Why would a pastor and his wife embrace one last time in front of an oncoming train?

Chris —  July 13, 2009

A number of people who stop by my blog, comment on a post from last December, see here.  That post has confirmed, again, that some of the most hurting people in the world are parents of rebellious children. 

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Below is the seemingly inexplicable story of a pastor and his wife who recently embraced on a railroad track and ended it all.  No one knows for sure why the Johnson’s took their lives.  The only known struggle is their strained relationship with a son.

HENRIETTA, Texas – The train whistle blows several times a day in this North Texas community, the familiar soundtrack of life in small towns located along railroad lines.

But since late last month, the sound has become a haunting reminder of the evening when a beloved couple stepped onto the tracks and stood in embrace until a train ran them down.

The double suicide of the Rev. Eldon Earl Johnson, 69, and his wife, Linda Kay, 61, was particularly shocking because of the key role the Johnsons played in helping nearby Ringgold rise from the ashes after nearly being destroyed by wildfires three years ago.

On June 30, the Rev. Eldon Earl Johnson and his wife, Linda, took the last steps of their lives on the railroad tracks in Henrietta, Texas. They embraced and then turned their heads right before they allowed a train to hit them. They left no note.

Why the popular minister and his wife took their lives is a secret that they carried to their graves. But their deaths have left a community struggling to plumb the mysteries of the human heart.

During a memorial service last week, the couple’s three grown children, adopted son and daughter, 10 grandchildren and hundreds of friends and neighbors gathered to pay tribute to the Johnsons.

A minister asked anyone who had been helped or encouraged by the couple to stand up. Everybody stood.

"After those fires three years ago, he and his wife helped to distribute food and clothing to people who lost their homes, who had nothing left," said Randy McCormack, 71, one of three pastors who officiated at the service.

By all accounts, the Johnsons, married for 43 years, were a happy couple who liked to hold hands and who were well-known and liked in Henrietta, 18 miles east of Wichita Falls. Their lives revolved around the daily visits to the Dairy Queen, where Linda worked as a cook. They ministered to the needs of their small church congregation in Ringgold and attended just about every sporting event involving their children and grandchildren.

Click here to read the whole thing.  HT: Crunchy Con for the story.

No one knows for sure what was going on in the Johnson’s lives and minds.  But, if we accept for a moment that their strained relationship with their children was part of the problem, it is appropriate to again remind people whose children are causing them pain – – Don’t go through it alone.  Share your heart and prayer requests with one another preferably in the context of a local church.  Or, if nothing else, through the Internet.

For all parents, don’t make your children an idol.  Parents who make their children the center of their identity – – who worship their children – – will be devastated when they find out that those who might make wonderful children make very poor gods.

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7 responses to Why would a pastor and his wife embrace one last time in front of an oncoming train?

  1. I heard a broadcast many years ago (maybe on Unshackled? Or Focus on the Family?) about a family who went through the horrific pain of a prodigal daughter enslaved to drugs. The way God transformed this family is beyond words. The broadcast and more about the family is available here: http://www.godowncfc.org/cfc_webroot/features/pastors_corner/cfc_god_made_us_a_family.shtml

    Their story could definitely be an encouragement to parents/family members going through this or something similar…

  2. What a sad story, Chris. I totally agree with you that parents shouldn’t make children their idols. I’m sure the pain of having a rebellious child is awful, but I can’t imagine it being enough to warrant suicide.

  3. Dan and Louise Kramer July 24, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Unless you have endured that pain, how would you know? My husband and I have been through this, and are continuing to deal with this incredible devastating pain. No, we have not made our children our idols..that is definate…I do know it can happen. I have seen it.
    I often wonder about the heart of our Heavenly Father..and how often it must break!
    I do not judge this couple. I grieve to think that there was no one that they could talk to about this heartache!! Taht there was no one close to them that would sit up with them and pray during those dark times. I am so saddened by this tragedy!!
    What a loss! I pray for their family and community!

  4. joanna chambers May 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    i was one of the johnsons foster kids. while i was there i witnessed alot of bad parenting on many occasions. but for them to commit suicide…… thats crazy. kinda hard to belive. but i know they must have had demons in thier past. but i didnt think that would be the reason. we can all have our theries but only God know what there reason for doing what they did was. they were’nt great parents and none of us r perfect but they had good intentions any one could see that. and i do appricate what they tryed to do for us. and i did love them for that.

  5. This was my adopted parents! They we’re sick I know exactly why they did this and they are in hell where they belong.

  6. I can promise you the kids were not the problem you want to know what made them take “the easy way out” my older brother turned them in for raping him every night, abusing and molesting me I was 16 at the time when this went down.

  7. Harley— I am so sorry to hear of the pain you faced.