When Life Is Changed Forever, Part 1
About the Guest
Death visited the Taylor household unexpectedly one morning in the spring of 1979. On the broadcast today, pastor Rick Taylor and his wife, Judy, recall the horrible accident that changed their lives and their family forever.
Rick and Judy TaylorApril 7, 1979 was the day "when life was changed forever" for Rick and Judy. Two-year-old Eric had fallen into a pond at the Christian camp where Rick was serving as director, and Kyle drowned trying to save his brother's life. A high number of married couples end up divorcing in the years following the loss of a child. But in the following interview, adapted from a FamilyLife Today® radio interview the Taylors tell how they remained committed to the vows they had made to each other. Rick Ta...more
Death visited the Taylor household unexpectedly one morning in the spring of 1979.
When Life Is Changed Forever, Part 1
Bob: There was a day years ago that Rick Taylor will never forget, a day when life was changed forever.
Rick: Judy left with the three boys and was supposed to be going home, picking up some birthday presents and going to town to – about 13 miles away to a birthday party. When I got done at the shed, I walked back toward my office and noticed our van careening down this little narrow path through the woods where you're not supposed to drive very fast at all, and Judy was just barreling, and I said, "Something's wrong. She's supposed to be in town by now," and I got to – I started running, and she slammed on her brakes and slid in the gravel of our parking lot, and she said, "Kyle is dead and Eric is dying. Get in."
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We are going to hear a compelling story today that any couple, Dennis, that imagines themselves in this situation – it's the deepest kind of tragedy you can conceive, I think.
Dennis: It really is, because it involves the life of our children, and the loss of one of the lives of our children.
Bob: We're going to hear a conversation that we actually had a number of months ago with Rick and Judy Taylor. Rick and Judy speak at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences all across the country, and I want to remind our listeners here at the beginning of today's program that this week and next week they have an opportunity to register to be at one of these conferences this fall, and if they register this week or next week, they can save up to $100 per couple off the complete package for the weekend.
It is a great getaway for couples to go and build and strengthen your marriage, whether you've got a great marriage and you just want to make sure it stays great, or you've got a marriage that has some challenges, and you want to try to resolve those issues.
Dennis: Or if you've got a friend that you need to take an invite to go with you who really needs to go to this conference.
Bob: Yes, it's a great weekend getaway for couples, and registering this week or next week gives you the opportunity to save up to $100 per couple off the complete package. The details are on our website at FamilyLife.com. Go to the home page and click on the right side where it says "Today's Broadcast," and you can follow the links there to get more information. The details of this special offer for radio listeners, if you register for the conference online, and you want to take advantage of this special offer, you need to type the word "Bob" in the keycode box, or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention that you're FamilyLife Today listener or that you're a friend of Bob, they'll take care of getting you this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. It's only good this week and next week, so let me encourage you – get more information, contact us, and plan to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember conference when it comes to a city near where you live.
One of the things that makes these conferences so good is the great couples who present the material.
Dennis: Right. Bob, they're real, they share out of their own lives, they don't present a life that you can't identify with or that you'd be embarrassed by taking your friends to. In fact, I think what makes this weekend so compelling is the combination of it being anchored in the Scripture but being a great weekend getaway for couples to come and sit and soak in hearing about God's blueprint for how you build a marriage and a family and given the amount of messages we have in this culture, we definitely need to hear what God says about marriage today.
Bob: I mentioned that the couple we're going to hear from today speak at our Weekend to Remember conferences. Their names are Rick and Judy Taylor. Rick is on the pastoral team at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. He and Judy have three children, and three grandchildren and back in 1979, they were working at a camp in East Texas, a camp called Pine Cove, and there was a particular day where life changed forever for them. And as we sat down and talked to Rick and Judy about it, he said it started off as a day like any other day.
Rick: We left early in the morning, got the boys out of bed, and it was early on Saturday morning, sort of a cool, rainy day in April, and trying to get them going and jumpstarted for the morning to go over to the dining hall and help get ready for breakfast for all the campers that were there, all the families.
And we did that, and got over there and helped set up for breakfast and had breakfast together and then I left to go with one of the other directors to take care of some business. And Judy left with the three boys and was supposed to be going home picking up some birthday presents and going to town to – about 13 miles away – to a birthday party.
When I got done at the shed, I walked back toward my office and noticed our van careening down this little narrow path through the woods where you're not supposed to drive very fast at all, and Judy was just barreling, and I said, "Something is wrong. She's supposed to be in town by now," and I got to – I started running, and she slammed on her brakes and slid in the gravel of our parking lot and rolled down the window, and I stopped myself on the van and just as she said, "Kyle is dead, and Eric is dying. Get in."
And that was my introduction to that day being different, and, for me, it was a shocking thing. There was a lot of things that Judy has experienced already that morning that I wasn't aware of at the time, but that was just my introduction to that whole day.
Dennis: Judy, you were eight months pregnant.
Judy: Yes, I was.
Dennis: On that particular day that occurred. Tell us what happened as you went back to your trailer with the boys and what exactly took place?
Judy: Okay, I was a mom that never let these kids out of my sight, so this accident was very, very rare to have happened to me. The boys said, "Can we go down and get our tricycles," which were down by a dining room, which was the equivalent of three big sets of trees, you know, everything in the country is just all – just trees and a path.
There was a body of water behind that dining hall, but they had never done anything like that. They said, "Can we get our trikes?" I said, "Well." And they said, "Oh, just for a minute. We'll just come right back with them." "All right. Three tricycles, go down, get them, you come right back, we're leaving."
So I was very anemic and very tired the way -- this pregnancy and I did sit down on the couch and hesitated for a moment, then got one of those awful mother feelings in my heart that something was wrong, and then I went out the door and got in the van and started honking – where could they be? They should just be there by now.
I started towards the horse pasture to say, "Where are you, boys?" And at that point, Brian, the middle one, was walking very slowly, crying very loudly, and I ran to him in the middle of the path and said, "Where are your brothers and why are you crying?" And he said, "Mommy, they're dying in the water."
And he screamed and cried, and I drug him along, and I went down and no bodies were showing, and I had some CPR training, fortunately, and I went into the water, which was murky, and got a little stuck in the mud and had big baby in front, and then he was screaming further, thinking that I also was going to die.
Anyway, I was able to grab hold of some reeds and pull myself out and was able to talk to him and say, "You must tell me where this happened," and he said, "I can't remember," and we went on around to the middle part where there is a spilloff area, which ends up being where Eric, the youngest one, had tripped, trying to walk over this spilloff. The other two had managed to make it, and he had tripped. He was just a little guy, and he rolled down into the water because it was a bowl.
And he thrashed a little bit and Kyle had said to Brian, "You go get Mom, I have to save Eric," and Brian said, "You shouldn't go in the water," and he said, "I have to. I have to save my brother." And he could barely swim, and he had long pants and tennis shoes on and not good, and he went in the water, and he said that Kyle got out to him, and had the presence of mind, as he was pulling on him, to say "He's just too heavy. You go get Mom right now," and then he went under the water.
As I rounded the pond, I was so – feeling so helpless, that I looked up into heaven and yelled at the top of my lungs, "Please don't take both of them!" I don't know why I said that, but Eric's body came up immediately, and his tummy had a big – just a lot of air in it. I don't know why he was under so long because it was like a big balloon, and the doctor said that air is what kept his brain alive. He was under the water about 15 minutes.
And I went out and got him and just was rejoicing thinking, "This is it. This child is going to live," even though he was dead. His heart had quit beating, and he was totally blue, and I started working on him, and each time I would give him a blow in the back, Brian would scream, thinking I was hurting his brother. So it was very, very emotional and very traumatic.
And Kyle never came up. Well, Eric started breathing, and I mean, I thought I just had witnessed a miracle. I know it was a cold water drowning and I know all the details that go with that, but it was a miracle, and it was the biggest answer to prayer immediately that I've ever seen, and I knew – he went right into shock, and I knew he had to go to the hospital.
So I ripped myself in two and part of my life went to the hospital to live for my son and part of me died in the water with the other son because I left him in the water. I told Brian, I talked through it really calmly with him – "This is what I have to do, and we're just going to have to say goodbye to Kyle right now," and it just ripped me in two. And that was it, and I left and carried Eric, and as I drove up to see Rick, which it was just amazing that I found him …
Rick: Five hundred acres of property, and I happened to be there.
Dennis: How far did you carry Eric?
Judy: Oh, about three blocks, and, you know, very wet and clothes very heavy and baby very heavy, and Brian dragging his feet. You know, it was a pretty dramatic scene, I'm sure.
It took about 24 hours for us to know whether Eric was going to live, and it took about six years for us to watch him neurologically because your brain dies in many different segments.
Dennis: Rick, you saw her careening through the forest there on that road, and you immediately ran up to her car and saw your son in her lap.
Dennis: What was going on in your mind?
Rick: It was so foreign to anything I could even imagine that – I don't know if you'd call it shock, but it was sort of a numbness. I felt like I had to do something, and I didn't have time right then to think, and I just opened the door and told Judy to scoot over, and it wasn't until we were driving to the hospital about 13 miles away through these winding country roads that some of the reality of what had happened began to hit me a little bit as I looked at Eric and saw him blue, saw his eyes rolled back, very erratic breathing, very shallow. Just, like Judy, needing to do everything we could to save him and yet wanting to turn right back around and go back to the pond and try to get Kyle at the same time and knowing we couldn't do both.
Dennis: Yeah, that's what I would be thinking is I want to go back to the pond.
Rick: Sure. And I've had many dreams over the years that I actually was able to somehow get back there and save him, and that sort of thing, and – but that's just the father's heart wanting to do what I could do, but the dictates of the situation and of God's design was that I couldn't do that.
Dennis: Do you wake up from a dream like that feeling like God's played a dirty trick on you by allowing you to have the dream?
Rick: Oh, I sure did, for a long time. I mean, I – people would come up to me and say, "Are you angry at God?" I'd say, "Absolutely not." I can remember that as clearly as anything, and I truly believed that. I mean, I wasn't consciously lying to them, but as I look back, it was there, it was going on.
Judy: Then people would say, "Are you back to normal yet?" and we finally started saying, "What is normal to you?" Because, to me, normal was getting to raise four children, and we're going to grow up, and we're going to keep going the same direction we were going. Then we had people say, "Oh, you'd never know. I think Kyle's life was saved from – maybe he would have gotten leukemia or maybe he would have been on drugs." And I went, "Or maybe he would have been a great little guy that would have grown up and just please everybody, and maybe he would have been president." I mean, people just need so badly to make themselves feel better by dismissing it some way.
Judy: Justifying. And then when they say, "Are you back to normal yet?" We like to use the illustration of it's like our right arm was cut off, and people saying to you, "Are you back to normal?" Well, of course, you're never going to be normal. You can learn how to live, you can learn how to comb your hair and write with your left hand, but you'll never stop missing your right arm. It was a real part of you, a vital part. And yet it is something that you can learn to live without, and so we continue to talk about what happened to us so that, hopefully, it will help someone else.
Dennis: Judy, let's say, for a moment, that somehow we could get a guarantee from God that He would answer questions for you. What questions would you ask?
Judy: Wow. I guess there are many times I've wondered why He chose me, because I had a pretty rough childhood, too, so I thought maybe I was done with the painful parts, and why did I get chosen to have to be someone that had to decide am I going to still be faithful when my very – what I stood for, I'm a Mama – was challenged. That would probably be one. And I know, for sure, that we're not going to be a family in heaven, we're just going to all be there and be happy, so probably like most moms, I want to know does that mean I don't get to be his mom but do I get to see him every day? Would that be okay?
For some reason, I was supposed to be left here with a different kind of life, and I just want to make the most of it, because you have a choice, and your choice is that you either stop living, and you stop trusting and stop being faithful, or you go with your set of circumstances that have been dealt you, and you say, "So far as it depends upon me, I'll be faithful, and I'll serve the Lord." And that's really what I've dedicated my life to do, and I think God has blessed both of us greatly because of it. We've had unbelievable privileges that wouldn't have come if we had just been a regular family that raised our kids. Though I'd take that in a minute, it still has been a privilege to have had something to say to people who hurt.
Bob: Well, there is still more of this that we want to explore this week with Rick and Judy Taylor. And, Dennis, I know, listening back to that conversation that you and I had with them a long time ago, but listening back to it now in light of some of what your family has been through over the last several weeks, it's kind of fresh for you, isn't it?
Dennis: It is. We had a granddaughter, Molly. We like to refer to her as Mighty Magnificent Molly, was born into our family, lived seven days, and is no longer with us. But I believe is with our Heavenly Father, and, you know, it's interesting, listening to the story. I can't help but think back to Matthew, chapter 7, where it talks about two houses – one house built on a rock and another house built on sand, and what Rick and Judy represent is a house built on the rock. And they've been obedient, for the most part, to what Scripture has said. They've done what Christ said.
And my daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Jake, now have a test that they are working through and continuing to work through as a couple. They are building their house on the rock, too, and as the floods come and the winds have blown and the rain has descended on that house, it's standing because they are being obedient to Christ.
You know, that really is the call to the listener right now – who are you obeying? Who are you trusting? Where is your hope? And I'll tell you what – nothing will reduce your perspective of life like standing over a coffin that is about two feet long – just a little bigger than a shoebox and wondering what is the purpose of this life? And, I can tell you, it transcends the trivial. The tomb is empty, Jesus Christ is alive from the dead and because of that He has redeemed, and He has rescued, and He has offered to forgive us if we will but cry out to Him in faith.
You know, I want people to come to our conference and experience Him and His blueprints because there are going to be floods and rain and wind that burst against every house, every house will have suffering. It will reveal what kind of foundation you're building on, and Jesus Christ is the only hope of being able to withstand the storms in this culture.
Bob: I hadn't thought about that, but in a lot of ways the Weekend to Remember is a foundation service. You really are building into your marriage in anticipation of what may come.
Dennis: It's not a matter of "may," and it's not a matter of "if," it's a matter of when. I mean, Job said it – "As the sparks fly upwards so man is born to trouble." We are all going to experience trouble at some level. Now, some are going to experience, you know, like Rick and Judy, I mean, how can you begin to wrap your arms around what they faced or, for that matter, my daughter, Rebecca and Jake, the death of a baby seven days old. How can you begin to get your arms around that?
I'll tell you what, it's a conference will help you build the right foundation, and I just want to encourage couples, don't wait until the storm hits. That is not the time to build on the rock. It is a time to lean upon the rock that you've been building on. Come to the conference, get the blueprint, start building, make a difference now, don't become a statistic.
Bob: We're going to be hosting these conferences in cities all across the country beginning in September and continuing throughout the fall, and we'd love to have you join us for a Weekend to Remember. In fact, FamilyLife Today listeners get an opportunity to register this week and next week, and you can save up to $100 per couple off the complete package when you register and identify yourself as a radio listener.
All you have to do is go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," on the right side of the screen, and you can follow the links to get more information about the details of this offer. If you register online, and you want to take advantage of the special offer for listeners, you need to type my name, "Bob," into the keycode box on the registration form, and that's how we'll know you're a radio listener. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can register over the phone and, again, identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, and you'll be eligible to save up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend package.
And we hope you'll make plans to be at a Weekend to Remember conference this fall. Let me also encourage you when you contact us to get a copy of the book that Rick Taylor has written called "When Life is Changed Forever," especially if you have experienced the death of a child or someone in your family or if you know someone who has, and you want a way to reach out to them with compassion and kindness.
Contact us, get a copy of this book and pass it along to that friend. I think God will use it in their life and in their marriage to give them some clarity and some hope in the midst of a difficult circumstance. Again, you can get more information about the book on our website, FamilyLife.com, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.
Now, tomorrow we are going to hear the rest of the story from Rick and Judy Taylor. We'll hear part 2 of our conversation with them about the day that life was changed forever for them, and I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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hope for tomorrow.