The Dungy Tragedy
My memories of Jamie are of a tall kid with skinny legs, glasses, lugging a back pack, wearing a school uniform, getting out of the family SUV to get into the school van. That's it. I never got to meet Tony or Jamie personally at these stops as Tony never got out of his car. He had the sense not to do that as I probably would have started drawing up plays on the back of my local rag and offering them to him there on the street.
Now Jamie is dead at age 18. Tony, his wife, four other children, a host of family, friends and acquaintances are left to grieve and move on with their lives.
The stories eminating from this tragedy are numerous. Teens killing themselves. The selfishness of suicide. Dealing with guilt. Living with pain. Balancing work and family. Living in a fish bowl. What ifs. Dying too young. Why us? Why me? What went wrong? Missing warning signs. How will it affect the kids? What about myspace.com? To tackle all of these would use up all of the available hard drive space in the known universe.
No doubt Tony and Lauren have mulled over what they did wrong or where they fell short as parents. They've likely dismissed these feelings of guilt knowing God didn't create them to be perfect. No mortal is. They did the best they could and made lots of sacrifices. Then the guilt thoughts come back and you dismiss them again. They cry, they reminesce, they hug, they reflect, they rally, they get overwhelmed, they pray, they go to sleep and then the sun comes up the next morning. Five of those new mornings have come since "then." They're likely counting.
Tomorrows will never be "the same" for the Dungys. And that's Gods plan. None of our tomorrows are meant to be the same. We're hear to grow and to die. Jamie's apparent suicide did not catch God off-guard. Jamie didn't die behind or ahead of schedule. God is not rewriting the rest of history to accommodate this "glitch." The Dungys know this and are likely praying their witness will testify that they're cognizant they serve a God who's incapable of making a single mistake. This faith doesn't absolve them from going through the grieving process but it does help them to live effectively in the near and distant future.
Families are meant primarily to serve as an institution for advancing the Christian faith, not to be living material for Hallmark moments. When a child predeceases a parent it generally rattles a family more but ultimately the grand purpose for life remains unchanged. Tony's focal position in his All Pro Dads ministry can continue to flourish despite the loss of Jamie. One could argue that Tony can identify with a larger cross-section of fathers now, having lived the role of the father who lost a son to apparent suicide. No one could blame him if he bowed out of the ministry either. In time Tony will probably make the right decision.
Tony has likely preached a lot to the players he's had under his wing the past few decades. This past week he didn't say much to anybody but his actions were shouting. He walked through one of life's toughest tragedies, with nary a word to the media, nary a complaint, with his faith in tact. Scores of NFL players likely thought to themselves they deserved what he got, he didn't, and look what happened. Perhaps God chose a man who could handle such adversity because He's preparing him for something he couldn't otherwise accomplish without first having undergone this trial. We don't know. Time will tell.
Much has been made of Tony's faith this week. That's truly a byline though. Tony's faith is in a big God. The only true God. The One in Whom Tony places his faith is so much more important than Tony's faith in and of itself. Any faith a Christian man has is itself a gift from God. The bigger story is God injected Himself into the forefront of the minds of many this week with the Dungys being the supporting cast. Joseph and Mary, parents of Jesus Christ, can relate to the "inconvenience" of having God interject Himself into their lives for a larger purpose. Joseph and Mary overcame God's "intrusion" and its hoped the Dungys do too. We'll all benefit, and God's Kingdom on earth will forcibly advance.
God bless the Dungys as they avail themselves to the Comforter.