It’s kinda forever seared in my heart: At a Texas homeschool convention, there was this young Mama holding her sleeping baby as she stood at the end of a long night for a moment to reach out and connect. With tears in her eyes, she began to thank me for the ways One Thousand Gifts helped prepare her for the worst season of her life. The season which began with her embracing her three-year-old son Truman in her arms, as he took his last breath after accidentally shooting himself with an unsecured handgun. While she shared her story with me, I reached for a Sharpie to write her name on the palm of my hand to ensure I would remember her — etched into my heart. An heart-enlarging story of unforgettable faith. There are stories that need to be told and remind us of how, with God’s Grace, we can keep moving forward even in the midst of ultimate tragedy. Tiffany Scott is a mother to eleven children and the founding director of The Team Truman Foundation. She is humbly & sacrificially determined to use her pain and suffering to help others and glorify God. It’s my humble grace to welcome Tiffany to our farm’s front porch…
It was a deceivingly gorgeous summer day on our farm. The wind was blowing, creating an opportune time for hanging our linens on the clothesline out back.
My three-year-old son Truman, tagged along, asking his most popular question, “Why you do that?”
I could hear him giggling while playing in the freshly hung white sheets that were blowing in the breeze.
Then before I knew it, he was off to explore the farm and routinely follow his daddy around.
The scorching Texas heat was becoming nearly unbearable, so I headed in the house. It was just an average day on the farm for our family.
I changed the baby’s diaper, and then began to tackle my never-ending To Do list.
Our two teenagers piled in my bed next to me searching Craig’s List for iPhones while I worked on my laptop and nursed the baby. They found a listing with two iPhones for $500 so I made meeting arrangements with the seller for later in the afternoon.
Shortly later, my husband and Truman came in to escape the already hundred-degree summer heat. I mentioned my recent deal and asked him to get cash out of our safe.
As a seasoned police officer, he immediately saw bright red flags and cautioned me on traveling alone with that much cash to meet a stranger.
I ignored his warnings and tried to persuade him to agree by suggesting I take a small handgun with me for protection – just in case.
I rarely carried a gun but I knew if I did, he would be more at ease.
Our typical chaotic “getting ready mode” ensued with the kids in and out of my bedroom, deciding who was coming with me and who was staying at home with their dad.
“Get something to eat! I’m buying phones not food,” I directed my oldest two, who were excited about getting new phones.
While I began to get dressed Tim got out a small handgun and loaded it for me.
I was half paying attention to him when he set it down on our nightstand and went into the boys’ bedroom to cuddle with Truman and watch TV to rest during the heat of the day.
My room had finally emptied and I had nursed the baby to sleep by now, so I decided to take advantage of the quiet to make a quick phone call.
As I dialed a friend’s number, I yelled out a five-minute warning to let the kids know we would be leaving soon.
I was on the phone for maybe three minutes before I heard a loud noise coming from the porch just outside my bedroom.
I looked up and saw my six-year-old, standing in my doorway. I asked him what the noise was, but he shrugged his shoulders signaling he didn’t know. Assuming it was my dogs knocking a mason jar off the table outside, I told him to go check.
Instantly I could feel something was wrong and my gut instinct urged me to check instead.
I dropped my phone, instructing my son to keep the baby from falling off the bed while I rushed towards the porch door.
As soon as I stepped onto the porch I found Truman lying unconsciously on the ground with an obvious injured left eye.
Initially, I had no idea what was happening.
I honestly don’t know when it registered in my mind what had actually happened – that it was a gun accident. So much of that day is a complete blur.
I instinctively picked my little boy up, telling myself he was going to be okay, but when I held him to my pounding chest, I didn’t feel his little arms wrap around my neck like they so often had all the other times I embraced him after his typical toddler injuries. I knew . . . I knew my son was dying.
Panic quickly consumed me and I began screaming for my husband who quickly headed towards my loud cries with our two younger boys standing closely behind him.
We met half way in the house, at which point Tim immediately saw the gaping hole in the back of Truman’s head.
I handed Truman over to him and he took him back outside to keep the other kids from seeing their little brother with such a horrific injury.
Clinging to hope, I hysterically called our local 911 pleading for help, but I soon realized I wasn’t hearing any cries or even Tim yelling for help.
Suddenly, I became aware that my husband was on our porch with our dying son and a gun.
Fear crippled me from going back outside to them.
I was terrified that my husband was going to be so consumed with grief that he would take his own life.
Out of sheer desperation for help, I called the police department my husband worked for the last sixteen years. The dispatcher who answered my call was a friend of ours and I began begging her to send Tim’s sergeant, who was like a father to him.
I put the phone down and all I could do was stand in my bedroom and scream at the Heavens.
I begged God not to take my baby. “Not my baby! Please not my baby!!! Nooooo!” I screamed over and over.
I finally found the courage to step back outside onto our porch where I found my husband with tears streaming down his face and our little boy in his arms.
For nearly a year, I never knew what my husband endured on our porch that horrible day.
I didn’t know he breathed for our son until he knew it would only cause Truman pain in trying to prevent the inevitable.
Tim wouldn’t tell me until I was strong enough that he said, “daddy” one last time before his body started its natural response to trauma.
He carried a weight he knew was too heavy for me. Instead, he cleaned our son off as much as he could before I came back outside with them. I sat down and Tim put him in my arms for me to hold, just as he did the day he was born.
Seconds later Truman took a breath and I exclaimed “he’s alive, he’s going to make it!!!” but the look on my husband’s face said otherwise.
For sixteen years he’s had to look into the eyes of mothers and told them their child had died, but this time it was his own wife with his youngest son. He uttered the hardest words he’s every had to say, “No baby, he’s gone.”
I squeezed my eyes shut trying to unsee it all, trying to unlive this moment, as if when I opened my eyes, it would all be a nightmare. Silently praying for a miracle.
Instead, I opened them to the reality that I was holding my lifeless little boy. That breath of hope was actually his last breath.
So many thoughts were racing through my head.
How could this really be happening? How were we ever going to survive this tragedy together and whole? How did we let this happen? How was my shattered heart still beating when his had stopped?
I sat in disbelief, begging God to take us all.
It wasn’t a true desire of death for us all, but the plea of a mother enduring the fear of earthly separation from her child.
I had never been away from him for longer than a night’s end after a sleepover with his grandmother who lived five minutes away. Now the forced reality that our tight knit family was literally being dismembered was unimaginable.
I couldn’t fathom our family surviving this tragedy whole. The only alternative was for God to take us all, not just one of us.
How does a mama survive such intense heart trauma? How does a marriage endure this? How does family stay together?
The pain was so intense I felt sick to my stomach.
“He is God’s now,” my husband cried kneeling down next to us.
Those moments on our porch were indescribably heart shattering, but in the midst of our devastation there was a peace that overcame us both.
Our world stopped in those moments while the rest of the world kept spinning around us. I could hear the sound of an ambulance siren, then saw the flashing red lights coming up our dirt road.
I was quickly jolted out of those sacred last moments we had together with our son into the inevitable reality of the legal process that was to unfold.
An ambulance from our small-town volunteer fire department made its way to our old farmhouse. After coming to a stop, both doors immediately opened. I squeezed Truman tighter, knowing what was about to happen.
The driver was a familiar face, a man about my husband’s age. I remember Tim calling him by name, “He’s gone Brian, he’s gone.”
As he stepped onto the porch with us, Tim gently looked at me. Then with a soft, yet persuasive tone, my husband told me I had to let go.
I had to open my hands and allow him to take my baby out of my arms. I didn’t want to release him, I unyieldingly gripped my hands around him as much as I could, wanting to sit on that porch and hold him forever.
It was too much for me to take in so quickly. It was too much for my mind to process. I needed more time!
Tim reached down and I released my trembling hands, allowing him to lift his frail toddler body out of my arms.
It took everything in me not to fight him.
Instead I surrendered, knowing I really had no choice.
I nearly vomited as I followed behind them to the ambulance, watching my baby’s limp little legs dangle from his arms.
I climbed in and sat next to him, overlooking the paramedic who was hooking monitors on Truman’s still chest. I looked at that black and white rectangular screen for what seemed like a lifetime, still grasping for a miracle that there would be some sign of life in him. There wasn’t.
There was just a straight line pushing me further into a reality I was terrified of.
My last bit of hope slipping away, I began to take in every little detail of my son as my mind could remember.
Singing to him while looking at his dirty little feet, proof of his life just hours prior. I tried to mesmerize his toddler hands. Those little hands I had just dipped into paint to make a Hungry Caterpillar craft.
I ran my hands over his soft brown hair that we had just cut for the first time that summer to look like his daddy’s military “high & tight.”
His little lips that would kiss me goodnight. That dominate little freckle next to the chicken pox scar under his eye.
His eyes, those deep blue eyes I had woke to that very morning. How was I never going to be able to stare into them again?
When I stepped outside the ambulance our front yard was full of police – local police, state troopers, and a Texas Ranger, and there was my husband in the middle of it all.
I seemed to be standing still in a world spinning around me. Then it occurred to me that we had not broken the news to our other children who were still inside unaware of what was happening outside.
I stepped back onto our blood-stained porch, with a deputy following closely behind me. I now empty handedly faced the same door I had raced through just an hour before with Truman in my arms.
I put my hand on that door and prayed, “God, we need you! My kids have got to see you in this. Please give me the strength to walk through this door and tell them their little brother is with You now. I trust you. Please be with us.”
I opened the door to a trail of blood, leading to my bedroom where I had met my husband with Truman.
I walked through our house, stopping at the bathroom to wash Truman’s blood off before facing my other children.
I walked into our living room where our five other children were huddled together on the couch, patiently waiting for an explanation to the screams they heard from across the house, the sirens coming up our dirt road, and now the police in our front yard who they could see from the living room windows.
They had braved my cries together, not knowing what they were really hearing was their mama losing her earthly hold of their littlest brother.
I wanted to tell them it was all going to be okay, but instead I uttered the words that ripped their young hearts wide open, “Truman didn’t make it. He is with Jesus now.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said to them after that.
I do know, the second worst pain I have felt as a mother, was when I told them their little brother died. Reality was hitting me faster and harder. Each minute felt like an eternity. I could barely breathe.
Although so much of the rest of that horrible day is a blur to me, what I will never forget is my husband. The toughest man I know, in complete despair, totally broken.
He was consumed with guilt and repeatedly said, “I killed my son.”
I knew my husband would never intentionally hurt him. After all, he was the kind of man who would lay his own life down for a stranger. He would no doubt do anything to protect his kids. He was always trying to foresee hidden dangers.
As a seasoned police officer, he had witnessed his share of accidents. He could foresee so many dangers the average person is oblivious to. We thought we had all our safety bases covered.
Numbness continued to wash over me. That night we took a shower together and he began to kiss me and run his hands over my body. He was desperate for an escape from the pain and wanted to use me to numb himself.
I cringed and crawled inside myself as if I was being touched for the first time after a forceful rape. All I wanted was to be held, but quickly realized any physical touch was a huge trigger for me.
I didn’t understand it, I had never been raped and felt unworthy of the comparison, but it was exactly how my body was responding. Even at the touch of my own husband.
He felt rejected and assumed it was because I blamed him for our son’s death, but I never blamed him.
I knew how much he loved our kids. He was a good daddy. And Truman was his shadow, he idolized Tim.
If anything, I blamed myself. I was still trying to process everything from that day and couldn’t wrap my mind around so many of the details.
How did he slip by me – with a gun? How did I not see him? How did his little hands physically pull that trigger? That gun was down for a matter of minutes, how did our entire lives change in just minutes?
August 2, 2012, I held my hands out to God, pleading for a miracle, but instead I found myself holding our son as his heart stopped beating.
I screamed at the heavens, demanding a different answer, a second chance, to go back, to do it over, do it better, but instead I began living a life I didn’t choose.
Our morning together at the clothesline is my last memory with my son alive that I can remember before I found him lying unconsciously on our front porch.
I know there was more, but when trauma takes your mind captive it has a way of robbing you of the good memories just as much as the bad.
For the first five years of enduring the indescribable pain from a heart amputation (because when my child left this earth, so did a part of me), I struggled with being angry that there were more memories, but my mind just wouldn’t let me remember.
I don’t remember the last time I kissed him or told him I loved him or even the last thing I said to him.
Then on the eve of what would have been his sixth birthday a dear friend sent me a few photographs she had recently captured of me with my now three-year-old son, Tellan, at the same clothesline.
The next morning, the morning I should have been waking Truman with birthday kisses, but instead was crying on my bathroom floor staring at these precious photos remembering that hot summer morning together when God spoke His healing grace into my shattered heart,
“This is the memory with Truman that I want you to have and hold onto. It is a gift just as much as these pictures are. This pause in time is exactly how I want you to remember your last day with your little boy.”
All those years of feeling like memories had been taken from me, God was actually healing me with a special memory as He was transforming my dis-membered heart into a re-membering heart.
To the Beloved who are in a deep pit of hopelessness, I don’t know what has broken your one heart, but I do know that Christ is the only one who can mend brokenness.
His nail pierced hands have cupped every tear I’ve shed and then wiped them from my face and given me moments like this – moments that have made my son intimately present to me.
Only He can take the most unimaginable memories that were so tragic even my mind tried to protect me from them and bring healing hope in remembering.
Most would deem this chapter of our story not worth remembering or too painful to share.
But I want to document the light shining through our brokenness.
Within this film is the reminder for my children, my grandchildren, for generations to come that our God has been faithful, mighty, and will forever be good.