A family who lost their 2-year-old son due to respiratory complications of the flu virus 11 years ago have said that what God did for their lives, and in the lives of others through their son, has been nothing short of a miracle.
A former atheist, dad Darin Hamm shares his story of how a glimpse of heaven transformed him and led him on a journey of faith, while his late toddler son, Griffin, was given only a few hours to live before he was taken off life support.
A Gifted Child
Darin and his wife, Jennifer, say their toddler son, Griffin, a bright-eyed little boy with beautiful curly blonde locks of hair, was a “content, happy, and observant child who loved what all boys do—tractors, cars, and being outside with his daddy.”
“It took seven years to have him,” his parents told The Epoch Times, “and he was a gift from God.”
Facing Trials in Marriage and in Faith
Although parenting Griffin and their older son, Dylan, went smoothly for Darin and Jennifer, the father of three said they’d been going through a very difficult time in their marriage.
Jennifer described that, during that time, her husband dealt with a profound amount of anger and frustration toward others. It was not uncommon for him to get into an altercation with someone who upset him at the store or out in the community. He was often unpredictable, and she’d been counseled to consider divorce. However, she struggled and found hope through her faith.
On the other hand, Darin said he was a proud atheist who “hated Christians,” feeling they were usually inauthentic and the many he knew were corrupt. He said he often dealt with people who claimed to believe in God but didn’t live a good life.
As an owner of a large business in the Central Pennsylvania region, in an area where many professed faith, he often felt discouraged by others’ behavior and became further angered as a result.
Thus, when Jennifer would visit churches, looking for a place for Griffin to be baptized, Darin would tell her she was chasing “the invisible man,” referring to a God he didn’t believe existed.
Experiencing Heaven and a Glimpse of Eternity
However, on a cold January day in 2011, things took an unusual twist for the Hamms. After days of Griffin being on life support due to an unforeseen turn in his ability to breathe, Darin had an experience that would change the course of his life.
The family had been in the hospital at that time for four days and were told that Griffin was brain dead and that in 24 hours, they were going to disconnect him from life support.
“I told the doctors that I didn’t want to guess every time someone walks in the room if they’re going to do that, so I needed them to set a time,” Darin said. “So it was 4:30 p.m. when we had this conversation, and so they said the next day at 4:30 p.m. they’d remove the life support.”
Both the parents were told by Griffin’s medical team that they were going to unwrap his head, and the couple was given permission to lie down with him. Darin watched Jennifer as she lay down with her son for hours, knowing she didn’t have much time left with him.
“At 11 o’clock, she said, ‘I feel terrible, I haven’t shared,'” Darin said. “She got up, and I laid down with him.”
However, for Darin, the last few hours with Griffin were completely different. As he lay down for 30 minutes, everything around him was getting darker with each passing minute, he said.
“I wasn’t able to comfort him at all. It was too much for me,” he said. “It was the first time in my life that anything was too much. I sat in a chair and I looked at him and said aloud, ‘I am not man enough. I can’t comfort my own son, with 14 hours left.'”
Not wanting to give up, however, he tried to summon up the courage and lie down with Griffin again. Finally, the third time he lay down with him, Darin touched his hair and grabbed his hand like a handshake. He recalls telling him, “I never even got to teach you how to shake hands, Griffin.”
What unfolded next was a transformative experience that changed Darin’s life forever. The following is what he shared:
Right there, at that moment, I was GONE. Like … lifted out of my body … gone. I was traveling with him. He was ahead of me, and he was looking back at me. He had his right hand behind him, and my left hand was holding his hand. We were traveling. It felt fast, but it wasn’t the wind. I could only see blue, and there was communication happening with me. I would get lots of information from what seemed like the atmosphere.
My initial response to Griffin was, “I can’t believe this is happening,” and he would look at me and his smile was just so large and he was so alive. But, when he would look away from me, I would become very ill, similar to the state I was in when I felt I wasn’t tough enough to comfort him. Then, he would look at me again, and that feeling would go away. It was just so intense … the love I felt, and then he would look away. The third time he looked away, I was so sick and nauseated by my own feelings of not being enough, and I thought to myself, “You’ve got to toughen up. This is a rare moment you are getting with your son. He is alive.” This time, Griffin looked at me, and he laughed. He knew my thoughts, and he knew them deeply. He chuckled and said, “Daddy, you aren’t sick!” I knew all of what he meant at that moment, spiritually and emotionally. I was NOT sick!
And then … I experienced the love of God. He was everywhere. He was the blue I saw, and totally encompassed me. I could see the things I had done in my life, the things I thought were good decisions but they weren’t. I could see business decisions that I made that were so wrong, because the perspective with which I made them had been selfish. I was supposed to be my brothers’ keeper. I didn’t take care of people like I should have. I felt God say that He’d put people in my life to take care of them, but I hadn’t. I could see these things play out and God showing me in a very peaceful and loving way, not a critical way. It was harsh, but so loving at the same time. Everything made sense.
I could see eternity, and see it precisely. It was to be outside of time. It was very clear to me there that Griffin, in his two years, did more than most men in one hundred years could conceivably do. His life was truly precious and accomplished.
We got to what seemed like the end, and it seemed Griffin was trying to introduce me to someone. His attention went somewhere and then he looked back at me. And then, he asked me, “Daddy, may I stay?” It was a yes or no question. I knew that I could say no, and that he would have been alive when I got back. It was crystal clear. But you know what I said? I said well beyond “You could stay.” I said, “Wow, son. Of course you can stay!”
Darin remembers clearly that the moment he uttered the word, “Wow,” he was back in his bed in the hospital shaking his son’s hand, and at that moment, everything was “really over.”
“That love that I felt there in heaven … it was clear that the most I could ever do with all the love I could ever muster up, was a tenth of one percent of the love that I experienced that God had for me,” Darin said of his profound experience.
Lives Transformed Through Realization of God’s Love
When doctors came in to take Griffin off life support, Darin found himself with a “peace beyond comprehension.” Jennifer recalls that, at that time, she knew something was different because he was comforting everyone else.
“I was not as affected by what was happening because my reality was what I was shown in heaven,” Darin said. “Eleven years later, that is my reality. I didn’t know if what I experienced would somehow wear off, or if the knowledge and memory of what I saw would fade.”
His journey toward faith might have been different compared to others and came on rather “dramatically and instantly.” However, he believes it’s stronger than ever now.
Jennifer said that, in the weeks following Griffin’s passing, her husband kept repeating the line, “Life is about love and relationship.”
Darin believes that these were the words he was given while he had the vivid experience of a glimpse of heaven. The encounter made him a completely different man who then had a sudden insatiable desire to read the Bible and learn everything he could about God.
He went down a path where he wanted to let everyone know about God, mend past relationships, and make things right with people in his life. Everyone was surprised and couldn’t believe how he’d changed, as he went from being an angry and volatile person to being patient, loving, gracious, and caring.
“It has been 11 years, and I see how he has totally changed, like a new creation,” Jennifer said. “I started to love my husband again, watching him love Jesus and love others.”
Over the years, it’s not only Darin’s life that’s changed; he’s also made it his life’s focus to share God’s love with others.
He wants people to know that “Heaven” is real and that God’s love for us is unquestionable. He believes life is short and that our purpose is to love and serve God and one another.
In an attempt to help others, Darin has spoken to those who have questions about life and has developed a ministry around helping people on the verge of suicide.
For Darin, he knew it was like God gave him the ability to share hope with them. He strongly believes that people who are in crisis somehow end up in his path, so that he can help them to know about God’s love and about eternity.
Meanwhile, Jennifer went on receiving counseling after Griffin passed away. She remembers finding herself in a sad place over and over again.
However, one day, her counselor told her that nothing he could say to her would make her situation be less painful, but he asked her a poignant question.
“He asked me if I had any blessings in my life,” she recalled, “and then he advised me to begin thanking God for those blessings before I lose them. So I began to force myself, before I prayed and went over my laundry list of concerns and complaints, to thank God for each and every blessing in my life—and it totally reprogrammed my mind.
“I don’t know where we’d be if this never happened.”
Two years after Griffin changed his address to heaven, Jennifer and Darin were blessed with a daughter, named Alaina.
Jennifer quit her job and began staying at home to savor every moment of seeing her daughter grow up.
Dylan, who loved his brother with all his heart, is now married and lives close to his parents. Darin and Jennifer are so proud of both Dylan and Alaina.
“God didn’t have to do this, but He has been so gracious. He has helped me to have joy after all this pain,” Jennifer said. “God has been so good in the midst of this.”
In January this year, Jennifer added another poem to the many she has written for her son; Griffin would have been 13.
“I have a lot of questions, but by the time I get to heaven, it won’t matter. I trust God’s plan is bigger than mine,” the mother of 3 said. “This is such a little part of life. Heaven is forever. This is all just a blink of an eye.”
Both parents confidently express that they know Griffin is with the Lord, and that, one day, they’ll all join him, and this time, it will be for eternity.