t help everybody, I can help somebody. Every day I must help somebody.
I have learned that being a woman, a wife, and a mother in today’s complex world is extremely challenging, but as I strive for balance between these three interdependent roles, I have been given a clear vision of what I am supposed to be accomplishing with my life. The most fundamental lesson I have learned while trying to help my son, Jonathan, who had so many needs, is that I can’t go out and try to save the world until I have saved my own family and home first. The skills I have learned by teaching my own family to be loving, responsible, helpful, and kind will be the same skills I will use to be successful in every other area of my life. The time spent with home and family is never wasted. This message is not just for women, wives, and mothers. It is also for the gentlemen, husbands, and fathers of the world to ponder and put into practice.
I do not regret any of the hours I spent trying to help Jonathan. My goal was to inspire him to stay alive, teach him how to live a responsible, drug-free life, and help him accomplish all his goals. Did I accomplish my goal? Not completely. Do I feel like a failure? No. I know I did the best I could.
Heart Of Gold
What I learned through Jonathan’s life and death is that we are all fragile human beings. We all have insecurities. Life is hard, but life can also be full of joy and happiness. It’s what we choose to do with the myriad challenges and opportunities we are faced with each day that determines who we become. Despite his adversities, Jonathan became the best he could be.
Jonathan wanted to change the world. Did he accomplish his goal? Yes.
Jonathan changed a small part of the world. He changed me; he changed his father; he changed his brothers and sisters; he changed all his relatives; he changed all his friends; he changed beggars on the street; he changed fellow prisoners in jail; he changed lost souls in psychiatric hospitals, he changed angry acquaintances at drug rehabs; he changed cynics at church; he changed strangers at 12-step meetings; he changed everyone he came in contact with throughout his life.
How did Jonathan change all of us? He changed us with his friendship, with his kindness, with his smile, with his compassionate service, with his warm handshake, with his enthusiastic high fives, with his cheerful, “Hey, what’s up?”
Jonathan had a heart of gold. He changed us with his love.
Jonathan’s mission is not yet finished. Not until every person has a decent place to call home, every stomach is fed, and all the innocents are protected from harm, danger, and evil will Jonathan’s mission be over. This is Jonathan’s plea for help—his call for action. Will you please look around you and see who could use your assistance? Will you please step outside your comfort zone and lift the weary, comfort the sick, and bring relief to the poor? Will you please make your home a happy place to live and invite others to come in and share of your blessings? Will you please support your communities and help them become safe places for everyone to enjoy? Will you please put down the pointing finger of judgment and extend a hand of sweet friendship to everyone you meet?
I will always be deeply affected by Jonathan’s courageous life. I will always be deeply affected by his tragic death. I will never forget the many things I have learned throughout my life because of his fearless example of compassion, helpfulness, service, and love. I am accepting the challenge Jonathan gave me to help the addicted, the mentally ill, the poor, the suffering, and the destitute. Please join me in Jonathan’s crusade to love everyone with Christ-like charity and find a way to help those who are truly in need. This is my hope, and his, for a better world.