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Death of a Child: Learning to Forgive

Updated on July 12, 2013
J.D. Falk and his sisters Leila, Amy, Alisa
J.D. Falk and his sisters Leila, Amy, Alisa | Source

My son, J.D. Falk (Jesse David), passed away on November 16, 2011 at age 37 years old from stomach cancer. Throughout his life, I adored him and I found him very challenging.

J.D.’ s family is very diverse. His sister, Alisa, likes to tell people that our family is more diverse than Angelina Jolie’s family! Alisa, his sister by birth, is in a domestic partnership with Issa, from Senegal. He has two sisters by adoption: Amy from Korea, and Leila from India. Leila’s husband, Ndoung, is from Cameroon. Leila’s son, Jordan, from a previous relationship, has a father from Gambia. J.D.’s aunt Chen Huei is from Taiwan. My mother, J.D.’s Bubbi, is from Canada.


J.D. was a very creative and intelligent child. He knew the alphabet by the time he was 18 months old. He couldn’t talk much, although he said “no” quite a lot. But, he could point to the right letter when asked. He was reading by age 4.

Regular schooling didn’t work very well for him. I homeschooled him starting at age 7. We did unschooling, not school at home. He did what he loved to do: writing and doing math (which he had hated in school, but now liked), building amazing Lego buildings, and reading anything he wanted. My father sent him a microscope. My mother sent him a dictionary. When he received the dictionary, he said, “Oh boy! All my life I wanted a dictionary!” We put what he did under school subjects and he got credit for them. He went to public school for junior high and most of high school. In high school, he loved to learn and did extremely well in class discussions and on tests, but he never wanted to turn in any homework.

He loved reading, especially science fiction and fantasy. He hated exercise of any kind and refused to do anything in gym class. He spent one semester in an apprenticeship program in TV and Video with the Montgomery County TV Station in MD, which he loved. After that semester was over, he wanted to continue with the internship. The public school would not allow it. We enrolled him in The Learning Community Network for homeschooling where they gave him gym credit for having walked 1 1/2 miles back and forth to school each day when he had gone to school. They also gave him media and science credit for two internship semesters at the TV station. He graduated from high school with a real diploma from the Learning Community Network, AND he graduated a semester early just from getting credit for all of the interesting things he was into and learning about on his own.

After he graduated, he enrolled in two classes in Montgomery County Community College. Unknown to us, he never showed up! We found out when a teacher called and wondered why he was not coming to class.

A Leader in the Anti-Spam Intelligence Community

He traveled a different road than the average kid, but it worked for him. He accomplished a lot in his life. Even without college, he taught himself so much that he eventually worked for big companies like Microsoft and Yahoo. At the end, he was employed by Return Path as Director of Internet Standards & Governance. He was an influential contributor to the anti-spam intelligence community. J.D. was a leader and member of several key industry organizations such as Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Behind the scenes, he was working hard to keep the internet safe for all of us.

A Falling Out and Cancer

J.D. and I were very close when he was growing up despite the challenges. However, in the last 1 ½ years of his life, we had a falling out regarding something that was happening to a family member. We didn’t agree on how it should be treated. We were not speaking. I emailed him and left messages to talk about it, but he didn’t answer.

He called me in February, 2011, to tell me about his stomach cancer. J.D. did not want to talk about the issue we were at odds about until he had gotten through chemo and gotten rid of the cancer. One day I received an email from him telling me all of the things I had ever done wrong regarding this family member. Some of it was true. Most of it was misinformation and misunderstanding. He did not want to hear my side and said again, that he would deal with it when he was well. I left him alone figuring that he was fighting for his life and he would deal with it when ready.

For a few months, it seemed like J.D. was getting better. But, then in November, 2011, he suddenly took a turn for the worse. Everyone in the family was called to see him and say goodbye, except me. I didn’t know about it until he passed away. He told everyone that he would call me, but he ran out of time.

Learning To Forgive

When I heard that everyone had seen him except me, I was really mad, hurt and very upset. I decided that I would not come to the memorial. Why bother?

I had a big cloud of negativity around me. When people pass over, I can see them and hear them. J.D. kept coming to me, but in anger, I pushed him away.

Finally, I realized that each of us is doing the best we can. If I wanted J.D. to forgive me for anything I ever did, then I needed to forgive him. Each of us does the best we can in any relationship. We don't make mistakes on purpose.

I finally let the anger and negativity go. Afterwards, I felt so unbounded, free, and full of love. My husband, Leagh, said he could see love flowing in me and out of me to the world. J.D. came to me later and I could feel love flowing from him and happiness and love between us. In the end, J.D. had given me a great gift, the gift of being able to forgive. I went to the Memorial which was a great closure.

Love is the Supreme Blessing of Life

If you have someone that you are having difficulties with, call that person today, email, text, whatever. Tell them, “I’m sorry, forgive me, I love you.” Don’t put it off until tomorrow. That may be too late. If we want more love in the world, it needs to start with each of us.

“The ocean of universal love flows in the streams of individual love. Love is the supreme blessing of life. Let our life be full with love, let us love and be loving and spread grace around us”. From “Love and God” by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.


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    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Your comment is very beautiful and shows me how my experience affected you. Thank you for reading it and commenting.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Nothing could be more difficult! I can not effectively comment! Thank you for sharing!

    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Thank you DFiduccia for your comment. I was hoping that people would be inspired if I shared what I learned.

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Without going into a lot of rhetoric, I simply want to say that you are a strong, inspirational person, and I’m more than honored to follow you.


    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Thank you for your comment, ktrapp. Learning to forgive is not always the easiest thing, but it so necessary iin life. I will check out vocalcoach.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      A lesson is so much more meaningful when it comes from someone who really has lived it. Thank you for teaching and reminding us to forgive and that time doesn't always wait for us. You have very powerful words! (On a side note - You might want to check out vocalcoach. She too lost her adult son and has a great hub on happiness.)

    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Thanks for that reminder, youcanwin. Good words! Thank you for commenting.

    • youcanwin profile image

      youcanwin 5 years ago

      Your hub remind me of Lord's Prayer.

      and forgive us our sins,

      for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.


    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Thanks, PegCole, for your comment. Forgiveness is a challenge, but so necessary to learn if we want expect people to forgive us.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Your inspirational story will without a doubt help others to work through their difficulties. Forgiveness is so hard sometimes, but you have shown that it is possible and necessary in order to heal. Beautifully written from the heart.

      All the best,


    • Lohrainne Janell profile image

      Lohrainne Janell 5 years ago from Fairfield, IA

      Thanks, Nancy, for your beautiful comment. I said the above at J.D.'s memorial. I was the only one from the family who spoke. Afterwards, one of J.D.'s friends said he was inspired to re-connect with his father whom he had been estranged with for many years. Someone else said he was going to try to mend his relationship with his daughter-in-law. Write about Joy and it will inspire others.

    • profile image

      Nancy Matherly Green 5 years ago

      Thank you Lohrainne for this tribute to life, love and our relationships in this body. As a Mother who has had a child make the transition before me, I do know that the love keeps flowing and always will. Thank you for your bravery in sharing; I keep wanting to write my experiences with Joy (she would be 28 in November). You inspire me to do so. All Love, Nancy

    • LeaghJanell profile image

      LeaghJanell 5 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I am proud to know and love someone who has the courage to forgive when, to the mind, it might make sense not to. I am proud to know and love someone who has the courage to disclose the path of her heart with others.I am honored to know and love you, Lohrainne. I am absolutely sure that J.D. feels the same way.