I have often been asked where my passion comes from in support of Troops, Veterans, and First Responders. I have always supported America’s heroes, but to be totally dedicated to anything in this world, we must have the passion to want to make a difference. The “Irish Angel” has it too. Thank you for all you do for so many, Amanda Coleman.
Starting over is something that never crossed our minds after 37 years of marriage, but on December 11, 2013 everything we thought was so important completely disappeared, never to be thought of again. The Lord brought all our lives to a screeching halt and sent us on an unexpected journey that dropped us to our knees in a test of Faith unlike anything we have ever faced before, and it changed our lives forever.
I was babysitting our grandchildren when I got a call from the hospital. The nurse asked if I was Melinda Hall. I replied with a frantic “Yes”.. She said “Your son, John Wright was brought to ER, and he is being admitted to ICU. Get here as soon as possible.” I had no idea what happened to him. I called my husband, Craig, our daughter, and our other two sons, and told them to rush to the hospital. When I arrived, I was not expecting what I saw. John Wright was a young, healthy, 33 year old who became an engineer for BNSF Railroad in August of 2013, his dream job. He had just taken a train from Memphis to Pine Bluff, Arkansas the night before. My brain could not comprehend what I was seeing. I could hear a frightening noise, and when I looked into his room, I saw he was on Life Support. My knees nearly buckled. A doctor walked over to us, shaking his head and said “I don't think he's going to make it”. I cannot describe the anger I felt. We had just arrived at the hospital. I said “He just got here, and you're already giving up??” At that moment, the Chaplain walked over and introduced himself. His presence meant death, and I did not want to see him. He assured me he was only there for comfort, nothing more, but I wanted him to go away. I have never experienced anything so helpless and gut-wrenching in my entire life. Every parent's worst nightmare was unfolding before our very eyes, and we had no control over any of it. John Wright was lively, funny, healthy, and happy. He had more friends than we ever knew.
As word got around, the ICU waiting room began to fill and overflow into the hallways. There were so many people, the hospital asked them to leave. I began to keep people updated on Facebook so they could hear updates on John Wright’s condition straight from his mother with no chance for rumors.
We kept vigil for four long days and nights. We slept in chairs, wearing the same clothes we arrived in. We couldn't leave him. I left only to go to the chapel where I got on my knees beneath the cross and prayed like I have never prayed before. I begged God to take me instead and to heal my child. I have never begged and cried so hard in my life. At 2:30 pm on December 15, 2013, God answered my prayer, in His own way. We gathered around John Wright’s bed and after the 5th code blue over four days, I looked up at the nurse and said, “turn it off”. I had never heard anything so horrible, so silent, so still. We had lived with that sound for days, almost a sound of comfort because it meant he was still with us.
We left his room after holding him one more time, and walked back through an empty waiting room that was eerily quiet, filled with random pillows, blankets, coats, food, and lost hope. It had been our home for days. Craig and I held onto each other as we walked down the hospital hallways one last time. They were lined with weeping people on both sides of us making phone calls. I heard one after another say “he didn't make it” - “he's gone”. John Wright, our wild child, had died. We were numb. As we walked out of the hospital without him, wondering how we would survive the horror we had just lived through, I felt the fresh winter air hit my face. At that moment, I saw the faces of the Sullivan brothers..."all five". Mr. & Mrs. Sullivan had lost five sons at once during WW2. I knew, at that moment, I would survive.
John Wright’s funeral drew crowds like we have never seen here before…rich, poor, young, and old, and every one of them said “John Wright was my best friend.” He was nice to everyone whether he liked them or not. “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer", he'd say. I found myself comforting hundreds of people without shedding a tear because they had lost their "best friend". I couldn't cry. I was afraid if I ever started, I would never stop. We were in shock. Shock is a wonderful thing. It protected us from the horror we had been through. I have told many grieving people, "I know where you are. Stay there as long as possible." Sometimes I think we are still in that place.
As the days, weeks, and months went by, we had to handle his affairs. It was technical, no time for emotion, a necessary evil. I remember calling AT&T to turn off his phone. The agent said John Wright had his remaining contract to fulfill. My response was, "He died." Silence. The agent put me on hold, and when she came back, I could tell she was deeply affected. She waived all fees, told me to keep the phone, and expressed her deepest condolences, no death certificate necessary. It was an unexpected random act of kindness.
My husband of over 40 years, Craig Hall, is an attorney, and we had a new estate to open, but not just any estate....John Wright’s estate, and this one had to be perfect. I have typed many petitions and orders to open estates, so I thought this one wouldn't be any different. I began to type “In Re: The Estate of John Wright Hall, deceased", and it sucked the breath right out of me. We wanted to take care of everything ourselves, but it was an overwhelming task we had in front of us.
I have been on social media for years and for different reasons, mainly to support America’s heroes. I did not need a job, so I let my Linkedin account sit until I could figure out what to do with it. I began posting support, appreciation, and inspiration for our heroes. Little by little, it started catching on, and the responses were, and continue to be, very positive and filled with gratitude. I have had people reach out to me because they feel my compassion, many with PTSD, none of them knowing my story. I am not a professional, so I am extremely careful with my words. I respond to them without thought. Words flow effortlessly through my fingers from somewhere deep in my soul that could only come from Angels or Almighty God. I have re-read messages I have sent to these starving souls, and I do not remember any of it. The words are always comforting, even to me when I re-read them. This was a gift from God that I would not have had He not taken John Wright. I live my life to touch the hearts and lift the spirits of others who cross my path. As painful as his death was, other parents have suffered much worse, some never knowing what happened to their children. John Wright was a man of great Faith. He is not missing. I know exactly where he is, and he has seen the face of Jesus. It does not get any better than that. I would not bring him back here for anything. He finished his job here on earth early. For us, there was life before he died, and life after he died. They are two completely different lives.
I chose to support and thank our Military and First Responders because they need it badly. My passion comes from the unbearable pain in my heart. I consider this pain a gift. Our country could not survive without any of them, and they have suffered more than most. I am still standing because I refuse to wallow in self-pity and grief. God gave me a test I never thought I could survive....ever. No parent does. I intend to pass this test and touch as many lives as I can until I see John Wright again. I never ask "why". I am humbled God chose a child we raised for His work. Many grieving parents have said to me, "Why my son? I want him back!" God gave His Son for me, so why not my son? God expects us to lean on Him in good times and in bad. He will never abandon us. I am grateful to God for the gift He has given me. Without this tremendous loss, I would not have the compassion and and the vision needed to help others.
The wallpaper on John Wright's iPhone was 1 John 1:5 "God is Light; In Him there is no darkness at all.” That verse is also inscribed on his tombstone. If we always look to the Lord, He will light the way. I never take my eyes off Almighty God. I pray daily for all who need peace and comfort. 'Blind Faith’ gets me through the darkness. I hold the lantern to show others the way. God shines His light in the lantern I carry for Him.
To all our Troops, Veterans, and First Responders, thank you for your service and sacrifice. I will support you until I die and watch over you long after I am gone.