Lynchburg couple launches ministry to assist grieving parents
There's usually one at every high school: the kid who seems to befriend everyone he meets.
At Liberty Christian Academy in 2008, that student was Jamie Holmes.
"Jamie fit in everywhere he went," said Jamie's mother, Laura Holmes. "He just had confidence that he exuded."
Whether he was playing drums in the marching band or tearing up the dance floor, Holmes' parents say their son had a natural way of connecting with his peers.
"He loved everybody," recalled Jamie's father, Chuck Holmes.
The best example of Jamie's love for people, his parents say, was something they found in his school locker.
"He was always taking food from the house," Laura Holmes remembered. "I kept saying 'boy, I can't feed the entire school. What are you doing?' We found out he was taking extra Pop Tarts, microwave popcorn, and crackers. He had a whole locker full and, if he found out a kid didn't have money for food, he would give it to them."
For as much as he cherished people, Holmes' parents say he loved Jesus Christ even more.
"We tried to teach our boys relationship with Jesus, not religion," Laura Holmes said.
Listening to a Liberty University radio station at his home in Appomattox, Holmes parents say he grew passionate about his faith - so much that he asked his parents to pull him and his brother out of public school to attend LCA.
"They could feel God's presence here," Chuck Holmes said of Jamie and his brother. "I think that is what drew them here."
When he wasn't congregating with friends, Holmes parents say they could usually find him at the LU monogram on Candler's Mountain, in quiet reflection and prayer.
"I would get a text and he would say come pick me up at the monogram," Chuck Holmes said of his son. "It would be a couple of times a week."
When Chuck Holmes suffered a heart attack in the spring of 2008, Jamie's parents say death became real to him and he shared something unexpected about the monogram.
"Jamie said 'when I die I want to be cremated and put on the monogram, because I never want to leave the mountain," Laura Holmes said. "I remember saying 'boy, don't tell me that. You need to discuss that with your brother, because by the time that happens I'll be long gone."
Less than a week after sharing that request, Jamie was gone. He died after a car he was riding in crashed near Concord. His parents say he was on his way home from a school banquet.
"We've never blamed anyone for the wreck," said Laura Holmes. "We've always believed that our days are numbered. That was his time."
Dealing with their loss, the Holmes say, has been a long process.
"There has been a lot of trauma and a lot of emotions to sort through, but one thing I struggled with was what to do with all of the pain," said Laura Holmes. "I just did not know what to do with it."
"The grief of a child is 100 times worse than any other type of grief you could suffer," Chuck Holmes added.
The Holmeses say Jamie's death tested their marriage. They went into counseling, but struggled to find services to meet their situation.
"We had one counselor tell (Laura) to just get over it," said Chuck Holmes. "It had only been six months, but he told her that she just needed to get over it and move on with her life."
Through their own journey, the Holmeses say they realized there was a need in our region for specialized therapy that caters to grieving parents and grandparents.
Laura went back to school, earning bachelors and masters degrees in counseling. With her new education, the couple has launched Ephraim Ministries.
"Ephraim means being fruitful in suffering," Laura Holmes explained.
The program is designed to support people, like the Holmes, dealing with the unexpected loss of a child or grandchild.
"We know what it's like to go through this and lose a child. It is truly the worst thing that you can imagine," said Laura Holmes.
Leaning on their own experience, the Holmes say they want to give other parents space to grieve and tools to cope.
"Sometimes when you're deep in grief, the feelings overtake you and you stop right there," Laura Holmes said. "We're trying to give Biblical and practical insight."
As they work to help others, the Holmeses continue a journey of their own. They now live on Candlers Mountain, not far from where they spread Jamie's ashes 11 years ago, just as he wanted.
"He told people that he didn't believe that he was going to live to be an old man. That God had bigger plans for his life," said Laura Holmes.
The Holmeses believe their new ministry, and the productive use of their grief, is in many ways living out Jamie's purpose.
To learn more about Ephraim Ministries,