Faced with the impossible task of healing after losing their teenage daughter in a deadly home explosion, a family from Oklahoma trusted in God to pave the way.
Through faith and the immense support of family and friends, Shawn and Tanda Maguire and their 13-year-old son, Hayden, made sense of their grief and found a way to anchor hope to something greater.
Sharing their family’s story with The Epoch Times, the couple said God made a way for them “to have hope beyond this life.”
“The way that God moves through us in helping others is unprecedented,” Shawn said.
“I can’t imagine doing this without [God]. I have a passion for helping men step into their God-given authority to sacrifice for their families, lead them well, push back the darkness, reject passivity, lead courageously, and live for the greater calling God has on their life.”
The night before the explosion, on Sept. 23, 2020, Tanda, 42, collected her daughter Berklee, son Hayden, and some friends from their church youth group. Berklee was more joyful than usual.
“She told me about how much she loved two of the worship songs they sung that evening and even complimented her younger brother on the way home, which can be abnormal for a 14-year-old,” she said. Tanda told her kids she loved them and headed to bed early, as Berklee’s singing filled the house.
The next morning, Shawn slept in until 7 o’clock. “I just walked to make coffee, and then pushed the button,” he recalled. “Everything exploded.”
The explosion, caused by a propane leak, leveled the house in an instant. The blast was so immense that it blew the windows of the Maguires’s neighbor’s house an acre away.
Shawn said the impact of the blast felt like “being electrocuted.” He was buried alive, not knowing that the explosion had taken his daughter’s life instantly. Berklee—whose name means “reflection of God’s personality”—had celebrated her birthday just five days before.
Tanda and Hayden had sustained extensive second- and third-degree burns.
Shawn begged the assembling rescue parties to locate his family. “I was just crying out to God, crying out like, ‘Help, help us, help us,'” he recalled. “I was smoking when they found me. And everything that I knew to be my house in my life was gone. It was all flat.”
As first responders arrived, the reality of their immeasurable loss dawned upon the Maguires.
Moments after the explosion, someone told the family they saw Jesus. “Somebody said He was walking through the rubble. Jesus looked at Berklee and said, ‘I’m taking this girl home,'” said Shawn, quoting the healing words that have helped his family make sense of their loss.
Riddled with grief, Shawn’s friends prayed and read Scripture as he struggled to sleep in his hospital bed. His mother, Diane, attended his bedside during the daytime, recording what she believed might be her son’s last words. Shawn, a trained Christian counselor for almost three decades, spoke of God’s love.
He spent months in hospital for his extensive injuries.
Tanda and Hayden—whose name means “mighty warrior for God”—were discharged after five days in the hospital. Hayden returned for skin grafts on his arms, legs, and face.
The family cannot conceive of surviving without God’s grace and the support of the people around them; within 36 hours of Tanda and Hayden’s discharge, the family had a fully furnished rental house donated with a stocked pantry and closets and even a car on loan.
“The support from our friends, family, and community was and continues to amaze us,” Tanda said. “And this was just the tip of the iceberg. Anything we had need of was provided, from the smallest detail to the biggest items.”
As the family started to rebuild their lives, Berklee remained at the forefront of their minds. Just three months before the explosion, Tanda had spoken with Berklee about hardship.
“We talked about why we cannot put our hope in this life because it never satisfies, and we will always be let down, and only the hope of eternity can truly satisfy,” said Tanda, adding that her daughter wished to have a deeper relationship with God.
Tanda, who committed herself to her faith at 21, “wrestled with, questioned, and screamed at God” over the loss of her daughter, but said it was never an option not to have faith in God.
“If anything, this has increased my faith, because now I long for Heaven like never before,” she said. “I have never been able to doubt that He is real, that He sees us.”
A homeschooled student, Berklee loved singing, theater, volleyball, and helping others. She organized a Christmas play for senior citizens at the family’s local Salvation Army three years in a row and offered free face painting for neighborhood kids at their birthday parties. She suffered chronic pain and allergies but was always thinking of others. Her dream job was to work at a summer church camp for kids.
While desperate for his daughter back, Shawn has chosen to concede to God’s plan, pledging to channel his grief into being a better husband and father. He has pledged to “love well,” make more accommodations, and listen to his loved ones even more than he used to.
Family, church, and community have made recovery possible.
“We were not meant to live life alone,” said Tanda. “We were created for relationships, so the more you feel tempted to isolate, my advice is to do the opposite. Reach out and let others walk beside you.”
“Life is hard,” Tanda said. “That’s why I am so thankful that Jesus made a way for us to have hope beyond this life.”
The Maguires have recently purchased a new home, near friends in northeast Oklahoma City. Shawn, who has devoted his life to faith-based marriage and family therapy with Oklahoma’s New Vision Counseling, is leaning upon colleagues for strength. He has also started a podcast.
“I’m just taking hold in saying, ‘God, I want to replace this agony and suffering and loss with a joy unspeakable,'” said Shawn, who now suffers from PTSD.
As a person who’s had every material thing ripped away and who was left bloodied and dying, Shawn encourages others that they don’t have to know the next step, and they don’t even have to believe that they can get through it. Remember to just “get up and go back to God,” he says, and never forget to sow the seeds of eternal love in other people’s lives.
“Just know the love far outweighs the hurt,” he added.
“If you continue to let God heal you, and you live from a place of having love, having been loved by God, then you can live from a place of love. Having love to give instead of desperately needing love to get.”