When Donald was about 5 or 6 he, along with his family, visited friends who had lost their 3 children when their van rolled into a swift river. Kneeling by the grave his heart was clearly touched and pained. Subsequent discussion provided opportunity to teach about the sleep of death and the resurrection when Jesus comes again. Later, after moving to N. Carolina, when word was received that a pastor of the family had lost his wife to cancer, Donald shared that he believed her work on earth must be finished and God was allowing her to sleep until He would come again. “...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” Revelation 14:13
At the age of 7 a baby brother was added to the family. Donald adored his brother Benjamin and was often seen with arms about him. Donald often wanted the two of them to “match” in the way they were dressed and took great joy in reading to Benjamin.
About a month after Donald's ninth birthday the family planned a canoe outing. Dad, sister Heidi, Donald, and another adult friend were to embark on an overnight canoe trip. All the family, including grandparents, were there to have prayer together and see them off, planning to pick them up the next day. On the morning of the trip, Donald could hardly wait to load the canoes; but seeing Dad having his worship time remembered to put “first things first” and went to his room to pray, read, and consecrate his life to God for the day. How important it is that we all seek the Lord and His purposes before setting out to accomplish the day's duties. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
After arriving at the river and getting ready to board the canoes, Donald expressed some anxiety about the canoe tipping over. Shortly after the group had been happily splashing down the river and had stopped to dump out a little water, Donald, at peace and trusting, joyfully exclaimed, “This is fun.” Though God knows that we will experience pain and trouble , He has promised peace. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3
Life Sketch for
Donald Stephen Hunt
and a Mother's Thoughts
A planned portage around some difficult rapids was missed as an overhanging rock used as a sign been covered with growing foliage and the posted sign was barely visible. The canoes entered the rapids unawares and tossed their occupants into the swirling water. Three managed to get out but Donald was pulled under by a hydraulic and pinned to a rock. It is believed that he probably hardly knew what happened and didn't struggle as he never surfaced again. The peaceful look on his face after his body was recovered is also evidence of a lack of struggle as morticians say they cannot change the look a person had on their face when they died.
On April 18, 2001, Donald went to sleep in Jesus and is awaiting the trump of God which will call forth His sleeping saints. The Bible has given us clear evidence that the best is yet to come.
As a mother I had and still have many thoughts about this temporary loss. When I left the family on the canoe trip and returned home with my in-laws and baby Benjamin I never dreamed that we would not be picking them all up the next day as planned. Shortly after we returned home I was summoned to the cafeteria at the school where we worked to make a call to Tom. No one wanted to tell me what was wrong but the look on their faces was very anxious. Finally, one of them told me that the canoes had tipped over and Donald had not been found. Immediately, I felt panic and fear seized me. Without even thinking a prayer, that panic was quickly followed by five distinct words in my mind, “It's going to be okay.” Peace flooded my being and I was able to take make a phone call, gather the requested clothing for the tracking dogs to smell, pick up my father-in-law, and drive back to the ranger's station by the river. Of course my mind must have been thinking that they would find Donald and all would be well.
The next day when we were told that he did not survive God gave me the meaning of those words, “It's going to be okay.” It was clear to me and peaceably accepted that SOMEDAY (when Jesus comes) it's going to be okay. I have noticed in the subsequent years that God often only tells us what we need at the moment and then reveals or explains further as we are able to accept and understand His purposes.
Peace does not necessarily take away pain but it helps us through it. The shock and pain families experience after the death of a child is difficult to describe as many know who have lost a child. Some question the promises of God for protection after an event that take the life of a child. Our daughter, Heidi, had that morning memorized Isaiah 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee...” Tom, my husband, in his anguish felt the verse was not making sense when some have had their children “lifted by angels from a drowning situation” while our son was allowed to die. Heidi told him she felt that God was with Donald. Even though God did not intervene to save Donald's life from the first death He would save him from eternal death. God's promises include an eternal perspective. His ultimate goal is to save us for eternity in a perfect environment. Death on this earth is a sleep. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have to hope.” ! Thessalonians 4:13
Entering Donald's room upon our return home brought such pain and tears. Everything was left just as he had placed it last. The memories knifed into my very being. Through the necessity of caring for 22 month old Benjamin God helped me to keep going. The pain beckoned me be to search the scriptures for comfort and healing. Every promise and revelation of God's character was a healing balm that surrounded my days.
A week or two after we were in church and the pastor was admonishing the congregation to continue reaching out to us because it would take 3 – 5 years to complete the grieving process. Hearing that made me feel like I would never survive that long. God reminded me that our journey with him is one day (and at times one moment) at a time.
I didn't want to go shopping but when I finally had to step into a store for needed supplies I felt like screaming at the teaming masses of people filling their carts, “How can you find any pleasure in all this stuff – it's worthless. Doesn't anybody care about what's important?” The things of this earth were strangely dim and unappealing. We must abide until Jesus comes so we must take care of our family’s needs but praying that God will help us to place the correct value and time on earthly things.
Spending the first weekend camping with friends since Tom was with students on a choir trip, I was sitting around the campfire. Laughing and talking surrounded me but I felt I would never laugh again.
I thought about Donald every day for at least a year and when I realized I had gone through a day that I did not consciously think about him it worried me. I think I was afraid I would forget the details of who he had been.
Slowly, God began to heal the raw pain and call me to use this experience to comfort and encourage others. When we would share our story it would put me right back to the day it all happened. Pictures, though precious, brought on the tears.
I watched our friends' sons who had been Donald's playmates. I could imagine Donald being like them for a few years but by the time they reached their teens it seemed they had “left Donald behind” and I knew I would just have to wait until heaven to watch Donald grow up.
God added another son to our life. For some reason it was painful at first to have a child Donald never knew but God made it clear to me that Benjamin needed someone because we were still to be on this earth for awhile.
As the years continued to roll by I became more confident in trusting God although His purposes cannot always be understood by our finite thinking. There is always more to learn in drawing nearer to God, but it is through troubles and trials that our faith is strengthened and we recognize the power of God to sustain us. We are assured that “...our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17, 18
Now, 14 years later our other two boys have grown into and out of his clothes, played with his toys, and displayed many characteristics like him. We still talk of Donald with fond memories, share our story to encourage others – it's not quite as painful but still has gripping meaning in our lives and seems to help others put things in perspective and draw near to God – and long for the day when Jesus will return.
We are on a battlefield between Christ and Satan. On the physical battlefields even good soldiers die. God does not cause death, but at times allows it that the true nature of Satan and sin might be more fully revealed and we might utterly abhor all that is associated with Satan and sin. God will also bring about as much good as is possible from the death of His people. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28