On Aug. 4, 2016, Baylor University Professor Darren Frame’s life was changed forever by the tragic loss of his son, Jared Logan Frame. After a mountain biking incident, Jared contracted an infection that exacerbated his congenital heart defect. He ultimately suffered a massive stroke that destroyed his brain function, and he died. Jared’s death brought unimaginable grief to the Frame family, but together they’ve begun the process of healing and their religion has been a cornerstone in that process. Although it was difficult for them to reconcile Jared’s death with God’s promise that all things are orchestrated for good, with time and support from their community, they’ve begun to find peace.
5 Tips from Professor Darren Frame on living with grief
- It doesn’t always happen to someone else. Be prepared and have your life in order.
- People matter more than everything else.
- Build a strong faith so you can withstand huge stress.
- Heaven is much closer than it seems.
- Ask yourself, “If I leave (God/my faith) what would I turn to?
Story by Hannah Neumann
When Jared was a baby, the Frame family learned he had a minor heart defect. After a successful surgery, he lived the rest of his life without complication. He was over 6 feet tall, athletic, and all around healthy. The summer before his junior year at Baylor, he took a trip with friends to go mountain biking down ski slopes. Jared and his friends rode a lift with their bikes to the top and took off flying down the slopes. While his friends made it down, Jared wiped out, but it was nothing major. The family he was staying with brought him to the hospital for assurance, leaving with the diagnosis of a small concussion, road rash and some scraped elbows. Everything was fine.
Until everything went black. Days after the incident, Jared, who had been feeling sick and had visited the doctor thinking he had the flu, woke up and couldn’t see.
Realizing this was something more serious than the flu, Frame’s wife Becky immediately called Jared’s pediatrician who cared for him with his heart defect as a child, and they were told to come right away to the office. Once there, they were directed to the Mayo Clinic.
“Right about the time we get him there the blood tests they had taken from Wednesday at the regular doctor are coming back and they say he has a really bad Staph infection that somehow he must have picked up just from this bike wreck,” Frame said. “My personal opinion is he actually got that in the initial emergency room, because it was a really weird virus that affected this heart valve of his that was messed up from birth. Somehow it glommed onto that heart valve and started throwing out blood clots in his body and that’s what caused his eyesight to go away.”
They were at the hospital now and they had hope. Jared was placed on heavy duty antibiotics and was expected to recover. After a weekend of rest and antibiotics, he was in better spirits. His eyesight came back, and his parents were able to take him downstairs in a wheelchair to see his friends.
“We’re thinking OK, he’s in the hospital he’s getting better. That’s what happens when you go to the hospital, right? You get better,” Frame said. “And he was. He got his eyesight back and we’re thinking OK, it’s just a matter of time.”
Even so, the doctors informed the family they were worried about the amount of bacteria in Jared’s body, despite the antibiotics. While this was cause for concern, nobody was prepared for what was to come.
“We’re still thinking he’s getting better. His eyesight is back, he feels better and sooner or later it’s going to be OK,” Frame said. “Then Wednesday night he has a massive stroke caused by a blood clot that goes to his brain, and it kills half of his brain.”
In an instant, hope was turned into fear and heartache. Things were supposed to be getting better, not worse. But, there was still hope. The doctors were going to perform brain surgery to stop the blood clot in his brain from bleeding. That night, after the surgery, Jared suffered stroke that left him brain dead. The Frame family’s life changed forever in that moment. Their son was gone. With his life in God’s hand, Frame wondered why he had to be given hope just to be left with tragedy.
“All of that was so strange in the sense that he was getting better and then all this stuff happened and it was so much of a God thing,” Frame said. “It wasn’t like there was anybody to blame. He wasn’t even sick, and a week before he’s perfectly healthy and he just dies. Even the doctors at the Mayo said this just doesn’t happen. Usually you get better from this kind of thing. Usually antibiotics take care of it.”
Frame felt there was nobody to blame other than the very God he previously turned to for comfort.
“The bottom line was we didn’t have anyone to blame besides God,” Frame said. “I think that’s the hardest situation to me to be in. I think people that have cancer are probably in that boat. If you have someone that dies of cancer it’s like, ‘You didn’t do anything to have that.’ Nobody hit you in a car. Nobody gunned you down in a church in Sutherland [Springs]. None of that, it’s just you and God. To me, that’s where the why question comes in. It’s really hard to answer in terms of grief and everything. You have to gradually try to weigh off what you know about God and God’s goodness and your faith with ‘How come? What happened here?’ And, ‘How does this square with what I know about God and everything?’ It’s hard.”
While a tragedy like this may cause some to lose faith, Frame fell further into his. It isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always make sense, but for him, it’s the only answer.
“I have an older son, and he still really struggles with it,” Frame said. “You know because you kind of reach out for these biblical truths that you think you know and he’s glommed onto that verse that God works all things together for good… and he says ‘How is this good?’ ‘How is this good for anyone?’ ‘Our family, Jared’s girlfriend, his friends… how is this good for anybody?’ And he can’t get over that.”
Frame struggles to answer these same questions. Still, he knows without his faith and his God, a tragedy like this could be impossible to live with.
“In fact sort of our anchor is in God on this,” Frame said. “That’s why building a strong faith, a personal faith is important, so that at least when something like this happens you feel like your anchored somehow, even though you still have to figure out how to answer those questions. At least you’re not saying, well I’m to the point where it’s either that I don’t believe in God anymore or I do… It’s just that I have to answer these questions of how I am going to reconcile what happened with what I know about God.”
As a family of faith, Frame takes comfort in knowing his son is in Heaven. For him, as a father, he says that is the ultimate goal for his children. Yet, in that thinking he is careful to still cherish life on Earth.
“If you think that way… that all that’s important is to end up in Heaven, it trivializes what you’re going to do between here and there,” he said. “It’s like you have to get up every day, go to work, go to class, do this and that, and why bother with any of that If I’m trying to get to Heaven and that’s where it’s all at… then the rest doesn’t matter. But, it does. You’ve got a Bible full of stuff that tells you what God wants from you while you’re on Earth, so it can’t be meaningless.”
Frame said the spiritual battle is an ongoing one, and yet, he can’t imagine where he would be if he had chosen instead to just give up on God and his faith.
“I can’t imagine not being a Christian and going through this kind of thing, I don’t know what people do. It’s like, are you just going to think ‘OK well, I’m either going to stay mad at the doctors, or the guy who shot my child or mad about these things,’ but where is that going to take you? What do you do with that? You can’t live the rest of your life just angry with no purpose. I can’t even imagine that.”
Frame has found a way to replace that anger with love… for God, for his family, and for his friends, who lift him up to God on the days that he can’t get there on his own. With his friends and God walking alongside him, he is able to get up each day and see a world that is a little bit brighter than the day before.
“Eventually you run out of your own answers and you have to look to people and be supported by people,” he said. “We’ve had a great group of friends both here and in Arizona that just come alongside us all the time and they get you over that hump when you start to spiral.”