But He is Yours

Noah at 6


Today I wanted to share a reflection/poem with you I received this morning. It made me cry, because it captures the heartache and shame a mother (or father) feels when her child—no matter his age—commits a serious or violent crime. Suddenly he or she is seen by the outside world in the worst light possible–a bad person at best, an evil monster at worst.

The piece I’m going to share was so timely for me because just yesterday, I had a meeting with my publisher, in small part to discuss how I want to handle this matter of Noah. I tried—and failed—to suppress my usual urge to defend or explain who Noah really was and wasn’t. How he was deeply empathetic and tenderhearted (at times painfully so). How in his sane state of mind, he could never have imagined hurting, much less murdering someone. How after his death, his computer revealed no sign of a plot or plan—mostly just a lot of stuff about fantasy sports. How he wasn’t an angry loner, but had friends he did stuff with, like poker and fishing. At the time of his death, he had a well-stocked fridge, stacks of palettes of sparkling water, and touchingly, a brand new spatula. Nothing to indicate he was planning suicide by cop anytime soon.

When you get right down to it, Noah’s story is about addiction, stupid choices, mental illness—in his case, Bipolar 1—and the importance of staying on medication. It’s about something I’ve since learned is called manic psychosis, wherein a person loses all connection with reality. It’s also about the dangerous combination of untreated mental illness and access to guns—a huge problem in our society.

I recently read an article celebrating a young soldier who had saved a dozen of his fellows on the battlefield before being killed himself. My heart went out to the mother. To lose such a brave, heroic son must have felt like such a waste, devastating in its own unique way. Toward the end of the article, she said, “My son’s legacy will forever be determined by how he spent the last hour of his life.”

Then it hit me that the exact same could be said of Noah. STAB TO THE HEART.

But back to the inspiring excerpt which was so thoughtfully passed on to me this morning by author Philip Yancey. After I cried healing, grateful tears, I couldn’t not share it here in case it might help another mother or father whose child has committed crimes which threaten to obscure—at least from much of the world—the true nature of their souls.

It’s taken me a long time to understand that I still get to celebrate the child I nurtured, knew and loved.

The following was written by John O’Donohue, and it comes from his book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us

No one else can see beauty
In his darkened life now.
His image has closed
Like a shadow.

When people look at him,
He has become the mirror
Of the damage he has done.

But he is yours;
And you have different eyes
That hold his yesterdays
In pictures no one else remembers:

Waiting for him to be born,
Not knowing who he would be,
The moments of his childhood,
First steps, first words,
Smiles and cries,
And all the big thresholds
Of his journey since…

He is yours in a way
No words could ever tell;
And you can see through
The stranger this deed has made him
And still find the countenance of your son.

Despite all the disappointment and shame,
May you find in your belonging with him
A kind place, where your spirit will find rest.
May new words come alive between you
To build small bridges of understanding.

May that serenity lead you beyond guilt and blame
To find that bright field of the heart
Where he can come to feel your love

Until it heals whatever darkness drove him
And he can see what it is he has done
And seek forgiveness and bring healing;
May this dark door open a path
That brightens constantly with new promise


Thanks for all your kind words and the many of you who often, even daily, pray for us and for the families of the victims.

41 thoughts on “But He is Yours”

  1. Thank you, Heather. You are a brave and beautiful mother with a heart we can identify with. I think often of Jesus’ care for mothers. We are important to Him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have television & didn’t know about your son until I ran across this & I weep for you & your family. I AM Noah. But my adopted family, disowned me the moment I began to show symptoms of my illness & I spent 3/4 of my adult life on the streets homeless. The State took my children when I received treatment & for the next 15 years clean, sober & mostly sane, I fought to get them help before they ended up like me. Instead of recovery, my boys were moved 42 times in one year to more institutions than I can recall. I am so sorry. I don’t know if, now they are adults, they are ever going to recover from exacerbation of what could have turned out, so different.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heather, Last year I read (listened to) Sue Klebold’s book, A Mother’s Reckoning. She is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. I wish everyone would read this book. It was a mother’s powerful search to understand WHY this sweet son of hers could do such a monstrous thing. She reads the book, so you get the full impact of what she says. It is redemptive for those parents (like you) who are left behind. It is informational for those of us who have not been saddened by such actions of our own children. It doesn’t give answers, because there are none. But it does give insight and some understanding into situations like this. I think it would help bring compassion to those who haven’t lived it. Blessings and hugs, Lissa

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Heather,

    I am so sorry to hear about the death of your son Noah.

    I just found your article yesterday on Rachel Held Evans’ website about your journey of being a Christian and a recovering alcoholic. We have been having a debate over on The Wartburg Watch blog about what should be done with a nationally-known pastor who has a serious drinking problem and was convicted of a felony. There are a few people who post comments who say that all alcoholics should be kicked out of church based on the Bible. I found your article to be so very helpful, thoughtful, and balanced. The idea of kicking people out who need help…isn’t the right way to proceed, in my opinion.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Heather I am so sorry for your loss and the pain that comes with it. The transparency of your writing, the willingness to be public about the reality of your perspective, despite the feelings of so many; will cause hearts to change. We need to see that your beautiful son was -IS- a beautiful soul, he is not the things he did or said in a moment in time of his life. We all have moments that do not reflect the soul of who we are. By lovingly writing about your son in the totality of his life allows us to see him (and hopefully our own selves) with more love and grace and tenderness. Thank you, please know you and your family are loved and supported .

    Liked by 2 people

  6. this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I often find myself mourning for the lost child who committed a violent crime and wanting to comfort the parents and siblings of people with mental health issues that left a legacy they didn’t intend to, by default of one senseless act. My heart aches for you, for your son. For so many who suffer from addiction and mental health issues that we all too often, scoff at or ignore. I hope you can find comfort knowing many of us do not hate you or your son and wish you nothing but love and light.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think of you often and pray and wonder how you are doing. I live in the area of Colorado Springs. I grieve with you over the death of Noah, how he so tragically died. There is pain, so much pain in your story, yet I see God too. Thank you, courageous woman of God, for coming along side of us who have sons or daughters that have suffered from addiction and mental illness. We’ve walked shrouded in shame. Thank you for validating our Mother Love that endures, remembering the precious life we brought into this world; the smell of him running with his tightly held bouquet of flowers ( weeds) he’d so proudly picked, the annoying antics of junior high, the twinkle in his eye, his compassion for the outsider. The memories live, we remember who he was/is even if it is in silence, we remember. Thank you Heather.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Thank you, Heather, for sharing this piece. I hope these kind, powerful words bring you comfort. Holding you in my heart and in my prayers, still, probably forever. You touched my life in a way I will never be the same for, Noah did too… all for good.
    Lyndsay Gowin

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh Heather. I saw this post come in my email this morning and frankly it has taken me all day to have the courage to read it. Only a mother of a child of addiction and mental illness can fully understand the depth of what you are saying here. The grief is so untold so vast so unusual it is hard to even express. In fact often I can’t. I seriously can not. So I read your words and in the most strange and intimate way they find their way to my mother’s heart. You never ever no never stop loving who you knew your child to be. The God image in them. It shines bright like a beacon in a mother’s eyes. I honor your pain struggle and love story. I pray you keep going.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Heather,
    I love this.
    As a sober mom of three adult children, I know there is nothing that could make them not be the loves of my life. There is nothing too terrible or dark. Your son is, and will remain, the bright and brilliant son that you love.
    The good news is that God only sees him as his highest self also. In a beautiful way, mothers get to see through the Father’s eyes, because we only see who our children were born to be. We only see them in the perfection of creation, and I love that.
    I want to also thank you. Years ago I wrote to you for advice because I was not in recovery yet and I was facing jail time for a second DUI. Your advice was very matter of fact. “If you go to jail you go to jail. You will get through it.”
    I did get through it and today I stand almost three years sober.
    Thank you for who you are and for your beautiful words.
    You are a container of hope for the world. ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Joining others in gratitude for the poem — and your willingness to share. your opening the widows to grief, pain, illness, recovery is fresh air through a choking stuffy room. I pray God uses them to revive His church

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Heather- I think of and pray for you, Dave, Nathan and Noah often. I’m not sure that you will ever know the impact that your message of hope in the face of grief has carried. You have touched my life in numerous positive ways. I miss you and I love you.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Dear dear Heather, Thank you for your writings. While I don’t share the exact same experience, I did lose my 18 year old son who was a freshman in the college where I worked. The loss of your child is a grief that can only be understood by those that share that same grief. My heart breaks for you. It has been 27 years since JC was killed. I miss him everyday but each year got a little bit better. I was 2 months sober when he was killed. I came into the program of AA in December of 1987. He was killed Feb. 1988. I love when you share about the Noah you knew and loved. I can’t make it any easier for you but I can tell you that you can live a good life. I hope our sons have met. Be Blessed. Sue LaRue Louisville, KY

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Here with you in all the depths of knowing and not knowing Heather. In prayer, in sorrow, in grief, in knowing the very depths of God’s love. And in rejoicing in hope. So much love for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and for reaching out with it. I think of you often and pray for peace for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am so happy whenever I see a post from you. I have cried over your pain and the loss of your son. I pray for you for healing and an ease to the pain. He is in a better place and I believe forgiven. God can do what mere mortals can’t. With agape love. I wish for you agape love, my friend. If you would ever like to email me, please feel free to do so. I am here for you if you need to talk. God bless, Heather. Hugs. (becky@rebeccavance.com)

    Liked by 3 people

  17. You do a superb (and beautiful) job, Heather, of conveying the many layers of feelings that follow such a devastating event as Noah’s last hours. I wish you continued peace on your long and challenging path to healing. I hope you will always know how much you are cared for by friends far and wide, current and past…

    Liked by 3 people

  18. My friend, who is my friend, solely, through cyber-communique. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. While I’ve not shared your situation, I’ve shared the feelings of judging my children (children) by their last good or not-so-good deed. What a beautiful reminder that we are not the sum of our parts and we are, most certainly, not an event.
    The toughest job I have known is parenting. I have learned more about who I am because of them. I tell my daughter, often, that I would choose her again and again. No matter what sorrow we experience, we are stronger because of it, not in spite of it.
    I think of you often and I am always glad to read a post. ♥ Lisa

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Oh my word, yes. Yes to what you wrote and to what this poem says so profoundly. I’m so grateful it was passed along to you and that you were able to pass it along to others. Continuing to pray for your heart my dear friend.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Thank you. For keeping on when the next step is so dark. For sharing your loss and pain (so others know they’re not alone, and so you do too).

    Liked by 4 people

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