She will never forget that phone call. “Suzanne, this is the school principal.”
“Oh no, what now?” Suzanne thought. What she heard next was the wake-up call no parent wants to get.
“Your son is suicidal. He needs help. Now.”
Suzanne wasted no time getting her son to a therapist who specialized in teen depression. He quickly identified the root of the boy’s despair: fatherlessness. Suzanne was stunned and confused. “But I’ve tried to be the best father I can be to him all of these years,” she said to the therapist. His response landed like a ton of bricks on her heart. “No! You haven’t been a father. That’s impossible. You’ve been the best mother you can be. But that’s not enough.”
As a single mom who tried to do all that she could for her children, it never occurred to Suzanne that the love and care she poured out on her boy would fall short of his needs. After all, she was the one who picked up the pieces when her husband left that Valentine’s Day so many years ago. She had been the one who wiped away her son’s tears every Valentine’s Day since. She had been the one who clothed him, fed him, housed him, nurtured him, loved him, and encouraged him. She was his mother!
Yet, it wasn’t enough.
“In hindsight, I can pinpoint the exact moment my son’s heart was ripped open by a wound that I know now I would never be able to heal,” recalls Suzanne. “He was just a little boy, waiting for his dad to come get him and spend time with him. It was a promise his father had made and broken, time and time again. That last time, when his dad failed to show up, something changed in my little boy.” Tears flood Suzanne’s eyes and her voice quivers as she describes the child her son became after that day of abandonment. “Lonely, scared, weak, defenseless, confused, angry, passive, hopeless, lost, sad.” But, she thought that if she was a good mother she could raise him to overcome his loss.
It wasn’t enough.
“Oh, how I wish now that I could have given him the gift of a father,” Suzanne says. In fact, she tried. After the therapist told her that the boy needed a father-figure in his life, she did her best to find one. With no family members nearby, she turned to her church family. Sadly, no man stepped up to mentor her son. “It was incredibly disappointing,” says Suzanne who remembers days of deep weeping over her son’s fatherlessness and her inability to find a mentor father for him. “I think if people had been able to see the wound in his heart, they would have been more eager to help. But fatherlessness is a hidden wound that people really don’t notice or understand.”
So Suzanne turned to her Father in Heaven for help.
“While God didn’t bring a mentor father into my boy’s life, He did protect my son, who has overcome his depression and grown into a fairly successful young man today,” says Suzanne, who is grateful for God’s protection but also recognizes that her son, now 30, still has a long way to go. “My greatest concern today is that he has no desire to know his Father in Heaven. I really can’t blame him, since the only father he has ever known abandoned him. I am still hoping that somehow, someday the Lord will bring a mentor into his life who will show him fatherly love and teach him about his Father in Heaven.”
Meantime, Suzanne and her second husband Robert (who she married 10 years ago), are doing what they can to ensure that other fatherless boys get the help they need. After hearing a radio interview with John Smithbaker about Fathers in the Field, Suzanne and her husband became monthly contributors to the ministry. “Fathers in the Field is exactly the kind of help I couldn’t find when I needed it. I want to make sure it’s available to single moms now,” says Suzanne.
And for those single moms who are in the same place she found herself 20 years ago, she has some words of wisdom: “Whatever your circumstance, God understands and now, you have to move forward. Your son needs a father figure. He needs to be mentored into manhood. And you cannot fill that role. You can be the very best, self-sacrificing, devoted mother ever. But you can’t be his father. Fathers in the Field is a tremendous resource for you to accomplish that task.”
Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Suzanne for sharing her difficult story and for becoming a financial supporter of Fathers in the Field. As she knows from personal experience, it is an incredible gift to be able to give a boy the love of a father. The support of Suzanne and her husband are helping us do just that.