When Your Child is Murdered: The Call That I Never Wanted to Answer

Correctly dealing with unwanted situations is truly the sure way to learn a lesson

You’ve heard the cliche many times about getting the “dreaded call” that you never want to receive. In my case, the call was from an Edmond, Oklahoma Police Detective. He was calling me to confirm that my beautiful, creative, fun-loving 24-year-old son had been murdered. Shot through a window in his home, in his back, three times. As you can imagine, “devastated” can’t even to begin to describe how I felt. Any call late at night on a weekday is usually bad news. In my case, it was the absolute worst news. Since hearing that news on June 27, 2019, I have experienced a myriad of emotions. At times, I thought that this experience was more than I would ever have to handle. I was wrong.

I had been divorced for nearly 4 years. I had just moved to a new city. I had to leave behind my now-adult children when I moved. I, of course, worried about them. I was in another part of the country now. It was time for them to spread their wings as I moved far away. As I reflect, they were ready. After all, their mother had left when my youngest was 15. They all lived with me under my roof. We bonded together. At that time, I remember feeling that this experience would be absolutely more than I would ever be able to handle. I was wrong. You see, my children had helped me through the divorce, giving me the support I needed even though they had no idea they were doing so. I was doing something I never had to experience. I was scared. I was vulnerable. I didn’t want to screw up their life. To make things even more difficult, their mother refused to talk to me, blocking my phone calls, not answering my email or text messages. As far as my children go, she mainly only just texted them, only visiting them once and that was to pick up the vehicle she had left behind. I had to handle major milestones in their life… alone, as a leader. However, we did all of this together, as a single-parent family. Now, I look back at that time with actual fond memories. I had conversations with each of them I never thought I would ever be able to have… honest conversations. Not being the Dad that said whatever the textbook had told me I was to say or do. In other words… I answered the call that I dreaded. Divorce.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I did everything right. I made mistakes. Plenty of them. But, I answered the call of divorce and it taught me to be thankful for the mistakes I made. Sounds weird, I know. I discovered who I am through that heartache of losing a person you love. It hurt me that she left our family and chose to be with someone else after being she and I had been together for nearly 30 years. That hurt taught me to love myself and that I only need to be with someone that wants to be with me. Now, you might be reading this and thinking to yourself “…of course you should only be with someone that wants to be with you!” I get that concept NOW but I didn’t then. Honest! Had I not answered the call, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. Wow! I am such a different human now. I am so, so, so thankful!

With my son Sawyer on a trip to Venice Beach, CA

We all receive calls in our life that we dread. Some of them we pass them along to have someone else to deal with. Some of the calls we don’t answer. Some of the calls we have no choice but to answer and take action.

As I mentioned, the phone call I received on that hot, summer, June night was weighed down with so many life-changing emotions that at the time, I could only scream. I cried… a lot. I was mad. I was terrified. However, the initial and strongest emotion, that after that sadness, was something that has encompassed my life of late. The unwanted loneliness. When I answered that call from the Edmond Police, out of all the chaos I was going through, something beautiful happened. My best friend Aaron literally stopped what he was doing and drove six hours to be with me. Then the next day he flew to Oklahoma City with me and stayed for a few days as I prepared my son’s final matters.

The news of my son’s murder had traveled throughout the country. At first, I couldn’t understand why. There were friends that I haven’t heard from in years that contacted me. Then, I couldn’t understand why perfect strangers I had never met in my life reached out to me to offer love and condolences. My close friends started a GoFundMe account to help with the situation and for my kids as they missed work, travel and so forth. I was floored. I was experiencing an emotion I had never really understood. I couldn’t believe the outpouring of support. In those moments, the situation made me realize that I WASN’T alone. I might be living alone, thousands of miles away from my children and immediate family but the community and people that surrounded me from near and far wanted to help. They all wanted to answer the call.

I answered the call and learned a valuable lesson that I was never “alone”. There are so many people that care about me and look out for me and I am here to tell you that there are people that are out there that care for you. I promise you this. The tremendous tragedy of death brought out the most beautiful aspects that this world has and that is compassion. It is now a lesson that I will hold close to my heart.

I will have plenty of other issues that I will need to deal with concerning the death of my son, I am certain of it. I also had the opportunity to learn more about my son from his friends, his employers, his neighbors, his landlord, his Bishop at church. As I went through his belongings, I got to learn more about him and see the side of him that as a father I probably would have never been able to see. Every person I talked to that knew him told me what a great personality he had and how friendly he was to them. That made me so happy. It gave me the lesson that despite making many mistakes in marriage, I did something right in parenting and I was able to teach him something that I consider an invaluable trait.

Take a moment and think of every call you’ve received in your life. What did you do? Did you forward them on to the “mental voicemail” that you would get to when things are more convenient for you? Do you think that will make it easier?

I love my son. I miss my son. He taught me plenty about how to deal with others. This isn’t an easy process but, thankfully, I answered the call.

8 Comments

  1. Beautifully written. It’s wonderful to see how you have transformed. Your spelling and grammar are perfect too lol. I would never be able to rise above the things you’ve been through recently. I know your kids happiness is always your first priority through your actions, especially online. Just know you inspire me even more than when we were kids. The thought of you blesses me. Thank you for sharing this and for choosing love of yourself and your children. Love, always.

  2. I loved reading your story. I have often wondered how you’ve been doing since. I’m glad that it’s been comforting to you to know that Sawyer was loved and appreciated by others and that you got to know him a bit better. I very well remember that time during your divorce. Sometimes we have to answer calls that help us when other calls come down the road. I have loved seeing the pictures of you and your children as you raised them as a single parent. I loved that they have all seemed to turn out to be wonderful humans. I, too, Mitch, have answered a dreaded call: homelessness. I lost my apartment 2 months ago. I have, through the kindness of friends and family, been able to be off the street. People I haven’t heard from in years came to my aid. Homelessness makes you feel alone. But I realize I am not alone. I am now involved with a wonderful local community partnership and trying to reestablish my life (albeit vastly different than what it was before, but maybe what I need). Continue to stay strong, Mitch. Love ya.

  3. Whitten beautiful Mitch. i pray I never have to answer thoae calls but I’ll pray harder that any call received good or horrible I”ll have the strenght you have to answer it accordingly. Miss you in Oklahoma

  4. Never think you are alone. So many people love and care about you! I, for one, will always be here for you if you ever need anything! I will always hate that you had to go through both of these situations, but appreciate and love that you are using both to improve yourself and lean on those that love you.

    I look forward to reading more from you!

  5. Wonderfully written and words so very true. I agree you are never alone, there are hundreds of us who love you. I was blessed beyond words to work with you and get to know you and become your friend. You have overcome so many things and come thru stronger. Our Heavenly Father is walking by your side. You are NEVER ALONE!!!

  6. Mitch, that was written with such grace and a gift from above. I remember you from when you were just a kid yourself and I’m certain that you are never alone.
    Thank you,

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