Finding Hope After the Death of My Son

The black granite marker said it all: Scott Preston Horsley II, 1965–1983. It was simple, dignified, and solid. Just like our son whose grave it marked. His life was erased a few minutes before Easter when the car he was in spun out of control, hit a bridge abutment, and burst into flames. His cousin, Matt, was driving. His body lies near Scott’s in a cemetery in a small Utah town tucked in the foothills of the mighty Wasatch Mountains.

Scott was taller than his dad, and stronger, with blonde hair, green eyes, and a ready smile. He was quarterback on the high school football team, catcher on the baseball team, and voted ideal teammate. You couldn’t ask for a better kid. His death made no sense, and we grappled with thousands of questions to understand why it happened.

We wanted to put the grueling grief journey behind us and return life to normal as fast as possible. But sadly, there were no quick fixes, no shortcuts. On the contrary, each day seemed worse than the last as we came to the full realization that Scott was gone forever and that grief could not be rushed. As the weeks and months passed it didn’t get much easier, but we made the decision that we could not let Scott’s death stop our lives. We had a good life filled with high expectations and three daughters who needed us, along with work responsibilities that kept us going. Gradually we regained our footing and resolved that enthusiasm and hope, the sparks that drove Scott’s young life, would serve us. As time passed our despair began to fall away, and we started reaching for new challenges and found we still had passion for a full, rich and active life—a passion that helped fill the hole created by his death.

It has been 30 years since that fateful phone call saying our 17-year-old son had been killed. Thankfully, those early days are behind us. The memory of his death is still there, but now it is quickly washed away with happy memories of the good times we shared. When life gets tough I remember Scott’s infectious smile, remind myself that we’ve been through the worst of times, and keep right on going. I think Scott would be proud of the energy we borrowed from his life, and the opportunities we now have to give service and make our lives work with purpose.



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Comments (13)

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, losing a child is something parents should never experience. I do not know if you believe in God but He has promised eternal life, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that one sweet day you will see your little boy in heaven and you’ll be with him forever.

  • Thank you for your words that bring hope today on the anniversary of our sons passing . He passed on Easter 2006.
    I love what you wrote about borrowing the energy from his life.
    Just the thought of that brings comfort.
    I’m so sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing your courage.. As you know this time of year isn’t the easiest and you can find yourself stuck in place.
    Your story is what I needed today , thank you

  • It has been 7 years and 5 months. I wish i was in the place you have found. Reading your story gives me hope and at the same time rattles my nerves and grief as to where i still am. It hurts. Im grappling with sorting Buddies clothing and shoes, etc. It breaks me and i have to stop.
    I long for the peaceful spot❣️
    Judy Burdge

  • Dear Phil,
    I am so sorry for the death of your son and the sadness of that horrible loss. It has been 30 years on this Easter Sunday that my 23 years old son was murdered. I, too, have come a long way with the support of Compassionate Friends and others in my life. My daughter and my son’s dad and I do laugh as the fun memories are recalled. When I was newly bereaved I thought I would never survive the pain of it. I look back on my life now and realize how much I accomplished through all these years and how much I was motivated by my son’s memory to make the best life I could for myself and others. I think you have done the same. I salute you and send much love to you on this anniversary!!!

  • Our son turned 16 on May 7, 1983. He was killed when we were hit by a drunk driver on June 25, 1983. I held him when he took his last breath. You are so right- we made the decision to have a full life and enjoy our 3 surviving sons. They are all working in jobs they enjoy, are married with kids and grandkids. We have 1 grands and 8 great-grands. This time of year is a little more difficult, but our family motto became, “Keep on keeping on.”

    On another note, are you related to the Alabama Horselys? We are.

  • I am so sorry you lost you son. Our son Ross at age 20 jumped to his death on July 20, 2018 at 9:53 am. We have surviving children aged 31, 22, and 17. Every milestone so far, including what would have been his 21st birthday, is heartbreaking. Every day feels like Ground Hog Day in hell. The joy is gone in our lives, so many more questions than answers and we mourn the things that will never be…the education, job, spouse, grandchildren, new memories.

    James Halliday
    Kenai, Alaska

  • Sadly, we are five years into our grief journey. Our son died from a stroke at 27 years old. I wanted to offer my condolences on the death of Scott. I know it changed you forever. Lovely reminders are beginning to help.

  • My son killed himself on my 54th birthday. We are ostracized and judged every minute. I have reached out to Compassionate Friends with no response. His name is Ross Halliday, he died on 20 July 2018 in Fairbanks, Alaska by jumping to his death. He was 20 years old. I blame myself every day. I reached out to your organization with no response. Why?, text at 907-513-1952. Hey, we are here, and we matter. I wake every day and hate my life. I fought in Afghanistan for our country. I should have died then.

    • Dear James, I am deeply sorry for the loss of your son. I too lost a son to suicide. I will reach out to you at your email address. I am very sorry you have not heard from anyone.

  • A good friend of mine in our local Compassionate Friends chapter told me its hard for her to bond in our group. Her son died at 24 of a drug overdose. She says she feels ” cheated” out of a “good” death such as cancer, car crash, etc…crazy right? Maybe not. She says she feels stigmatized or judged for it being drugs that took his life…I understand her feelings to a certain extent. What are your thoughts?

  • Gone is gone. No matter how our beautiful child dies,none of them are coming back to us. Those who judge should be ashamed,I assume they also lost a child. The last time I checked,God doesn’t judge so why should these group members.This group(or at least the one I have been involved with)are angels amoung us.The groups name of Compassionate Friends is just that for a good reason.We all need support and compassion in our darkest hours.All of us as members have had those dark hours and the purpose of the group is to help,hold and heal the members. My heart goes out to your friend and I pray that she can find comfort and peace elsewhere if need be.

    • I am struggling also I lost my son on the 2nd of January 2019 I. He’s sleep at the young age of 25 and buried him one day before he’s 26th Birthday on the 16th of January . I also have another son and a beautiful Daughter a husband and wonderful family . But I keep a lot to myself as he’s mum and feel sad that life is so back to normal for everyone else and our normal is different now. I know it is early days and I pray that time will soften the grief . My heart goes out to anyone that has lost a child under any circumstances.

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