Faith, Hope, and Love!!!

with Dean Synan

Dean is one of those people that you can’t miss. I found him on Facebook in a Grieving Fathers group. He provides support to so many. I asked him if he would mind answering a few questions, and he responded, “If you think this will help one person, I am happy to share my story.” Well, mission accomplished! His story inspires me and I hope that it blesses you.
– Todd
Dean, what is your story?

This story started in 1974 when I walked into a new school mid-year and sat down. I looked around the room and there she was, the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen in my life!!! There was something about her. I had no idea how an amazing and tragic story that I was about to begin.

The next year, she asked a friend to let me know that she wanted me to ask her to go steady. I almost ran to her house after school that day. It was short-lived and we broke up and life went on. I was so not ready for what was to be. We went on to high school and I always stayed close to the family through her younger brother.

As the years went by, I got to teach her how to drive a stick shift and I would play basketball with her brother until she came outside. She was a varsity cheerleader and the captain on top of that!!! I was just a guy that loved her. I was the kid that had the fastest car and drove it that way every day.

Right after high school, she married a guy that played basketball and I went to the wedding and drank for the first time. I knew this guy did not love her the way that I did. So, I packed up my car and went 2,000 miles away and was never coming back.
The Synan Family
on January 23, 1983
Five months later, I called to talk with a buddy that was over at her parent’s house and she answered the phone. I asked how she was doing and was she visiting? She said she lived there!!! What happened? She said her husband did not want a family, a wife, a child and the responsibility. I got off the phone and packed my car and headed back to Phoenix!!!

We would sit out front in the grass and talk for many hours each night. She was pregnant and I was there to help her pick up the pieces. After months of caring and listening, we were on our way to planning our wedding and finding a place to raise this gift of a child. I loved the baby as much as I loved the mom! He was not my biological child. Jeff was born September 7, 1980. We got married and life was full of new things, new ways, new life!!!

Then, Justin was born on October 4, 1982. We made a deal that I could hold Justin first because she held Jeff first. I witnessed his birth and as I held Justin for his first breath, I was in such awe. I knew that I loved Jeff just the same as I loved my biological son Justin. Life was good!!!

That Christmas, I remember thinking that this was what success was – a wife, two boys, and a home. We were planning what school the boys would go to and that we might need a station wagon for our next car. I was so happy!!! On January 23, 1983, we went for a family portrait and all was well.

Two days later, on the morning of January 25, 1983, Justin would take his last breath in my arms. His arms and legs went limp as I was looking into his eyes as they closed for the last time. Viral meningitis took his little life. We were about to find out how brutal this success was going to be.
I was the dad that was supposed to protect my family. I failed. I could not keep Justin alive. I could not save him. We went to a support group called Compassionate Friends which was the only one my wife could attend.

A month later, I would come home to an empty house with our wedding album placed in the middle of the living room at the very angle that I would walk into the room. My wife had left me. It was the stake in the heart! I looked up with tears flowing, and asked: “LORD how much more can a man go through?” I was crushed. No wife. No Justin. No, Jeff. I had lost everything, I mean EVERYTHING!!!

Our marriage and my vows were the only thing that I had taken seriously in my short life. At only 22 years old, I was growing up real fast. I immediately got into my car and got a dozen roses and went looking for my wife. Two stops later, I found her at her sister’s house and left the roses at the front door. I told her that whatever she was going through, I pray that you get through it and come home.

Over the next two years, we went back and forth. We would date, but it was too hard. We would try again and again. She took a job out of state and we would visit each other and try again. It was brutal over and over again. We did our best and I could see what Jeff was going through each time. I loved them both more than I loved myself. It just did not work out. We went our separate ways and did not talk for 16 years.

I was remarried and holding my son Devan at the exact age that Jeff was when Justin died!!! I ran into my former wife and picked up a conversation about Jeff. I inquired how he was doing and she told me he needed a job. So I hired him right on the spot.

My current wife, Catherine, and I had just lost our second son (Daniel) to a miscarriage. We lost another baby a year and a half later (Dustin). Then, Dillan was born in 2004. We were blessed to have another son, Devan.
Devan, Catherine, and Dillan
More years went by and the relationship between me and my first wife was mended as she called for help with Jeff. She needed prayer and asked if I would visit Jeff. I prayed and went to see Jeff and with a lot more prayers. After all these years, I was discovering that love was blossoming at a whole new level. It was not the kind of love between a husband and wife, it was just love for her and Jeff!!! It was powerful to love beyond marriage. I was just loving them!!!

One morning, two years ago, my former wife sent me a message asking what I remembered about Justin’s last day. I said EVERY BREATH!!! I sat down for the next two hours and wrote the most powerful words that I have ever written. There were two hours of details that I could remember like it was yesterday. I wrote and wrote until I was finished and sobbed deeper than I had for 29 years. It was the first time that I heard my former wife say Justin’s name to me. That is when I realized how my love had grown. Love does not fade, it grows!!!
What do you want everyone to remember about Justin, Daniel and Dustin?

Their lives count, they teach, they ARE!!! There is always HOPE!!! They LIVE!!! There is more to this LOVE STORY!!! It does not end, it GROWS!!! The darkness and brutality does not last, LOVE DOES!!! LOVE ENDURES FOREVERMORE!!!
What impact do you want to leave on the world?

The impact of three things: FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, and of these three, the most important is LOVE!!! It has taken me 31 years to LOVE like this again.

Last month my doctor told me that I have cancer and that the test revealed squamous cell carcinoma. I refused to accept that. I had already been healed of Crohn’s disease in 1983 after Justin’s death and the loss of my wife and son to the divorce. The pain was so brutal that it caused the Crohn’s to spread.

After two surgeries, I was dying — I’m 6′-5″ and weighed less than 100 pounds. I heard GOD say, “Do you want to come home or do you want to stay?” I knew that this would be my last breath, just like Justin’s. I thought for a nanosecond – I had nothing to go home to, I had nothing to live for, and I would not have to suffer anymore. I lifted my hand to point up and went to say “TAKE ME HOME!!!”

But, that is not what happened. As I lifted my hand and opened my mouth, the words “I’LL STAY” came out! I said aloud, “That is not what I was going to say!!!” I knew that I was going to suffer, I was going to grieve, I was going to hurt deeply, but I was here for a purpose. GOD healed the Crohn’s disease in 2003 and healed my cancer last week.

Today I am living my purpose. I have been here to help others on Facebook through groups such as Grieving Fathers. I’m also involved with several support groups for bereaved parents, The Compassionate Friends and MISS Foundation. I’ve helped The 100 Club, a group that helps first responders and their families when they are killed in the line of duty. I enjoy praying for people and witnessing GOD healing them. I’ve participated in ReignDownUSA and other healing crusades.

Now I’m a part of a brand new church start-up!!! I’m a pastor that has been in training my entire life. I consider my life an amazing life – a tragic, blessed, brutal, and beautiful life!!! Today, this life does funerals, marriages, hospital visits, family visits, praying for deliverance, and so much more!!! Only because the Spirit in me said “I’LL STAY”.
What lessons could people learn from your life?

NEVER give up!!! It is not over until GOD says it is over!!! Fight the good fight and keep the faith. LOVE like you never have and LOVE each other no matter what has happened in the past. LOVE outshines the darkness!!!
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