Child's struggle for life taught many lessons

The Roanoke Times, New River Current, Nov. 27, 1997, Page NRV2 & NRV12


Thanksgiving 1997

Although the loss of our son, Jason, has been excruciating, we face our first Thanksgiving without him with hearts fixed on the countless blessings we've experienced over these past 18 months.

Greatest of all was the gift of Jason's life following his accident on June 13, 1996. When I found him that day, I was sure he was gone. After his resuscitation by CPR, the medical community believed his chances for survival were slim.

But he did survive. Over the next 15 months, he recovered well enough to give all who surrounded him great love and joy.

Among our most cherished blessings would certainly be the ever flowing love from family and friends. The support of our loved ones through the long nine-plus months of Jason's hospitalization made our lives bearable and, at times, joyful.

The five months at home with our son were a blessing that we will always cherish. Jason was extremely happy to be home, and it showed in his face. Although caring for him was arduous and tiring, the never-ending stream of volunteers eased our burden and brightened Jason's life.

These wonderful, caring people were there seven days a week to help shoulder the load. Many were friends and many were from St. Jude's Catholic Church, but just as many were from other churches and institutions. Some we had never met before, and they soon came to be cherished friends. The blessing of love from these people continues to flow into our lives daily.

The list is long of medical professionals who helped us at every turn in the road. Most of their caregiving went beyond what they were paid to deliver. Some refused to take payment for their services.

We believe it was prayer that brought Jason back from the dead. And we believe it was prayer that powered his miraculous partial recovery. Prayer for Jason was offered across four continents in many different languages. Thousands upon thousands of people were involved in the prayer effort that made all our successes possible. We thank God for all those many prayers and for the people who offered them.

Photo by ERIC BRADY, File 1996 - THE ROANOKE TIMES - Jason Rooker with his family while in Charlottesville

The response to Jason's death in September warmed our hearts and drove away much of the surrounding sorrow and pain. We received thousands of cards and letters; many personalized with messages about the effect Jason had on their lives. Many friends sent flowers, food and other expressions of their caring. The funeral was a testimony to the love and concern that had been shown Jason and our family throughout his illness. The Jason Foundation set up to help the families of the brain-injured has received hundreds of memorials gifts with more than $100,000 donated or promised to date. For these gifts, we are deeply appreciative.

We're thankful, too, for the many lessons this experience taught us. Patience. The knowledge and acceptance of our lack of control in the world. An understanding of the difficulties that surround living with a severe disability. The underlying goodness of people. The unlimited power of prayer, friendship and love.

Thanksgiving is a time for acknowledging the many blessings that God has delivered into our lives. This year, the Rooker family has much for which to be thankful.

Greg Rooker is publisher of the Southwest Virginia Enterprise in Wytheville and of two other papers in Western Virginia. The Rookers' son, Jason, accidentally hanged himself and deprived his brain of oxygen while playing in the yard of the family's Claytor Lake home in June 1996. The former fifth grader at Bethel Elementary School spent months in the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville before returning to his home where he died on Sept. 4.


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