Remembering Jim

Joyce Rodenhouse

Our son, Jim, was diagnosed with leukemia October, 1990. This was within days of his 17th birthday (October 12). He died March 5, 1995, after having had chemo, radiation, two relapses, and finally a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor who was considered to be a perfect match, through the National Marrow Donor Program (1-800-366-6710 or email He was our first-born, and our only son. We have a wonderful daughter who is married and she has a beautiful child.

I had the most miraculous experience at the time of Jim's death, which was truly a gift from God. Jim and I were very close throughout his life, and I had stayed with him throughout his hospitalizations and together we had fought the battle. I had been staying with him in his room at the hospital the final week of his life, and expected to be with him when he died. Jim had been unable to respond, due to the strength of the morphine he was on. But that Sunday morning very early (I think it was about 5 a.m.), I was suddenly awakened by what I thought was Jim, telling me to get up and leave. It was as though we carried on a silent conversation. I argued that I wanted to be with him, but he did not want me to; he wanted me to leave. I finally felt that I had to do as he wished, and went to the Children's Hospital, to the smoking room, which was linked to Barnes Hospital (where Jim was) by an indoor overpass tunnel.

While there, I was very quiet, and kept to myself in a corner of the room, listening to the conversations around me. There was an older man there who was discussing his young granddaughter's illness, which was very serious, and also talking about fishing with another man who was there. The older gentleman's wife was also there, but I don't remember if she was talking to someone else or not. At a pause in the conversation, the man and woman started talking about lottery tickets and asked if anyone knew where they could get some close by. I volunteered the info that the gift shop at Jewish Hospital, which was also linked via tunnel and elevator, sold lottery tickets.

Because they did not know how to get there from where we were, I offered to show them where it was, and said I would be returning to my son after that.

The older gentleman said he would appreciate that, and as we got up to leave, I asked the two men if they each would dedicate the next fish he caught to my son, Jim, who loved fishing, but would never be able to go fishing again.

As we were walking, the man and I discussed our faith in God, and many other things; he said he had been a lay minister for many years, and he would certainly pray for Jim and my family. I told him about my strange experience upon awakening, and as we were nearly to the section where he would go one way to return to Children's Hospital, and I in another to return to Barnes Hospital, I told him that I was feeling an urgency to get back, because I knew that my son was going to die, and suddenly I knew that he had sent me away so that I would not be there when that happened. Just as the words left my mouth, I felt the presence of my son, and the presence of heaven.

Jim told me that he was sorry that he had to leave me, but that he was very happy and was going to be with Jesus. I don't feel that words are adequate to express this, but I knew, felt, saw and heard this, and could sense the presence of Jesus, heaven and God. It was as though there was a glowing presence that was just beyond my sight. I told Jim that it was all right, I knew he was ready to go, and that I would be all right, but that I wish I could go with him. He said I would see him soon, but I still had one or two things to do, jobs that God expected of me before I could join them. And then suddenly it was over, and I knew that my precious son was in heaven.

I told the man who was with me (I had suddenly stopped walking and talking when this started), every detail of what had happened, and told him that my son had died. I felt that it was a true miracle, and still do.

I gained more blessings than I can count by this. Since about 1-1/2 years after Jim's death, I have not had good health. But I know that whatever the future on this earth holds for me, I will do what I'm supposed to do, and when its over I'll be blessed with the presence of God and be with my son again.

I still struggle with grief and the memories of his illness, as everyone else does who has lost a child. I will miss Jim all the days of my life, and know that I will always feel the pain of his loss. But I also know that when I am in the presence of God, it will all have seemed to pass as quickly as the blink of an eye, and I'll feel an indescribable joy.

I welcome email from anyone who wants to discuss grief, experiences, or life in general.

Joyce Rodenhouse, Atlanta

You can send email to Joyce at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date 03-05-95
date of post 09-05-98

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW